We’ve talked about small ship cruising last week, and river cruising the week prior. This week, I’ll share some thoughts with you about expedition cruising.
(And by the way, I have an exclusive offer with AMA Waterways on a 2-for-1 for river cruising the summer of 2021. To see the exclusive list of 2-for-1 sailings with Lush Life/ Vision/ Direct Travel, sign up here. LIST)
Have you considered taking an expedition cruise?
Expedition cruising is a different kind of cruising than other ocean – especially large ocean ships. It may be more similar to its river cruising and small ship ocean cruising cousins, in that it focuses on smaller groups of passengers, and a more intimate travelling experience – which is perfect in a social distancing world. But with expedition cruising, the focus is on ADVENTURE.
Expedition ships generally have about 100 passengers on board. You won’t find any Broadway show or ice skating rinks on expedition ships, and they generally won’t be featuring cocktails by the pool.
But expedition cruising will have a focus on wildlife, nature, and have you getting away from the crowds and off the beaten track.
Is a holiday where the luxury is the animal count rather than the sheet thread count sounds like it’s for you, then maybe you should look at taking an expedition cruise.
With expedition cruising, you tend to go where the big ships do not go. They tend to visit smaller ports, out of the way, and even remote destinations. So, it’s worth noting that it’s generally to some place that doesn’t have a port of call with 5 mega ships visiting. Sometimes, there’s not even a formal port. Think Galapagos. Think Antarctica. Think Australia Kimberleys. Think Amazon. Think Svalbard. Think Sable Island.
Sometimes, the expedition ships visit destinations that the bigger ships go – like Alaska. But the experience on a 100 passenger ship with naturalists and biologists and historians onboard giving daily expedition talks about the people, land, and wildlife; and having expert photographers giving you tips and tricks too how to get the best photo on your Canon or Nikon or cell phone camera will be a very different experience than going to Alaska with 2500-4500 of your nearest and dearest (as on the larger ships).
Expedition ships tend to call passengers to come forward, and visit the bridge – not something that happens on ocean cruises. If the captain or a member of expedition team on an expedition cruise sees humpback whales or dolphins (and they are always on the lookout), everything stops. You follow the wildlife. Again, not something that happens on the larger ocean cruises who have a negotiated and contract time to be in port.
Itineraries are heavy on wildlife and nature. You’ll be active, and if you’re a science geek, you’ll be blown away by how much you’ll learn- not in a fourth year lab university course kinda way, but more like you’re watching the Discovery channel, hearing passionate educators share their love and knowledge, and then being able to talk with them and ask questions in person. You learn about the habitat and way of life.
The flexibility with the ship sailing is also felt when you’re ashore as well. For activity, you’ll tend to hike and walk with guides too. Think boots and wet spots more than tuxedos and glamour. In the Galapagos, for example, you’ll walk where Darwin walked, and learn about the tortoises and the finches, and see blue and red-footed boobies up close. In the Amazon, you might get in skiffs (smaller ships) to sail along the tributaries of the Amazon River that are too remote for even the smaller expedition ship to sail – and maybe do a nighttime creepy crawler sighting trip, or jump in the Amazon for a swim. In Antarctica, you’ll be able to step on the seventh continent, perhaps do a polar dip, and get to see some penguins. In Svalbard, you’ll see undisturbed habitats of polar bears amidst the ice floes. All with expert guides who are there to help make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
If you can climb into and out of a bathtub unaided, you’re probably fit enough to take an expedition cruise. It doesn’t require marathon-runner type of fitness. You should be relatively active, so you can do the daily hikes – but – you can choose to opt out of those, or go in one of the breakup groups that match people to fitness levels (e.g., there might be an easy-paced hike offered alongside a more challenging one).
Ever heard of a zodiac? They are large rubber motorized boats (or hard-bottomed skiffs in the Amazon). Zodiacs can access places that even the expedition ship cannot. They travel with the expedition ship, and crew ready them for travel when needed. You have to be able to climb into them (again, it’d be like getting into a bathtub, with having to climb over the lip) but there are guides providing “a sailor’s grip” (each gripping the others’ wrist) hold to help you board safely. Then you might have a dry landing (where you jump out of the zodiac on dry land or sand when you get to shore), or a wet landing (where you jump out of the zodiac into knee deep water, and wade to shore).
You won’t see any tuxedos and gowns onboard an expedition cruise. You might see a lot of Tilley hats and Eddie Bauer-type clothing, and folks with their own set of birding binoculars. Most are well-travelled folks who’ve done the other sort of cruising before they learn about expedition cruising – and – once you go, you know.
Expedition cruising tends to have an extremely high repeat factor amongst clients. Some of my clients do multiple sailings with their chosen expedition company. Of course, I work with you to make sure we match you to the best expedition company for you – whether that’s Lindblad Expeditions, Quark Expeditions, Adventure Canada, Ponant, Hurtigruten, Un-cruise, Silversea, Seabourn, etc.
If the idea of floating past glaciers and ice flows, seeing penguins congregate, following some bubble feeding of whales and having the naturalists explain what they are doing (and why and how), seeing some glaciers and seals and puffins and sea lions, maybe snorkeling or kayaking – then maybe an expedition cruise is for you.
Contact me to arrange a free vacation planning session.