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For many of us, the past few years proved challenging. However, we are now entering into a new year, which means that it’s time to begin planning your next adventure with a positive outlook. Luckily for us, vaccinations have finally given many travelers a chance to venture out and explore. Now is your time to travel a world far away from home, and be sure to let a luxury travel advisor do the planning for you.
While there are endless possibilities for adventurous destinations, travelers seeking to connect with nature, unplug and explore far-flung corners of the Earth should consider an expedition cruise.
In recent years, expedition cruises have received a lot of hype and well-deserved accolades. This is because expedition itineraries offer incredibly versatile and immersive experiences, reaching previously unreachable destinations. So if you’re looking for the best expedition cruises that are worth every penny, then all you have to do is scroll!
Why Take An Expedition Cruise?
If you’re wondering what makes expedition cruises popular, who is well-suited to take them, and where in the world do they go, just read along. If you still have questions check out our article How To Choose The Best Expedition Cruise Line For Your Next Adventure.
● Small Groups:
Expedition cruise ships are smaller than most standard, large ocean cruise ships. They are designed to be nimble yet sturdy enough to pass through narrow waterways, navigate challenging terrain and break through the ice. Therefore, they only take a small group of passengers on each itinerary. While many large ocean cruise ships accommodate up to 3000-4000 guests plus staff, expedition cruises typically sail with only 100-200 passengers. This creates the perfect environment for meeting like-minded travelers and avoiding massive crowds. However, if you are looking to cruise as a family, consider our best cruise lines for adults traveling with children.
Expedition cruises are built to explore the vast beauty of our incredible planet responsibly. Not only do they value sustainability, but most reputable expedition cruise lines place it at the top of their ethos. Because the entire purpose of expedition cruises is to sail through unexplored and remote areas of the world, they make sure to leave no trace and minimize their carbon footprint.
Most large ocean cruises cannot get through narrow waterways, access small harbors, or get up close to endangered wildlife. Expedition cruises, however, are designed to do just that! Sturdy and agile, they pass through rugged terrains without any issues, allowing travelers to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations.
● Immersive and Interactive:
One of the best features of taking an expedition cruise is participating in immersive and interactive lectures, field studies, and shore excursions. While onboard the ship, expedition leaders keep guests abreast of the destination you’re traveling to, the rare birds and animals you can spot, and the history of indigenous cultures you might encounter.
Instead of a typical “cruise director,” expedition cruises are staffed by experienced expedition teams complete with a team leader, naturalists, scientists, marine biologists, and even world-renown experts. This type of cruise experience offers an incredible opportunity for children and adults to learn about their environment, planet, and ongoing scientific discoveries. If you’re curious about the best expedition cruise companies, check out our article 8 Best Luxury Cruise Lines for Ocean Cruises in 2022 & 2023.
Top 5 Expedition Cruises That Are Worth the Splurge
Expedition cruises take passengers to beautiful places, in the most remote and desolate places on earth. But where exactly do they travel and which destinations should you choose? Some of the most popular and exhilarating destinations include expedition cruises to the Arctic, Antarctica, Alaska, Amazon River, Galapagos Islands, and Iceland/Greenland.
“The Arctic has huge glaciers, frozen waterfalls and floating ice. This is scenery on which man has left no mark, which has stayed unchanged for centuries, wild, bleak, hauntingly beautiful; it is a part of God’s creation we have made no effort to tame.”
Take your chance to visit one of the most unexplored areas of the world, the Arctic. Imagine a scenario: you’re trekking through ice-laden fields when your expedition guide gestures everyone to stop. Perhaps he has spotted rare arctic foxes playing in the distance, or (heart skips a beat) maybe you have wandered up a bit too close to a polar bear, hidden behind a slab of ice. Breathe in, capture the moment on camera or store it in your memory, then silently retreat the way you came, careful not to disturb the magic of the moment. As your zodiac takes you back to the ship past icebergs and growlers, you notice a flock of thousands of sea birds gracefully gliding to their rocky homes in the distance.
On the ship, your captain calls out. They have spotted walruses close by! But before you capture their massive shapes on your camera, you’re distracted by the appearance of a beluga whale. But wait, your partner calls you over excitedly, and he spotted a group of seals playfully splashing each other nearby. This is just another typical day on your fantastic adventure.
Expedition cruises in the Arctic region visit destinations like the Northwest Passage, Faroe Islands, the Svalbard archipelago, and even the North Pole. Previously reserved for scientific teams, professional explorers, and rugged adventurers due to their harsh conditions, travelers can now safely visit these distant lands. All thanks to expedition cruises.
If by now you have concluded cruising isn’t for you, but you love the adventure expedition cruises offer, consider a trip with backroads.
“ I had a dream when I was 22 that someday i would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till i came to one of the poles of the earth”
Welcome to the Frozen Kingdom. While most of our planet has already been extensively explored and uncovered, Antarctica, dubbed the “White Continent,” remains surprisingly unreachable because nearly 98% of the continent is covered in a 1.3 mile-thick sheet of ice. If it were to melt, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/quickfacts/icesheets.html) reported that sea levels would rise by 200 feet and flood every single coastal city on earth. No wonder Antarctica remains the only continent on earth without a native human population.
But none of this is a challenge for expedition cruises, which are expertly adapted to steer through rough waters and navigate icefields. Expedition cruises to Antarctica are relatively expensive because of the expertise and equipment required to safely navigate passengers to the frozen kingdom. Expedition cruise ships to Antarctica are also small yet highly sturdy, meaning you’ll be spending your time with a small group of like-minded adventurers.
Visitors to Antarctica can visit the volcanic Peter I Island and the Ross Islands and explore Port Lockroy, Lemaire Channel, and Paradise Harbor. The main activities onshore in Antarctica include ice trekking, ice-camping, extreme scuba diving, hiking, mountaineering, and luckily for bird lovers, bird watching. For more details on what you can expect when visiting this magical land, check out our article 10 Hidden Gems And Must-See Sights In Antarctica.
To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.
Alaska is another top contender for expedition cruise destinations. This is because it’s very versatile, adventurous, and, thankfully, not as far from mainland US as other destinations. Direct flights from many US cities to Anchorage make Alaska a great “starter” expedition cruise experience. The state truly has it all, from incredible wildlife to colossal glaciers to hundreds of miles of unexplored wilderness. Although many standard ocean cruises also run superb itineraries to Alaska, an expedition cruise gets you up close and personal with remote ports and hard-to-reach places. Instead of casino nights and dance parties, spend your time on deck learning and feeding your curiosity. Listen out for the captain’s excited voice alerting you over the loudspeaker that you’re passing humpback whales, sign up for a photography course with a National Geographic expert, or attend a lecture on the effects of global warming.
Alaska is the perfect choice for nature and animal lovers and travelers eager for a taste of adventure. The state is rich in both scenery and wildlife. Prepare to spot harbor seals, bears, eagles, and migratory birds popping all around you. If you go kayaking, you might even pass by humpback whales, especially near the Misty Fjords National Monument. For the true thrill-seekers, nay Alaskan expedition cruises can take you scuba diving, hiking, and dog sledding. If you have extra time, add on a land experience to explore the majestic National Parks and fun towns and villages. Wondering where to get started? Check out How To Plan An Alaskan Land Adventure – Top Sights And Experiences.
The Amazon River
The forest doctors of the Amazon say each plant has its “song”, and that to know how to use the plant you must listen to its voice.
— Jay Griffiths
If you’re not cut out for the cold but still want to experience an exhilarating expedition-style adventure, consider the Amazon River. Float down the great waterways through dense jungles and remote villages, stopping to meet the locals. Additionally, spot wild animals, and spend some time understanding the mythical landscape.
The Amazon River passes through Earth’s largest rainforest. You can count on wildlife sightings no matter which cruise you choose. Just don’t be surprised to look up and see monkeys playfully swinging from branches, sloths crossing the road, and yes, even colorful (sometimes poisonous) snakes quietly coiled in dark corners. Look down at the seemingly pristine and calm water, and you may spot a rare Black Caiman. The Black Caiman is the largest predator in the Amazon basin growing up to six meters. Additionally, see the iconic pink river dolphins playing with their young. You can even spot the Pygmy Marmosets and sleeper gobies if you are remarkably perceptive.
In addition to seeing wildlife and learning about indigenous cultures, expedition cruises offer opportunities to explore the rainforest. Tour guides will also help you learn about unique fauna and flora.
By far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings
— Charles Darwin
The Galapagos Islands are one the most iconic and popular expedition cruise destinations in the world. You may remember learning that the Galapagos Islands are also known as Darwin’s Islands. This is, after all, where in 1835, the British naturalist observed local plants and unique animals species, eventually leading to his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Expedition cruises to the Galapagos Islands typically include snorkeling, shore exploration, hiking, trekking, and of course, wildlife sightings. Take pictures with hundred-year-old tortoises, adorable fur seals, penguins, blue-footed boobies, bottlenose dolphins, American flamingos, lava gulls, and flightless cormorants. And, of course, you can’t ignore the legendary Galápagos’ or Darwin’s finches, thriving on the pristine islands. The Galapagos is truly an animal lover’s haven!
Iceland and Greenland
Throughout the history of Iceland, men have been lost at sea; every family in Iceland is connected to that kind of story
Those who have already explored Alaska, Antarctica, the Galapagos, and the Amazon, should consider Iceland and Greenland next on your expedition cruise bucket list. The land of fire and ice, Iceland has the rare ability to boast about having fun cities and towns, volcanoes, wild black sand beaches, and glaciers on one tiny island. On the other hand, Greenland offers deep fjords, immense glaciers, rugged coastlines, and iconic wildlife.
If you feel particularly adventurous, you may wish to spend the day kayaking in the fjords, snorkeling in Silfra or trekking volcanic mountains. After these adventures, take a quick polar plunge in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean. Then enjoy a dip in a natural geothermal bath to restore your spirit and relax sore muscles.
No matter what cruise you choose, be sure you properly pack for your amazing adventure.
National Geographic Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Crystal Cruises, Quark Expeditions, Celebrity Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, and Seabourn Cruise Line take you on thoughtful journeys to Iceland and Greenland.
Boutique Travel Advisors is a full-service, luxury travel agency. We specialize in creating bespoke itineraries for discerning clients around the world. Please visit our website or call 480-787-1477 to speak with a dedicated travel expert.
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