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Are you dreaming of far-flung destinations, remote, hidden coves, undiscovered corners of the earth, and exhilarating adventure? Perhaps you have already decided to plan your next adventure on an expedition cruise and are wondering whether you’re making the right decision. Of course, you’re probably concerned about picking the best cruise line, itinerary, and ship. Maybe you’re even a bit confused and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options and advertisements. But that’s okay because you’re on the right track!
“If happiness is the goal – and it should be, then adventures should be top priority.”
– Richard Branson
An expedition cruise is an excellent way to embark on a unique, unforgettable vacation for countless reasons. First, expedition vessels allow travelers to visit multiple hard-to-reach destinations in some of the most remote and seemingly inhospitable places on earth. But while explorers of bygone days had to brave rough terrain, arduous conditions, and scarce resources, today’s expedition cruises provide all the comforts and luxuries we’ve grown accustomed to having. From relaxing accommodations (think feather pillows and down bedding) to excellent service (even butler’s to draw your bath) to extensive entertaining packages, and of course, incredible scenery. But choosing a good expedition cruise line can be difficult as many excellent options, each with its unique set of offerings.
But worry not! That’s precisely why you’ve come to the right place because we’re going to help you figure out the best expedition cruise that will make your next adventure the most unforgettable and life-changing of all. Here are all the steps you need to follow:
1. Choose Your Destination and Itinerary
The first and perhaps most crucial step to choosing an excellent expedition cruise is picking the destination you will visit. Of course, you might think this is an obvious first step but consider this part carefully. Different destinations cater to diverse travel styles and, therefore, various cruise lines. For example, some cruise lines excel at polar expeditions, while others are known for coastal exploration in the warm waters of South America. Therefore, you can’t go out on a limb and pick a cruise line first and the destination later. For example, maybe you have your heart set on a specific cruise line to get to the Amazon but find out later that this cruise does not even plan expeditions there. So before you settle on a cruise line and start picking your wardrobe, make sure it offers itineraries to your destination of choice.
Popular expedition destinations include Antarctica, the Amazon, Alaska, the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, and Iceland. Each has fantastic and unique places to explore, weather-dependent seasonality, and potential limitations for guests with health conditions. Specific destinations such as Antarctica require extensive travel and longer itineraries. Consider the amount of time you can dedicate to the experience and whether you are comfortable spending several weeks onboard a ship. If Europe seems more like your style, check out some of our favorite European river cruises!
If you have any health limitations, talk to your doctor about your travel plans before putting down a deposit. Although many expedition cruise lines are equipped with medical staff, some destinations are prone to rough weather and high seas. Given their remote locations, you may also find yourself far from civilization and access to hospitals. For this reason, talk to your travel advisor about purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance plan well in advance of your scheduled departure.
2. Set A Budget
Expedition cruises are high-ticket travel expenses, so you will have to consider the overall cost you are comfortable investing in the experience before starting your research. The cruise price depends on the length of travel, destination, and of course, the cruise line itself, so setting a budget first and foremost is key to ensuring a great experience.
If you’re hoping for an affordable cruise line that doesn’t break the bank, then you’ll have to search for cruise lines that offer packages at a low cost. Expedition cruises are naturally more expensive than standard ocean cruises, but that doesn’t mean that cruise lines won’t occasionally offer specials and deals. Instead of discounting their itineraries, some cruise lines will include airfare, pre and post hotel stays, or wave single-traveler supplements. These can lead to substantial savings and make an otherwise cost-prohibitive itinerary more realistic. Consider booking your cruise 18-24 months in advance to give yourself plenty of time to make payments and save up for the experience.
If cost is a significant consideration in your decision-making process, and you find a low-cost option, ensure that the low-budget cruise line you choose has a stellar reputation, high-quality programs, and sturdy, well-maintained ships! On the other hand, keep in mind that low-budget cruise lines may have limited programs, inexperienced staff, and dated vessels.
Guests looking for mid-range expedition cruise lines will be happy to know that the options are plentiful. Mid-budget cruises will still offer high-quality dining, immersive programming, and a wide variety of destinations. Although you may have to forego the butler services and settle for more basic accommodations, reputable mid-range cruises will focus their time and money on securing durable, well-maintained ships, and creating unique, enriching itineraries. If your overall goal is to experience incredible destinations that are otherwise difficult or impossible to reach, a mid-range or deluxe expedition cruise line is a great option.
The ultimate kings of the high seas, luxury expedition cruise lines are geared at travelers seeking exceptional service and cuisine, luxuriously appointed rooms, and highly engaging itineraries. There’s nothing a high-budget cruise line can’t offer, from immersive entertainment programs to gourmet cuisine for the most refined taste buds. In addition, these cruises can reach the most remote and isolated destinations on earth, all while serving up champagne and caviar.
3. Decide On The Cruise Line Company
Like everything else in life and travel, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all expedition cruise line! When talking to your travel advisor about the right expedition cruise line for your adventure, let them know your overall goals, style of travel, budget, and priorities.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.”
– Edward Abbey
Are you celebrating a milestone anniversary and prefer a small, intimate, luxuriously appointed expedition cruise geared towards mature travelers? Or maybe you’re looking for a lower cost, family-friendly, and child-oriented experience to expose your children to the wonders of the natural world. Many considerations make certain cruise lines ideal for some travelers and completely mismatched for others. So before you head out on a cruise, make sure you choose your company wisely and go with a cruise line that suits your needs.
Some cruise lines are more geared towards adults while others are more family-friendly, so try to pick a cruise line tailored to your travel style. For example, if you don’t mind kids running around or noisy families, then a family expedition cruise line is an excellent choice for you.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated experience, then you should talk to your travel advisor about finding an adults-only expedition-focused cruise line.
If you’re accompanying colleagues and business partners or are looking for a regal experience, then a luxury expedition cruise line is a good fit.
Lastly, if you are looking to book a less arduous and more relaxing expedition experience focused on sightseeing from the comfort of your ship and easy-going shore excursions, ask your travel advisor which expedition cruise lines are best for active adults and seniors. Traveling with elderly loved ones is always a great option! Be sure to check out our tips on how to make traveling with seniors easier!
4. Type of Experience: Luxury, Rustic or Adventurous
Everyone has their expectations and desires when on vacation; Some travelers want their onboard experience to be luxurious and highly refined, focused on service, exceptional cuisine, and engaging expedition leaders. Other travelers seek wildly adventurous and exhilarating itineraries and are open to more rustic accommodations. Then there are those of you who want the best of both worlds. That’s why knowing what kind of experience you expect to have and comparing it to the possible choices of cruise lines and itineraries is an important step.
5. Popular Cruise Lines – Top Recommendations
Now that we have covered the basics of how to choose the best cruise lines, here are some expedition cruise lines that deserve to be at the top of your list:
Quark Expeditions is perfectly designed for true adventure lovers, even dubbing themselves the “leader in polar adventures.” Offering the largest fleet of polar-class vessels in the industry and priding themselves on impeccable service, Quark Expeditions provides brilliant packages for anyone who’s a thrill-seeker or a die-hard winter sports enthusiast.
Although most expedition cruises come equipped with the essentials required to enjoy your time both on and off the ship, Quark amenities take your adventure to the next level. The ships are impressively stocked to enjoy all the natural wonders of destinations like Greenland, Patagonia, and the Northwest Passage with all the toys and gear your heart desires. Think sea kayaks, specially designed gear for snow camping in arctic conditions, complementary parkas, and rapid deployment zodiacs. They even have two helicopters ready to fly passengers to hiking and skiing spots in the most off-the-beaten-path places on earth. So if you’re thinking of traveling in the winters or need to go somewhere you can enjoy thrilling winter activities, Quark Expeditions is at your service.
Lindblad and National Geographic Expeditions
Family-oriented and fun, Lindblad and National Geographic Expeditions appeal to well-traveled families and those seeking a highly educational and immersive experience. If you’re bringing the kids and want them to have a productive time, then trust us, this is your best choice.
Lindblad’s Global Perspectives Program, available exclusively abroad National Geographic Explorer and on several National Geographic Orion departures, enables guests to travel with fascinating guest speakers from best-selling authors to scientists to world leaders. In addition, the Global explorers Family Program was designed specifically for kids and teens in conjunction with National Geographic Education. Check out the special offers and explore new itineraries. With this cruise line, you can go from the Galapagos islands to the furthest corners of the arctic.
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Hurtigruten Expedition luckily ticks all the boxes for travelers seeking the ultimate off-the-beaten-path expedition experience. One of the most budget-friendly expedition cruise options, this excellent expedition cruise line is one of the few that offers an incredible experience at an affordable rate. For example, experience The Svalbard Archipelago, located in the Arctic north of mainland Europe, on an 8-day itinerary. The region represents one of the world’s largest untouched wilderness areas, so you’ll be discovering an entirely new world. Or take an 11-night voyage to Antarctica and enjoy the Citizen Science program that allows travelers to contribute to ongoing scientific research projects. Whatever the case, you’re bound to discover endless adventures!
Best for guests seeking an ultra-luxury expedition experience onboard their three vessels, Silver Cloud, Silver Explorer, and Silver Origin, Silversea Cruises are tailored towards well-heeled and well-traveled guests. Guests receive exquisite accommodations, exceptional service, knowledgeable expedition leaders, and all the comforts of home.
Explore Antarctica, Asia, the South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Australia, New Zealand, and even South America onboard Silversea. In addition, guests wishing to visit the Galapagos islands will love the ultra-luxury Silver Origin, the first destination-specific ship. It comes equipped with all-suite accommodations, Horizon Balconies, and exceptional butler service. It also features the highest crew-to-guest ratio in the Galapagos, along with 8 Zodiacs to whisk guests away at a moment’s notice.
Crystal and Seabourn are close contenders for luxury expedition cruisers. Both cruise lines do a phenomenal job seamlessly blending sophistication with adventure. So if you’re confused and don’t know which one to choose, trust your traveling instinct and pick the itinerary that appeals to your sense of wonder and quest for discovery.
You’ve probably heard the name, and there’s a good reason why: UnCruise Adventures are perfect for families and travelers who want to experience Expedition Cruises closer to home in Hawaii, Alaska, and Central America. This is an excellent option for an introductory expedition cruise experience that is moderately priced and exceptionally staffed.
If motion sickness is holding you back, don’t be hesitant, check out our tips for motion sickness before you travel.
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