Whether you are an avid traveler, an experienced cruiser, or find yourself suddenly craving adventure, you might have come across articles and blogs talking about a brilliant new way to travel. Instagrammers and vloggers excitedly post photos and videos of life at sea. And you might have even noticed that you hear the words “expedition cruises” frequently thrown around. But what are expedition cruises? Where do they go, and what makes them different from ordinary cruises?
If you’re looking for a satisfying answer, then you’ve come to the right place because you’re about to discover why expedition cruises garner so much praise and why they may be the perfect next vacation for you.
“The danger of adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort.”
― Paulo Coelho
Difference Between Ocean Cruise and Expedition Cruises?
While part of the cruise industry, expedition cruises fall into their own unique category and are built for adventure. Most ocean cruises allow travelers to explore a small portion of the destination to which they travel. Ocean cruise itineraries are typically designed to stop at various ports and explore nearby towns and cities. Whether traveling on large ships destined for party islands in the Caribbean or small luxury vessels that explore charming towns along the Mediterranean, ocean cruises typically travel during warmer months and take advantage of calmer seas and pleasant climates. They welcome travelers to enjoy a slower pace of life and relax in comfort and style.
On the other hand, Expedition cruises tend to be smaller and studier vessels. They are intentionally designed to enter remote harbors and difficult-to-reach places. Many expedition ships are built to withstand harsh conditions and extreme weather. This allows for adventurous itineraries focused on nature, wildlife, and education. Expedition vessels bring travelers through jungles, icefields, arctic tundras, and otherwise inaccessible destinations. The set up allowing travelers to become authentic explorers.
Exploratory Destinations Made Easier to Access
You can tell from the name, but expedition cruises allow guests to enter remote destinations in a way never before possible. Expedition cruises ensure that the places you go are immersive and exciting. They build upon the spirit of the world’s greatest adventurers and explorers. Through expedition cruises, you can visit destinations like Alaska, Antarctica, Galapagos, and the Arctic. These destinations are among the most popular, and you’ll be glad to know that expedition cruises go all out to ensure that every guest has a fantastic experience.
Destinations that were previously reserved for scientists, researchers, and professional explorers became accessible for regular travelers thanks to expedition cruises.
An Experience That Ticks All the Boxes
Expedition cruises care for both their passengers and the destinations where they travel. All cruises offer a sustainable and environmentally responsible experience, protecting the fragile ecosystems and remote communities they visit.
They are also highly immersive and feature programs and events designed to entertain their guests. Plus, these immersive cruises are an excellent option for travelers hoping for an educational experience without boring lectures or study halls. Expedition cruises are ideally designed to keep school-age children, teens and parents excited and engaged throughout the trip.
Open Space and Comfort
While many large cruise ships pack thousands of passengers onboard their vessels, expedition cruises tend to keep the numbers much lower. Since expedition cruises operate on smaller vessels, the ideal capacity of even a “larger” expedition cruise is 200 passengers or less. So if you are averse to crowds, seeking social distancing, and yearning to spend time in nature, expedition cruises will suit you perfectly.
Interactive and Intimate Atmosphere
Despite catering to hundreds of people, the atmosphere of an expedition cruise is much more interactive and intimate than a general ocean cruise. Expedition cruises focus on fewer crowds and up-close and personal interactions. The staff quickly learns all the passengers’ names and interests, creating a personalized experience. When choosing the specific cruise line, its important to keep several things in mind in order to elevate your experience. Many cruises offer different atmospheres, so be sure to choose the one best for your group.
Greater Offboard Exploration
On larger cruises, the number of passengers can be in the thousands. Because so many passengers are on board, these cruises only stop at specific destinations that accommodate large tenders and massive ships. Given the number of passengers disembarking on any given day, many destinations that welcome large cruises become overcrowded and lose their authenticity.
But with expedition cruises, luckily, that’s not the case. Not only do expedition itineraries avoid mass-market destinations and overcrowded ports, but many expedition cruises do multiple landings a day. This means that people are spending more time off the ship than on it.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― Andre Gide
Remote Locations Made Accessible
Although most cruises take their passengers to adventurous destinations, sometimes it takes a greater effort to arrange trips to places that are indeed off the beaten path. Expedition cruises are experts in accessing remote locations that are otherwise very difficult or impossible to get to. Some cruise lines even offer helicopter services transporting guests to hike on remote glaciers, overnight Antarctic camping adventures, and diving with whale sharks.
Educational and Stimulating
One of the greatest advantages of expedition cruises is that they offer an educational platform filled with interactive learning experiences. Whether listening to a professional astronomer talk about the night sky as you gaze up to see the splendor of the Milky Way, attending an outdoor lecture focused on global warming given by a world-renown researcher, or kayaking alongside penguins with your marine biology expedition leaders and National Geographic photographers, an educational experience is guaranteed. You will learn about everything, from birdlife to geology and geopolitics to exploration and climate change. So bring your curiosity and an open mind, and you’ll be up to speed in no time!
For the truly adventurous, many expedition cruise lines offer zodiacs, also known as RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats), that bring travelers up close to the most captivating destinations on earth.
Navigation of Narrow Waterways
Larger cruise ships can’t navigate narrow waterways or small harbors, so if you travel on a larger vessel, there’s a high chance you’re missing out on some incredible destinations. However, expedition cruises are equipped to fit in narrow waterways or tiny harbors which would otherwise be impossible to reach. This is also how they can reach previously unexplored destinations, so let’s be thankful for all they’re doing for us!
Expedition cruises believe in off-the-board experiences as strongly as onboard ones. This is why their passengers find themselves interacting with the local people and environment. Instead of extensive bus tours and megaphones, the shore activities take advantage of their natural surroundings. Most expedition cruises also are prepared for stops. Wherever they go, they often are providing guests with parkas, binoculars, kayaks, and other necessary gear for an immersive experience. And that’s not all; expedition cruises also offer great packages for shore activities, whether hiking, ice-walks, swimming, kayaking, or diving.
If you are afraid of being let down on your next holiday and have been reluctant to get back on a cruise ship, an expedition experience offers a life-changing adventure. Expedition cruises should be at the top of your list. With luxury accommodations, great opportunities to explore the wild, and a value-packed experience, expedition cruises make for a great vacation.
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