Enticing Expeditions: In-Depth Adventures in Far-Flung Places

Expedition cruising is absolutely soaring in popularity for 2024 and beyond. Luxury travelers increasingly are clamoring for experiential travel and small-ship adventures, while simultaneously, new upscale expedition ships have debuted. The result is many more expedition itinerary choices.

In one concrete example, Cruise Planners ended 2023 with an astounding 427 percent growth in expedition cruise volume compared with 2019 and 74 percent growth in expedition volume over 2022. For 2024 expedition departures, the agency network is also pacing 25 percent ahead of the same time last year. “Needless to say, expedition cruising is very hot and will continue to be into the future as more cruise lines offer these products and new cruise line companies enter the ever-growing market,” emphasizes Theresa Scalzitti, chief operations officer, Cruise Planners.

So, here are Luxury Travel Advisor’s top trends in expedition cruising, based on both our own observations and advisor feedback.

More Diverse Arctic Expeditions

Still wildly popular are polar expeditions to the Arctic region but, increasingly, they’re also more in-depth. For instance, nestled halfway between Norway and the North Pole is the polar Svalbard Archipelago of Norway. Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s prime enclave of civilization and home to just 2,100-plus residents, has always been a popular Arctic port call. But, now, consumers are seeing more full-blown expedition journeys that focus solely on Svalbard.

Travelers should check out Silversea’s seven-night “Longyearbyen to Longyearbyen” sailings of the 220-passenger Silver Endeavour. As this ultra-luxury ship explores both northern and southern Svalbard, guests will head out via Zodiacs and hikes to gaze at fjords, glaciers, bird cliffs/islands, craggy landscapes and historically important sites. Along the way, they’ll possibly spot walruses, Arctic birds, humpback whales and even polar bears. These adventurous expeditions will depart June 12, June 19 and June 26, 2025.

As part of the Arctic region, Greenland and nearby Iceland also are attracting more in-depth expeditions. One new nine-day option on Aurora Expeditions is “Iceland’s Westfjords and North Coast” itinerary. Departing July 28, 2025, round-trip from Reykjavik, Iceland, the 132-passenger Sylvia Earle will take guests to the remote, pristine Westfjords—a land of thundering waterfalls, lava fields breathing steam and valleys that seemingly go on forever.

Silver Endeavour’s seven-night “Longyearbyen to Longyearbyen”sailings will give guests an opportunity to head out via Zodiacs and hikes to gaze at fjords, glaciers, bird cliffs/islands and historically important sites. (Silversea)

Cruisers might catch a view of a whale’s tail as the marine creature takes a deep dive or spot cute Atlantic puffins with orange beaks and white and black feathers at Latrabjarg’s cliffs. Back aboard, guests will enjoy sumptuous accommodations such as the 472-square-foot Captain’s Suite and perhaps relax in whirlpools or inside a sauna with stunning exterior views.

In another twist, some Greenland/Iceland voyages include the Canadian Maritime Provinces, St. Lawrence Seaway and Eastern Seaboard. For example, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ luxurious 230-passenger Hanseatic Inspiration sails on an 18-day “Kangerlussuaq to Toronto” voyage from Greenland to Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario, Canada on August 29, 2024. Guests will view icebergs in Greenland’s Disko Bay, enjoy Zodiac explorations and learn tales about Viking, Inuit and First Nations’ cultures along the sailing route.

Designated as an international voyage with both English and German spoken as official onboard languages, this expedition cruise also includes a charter flight to Kangerlussuaq and a travel package from the arrival point. Most of the ship’s all-ocean-view accommodations offer private balconies or French balconies.

Food-and-Wine Expeditions

Combining a non-polar expedition with a gastronomic or cultural focus is another recent trend. Atlas Ocean Voyages debuted new Epicurean Expeditions in the Mediterranean last year and continues that focus this year as well. One appealing option is the boutique luxury line’s nine-night “Sicilian Summer” itinerary departing round-trip from Valletta, Malta, on August 23, 2024. The 196-passenger World Traveller will sail to Syracuse, Giardini Naxos (for Taormina/Mt. Etna), Lipari Island, Palermo, Trapani, Porto Empedocle, all in Sicily, plus Gozo in Malta.

Throughout this epicurean journey, guests can expect an in-depth, culinary-and-wine focus.

Most notably, chef and author David Shalleck will sail as the voyage’s special Gastronomic Guest. Other perks will include a complimentary cultural immersion experience, culinary tastings and more.

Closer to home, Food & Wine magazine and Lindblad Expeditions are teaming up for many 2024 departures of the new “Columbia and Snake Rivers Journey: Food, Wine, and History” itinerary in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. One big draw is that Ray Isle, Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor, has handpicked more than 40 local wines for guests on these voyages to taste.

In addition, a food-and-wine expert will travel on these designated sailings. Isle himself will sail with guests on March 31, 2024. As they sip and savor, guests will sail the Columbia and Snake Rivers in comfort and style aboard the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird or the National Geographic Sea Lion. They’ll view spectacular scenery, tour museums and historic sites. Plus, they’ll don their expedition mindset as they explore via hikes, kayaks, Zodiacs and jet boats.

Exotic Eco-Expeditions

Seabourn in the Amazon
Seabourn’s new nine-day “Heart of the Amazon” expedition itinerary will ply South America’s Amazon River. (Seabourn)

Increasingly, luxury expedition lines are also debuting new warm-weather, exotic options. In particular, many are heading to the remote Kimberley region of northwestern Australia, which Luxury Travel Advisor has covered in many stories as a hot trending expedition region. That continues this year, as well. But there are other new exotic expeditions, too.

Seabourn’s new nine-day “Heart of the Amazon” expedition itinerary is akin to a safari on water within South America’s Amazon River. Departing on October 12 and October 21, 2025, the 264-passenger, ultra-luxury Seabourn Venture will sail round-trip from Manaus, Brazil, into some rarely visited Amazon eco-areas.

Boarding the ship’s fleet of Zodiacs, guests will head out by day and night to spot giant Amazonian lily pads, dancing pink botos (a species of dolphin), night owls, and hoatzin (birds) amid the Varzea ecosystem; that’s characterized as a seasonal floodplain forest inundated by whitewater rivers. Expert naturalists will accompany guests into the field, and guides will explain the region’s agricultural traditions. Guests can also explore via optional kayaking excursions.

Far across the Pacific in the East Indonesia Archipelago, Aqua Expeditions’ 30-passenger Aqua Blu will operate a new, seven-night “Ambon and Spice Islands” expedition across the Banda Sea on multiple departures in October and November 2024. This is a highly appealing journey for “been there, done that” travelers who also enjoy underwater exploration. Led by expert guides, guests can dive or snorkel daily amid tropical fish and perhaps spot rays, sea snakes and even hammerhead sharks.

Fun factoid? Sun lovers can bask on the beaches of Pulau Run, a one-square-mile island once so valued for its spices in the 17th century that the Dutch East Indies Company traded present-day Manhattan to the British for it. Guests can also peruse the active Gunung Banda Api volcano, and, at the ship’s makeshift floating bar, watch Aqua Blu’s bartenders orchestrate a cocktail session surrounded by the Banda Sea.

More Expedition Trends

In addition, travelers are increasingly booking more back-to-back expeditions. Small-ship luxury lines with a mindset for adventure also are seeking a strong scientific or conservation focus. For example, small-ship Explora Journeys has tapped Mike Horn, a Johannesburg-born explorer, as its brand ambassador. He recently sailed on Explora I along the coast of Greenland, sharing tales during enrichment talks and shoreside experiences. He’s now helping Explora Journeys develop unique adventure experiences for guests while also promoting sustainability and conservation.

Yet another trend is the emergence of Christmas Markets voyages in the expedition sector. For instance, Ponant will debut a new 10-day “Scandinavian Wonderland & Christmas Markets” itinerary. The 245-guest Le Commandant Charcot, a nimble, modern and luxurious icebreaker, will sail round-trip from Helsinki, Finland, on December 2 and December 11, 2024, to Stockholm and Gotland, Sweden, plus Gdansk, Poland.

Viewing snow-dusted scenery, they’ll savor mulled wine, cinnamon, and gingerbread in the region’s Christmas markets. They’ll also peruse Gothic and Baroque architecture and explore the old town of Riga, Latvia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One cultural highlight? Guests will attend a private concert at the Polish Baltic Frederic Chopin Philharmonic in Gdansk, Poland.

Increasingly, too, new expedition ships sport high-tech resources including long-range cameras that can display live video aboard. So, guests can spot wildlife from miles away. Helicopters too are enhancing the 2024 expedition experience. A new “bucket list” helicopter experience— first undertaken in December 2023 by ultra-luxury Scenic—is now planned as well for the line’s 22-day “Antarctica, South Georgia & The Falkland Islands” itinerary, departing November 27, 2024, round-trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Accommodating up to 200 guests, the expeditionary, ultra-luxury Scenic Eclipse carries a fleet of Zodiacs, kayaks and two custom-built Airbus H130 helicopters. So, weather and sea conditions permitting, Scenic Eclipse’s guests might have the opportunity for an unforgettable helicopter flight and landing on sea ice near the Weddell Sea’s Snow Hill Island. What’s the draw? Travelers can hike just a short distance to view a colony of more than 4,000 breeding pairs of Emperor Penguins, the tallest and heaviest penguin species.

Snow Hill Island Heli Excursion
Scenic Eclipse guests might have the opportunity for a helicopter flight and landing on sea ice near the Weddell Sea’s Snow Hill Island. Shown here are Emperor penguins at the Snow Hill Island. (Martin Bianco via Scenic )

Grand Expedition Voyages

Of course, nothing qualifies for a luxury traveler’s “bragging rights” as much as a journey to the end of the Earth, except perhaps a voyage to both ends. Building on the post-pandemic appeal of Grand Voyages, Viking is offering an 87-day “From the Arctic to Antarctica” expedition on its 378-passenger Viking Octantis. Sailing from Nuuk, Greenland, this luxurious expedition ship will visit other spots in Greenland and the Canadian High Arctic region, before heading to the Canadian Maritime Provinces, Quebec and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Continuing along the U.S. East Coast, it will call at Norfolk, VA; Charleston, SC; and Fort Lauderdale, FL. Traversing the western Caribbean and Panama Canal, the ship will then visit Ecuador, Peru and Chile, before heading to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. The voyage will conclude in Ushuaia, Argentina.

In addition, Coral Expeditions, HX, Quark Expeditions, Swan Hellenic, Celebrity Cruises’ Galapagos yachts, and others also offer enticing, upscale expedition voyages, creating even more options for travelers eager for “experiences” and adventure.

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