Getting up close and personal with intriguing wildlife, appreciating magnificent scenery, and immersing oneself in captivating experiences that enrich the soul – this is the essence of expedition cruising, rightfully billed as the adventure of a lifetime.
The opportunity to visit hard-to-reach places on small, specially-built vessels that large cruise ships can’t access holds tremendous appeal for today’s adventurist. And, as more companies launch expedition journeys to the far, unspoiled corners of the globe, agents will find it easier than ever to sell this vacation product to a wider audience.
Venturing Into Unspoiled Terrain
The destination is at the heart of the expedition journey. Touch icebergs, be awed by Antarctica’s exceptionally photogenic scenery, and watch Gentoo penguins, leopard seals and whales. Discover massive glaciers and polar bears in the Arctic. Explore Norwegian fjords against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and the midnight sun. Hike through the Alaskan wilderness, and glimpse caribou, brown bears, glaciers and pristine tundra.
Starting in 2020, Hurtigruten, the world’s largest expedition cruise operator, will launch a series of expeditions to Alaska with itineraries of 12-16 days that will take travelers through the legendary Inside Passage and remote Northwest Passage, along the Alaskan coast, to the Aleutian Islands chain, Canada, and off-beat destinations like rarely-visited Petersburg.
The Growing Market of Adventurists
The market for expedition cruising has significantly expanded. Travelers who were never drawn to traditional cruising because they didn’t favor the idea of mega-size floating cities – think younger clientele and adventure seekers – are intrigued by the hallmark of expedition cruising – delving deeper into a destination with fascinating shore excursions, exploring remote areas by Zodiac boats, and engaging in onboard educational lectures by expert geologists, biologists and historians. Climate change is another factor driving market growth because people want to see places before the landscape dramatically changes.
There is a compelling spontaneity that expedition journeys sometimes afford, occasionally veering from the set route to see humpback whales or bears on a distant shore. Plus, expedition vessels are smaller ships with low passenger count (between 100-500 people) and high passenger-to-staff ratios, which creates an intimacy over shared experiences, fostering a more enriching journey for all.
Families (especially multi-generational) are increasingly drawn to expedition voyages for the unique memory-making experiences that keep everyone off screens for family bonding (except, of course, for the highly Instagrammable pictures of polar bears on icebergs and kayaking among Norwegian fjords).
Expert Expedition Leaders
Expeditions are led by teams of dedicated, knowledgeable individuals who love adventure. Expedition leaders bring to their role a wealth of passion and expertise in history, geology, biology, oceanography, Arctic survival, ornithology, and photography, which adds an unrivaled dimension to these cruise experiences.
They offer a deep understanding of the areas explored, no matter where in the world a ship is sailing. They are teachers who are inspired to share their knowledge and adventurers who thrive in the wilderness. As your hosts, they skillfully balance the thrilling excursions with creating a relaxing and educational atmosphere for all guests.
Minimizing Impact With Sustainable Exploration
While expeditions are about immersing oneself in nature’s majesty, expedition ships that operate in a sustainable way speaks to the rising concern travelers have about their carbon footprint.
When Hurtigruten launches its first expedition to Alaska next year, it will introduce the MS Roald Amundsen, the world’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ship. It will be equipped with large battery packs, cut carbon dioxide emissions by sailing with electrical propulsion, and reduce fuel consumption. Also in 2020, Hurtigruten will debut its second hybrid electric-powered expedition ship, the MS Fridtjof Nansen, exploring Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and the Norwegian coast. By 2021, the company will have the first cruise ships in the world to run on a combination of large battery packs, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied biogas (LBG), a clean source of energy, considered the eco-friendliest fuel currently available.
Expedition ships are built to navigate ice and other extreme sea conditions, plus cutting-edge technology adds to comfort. For example, zero-speed stabilizers in newly built ships improve steadiness in water, a bonus when boarding Zodiacs and kayaks.
From snowshoeing in Antarctica and journeying through the Northwest Passage to hiking in Iceland, following in Vikings’ footsteps in Greenland, and discovering native cultures and fossil forests in Alaska, expedition cruises deliver what travel agents can confidently sell as the thrill of a lifetime.