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Expedition Cruises: Not Just for the Intrepid Traveller

SBN-RSAY17-Onshore-Seabourn Guests with Expedition Staff-Cuverville Island-Antarctica

The cruise lines offering Expedition Cruises have taken clear steps to be more inclusive.  Voyages are educational experiences with cruise lines offering cruise holiday itineraries and voyages on a spectrum of “soft expedition” through to “true expedition”.

How Intrepid Are You?

SBN-RSAY17-Kayaking Demonstration with Crew at Half Moon Island-Antarctica

Expedition Cruises can quickly conjure images of precariously clambering into zodiacs (or kayaks) and very basic accommodation options – in line with the often used expedition phrase: the focus is on the destination and not the ship.  Before the expansion of “soft expedition” voyages this was often the case.

An area where we help our clients is in deciding which cruise line and voyage best fits with their preferred style of travel.  Through our own knowledge of the cruise lines, and working with our New Zealand based wholesale cruise specialists we are able to prepare and present taylored options (often taking into account aspects you may not have considered).

If you want to go kayaking in Antarctic or Alaskan waters, finding a cruise line and a voyage with capacity will be important to you.  This may outweigh the fact that the cruise line may not offer room service (or have onboard WIFI). On the other hand, if you are not interested (or capable) of riding in a zodiac, a ship with more onboard creature comforts may make your overall experience more enjoyable.  Importantly, many Premium and Luxury cruise lines (such as Ponant) are designing their ships to make core expedition experiences (like a zodiac ride) more accessible.

The cruise ships are generally mid to small class vessels allowing guests access to less-frequented ports that big cruise ships can’t reach (and to account for limitations such as only 100 people allowed on the Antarctic ice at one time). When luxury cruise lines like Silversea, Seabourn, and Hapag Lloyd offer itineraries to Antarctica, you know if is not all about a “rough and ready” experience.


Explore somewhere new


If you love travelling and do so regularly, an expedition cruise is an opportunity to step away from the beaten track and explore a destination you may not have considered, or that you wouldn’t normally visit as an add on to a business trip or a visit to the kids and grandkids.  An expedition cruise is a perfect way to celebrate a milestone – whether that be an anniversary, birthday, sale of a business or retirement.

The Polar Regions are the most commonly thought of expedition destinations and with regions like Antarctica, you need to make sure you plan ahead and consider the right seasons for travel.

Read more in our guide on when to travel to Antarctica.

Destinations such as the Galapagos, Alaska and the Australian Kimberley Region are also well serviced by the leading expedition cruise lines and are also destinations that are generally best experienced from the sea.

The Auckland Islands – New Zealand’s Galapagos

Although expedition destinations like the Galapagos, the Kimberley Region and Antarctica are on many bucket lists, in our own backyard are the remarkable Auckland Islands (refer map).  Offering diverse sea and bird life it’s an opportunity to learn about species that are unique to the Islands.

New Zealand owned and operated Heritage Expeditions are experts in the region and their new ship the Heritage Adventurer provides a soft expedition experience.  Owner Aaron Russ has been travelling to the Auckland Islands for over 30 years and so you can be assured that the onboard experts will add to this memorable experience.


Learn From, And Travel With, True Experts


The commitment to onboard expertise can be seen through partnerships with leading experts and well known names (such as National Geographic).  Expedition cruise lines pride themselves on an experience with crew who are passionate about the destination – often extending to an Open Bridge Policy providing unique access to the Captain.

One of the most overused phrases in travel is the opportunity to mix with “like minded people”.  Expedition cruising is probably the only area where this isn’t just an empty advertising claim.  Sharing time with experienced travellers who might share your interest in ornithology, photography, diving, kayaking or just travel in general all adds to the goal of creating an enriching and memorable experience.

Planning an Expedition Cruise

An expedition cruise will often require more planning and research than most.  Each region will generally have a specific season that you will need to work to and therefore it is often common to book a year and sometimes two years in advance (generally only a deposit is required when booking).

Once the region and seasons are established, choosing a cruise line that best meets your needs and style of travel is the next step.  Sometimes this will be determined by budget, but more often it is determined by factors such as the length of the itinerary, the shore excursions and the style of ship (from luxury soft expedition through to true expedition experiences).

Travel insurance is generally compulsory for expedition cruising so it is important to consider pre-existing conditions and which insurance companies will cover you (we can help you navigate this).

As part of our service, we can assist you with research (including sending hard copy brochures where available) and work with the cruise line directly (or local wholesale specialists) to find the latest availability, fares and any special offers.