An expedition cruise line executive once described what happened when a group of hardened business types set eyes on their first polar bear cub. First, their jaws dropped. Then they reached for their cheque books and demanded to know what it would take to save the cub and its environment. Beware. Adventure cruising can be life-changing. It puts you in touch with the planet like no other experience.
Once, to reach the more remote parts of our planet you had to endure hardship. Cutting through ice required the hull of an icebreaker – and a constitution to match. Thankfully, today’s expedition cruiser can sleep soundly after a delicious gourmet meal. Onboard comforts and amenities now rival, albeit on a smaller scale, those you would find on the world’s big cruise ships. The new wave of “Champagne adventure” ships are drawing guests to the pleasures of small-ship and expedition cruising in ever-increasing numbers.
The world of adventure cruising is always expanding. No longer just the Antarctic and Arctic, the wilds of Asia, Africa and the Americas are calling loudly, too. There’s always something new and exciting on offer. Here are four really good reasons to consider an adventure cruise.
1 Destination driven
Most adventure cruise veterans first decide on where they want to go, then research the most appropriate vessel to take them there. But that rule is changing as cruise lines add more ships and build loyalty among repeat travellers. If guests love a particular style of cruise line or belong to its loyalty club, it is becoming increasingly possible to experience adventure destinations on either the same ship or with the same company…
2 Small packages, good things
That old saying is never more appropriate than when applied to small-ship and adventure cruising. Some cruisers like vast shopping malls and bright lights, while adventure cruisers prefer peace, quiet and tranquillity. Most ships carry about 100 or so guests, often fewer, so there is little worry about crowds or queues. Small, sometimes tiny ships can venture much closer to shore and even up rivers to explore in true expedition style. Shallow drafts and narrow beams mean adventure cruisers can immerse themselves in fascinating environments without the need for ugly and intrusive infrastructure such as wharves, jetties and port facilities. Many times Zodiac-style rigid inflatable tenders will take guests ashore, landing them directly onto a beach or pebbly shore. Small numbers also mean guests can go ashore to visit little hamlets, villages and delicate environments without overwhelming the special place they have come so far to see. Additionally, many destinations restrict the number of visitors allowed to come ashore, especially in the polar regions.
3 Close encounters
Pristine natural environments where delicate eco-systems must be preserved are not the place to park a 3,000-passenger megaliner. Guests on the world’s expedition fleet delight in close, respectful encounters with wildlife in their natural environments. Whales, bears, majestic seabirds and all kinds of wildlife are best observed in their proper home. Photographers will delight in the unmatched opportunities to capture amazing images without disturbing animals as they go about their instinctive behaviour. Guests won’t always be conservationists when they board, but almost certainly will be when they get off.
4 Like minds
Travelling solo on an adventure cruise is a perfectly natural thing to do. Lots of people of both sexes do. While it might not be where you would naturally go to meet a life partner, it is fall-off-a-log easy to make friends and engage in stimulating conversation with people who share a passion for nature and the outdoors. Friendly arguments will ensue about the world’s most pristine destinations and how best to get there, and many enduring friendships are forged amid ice floes and fiords.
Lines to try: APT, Fred.Olsen, Hurtigruten, Silversea Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions, Ponant, Paul Gauguin, Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery, Voyages to Antiquity, Windstar.