The Definitive Guide to Expedition Cruises

An Expedition Cruise to the Arctic
An Expedition Cruise to the Arctic

If you’re in the midst of deciding upon taking a cruise and have never been tempted before, then you probably reside in one of two camps. A person or couple who enjoys seeing new cities and cultures and embarking on fun packed ocean cruise liner that will set sail and take you to some truly beautiful and exotic locations while you sunbathe and enjoy theatre and fine dining on a cruise ship.

Or, a wish for that truly adventurous and physical cruise journey known as an expedition cruise which will see you off the ship more than on, enjoying adventurous activities and being at one with nature in amongst a smaller group of up to one people instead of the hundreds on board a normal cruise ship.

If you wish to view the world and country you’re visiting as vividly or emotionally as you would when living in next door to some of the planet’s most dangerous and most wild and frivolous animals and creatures then an expedition cruise will certainly press the right buttons.

When comparing the difference between cruise ship holidays and expedition cruises, the stop overs are great on the cruise ships that come with everything you need but mingling with 2500 people in shared swimming pools, casino halls, entertainment venues, dance floors and clubs, bars and saunas isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

If you’re a bit more adventurous, get bored easily and find sitting in the sun for several hours a day a little bit blase then you may well consider expedition cruises to be more your forte. There is a world of difference between your average cruise around the Mediterranean compared to an expedition cruise and this article seeks to find out those life changing differences and spur you on to investing in what could well be one of your most memorable and enjoyable cruise holidays.

Expedition via Canada
Expedition via Canada

What Is An Expedition Cruise?

Expedition cruises are a cruise sensation that allow you to enjoy the wonders of nature and mother nature’s historical sites, rather than buildings and architecture built up over dozens of centuries in cities and ports across the world.

There is a wealth of seascapes and landscapes untouched by the through trade of tourism and an expedition cruise takes you to these far flung and often distance places to enjoy a once in a lifetime adventure that will provide memories for decades to come.

You can visit separate continents, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Arctic, Alaska, the South Pacific and the Sea of Cortez amongst other incredible destinations and truly immerse yourself in the land and seascapes of each country you visit. On offer will be a truly individual experience of getting to know nature for a week or two and live side by side the very creatures that continue to amaze millions with nature programmes viewed on television screens and cinemas around the world.

The South Pacific
The South Pacific

Sail on dinghies and witness sea lions, whales and bird life in their environment. Travel on kayaks and boats and wander through mazes of river valleys and canyons the world over and hike through some truly amazing tropical rainforests, plateaus of icey wilderness and go on safaris and see animals and mammals alive and well and in the midst of their truly instinctive survival habits.

Whether you already have an interest in nature, geology or scientific tours into the relative unknown. After you have experienced the delights of an expedition cruise you will never again forget what intrinsic and delicate value nature has to offer the human race.

An expedition cruise works much in the same way as a cruise liner, albeit the majority of your time will be spent ashore and on the sea inlets discovering new activities and watching wildlife while being educated about the surrounding environment.

Some of the
Some of the wildlife available to see and interact with on an Expedition Cruise

While an expedition cruise may lack a club or fast food, leisure activities and swimming pools, you can hardly compare the openness and endurance of partaking in rock climbing in real cliff edge environments. Swimming with dolphins or kayaking alongside some of the most naturally vivid and overwhelming scenes in the world.

While the majority of your time on board a cruise will be understanding and being lectured on the environment and different specifies and what work is being done to discover and protect the world around us. You will mostly be sleeping and eating after a hard days enjoyment sailing between ports of adventure partaking in adventurous escapades and knowledge based tours and scouting that will leave your days aboard a ship pass as unnoticeable.

The Galapagos Tortoise
The Galapagos Tortoise

Destinations Available With Expedition Cruises

If you can imagine yourself setting sail 250 years ago on the open seas but with today’s technology and speed of travel then you’re half way to understanding the world you can discover when on an expedition cruise properly. There are some truly delightful destinations that you can experience and be at one with.

Take for instance, the South Pacific. You really enjoy a better sense of adventure when on expedition cruises through the Asian and Australian territories. Visiting such wonderful islands such as Fiji, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Maldives as well as touring around Australia’s great offerings like the Great Barrier Reef and the rough country of Tasmania.

Scuba diving and snorkelling are especially favourable in these hidden locations on a South pacific tour. Discovering local cultures of the Polynesian and Micronesian populations are a delightful conclave of historic traditions and cuisines that you really won’t be able to refuse to join in and sample.

Listed below are a variety of alternative expedition cruises on offer around the world in both sunnier and more colder climates. Ranging from a Galapagos Cruise to an Alaska Cruise. Each offering swathes of activities and a differing representation of nature to both learn about and learn from while embarking on your cruise of a lifetime.

A true expedition cruise!
A true expedition cruise!

Discover The World And Nature On Expedition Cruises

For a brief overview of what an Expedition Cruise’s itinerary might look like, tale a glimpse of the sample expedition cruises below and see the amazing abundance of wildlife that can be seen and the activities you can experience while doing so. All the while stacking up memories so unique you’ll wonder why you didn’t take an expedition cruise sooner.

Galapagos Cruise – 9/10 Days

Wildlife: Marina iguanas, land tortoises, blue footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot Crab, Green Sea Turtles, Frigate Bird, Golden rays and many other species of fauna and fora. Engage with Sea Lions.
Activities: Snorkelling, diving, photography instruction and tours. Kayaking, hiking and walking.
Capture memories with underwater camera and utilise scientific equipment used by scientists who visit including a glass bottom boat.
National Geographic Endeavour and National Geographic Islander.

Alaska Cruise – 8/9 Days

Wildlife: Bears, eagles and humpback whales, killer whales and salmon.
Hiking through Spruce Forests, Walking on glaciers, kayaking. Navigate Tracy Arm Fjord, Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait.
Certified naturalist instructors as guides throughout.
National Geographic Sea Lion National Geographic Sea Bird.

Antarctica Cruise – 13/14 Days

Wildlife: Gentoo, Adelie penguins, chinstrap penguins, whales and other marine life. Blue eyed shags and albatross.
Zodiac trips, kayaking, bird watching and walking. Discover Iguazu Falls, Devil’s Throat and extended tours available.
Staff: Naturalists, Ornithologists, Marine Biologists, Polar Historians, an Undersea Specialist, NG Photographer and expert Ice Team. National Geographic Explorer.

Expedition cruises, as you can see, are completely different beasts to your average touring Cruise ship holiday. While culture and new environments, cuisine and museums are the gift of a cruise holiday, the wonderment of nature and the real outdoors are the highlight of worldwide Expedition Cruises.

Amenities And Facilities On Expedition Cruises

Depending on your choice of cruise and location, you can expect a similar level of service of that of a normal cruise liner, only on a more personable and smaller scale. Your meals will be served in smaller quarters and a less varied menu and possibly offering more local cuisine. Your engagement with fellow passengers will be more enduring and at the same time fruitful and enjoyable.

On the more adventurous trips you may find less luxury but as normally expected, if you have the money to spend then there’s no end to comfort that you can enjoy no matter whether you’re venturing to a sunnier climate or one that experiences freezing temperatures overnight.

Facilities on board an expedition cruise ship
Facilities on board an expedition cruise ship will pale in importance with the sights and activities in store for you! 

Toilets and sanitation may either be shared or separate but the amount of on board activities may be limited to lectures and use of scientific instruments rather than casinos, night clubs and theatres. In all likelihood you will probably be too tired after a day’s external adventures to be worried about occupying your mind with anything other than sleep and the next day’s action.

Showers and bathing facilities will be available on the majority of expedition cruises, although again some may be shared. A bar on board may provide some social aspects and enable a variety of chatter about the day’s events but unlike a fully fledged cruise liner, the majority of your experience will happen off ship and in the open with nature.

There are luxury expedition cruises and then there are expeditions cruises that have the very stable needs. Both offering encounters with wildlife and adventures in natural surrounds. Choosing the right cruise for both your budget and level of expectation is quite crucial. Overall, if you can forget life’s luxuries for a few weeks and just get by while getting it on with mother nature, you will find amenities and facilities are really a secondary thought.

Are Expedition Cruises For Me?

It is possible to both enjoy a cruise liner that tours around the oceans ports, go shopping and indulge in other cultures on a day visit, wine and dine and partake in activities on board a cruise liner and still be the type of person or couple to enjoy an active, soul searching and nature based cruise. However an expedition cruise offers up a different set of activity that may or may not be as luxurious or as relaxing as you might presume.

An Expedition cruise typically caters for less than one to two hundred people and while there are some cruises which offer luxury accommodation, the majority of activities are wholly active in the outdoors arena. With less people on board you may also find yourself engaging more with those on the cruise than you would when a cruise liner is teeming with thousands. There is usually a team effort required with the majority of land based and sea based sports also.

The activities may combine scientific tours, lectures on geology and nature, also local culture and taking part in some truly active walking holidays and kayaking. Engaging more with nature like whales, dolphins and birds rather than birds of another nature in a cruise liner’s club or swimming pool is also a difference that may detract from your usual cruise liner experience.

The cost is another point to query. Many cruise liners buy in food, entertainment and offer service to the bulk of passengers thus brining down the cost of accommodation and activities. An expedition cruise has to be more specialised, offering unique activities to a select few, cooking food and meals for smaller parties and taking on board more knowledgeable staff. Those who know about geology and how to dive rather than how to sing and entertain.

So there’s a cost difference, smaller groups of people that you will get to know quite well over the cruise journey. You will interact but most of all, if you like returning to nature, enjoy active sports, are intrigued about science and like to get out and about then there is no question that an Expedition Cruise is for you.

Expedition Cruising Versus Typical Cruise Ships

At the start of this piece we proffered which camp you resided in when looking to compare cruising the populist way over the more natural expedition cruising route. So far you’ve learned that they are two very different breeds of cruise. Let’s delve further and see exactly how different Expedition Cruising and Cruise Ships are.

Comfort: Cruise Ships offer high class as well as standard accommodation but in each respect you can probably expect a high level of room service and en suite bathroom facilities. Your rooms will be cleaned, bed sheets changed, towels washed, drinks and meals delivered to your door as well as satellite television.

On an Expedition Cruise unless you’re on a luxury yacht for the expedition the majority offer little in the way of resounding comfort. Beds will be basic and you will probably need to make your own, you may also need to share bathroom facilities.

There certainly won’t be room service and instead a table in your room for the alcohol and titbits you’ve brought aboard. However you may well sleep better on an Expedition Cruise, thanks to the activities you partake in, many passengers find themselves exhausted and retiring early after a busy, invigorating and active itinerary in the fresh air.

Shopping: When Expedition Cruising the majority of your shopping will need to be done beforehand or directly after embarking. The stop overs you visit will be natural habitats in the main, that offer daily excursions to visit wildlife or take in the wildlife though kayaking or safaris.

However on board a cruise ship you will have a plethora of shops to cater for your every need and whim, as well as all the city shopping centres in the ports you visit. Souvenirs aplenty, mugs, key rings, locally handmade wares, whilst on your expedition cruise souvenirs are more likely to be in the form of memory, photo or a picturesque painting and a receipt for donation to a foundation.

Catering: On an Expedition Cruise you won’t be able to order food from a menu or variety of bars offering 50 different meals. Meals will probably be set or a limited choice and will be cooked for you throughout your Expedition cruise. In fairness after trekking up a mountain or hiking for twenty miles, you’ll probably be glad of a timely meal by the time you get back.

An Antarctic Cruise
An Antarctic Cruise

On the other hand cruise ships offer standard burgers, chips and coca cola to Beef Bourguignon and fancy desserts. If you get a little peckish at night, there’s always a timely room service or you can nip out to the bar or restaurant for a meal at 2am. On an Expedition Cruise meals will be at set times but I’m sure you can have use of the fridge with your own food. Advisable to take non refrigerated snacks however unless your room offers a fridge.

Socialising: It may seem a little strange but you will have more time to yourself and more privacy on a cruise ship with 5,000 people on board, than you will on an Expedition Cruise which may only have from fifty to one hundred on board.

An Expedition Cruise is a very close knit community, aside from the time you spend in your own bunk, while meal times may be staggered you will all eat at the same time. You may well be coerced into meeting fellow passengers and getting to know them through a variety of scheduled events and you’ll certainly be introducing yourself from the outset. Many on expedition cruising boats find their pictures on the wall of the canteen before the end of the first day.

Kayaking with Killer Whales
Kayaking with Killer Whales

Socialising on a Cruise Ship is an entirely different kettle of fish. Bars, clubs, pools, rock climbing, you name it they have it. Cruise ships also have scheduled activities for children and adults but all are by choice. When on an Expedition Cruise the majority of meetings, lectures and socialising see most passengers encouraged to attend.

Activities: Cruise Ships today are whole cities on the oceans. Floating with so much to enjoy inbetween city and port stop overs. In fact if it wasn’t for the cruising it would be just like living in a major city with every restaurant and bar offering a wide variety of menus and drinks and the activities on board from dancing and clubbing, rock climbing, tanning and saunas, health spas, swimming pools, casinos and theatre, you’ll not bored.

Unless of course you’re used to doing all that already. On an Expedition Cruise you’re offered the unique chance to try out new activities in new environments while cruising between different or similar landscapes. You will view wildlife up close, see nature in progress, hike, rock climb, kayak, swim with mammals and engage in lectures brimming you with information.

Stop Overs: On any given scheduled Cruise Ship journey and Expedition Cruise the stop overs are the whole point of cruise. But both differ. On a Cruise you can partake in historic sites, visit museums, find more shops to shop in, pick up souvenirs, enjoy the local food and culture and immerse yourself in a population of millions in a new city.

On an Expedition Cruise the population you will be in the midst off may well have four legs, make funny noises or swim in the oceans most of their lives. The people you will meet will be those you have cruised and done activities with for the past few days and there will be next to no shops, just pure blissful mother nature and her friends.

See Polar Bears on
See Polar Bears on one of Silversea Cruises itineraries 

Equipment: When seeking out a holiday on a Cruise Ship you can be sure that you are never more than twenty minutes from a shop or an essential that you may need. Make up, socks, new wallet, balloon, can of beer, a new book to read, sun cream.Whether at port, in the city or on the ship 50 miles at sea, you know you won’t be short.

However while Expedition Cruising a part from the limited products that may be for sale on your Expedition Cruise ship if caught short you’ll probably need to borrow from fellow passengers,wait for the once in a week township stop off or simply go without. So before embarking on an Expedition Cruise holiday ensure you have everything you need.

You may also need additional clothing for the journey and activities. Rock climbing shoes, waterproof gear for kayaking, hiking boots. All extras you don’t need when boarding your average cruise.

Money: Believe it or not, despite all the nature and wilderness you’re likely to spend more money going on an Expedition Cruise than you are being on a Cruise Ship for a week. Discounting the better half’s shopping habits while in port of course.

As listed above, you have probably bought yourself some new clothes for your expedition trip and some handy equipment which has come in at a pretty penny. However much like a cruise ship, most of your meals, activities and facilities will be built in to the pricing but due to the amount of people on any one Expedition Cruise the cost results can still be higher.

Get the chance to come face to face with penguins!
Get the chance to come face to face with penguins!

Weather: One a Cruise ship and Expedition Ship the one thing they both have in common is the ability to retreat should the weather get bad. Rain, not a problem on a cruise ship. Indoor swimming pools, indoor bars and cafes and a wide range of other activities.

However whether it rains, snows or the sun shines all day long. When on Expedition Cruising your itineraries are set, the ports are only accessible for so long and the activities are all set in stone too. So whether it rains or not, you should be prepared for all weathers when partaking in an Expedition Cruise.

On the other hand you could probably get away with wearing shorts for your entire Cruise ship tour should you desire and still have use of sun tan lotion in the tanning room despite the storm outside.

With all the above comparisons in mind it is clear to see the two holidays vary greatly. However there is a sign that the more luxury cruise ships are looking to offer high end expedition cruising these days and into the future. Silver Cruises offers the Silver Explorer Cruise Ship, complete with Zodiac boats you can have your expedition cruise but with luxury, comfort and style onboard.

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