Penguins, polar bears and ice fields aren't the only things cruisers can see from the bow of an expedition ship.
Although the expedition cruise industry often seems synonymous with
cruising to the ends of the Earth in Antarctica and the Arctic, other
destinations are attracting these nimble ships, as well; places like the
Australian region of Kimberley, regions of West Africa and the Amazon
and even North America.
The expedition market is attracting cruise lines both old and new to
invest in ships that are small enough to manoeuvre narrow bodies of
water and purpose-built for the regions they sail.
These expedition ships are being delivered in droves. For instance,
the new line Atlas Ocean Voyages has launched two expedition ships since
August 2021; Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours plans to debut its second
expedition ship in April; and Silversea Cruises skipped the building
process and added a fifth expedition ship to its fleet by acquiring the
Silver Endeavor, which became available when Crystal Cruises ceased
operations last year.
"Prepandemic, there was not enough inventory to meet the demand. Now,
with an influx of inventory, there is probably more inventory than the
market can bear at the moment, but travelers are seeking more
experiences off the beaten path," said Ashton Palmer, president of
Seattle-based Expedition Trips, which exclusively sells expeditions.
There are approximately 70 expedition ships in service across the
globe, according to CLIA. Here's a rundown of where some of those
expedition ships that are sailing outside the poles will be operating.
The Kimberleys and New Zealand
Lindblad is introducing two Kimberley expedition itineraries. Calling
it Australia's "best-kept secret," the line is offering 14-day
Kimberley sailings in June and July with stops that include the King
George River and Falls and several coral reefs, including Ashmore Reef
Marine Park and the Montgomery Reef.
On a second itinerary, Lindblad will visit northwest Australia and
add Indonesia to the mix, concluding in Bali. The voyage includes the
Rowley Shoals with atoll-like reefs, the Montgomery Reef, Hunter River
and King George River and Falls before arriving in Indonesia for calls
at Sawu Island and Komodo National Park.
The line is also venturing on a new 16-day itinerary for New Zealand
this year, departing from Auckland and ending in Milford with stops at
the Bay of Islands and Great Barrier Island.
Hurtigruten plans to increase its offerings to the 19-island
archipelago this year with three new year-round itineraries. All
itineraries, four total, are on the 90-passenger Santa Cruz II, which is
operated by Metropolitan Touring, a company that has operated
expeditions in the Galapagos for more than 70 years. Hurtigruten
acquired a 24.9% stake in the touring company last March.
The boost in itineraries includes a mix of four- to eight-night
voyages: a six-night Eastern Galapagos itinerary, a four-night sailing
in the Northern Galapagos, four nights in the Western Galapagos and an
eight-night cruise along the northern and western islands. All four
voyages are available in 2023 and 2024.
The Seabourn Venture, the line's first expedition ship, will sail a
series of voyages on the Amazon in the early spring of 2023. Sailings
begin from ports along South America's coastal cities, including Buenos
Aires and Rio De Janeiro, or from Bridgetown, Barbados, but all sailings
will take guests deep into the heart of Brazil and Peru. The sailings
range from 10- to 23-day cruises and will conclude when the ship makes a
24-day repositioning cruise to Portugal on April 7.
Africa and the Indian Ocean
Hurtigruten will launch sailings to West Africa and the Cape Verde
Islands in November. The itineraries include coastal West Africa, Cape
Verde, the Bissagos Islands and the Canary Islands. The line will offer
13- to 17-day sailings between November and January 2024 with
opportunities to see saltwater hippos, sea turtles, manatees, monkeys
and migratory birds.
Originally planned to launch in November 2022, the sailings were
delayed because Senegal has yet to reopen its cruise ports following the
Silversea Cruises is also sailing an expedition ship around Africa
and the Indian Ocean. The sailings range from 12 to 35 days beginning at
the southern tip of Cape Town and moving along the eastern coast, with
new voyages departing from Muscat, Oman, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in
2023 and Walvis Bay, Namibia; Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Maputo,
Mozambique; and Dakar, Senegal, in 2024.
The Great Lakes
Viking, which launched its first two expedition ships within the past
year, with another two ships on the way, sails the lakes from March
Viking sails six itineraries pinballing between Toronto and Thunder
Bay, Ontario; Duluth, Minn., Milwaukee; and New York. On a 15-day
sailing from Toronto to Duluth, the ship calls at Niagara Falls and big
cities like Cleveland and Detroit as well as Michigan's popular vacation
spot Mackinac Island and at Gregorian Bay, Ontario.
On a 13-day sailing from New York to Toronto, the ship calls in
Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, before
making its way down the St. Lawrence River, stopping at several spots in
Quebec, including Quebec City.
Source: Travel Weekly