For seasoned travellers the thought of staying in another hotel and visiting yet another tourist-packed site can sometimes be a little depressing. So how do you escape the crowds and visit places that few humans have trod?
The answer is expedition cruising. Still relatively unknown, expedition cruising is beginning to make waves in the adventure travel industry. Forget standard mega-ship cruises around the Caribbean; expedition vessels carry few passengers and journey to the edges of the world.
From Antarctica to the North Pole, I’ve listed my top six expedition cruise itineraries that will blow your mind.
Lets start with my favorite – Antarctica. The White Continent is a difficult place to describe. It’s wide-open landscape, long sunsets, and colossal icebergs give off an almost ethereal feel. You could be easily forgiven for thinking that you’re no longer on planet earth!
There are now plenty of Antarctica operators and itineraries to choose from and you’re guaranteed to see millions of penguins, whales, and natural ice-sculptures. If you want the ultimate experience, make sure your itinerary includes South Georgia.
2. The Northwest Passage
Yep you read it correctly, the infamous Northwest Passage can now be cruised during the peak summer period. There are only a handful of cruises each year and the cost is significantly high, but if you can afford it then do it. This is one of the world’s great journeys.
You begin in Canada, exploring the thousands of tiny islands that make up the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Depending on your itinerary, you may even visit Greenland and Alaska. Look out for polar bears and get involved in the local culture during the many Inuit settlement visits.
3. The Russian Arctic
Like the Northwest Passage, the Russian Arctic is a relatively new destination for adventure travellers. Thanks to thawing ice and political conditions, you can now take an expedition cruise from Alaska across the Bering Strait to Kamchatka and Wrangel Island.
The Kamchatka coastline is dotted with brown bears, beautiful forest and towering volcanoes. However, the real highlight is Wrangel Island. Located between the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea, Wrangel Island is known as the ‘Polar Bear Nursery’ thanks to the sheer number of bears you find here!
If the Russian Arctic seems a little far, taking an expedition cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage is a stunning alternative. Large fjords, huge waterfalls and lush scenery await those who visit this region. The wildlife is second to none here with frequent sightings of orca, humpback whales, bears, eagles, moose and much more.
Another great thing about cruising Alaska is the amount of shore excursions available. You can choose anything from sea kayaking, mining tours, salmon fishing, ice climbing, and glacier hikes! If you feel brave enough, you can even go snorkeling in the cold waters!
Although part of Norway, Svalbard is a land unto itself. The landscape merges ice, rock and sea, creating an endless, dreamy feel that visitors love. If you want to see polar bears, you can’t go wrong with a Svalbard expedition cruise. Most cruises see over twenty of these magnificent creatures!
For something a little different, try dog sledding on the main island or visit the world famous seed vault. The vault contains seeds that are worth more than large diamonds!
6. The North Pole
When one thinks of the North Pole, a cruise does not immediately pop to mind. Yet its true, you can now cruise to the North Pole. However, it’s about as far away from standard cruising as you can imagine.
You journey on the enormous Russian nuclear icebreaker known as 50 Years Of Victory. She can literally plow through ice meters thick, carving a route to the North Pole from the starting point in Murmansk. Celebrate with a glass of champagne and even a hot air balloon ride if the conditions are right!