Updated: Sep 13
WHAT IS EXPEDITION CRUISING AND IS IT FOR YOU?
Do you love seeing animals roam freely in stunning surroundings? If that sounds like you, then adventure travel and Expedition Cruising might just be your ideal choice. You don’t need the calves or abs of an Olympian but being in good physical shape can help you enjoy the included activities.
WHAT EXCITING PLACES DO THEY GO TO?
Whether these voyages venture to off-the-beaten paths or mainstream places, you’re going to get in touch with nature, but not like Mowgli of Jungle Book. Itineraries are available worldwide, with popular destinations including:
Hawaii will thrill you with whale tales and breaching humpbacks, fish as colorful as rainbows, and lush island slopes with majestic waterfalls.
Alaska will awe you with rugged snow-capped peaks, massive glaciers, fjords with emerald-green seas, bears, eagles, and more. It’s a thrill to see humpbacks lunge out of the sea, mouths agape as they bubble net feed.
Baja’s Sea of Cortez offers an exhilarating snorkel with playful sea lions. You can also visit the Sonoran Desert where you might see hummingbirds and other critters.
Costa Rica and the Panama Canal will amaze you on treks to see exotic toucans, sloths, parrots, and monkeys plus snorkel among coral, tropical fish, and turtles. The engineering marvel of the Panama Canal is fascinating.
Galapagos Islands are mostly free of human encroachment, leaving you feeling calm and in a state of wonder. Wildlife includes sea birds like the blue-footed booby, marine iguanas, and the infamous giant tortoises.
The polar regions are fantastic with icescapes, polar bears in the north, penguins in the south, and an abundance of marine life.
WHAT’S THERE TO DO?
Go on a Zodiac tour on the lookout for scenery and critters.
Hike to spot animals roaming free in nature, or to see unspoiled scenery on paths less traveled.
Snorkel in pristine waters among a kaleidoscope of coral and fish. Sea lions might lollygag nearby or penguins dart here and there. In the Sea of Cortez, it was love at first sight when a playful sea lion hugged me, a wow moment!
Kayak or paddleboard.
Shutterbugs can hone skills with the help of professional photographers, often on board, and always on Lindblad Expeditions.
Learn about the ecosystems and history of the region from expert naturalists and guides.
Wake up your muscles with morning yoga and reward yourself with a rejuvenating massage after a day of exploring.
Enjoy the camaraderie of fellow passengers in the lounge while sipping your favorite beverage.
At night see moonbeams dance on the inky sea or observe a star-strewn night sky. We were lucky to be at sea during a meteor shower and we could not keep count of those fireballs streaking across the dark sky.
WHAT ABOUT PORTS?
Many stops are found in natural locations that are away from the main ports and can only be reached by sea. These smaller vessels are able to access unique locations that larger ships cannot. There’s a planned itinerary but it is often flexible because they don’t have to adhere to a strict schedule as do the big cruise lines. If humpback whales are bubble feeding or if bears are lumbering along a shore, the guides will maximize your time there. If the weather doesn't cooperate, they have a great plan B.
On an UnCruise Adventures Hawaii itinerary, no one wanted to snorkel on a rainy windy day, so the crew took us on Zodiacs to do whale watching and we added the snorkel on another day. Another evening, we were scheduled to head to another island when guests were enjoying cocktails on deck watching a stunning sunset to the west and rainbows with breaching whales in the east. Due to the open bridge policy, I asked the captain if we could wait to depart. He agreed and didn't motor away until the sun dipped below the horizon.
WHAT ARE THE SHIPS LIKE? WHAT ABOUT DINING, SERVICE, AND ENTERTAINMENT?
Expedition travel conjures up roughing it on research-type vessels. In reality, ships can be luxury yachts with over-the-top personal service. Spacious staterooms can be comparable to upscale hotels, have at least a queen bed that can be configured as twins, have ample storage, and have a large bathroom. Most have a spa, at least a small gym, and a space for yoga. It's glamping at sea! This is your base to explore the wild while enjoying all your creature comforts. Expedition ships accommodate fewer people, some as low as eight guests and none more than a few hundred.
You’ll refuel for your adventures with healthy epicurean cuisine in stylish open-seating dining venues with tables for two to ten. Plus, there’s an early riser breakfast, snacks, and beverages. Fresh locally sourced ingredients are the norm.
Stage shows and casinos are scarce, but local performers may come aboard for a show, or a guest or crew member might bring along a guitar. On the last night, staff may showcase their remarkable talents by singing or playing musical instruments. There are cards, games, and sometimes a communal jigsaw puzzle in the lounge or library. The ambiance is laid back and most passengers tend to call it a night early so they can be out at the crack of dawn when critters are most active and while sunlight is ideal for photography.
Many of these cruises provide sunscreen, insect repellant, hand sanitizer, and hiking poles. In the tropics, they usually supply a snorkel, mask, fins, and sometimes wetsuits.
The staff and crew have you covered. An example is when it started to rain while I was photographing humpback whales in Hawaii, a staff member got me a zip lock bag to put over my camera. The UnCruise team even carried our lunches, insect repellant, and hand sanitizer on a lengthy hike while we only had to carry our water.
WHAT’S THE ATTIRE?
During the day, guests wear what is practical for the activities and weather while dinner attire is generally more casual than traditional cruise lines.
WHAT ABOUT PRICING?
Pricing reflects the included activities, tours, and presentations by experts in their field. Some include alcoholic beverages, gratuities, pre-night hotels, transfers, and airfare. With more crew members per guest, service is superior. The value is there while the memories and experiences are priceless.
WHICH EXPEDITION CRUISE?
Expedition cruise lines have their differences just as large ships and hotels vary. Some are more adventurous, others refined and have butlers, and some are better for families. To find which best suits you, ask me for advice.
ARE YOU READY TO EXPERIENCE EXPEDITION CRUISING?
Do you have an adventurous spirit? Are you curious about what lies outside concrete jungles? Do you want to be active while your thoughts unwind from a hectic job? Do you want to visit natural places accessible by sea, or perhaps you would prefer an adventurous land trip? If you answer yes, put Expedition Cruising and Adventure Travel on your wish list!
This is Joyce's favorite type of cruise! Ask her for advice.
See her Antarctica blog here: An Epic Journey to Antarctica! (thevacationresource.com)