‘Experiential’ remains the travel buzz word right now, meaning expedition cruise lines, and those who sell them, are well placed to nab some new customers. Many cruise lines are stepping up their ‘expeditionary’ product as they respond to the increasing demand for action, adventure and experiences from holidaymakers across the board.

“A gin and tonic on the deck; a penguin on the rocks – expedition cruises make adventure a tad more comfortable”

JO AUSTIN, TRAVEL WRITER

Perfect 10

  1. Get close to the circle: New for 2017 from Quark is the 17-night Arctic Circle Traverse, visiting Iceland, Greenland and Canada.

  2. Northwest Passage: Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity is returning to the Northwest Passage for a 32-night expedition-style voyage traversing the Arctic Ocean via the route first completed successfully by Roald Amundsen over 100 years ago.

  3. South Pacific: New Aranui 5 is known as the ‘freighter to paradise’ and is the only South Pacific vessel to travel the 2,200 mile trip from Papeete Tahiti to all six inhabited Marquesas Islands in the remotest archipelago in the world.

  4. Celebrity status: Natural World Safaris has teamed up with TV presenter Steve Backshall, who’ll be leading 10-night cruises to Svalbard and will join guests on shore excursions and zodiac tours.

  5. Close to nature: Aurora Expeditions’ 13-night Arctic Circle cruise from Aberdeen to Spitsbergen focuses on history and archaeology in remote communities/islands.

  6. Circling South America: Silversea’s new flagship, Silver Muse, launching in April 2017, will sail a 66-day South American circular voyage.

  7. Mega yacht: Crystal is launching its first expedition mega-yacht in 2018, Crystal Endeavor, designed for expeditions in frozen and tropical climes.

  8. Iceberg Antics: Grand American Adventures’ 14-night cruise into Alaska’s Inside Passage features a kayaking excursion.

  9. Back to origins: Last Frontiers’ recently launched 20-passenger motor yacht MV Origin for seven-night Galapagos cruises combined with Quito.

  10. Exploration cruises: Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch will cruise the Fjords of the Arctic, including Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland and Norway.

What’s new

Ships: Crystal Cruises is re-branding Crystal Yacht Cruises as Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises, which will encompass three new-build expedition mega-yachts.The purpose-built polar class mega-yachts will cruise in the Arctic before following the route of migrating whales along the coast of the Americas and Europe to Antarctica during winter.

Crystal Endeavor will be delivered in mid-2019, with two more vessels to debut in the following years. It will hold 200 passengers and boast a one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio.

Silversea launches ice-class expedition ship Silver Cloud in 2017, promising the highest space to guest ratio in expedition cruising. Starting from November, she will sail from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia via the Antartica Pensinsula and South Georgia to Cape Town and St Helena, ending in Lisbon in April 2018.

Quark’s new all-suite, all-inclusive Island Sky, is the only ship in Antarctica where the all-inclusive voyage price features flights from Santiago or Buenos Aires as well as alcoholic beverages and all tips. This small but premium cruise ship features all suites, each with exterior views and premium amenities.

Destinations: Starting March 25 2017, Silversea’s Silver Galapagos will alternate two new seven-night Galápagos itineraries with San Cristóbal as a new arrival or departure port for guests.

River cruise line Pandaw will venture into Borneo for the first time this year, when it launches a pioneering cruise on the unchartered waters of the Kapuas River.

Cruises: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has announced 10 cold- and warm-water expedition cruises for the next two years. Itineraries on the five-star 175-passenger expedition ship, Hanseatic, feature Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon River, South Seas and South and Central America.

Metropolitan Touring’s Santa Cruz II has two enhanced itineraries this year, a four-night exploration of the Western part of the archipelago, home of penguins and the flightless cormorant, and a six-night trip to the Eastern Islands, where the albatross resides.

Quark’s newly expanded ‘Fly the Drake’ programme offers travellers the best of Antarctica in as little as seven days. With 12 fly/cruise departures on offer, passengers can skip Drake Passage sailings one or both ways, with itineraries from seven to 11 days.

Where to book it

Hapag Lloyd Cruises’ 19-day In the Wake of Great Explorers itinerary (August 21 to September 9, 2017) sails round-trip from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to the heart of the Northwest Passage, stopping at Baffin Island. Priced from £10,580pp.

Quark Expeditions offers the Fly the Drake Antarctic Express programme from £6,000 for seven days, including charter flights between Santiago and Punta Arenas and on to Antarctica.