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Articles About Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises

HANSEATIC Inspiration cruises Antarctica. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

HANSEATIC Inspiration cruises Antarctica. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

N.B. HANSEATIC INSPIRATION will resume sailings for the English and German-speaking markets when the ship departs from Hamburg on September 7, 2020 on a cruise to Greenland. The following few sailings will feature Western European and Mediterranean ports. The ship will sail at 60% of capacity and will have a full day in port to undergo a thorough cleansing.

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Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises traces its origins back to the 19th century when two German firms — Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd — entered the passenger trade, competing largely on the North Atlantic and then spreading their routes to other parts of the world. Later they merged, and today the passenger cruise business is owned by the TUI Group that operates the top-rated, medium-size cruise ships, EUROPA (built 1999 & 400 passengers) and EUROPA 2 (b. 2013 & 500 p), the latter offering guaranteed English-speaking cruises; and a pair of expedition vessels: BREMEN (b.1990 & 155 p) and HANSEATIC (b. 1991 & 175 p), the latter now sold with a trio of high-tech expeditions ships coming on line. The BREMEN may offer some bilingual cruises from time to time and is also chartered by English-speaking affinity groups.

N.B. A trio of high-tech expedition ships with 120 passenger cabins and suites have the first in service and two under construction: HANSEATIC NATURE entered service in May 2019 for German-speaking passengers, HANSEATIC INSPIRATION (October 2019) for both German- and English-speaking passengers), and HANSEATIC SPIRIT (adults only) for delivery in Spring 2021. The 15,650-ton ships are being built in Norway’s VARD shipyard.  Passenger capacity will be limited to 199 for Antarctic and Spitsbergen (circumnavigation) cruises. Additional details will be available on QuirkyCruise.com as the first delivery gets closer but it is safe to say that this class will be 5 Star in accommodations, amenities, expedition gear and ice classification.

Hapag Lloyd Expedition Cruises

Bar Observation Lounge. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

Passengers

While Hapag-Lloyd is a German company, drawing mainly German-speaking passengers, selected bilingual cruises are set aside for English-speaking passengers with guaranteed departures. That means that all documentation, handbooks, programs, announcements, menus, lectures and safety drills will be in English. Shore excursions are arranged separately. Any other international cruises that attract at least 15 English-speaking passengers will automatically become bilingual as the aforesaid  Those cruises will be featured here, and expect German-speaking passengers in varying numbers and often in the majority.

Passenger Decks

7 decks and lifts serve all levels except the Sun Deck, the highest and with a small outdoor area.

Price

$$$

Included features

Expeditions ashore in Zodiacs (14) and tenders; parkas, rubber boots, snorkeling gear, Nordic walking poles and bicycles, depending on the itinerary; staff gratuities; sending & receiving e-mails up to 1MB; minibar with soft drinks replenished daily; a bottle of Champagne upon arrival.

Itineraries

A full winter program of Antarctica cruises include the Falklands, South Georgia, South Shetland and South Orkney Islands, Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The large number of Zodiacs carried means that everyone can be on an excursion at one time, and not waiting aboard for a second or third rotation as with larger capacity ships. Highlights are the varieties of penguins, incredible numbers of birds (especially at South Georgia), whales, walrus, seals; Zodiac excursions to get close to beautiful ice formations and glaciers, a former whaling station, and connections to the Ernest Shackleton expedition.

Pre-Antarctic season, a Pacific cruise begins in Tahiti and calls at numerous islands, remote and virtually unknown, and justly famous such as Pitcairn (Mutiny on the Bounty), Easter Island (stone statues) and Robinson Crusoe Island (inspiration for the fictional character) and onto Puerto Montt at the north end of the Chilean fjords.

Post-Antarctic season, one cruise makes a nearly complete West Coast of South America voyage from near the southern tip at Patagonia and sails northward past glaciers, into the Chilean fjords, calls at Valparaiso, the lovely port for the capital Santiago then onto Peru and Ecuador.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

The Amazon journey begins way up river at Iquitos (Peru, and headwaters of navigation for ocean-going ships) and travels 2,500 miles (4,000 kms) to the mouth at Belem. Zodiacs take you to remote Indian tribes who live along the riverbanks and to tropical fruit and vegetable markets, cruise for pink river dolphins, make explorations into tributaries penetrating the world’s largest rain forest, filled with flowers and exotic birds. At the meeting of the waters where the Rio Negro joins the Amazon sits Manaus, the largest city on the river and boasting an opera house, built during the rubber boom period. The Amazon then widens considerably as it reaches the delta and spreads out into several channels.

From Belem on the northeast Brazilian coast, the itinerary explores the Orinoco, offers a flight to Angel Falls, calls at off-shore islands, a UNESCO site, national parks for bird life, sloths, and monkeys, a research station, examples of Spanish colonialism, San Blas Indians, views of the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal, and finishes at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

HANSEATIC in the Amazon basin. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

 

 

Spitsbergen (Svalbard), a circumnavigation cruise, is a large archipelago tied politically to Norway, two days by sea north of the North Cape and well above the Arctic Circle. The expedition embarks at Longyearbyen, the capital with an excellent museum, and goes in search of polar bears that often come to the shore, well within camera range, plus whales, walrus, Arctic foxes, birds, fantastic cliff formations, ventures into fjords, up close to glaciers and makes Zodiac landings where it safe from polar bears. The final couple of days visit the North Cape with disembarkation at Tromso, Norway’s largest community above the Arctic Circle.

Svalbard: Polar bears feeding on a whale carcass. * Photo: Ted Scull

Svalbard: Polar bears feeding on a whale carcass. * Photo: Ted Scull

The Northeast Passage, less frequented than the Northwest Passage, follows an Arctic route from Northern Europe eastward across the top of Siberian Russia, Kamchatka and Kuril Islands to Japan.

FUTURE ITINERARIES include an unusual circumnavigation of Iceland embarking and disembarking at Reykjavik and visiting nine locations – islands, volcanoes, fjords, fishing villages, bird inhabited cliffs, waterfalls; the west coast of Greenland with its colorful villages, early Viking settlements, ice fjords, and at sea, humpback and fin whales, then onto Labrador for breathtaking scenery such as spectacular rock formations, Inuit culture artifacts, traditional fishing villages and fjords; coastal southern Africa with two port calls in Namibia revealing architecture from the former German colonial rule and six ports in South Africa including Cape Town and Durban and access to the lovely Garden Route, beautiful beaches, and game parks for the homes of the “Big Five.”

Why Go?

There is a wonderful world out there, and the destinations outlined here can only be comprehensively done by ship.

When to Go?

The expedition cruises are scheduled for the best seasons such as Antarctica in the Northern Hemisphere winter and the Arctic Regions in summer.

Cabins

HANSEATIC Nature/Inspiration/Spirit: All outside cabins and most with balconies or French balconies; separable beds; equipped with binoculars, Nordic Walking sticks, coffee machine, minibar (free), and heated bathroom for drying towels and parkas.

Hapag Lloyd Expedition Cruises

HANSEATIC Inspiration – French balcony cabin. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

Public Rooms

The principal spaces are the Observation Lounge with bar and adjacent library, with 180-degree views, Explorer Lounge with bar and a dance floor for presentations and occasional musical entertainment.

Dining

The restaurant is the main dining area for all meals (excellent menu selections including Continental as well as German specialties) seats everyone at one assigned sitting at dinner, with open seating for breakfast and lunch. Americans like open seating and Germans like fixed, so this is the fair compromise. Buffets-style meals take place in the informal café and tables are available just outside in good weather. Barbeques and themed dinners here require reservations, but entail no extra charge. Tea time is a daily ritual.

Activities & Entertainment

There are film presentations and lectures in preparation for the landings, plus you’ll find a sauna steam bath, fitness room, whirlpool and small swimming pool. Some Germans like a dip in the winter. Snorkeling and cycling is on offer when appropriate.

The Hanseatic at anchor in Antarctica. * Photo: Ted Scull

Special Notes: Helicopter pad. Hull is given the highest passenger classification – E-4.

Along the Same Lines

The passenger mix is unusual, as most high-end expedition lines draw mainly English-speaking passengers, unless the line is entirely focused on a European language.

Contact

Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises, C/O Kartagener Associates Inc., 14 Penn Plaza, Suite 2223, New York, NY 10122; www.Hl-cruises.com, 877-445-7447 or 800-334-2724 (USA/Canada); Free Phone United Kingdom: 08000 513829. — TWS

Ira Meyer for One Ocean Expeditions

One Ocean Expeditions

Founded in 2007, One Ocean Expeditions operates expedition-style voyages to the Canadian Arctic, Eastern Canada, Greenland, and Svalbard in the summer and to the Antarctic Peninsula, Falklands, and South Georgia in the Northern Hemisphere winter/Southern Hemisphere summer. Between seasons, itineraries will visit Central America and the Chilean coast.

The two similar ships take less than 100 passengers, hence for Antarctica, all passengers may go ashore at one time rather than in relays with larger ships, a major plus. The newly-added RESOLUTE is an expedition cruise ship taking 184. Based in British Columbia, Canada, this smallish firm sets out to provide a serious appreciation of the Arctic and Antarctica using a three-ship fleet with the AKADEMIK pair originally built as oceanographic research vessels.

NOTE:

In late May 2019, the expedition line announced that the Russians had abruptly cancelled the charters for the AKADEMIK pair, and that One Ocean would operate for the foreseeable future with the RESOLUTE, a fine expedition ship that had sailed for Hapag Lloyd as the HANSEATIC. 

In late October, 2019, in a Facebook post, One Ocean Expeditions Managing Director Andrew Prossin said that the withdrawal of the two ships by their Russian owners was an “unexpected and destabilizing event, and the violation of our contract remains the subject of ongoing legal action.” 

Then in November, the line shut down its operations and cancelled all future sailings. 

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

AKADEMIK IOFFE built 1989, 96 passengers; AKADEMIK SERGEY VAVILOV built 1988, 92 passengers (both ships returned to the Russian owners). In November 2018, the former Hapag-Lloyd HANSEATIC joined the fleet. Renamed RCGS (Royal Canadian Geographic Society) RESOLUTE, the ship was originally built in 1993 and sailed for many years for Hapag Lloyd as the HANSEATIC. She takes up to 184 passengers.

AKADEMIK SERGEI VAVLOV

AKADEMIK SERGEI VAVLOV. * Photo: Mark Carwardine, One Ocean Expeditions

Passenger Decks

Both AKADEMIK ships are four deckers and have no elevator. They were built in Finland with ice-strengthened hulls for the Russians to be used as oceanographic research ships and for intelligence gathering. RESOLUTE was purpose built as an expedition ship with a high standard of accommodations and elevators that connect all decks apart from the presentation theater on the lowest deck.

Passenger Profile

Mostly English-speaking, passengers hail from Canada, the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Excursions often have decidedly active content so the age range is a bit lower than with some other lines.

Price

$ to $$$ (Eastern Canada itineraries are the least expensive). On polar region voyages, triple-berth cabins provide more affordability for those traveling on a budget.

Itineraries

June to September, the ships are based in the Arctic Region for 9-to 11-night voyages to Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic (Inuit/Baffin Island) and a section of the Northwest Passage. 7- to 12-night mid-summer cruises explore Eastern Canada, that is the Maritime Provinces of Newfoundland, Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Anticosti Island and Nova Scotia.

The Southern Hemisphere season is unusually long, beginning in October and lasting into March. Voyages last from 10 nights for the Antarctic Peninsula to longer ones up to 18 nights that call in at the Falklands and South Georgia as well as Antarctica. In between seasons, the ships will offer Central America (Yucatan, Belize, Honduras, Panama (including canal transit), Costa Rica and Cartagena (Colombia).

Sailing down South America’s west coast calls are made in Chile with transit along its spectacular inside passage to the tip of South America. In addition, the RESOLUTE makes June 7- and 11-night visits to Ireland, Northern Ireland, many parts of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Faroes and Iceland.

Cruising amongst the ice, One Ocean Expeditions

Cruising amongst the ice. * Photo: Ira Meyer, One Ocean Expeditions

Included Features

Expedition gear is the main inclusion and saves passengers having to lug bulky items from home and/or having to purchase them. Provided are wind- and waterproof jackets, bib pants, rubber boots, backpacks, binoculars, and trekking poles. Antarctic overnight camping is an activity on some itineraries, while sea kayaking is an extra cost and requires advance reservations.

Why Go?

Both polar regions offer outstandingly beautiful landscapes, glaciers, fjords (Arctic) and abundant wildlife on land, in the sea and air. In the Arctic, visit isolated villages, and on the Antarctic Peninsula, tour a research station. In the Falklands, visit British colonials and local birdlife in the remote Southern Hemisphere, and for South Georgia, the island provides more birds to see than anywhere else in the world. Learning about historical expedition voyages from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are also draws, and will be a contrast to yours!

Bridge, One Ocean Expeditons

The ship’s bridge provides another passenger gathering place. * Photo: One Ocean Expeditions

When to Go?

Both polar regions are summer seasonal itineraries. In Antarctica, the shoulder seasons — October and November and March — will be closer to the winter season.

Cabins

Both AKADEMIK ships offer a wide variety of all-outside cabins with windows or portholes, and some can be opened. Layouts can be quite unusual as these ships were built for research, and the original “passengers” lived aboard for long periods of time. The larger cabins have work desks, a sofa, and ample wardrobe space. A few are two-room suites.

As one looks at the lower-priced cabins, many will have private facilities, and some will share with an adjacent cabin, while others share showers, baths and toilets along the corridor. A shared two-berth cabin arrangement, without supplement, can be arranged for single passengers; if a second passenger does not book the available berth, you land it solo. For those on a budget, the least expensive route is to book a berth in a triple, one of which is an upper.

RESOLUTE’S cabins are of a high standard, all outside and arranged on four decks. Two categories of suites have large picture windows, bathroom with shower and tub bath, two singles or double beds, sectional lounge with a large desk, iPad, mini stereo, coffee maker, stocked mini-bar and a collection of fauna and flora books. Superior plus and Superior cabins have the sectional lounge and desk and minibar; twin private cabins  the sectional lounge and desk. The lowest category, main deck triple, has a double or twin beds with a Pullman berth that folds out from the wall, sectional lounge and portholes.

AKADEMIK accommodations.

The larger AKADEMIK cabins were built for scientists living aboard for many months. * Photo:: Ronald Visser, One Ocean Expeditions

Public Rooms

Both AKADEMIK ships are similar in size with slight variations in layout of the public spaces, and have a small pool and sauna. IOFFE has a small library separate from the lounge, and both vessels have good observation decks fore and aft. Top decks provide 360-degree views.

RESOLUTE’s plan has the public rooms located aft with a main dining room seating all at once, an aft-facing bar-lounge one deck up, and bistro dining and lounge with an open deck aft for dining in good weather. The highest passenger deck provides for an outdoor pool, gym, solarium, sauna/steam room and wellness center. Forward is an observation deck.

Dining

Located on the lowest passenger deck, the seating is open for all meals with buffet breakfast and lunch, hot dishes to order, and three-course dinners. Fancy preparation or gourmet-sounding menus are not part of the package. Food might be best described as satisfying, hearty fare, given the distance from food markets.

Activities & Entertainment

Off the ship, Zodiacs are used for cruising with the expedition staff close to shore, to inspect ice formations, and to approach penguins and other wildlife that live in the sea, on land or on the ice. Zodiacs also ferry passengers ashore. Activities are walking to wildlife colonies, hiking further afield, and for purposes of photography, to exercise some of the skills that the workshops aboard home in on.

During non-polar cruises, activities will additionally include stand-up paddle boarding, cycling, and snorkeling.  The naturalist staff — biologists, naturalists, adventurers, historians, and photographers give talks and shows videos. Additional activities are sea kayaking, ski touring, snowshoeing and camping overnight  Fitness and yoga classes are also scheduled. The navigation bridge is open most of the time for passenger visitation and becomes an additional public space.

Following a whale, One Ocean Expeditions

` Following a whale. * Photo: Ira Meyer, One Ocean Expeditions

Special Notes

All three ships have triple-berth cabins with shared facilities, so expeditions are a more affordable option for those on a budget. The brochure maps are especially well designed.

Along the Same Lines

Numerous expedition lines reviewed on this site visit much the same regions.

Contact

USA & Canada (toll free) – 1 855 416 2326; Canada local — 604 390 4900; UK, Europe and the rest of the world — 0351 962 721 836; Australia (toll free)— 1300 368 123 or +61 2 9119 2228; voyages@oneoceanexpeditions.com & oneoceanexpeditions.com.

— TWS

Read QuirkyCruise contributor Judi Cohen’s article about her One Ocean Expedition adventure.

 

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© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Richard photographing a breaching whale in Antarctica. * Photo: Kristin Braisted

Heidi and Ted posed more questions to polar expedition guide Richard White, an expert who has spent years at the ends of the earth as a guide, educator and wildlife lover. Currently Richard works for EYOS, a purveyor of luxury yacht cruises to the world’s most coveted and remote places. In the past he’s also guided for Lindblad Expeditions. Richard’s an excellent photographer as well; click here for a sampling of his Antarctica photos. Read Part 1 of our Q & A with Richard.

Connect with Richard on instagram @richthebirder or richard@eyos-expeditions.com.

 

QC: Tourism is your bread and butter (and ours too), but do you have reservations sometimes about too many people ruining the world’s pristine places?

Richard: I don’t worry about people ruining the world’s pristine places. That happened long before I was born. I don’t believe that any part of the world that I have been to is pristine.

For example, those of us visiting Antarctica will never know what the Southern Ocean looked like before commercial whaling wiped out the vast majority of large whales in the region. Numbers have recovered, and we get some great whale watching opportunities during our trips, but it is only a shadow of what was once there and certainly not pristine.

But I do worry about the loss of wilderness, but that is another question and a longer and more difficult answer.

 

Richard photographing a breaching whale in Antarctica. * Photo: Kristin Braisted

Richard photographing a diving whale in Antarctica. * Photo: Kristin Braisted

 

QC: How do you justify tourism?

Richard:  I didn’t know that I had to justify tourism. It was around before I started working in the industry and will be there long after I retire (or die, whichever comes first). And if I stopped working in the industry because there was some part of it that made me unhappy, the industry would not grind to a halt.

I do think it is important that people are given the rare and special opportunity to experience wilderness areas at least once in their lifetime; and the polar regions offer that chance on a grand scale. The experience of wilderness changes people. It makes us aware of our insignificance in the bigger picture. And at the same time, I hope the experience will help people to appreciate and value such places, and that the remaining wilderness areas should be protected.

That would be my justification for introducing people to the polar regions through tourism.

 

QC: If you come across a passenger who  likes to go off on his/her own when ashore, how do you deal with this if it’s not allowed at a particular landing?

Richard: If it is not allowed, then it is not allowed. I don’t bend rules for individuals. If there is an option, I might choose not to make that landing. But if there is no option, then it simply needs to be a conversation that explains the circumstances of that location and the reason why no solo wandering is allowed.

 

A lone visitor exploring Neko Harbour in Antarctica. * Photo: Richard White

A lone visitor exploring Neko Harbour in Antarctica. * Photo: Richard White

 

QC: And if it is permitted to go off one’s own, do you have a set of guidelines or safety warnings depending on the animal life or ice and snow conditions at a particular site?

Richard: Yes. On a site-by-site, day-by-day basis. And it will also depend on the person. As you can understand, it is complicated.

 

QC: Are there new landing sites in Antarctica that you would suggest to add to an itinerary that would offer something different, and to avoid crowding at exiting popular landings?

Richard: Every Expedition Leader has “new” or “alternative” landing sites in mind. This is not just about avoiding crowding, but may also provide added diversity of experience whether in terms of landscape or wildlife.

These sites also serve their purpose when primary sites may be blocked by ice, or blown out by weather.

In some cases we might like to think of these as “secret,” or known only to a few. But in reality, there is little out there that is not known by the wider community.

But there are good reasons that existing landings are popular, and as an industry we need to be able to share access to these and “play well together.” Until now this has generally worked well, but it is likely to be a greater challenge in the future.

 

Orne Harbour Antarctica. * Photo: Richard White

Orne Harbour Antarctica. * Photo: Richard White

 

QC: What are some of your non-technical guidelines when photographing the wildlife — i.e. creating interesting still photographs?

Richard: The simplest and I think the best, is to get down to the same level as the subject, i.e. shoot penguins at eye level, not just the top of their heads.

And second do not always aim for close up portrait shots — go wide. Try to place the subject in the environment. It is not as easy, but very satisfying when it works well.

Curious Adelie penguin. * Photo: Richard White

Curious Adelie penguin. * Photo: Richard White

 

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author.  All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Richard White

Heidi posed some questions to polar expedition expert Richard White, who has spent years at the ends of the earth as a guide, educator and wildlife lover. Richard works for EYOS, a purveyor of luxury yacht cruises to the world’s most coveted and remote places. In the past he’s also guided for Lindblad Expeditions. Richard’s an excellent photographer as well; click here for his Antarctica photo essay. Read Part 2 of our Q&A with Richard.

Connect with him on instagram @richthebirder or richard@eyos-expeditions.com.

 

QC: Do you have a favorite part of the poles?

Richard: The sub-Antarctic islands — whether places like South Georgia or the islands to the south of New Zealand. There is more biological diversity in those regions, and as wildlife is my main interest, diversity will always be a draw. It’s a perfect day if you get lucky with a great wildlife encounter or great weather and beautiful light.

They are also less visited than the Antarctic Peninsula, so that is an added attraction.

 

QC: What still makes you gasp in wonder?

Richard: A killer whale surfacing next to a Zodiac…

Killer whale surfaces next to zodiac driven by Richard. * Photo: Sean Todd

Killer whale surfaces next to zodiac driven by Richard. * Photo: Sean Todd

QC: How many trips have you taken to Antarctica?

Richard: I have never kept a count of how may trips I have done. In part because there is no simple way to measure. For example, how does a six-week research voyage compare with four 10-day trips? Or five weeks with eight people on a 20-metre sailboat compare with 10 days on a 200-passenger vessel?

All I can tell you is that my first trip was in 1998 as a researcher, my first as a guide in 2003, and I have missed two seasons since 1998.

So probably more than 25…

 

QC: If you have one golden message for small ship cruise passengers in Antarctica, what is it?

Richard: The one golden message is go. Don’t debate whether it is worth it, just go. And go for as long as you can afford (both in financial and temporal terms), and on as small a vessel as you will feel comfortable.

And then when you are there, seek out your own moments and your own experience. You will be with others, some of whom will be strangers, in close proximity, for days, maybe weeks. But don’t just accept their experience or the shared experience. Make the effort to find some personal space, or with a partner, and try to hold that moment and take in the scale of what you are experiencing.

Gentoo penguins nesting at Neko Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula. * Photo: Richard White

Gentoo penguins nesting at Neko Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula. * Photo: Richard White

QC: Do you get stir crazy if you’re “home” for more than a month or two?

Richard: No. It is a holiday, I can do my own thing, why would I go crazy? And assuming I can get out and walk in some kind of green space, or open space, then I can be happy anywhere.

 

Rafflesia plant. * Photo: Richard White

Rafflesia plant. * Photo: Richard White

QC: What’s packing like for you? You must be expert by now.

Richard: Packing is easy, yes. A few items of favourite tried and tested gear. And so much relies on an efficient laundry system on board.

 

QC: Can you imagine not traveling and guiding? Do you want to do it until you can’t physically handle it?

Richard: I don’t have a retirement package, so I guess I will die in the saddle…

 

QC: “Who” is your favorite kind of passenger? Least favorite?

Richard: There is no simple answer to this, but I will try.

Favourite — engaged. And then the opposite end of that spectrum. Everyone finds their own level of engagement, so it is not that one approach is “right” or “wrong.”  I guess another way to answer would be “happy” and “grumpy.”  But some people are happy when grumpy, it is their “normal.”

 

QC: After working for a few months straight, do you want to hide from people?

Richard: It really depends on the people. See above.

 

QC: How many airline miles do you have?

Richard: Not as many as you might think. I might only fly six times a year with work if I work three times, two-month contracts each time.

 

QC: If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be?

Richard: Probably living on an island studying seabirds. And I have a passion for island restoration programmes — getting rid of non-native species to restore island ecology. It can be very effective conservation work, although not cheap. We are all hoping that South Georgia has been cleared of rats through recent efforts by the South Georgia Heritage Trust — this would be a huge result.

Stork-billed Kingfisher in the Hindhede Nature Park. *Photo: Richard White

Stork-billed Kingfisher in the Hindhede Nature Park. *Photo: Richard White

QC: Besides your college degree, do you have other certifications?

Richard: I have qualifications as a Zodiac driver and in gun handling and first aid.

They are necessary — it is getting harder to find work without the relevant pieces of paper. One of the challenges the industry faces as it grows is finding new talent. Qualifications are one way, but should never replace relevant experience. But it is easy to get caught in a classic Catch 22 where you cannot get one without the other.

 

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author.  All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

By Anne Kalosh.

This story was first posted by Anne in Seatrade Cruise News and is reproduced by permission of Seatrade; click here for the full original article.

Similar to the river cruise business several years ago, the expedition cruise sector is on the cusp of a building boom that will fuel tremendous growth, according to Capt. Ben Lyons, CEO of Expedition Voyage Consultants.

Sven Lindblad, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions — whose father Lars-Eric was the first to take tourists to Antarctica and the Galápagos half a century ago — expressed mixed feelings about that growth in a keynote address at the “Expedition/Adventure Cruising & the Polar Code” session at Seatrade Cruise Global in March 2017.

Seatrade Expedition photo by AK

Top: Keynoter Sven Lindblad expresses mixed feelings about growth. Bottom, from left: Ponant’s Navin Sawhney, Lindblad, Capt. Ben Lyons, Hurtigruten’s Daniel Skjeldam, Foreship’s Markus Aarnio * Photos: Anne Kalosh

On one hand, opening expeditions to more people helps them “become smarter, learn more and become more relevant as human beings.” With all the challenges facing the planet — it’s “a mess,” Lindblad said — exposing more travelers to the world “in a thoughtful way is good.”

But with the spike in expedition newbuilds arriving in 2019 in particular — an unprecedented eight ships, including one for his own company — Lindblad worries the places they’ll visit can only handle a certain number of people.

“We want to grow but we want to be careful we don’t overwhelm these regions,” he said. “If you take 600 people to a coral atoll, you are not conducting an expedition.”

The glut of 2019 newbuilds means it likely will become necessary to restrict landings in Antarctica. “Everyone will have a lesser experience. That’s a fact,” Lindblad said. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators is talking about changing its guidelines to allow one landing per day instead of two, “So there is a downside to growth.”

Another concern is that operators may lack the training and skill to safely conduct expeditions. “Experience matters a great deal when you’re operating in polar regions under tough, tough, tough conditions,” Lindblad said. “We are going to have a lot of stress on human capital.”

Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam, whose company is building a pair of 530-passenger ships, rejected the notion of limiting size to the traditional 200 or fewer travelers — except in the Northwest Passage, where he spoke out against Crystal Serenity’s voyages for concern that an accident could overwhelm small communities there.

But Skjeldam doesn’t think tourism should be halted in the Arctic, either: “Brussels forgets people live in the Arctic, in Svalbard, northern Norway and Alaska. They need a livelihood.”

Hurtigruten, which mounted its first explorer cruise to Svalbard in 1896 and whose crews are seasoned in polar waters, is calling for a ban on [ships using or carrying] heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Arctic and urging the industry to lead the way on tougher regulations, like those that apply to Antarctica.

The European Parliament backs the HFO ban. “I would love to see IMO be part of this, to bring the regulations forward, to bring the technology forward,” Skjeldam said.

He called Antarctica the most regulated region on earth; HFO can’t be used or carried there, and ships that make landings are capped at 500 passengers, with landings themselves limited to 200 people at any one time.

Hurtigruten’s newbuilds will pioneer cruising’s use of fuel cells to cut air emissions and provide silent running for stints in especially sensitive areas.

“The future is electric,” Skjeldam told the Seatrade audience, which included a number of ship captains. He added it’s important to purpose-build for polar waters.

Hurtigruten’s pioneering hybrid system, debuting on 2018’s new ship Roald Amundsen, will “take the industry forward. It’s the most technologically advanced ship that will be out there,” Skjeldam said. “This industry needs to find new technology that significantly reduces emissions.”

For its part, fast-growing Ponant — with four expedition ships under construction — has a 25-year history and was founded by a sailor who still runs the show, noted Navin Sawhney, CEO, Americas, Ponant Cultural Cruises and Expeditions.

Those 184-passenger newbuilds are more compact than the ones Ponant currently operates (the largest carrying 240 passengers), to give more flexibility and access to places like the Great Lakes, where its existing ships are too big.

Sawhney argued expedition cruising is fundamentally different from traditional cruising.

Having a bucket list is fine, he said, “but expeditions are not about bucket lists. There is a big difference. Antarctica is an ecosystem. You have to enjoy it respectfully. Expeditions are truly about learning and discovery and being in an environment where you can reflect.”

It’s the difference between sightseeing and “sightbeing,” as Sawhney put it.

He also thinks there’s a limit to the number of like-minded guests a ship can carry, and “the idea is to transform yourself, not to transform the environment.”… “Size matters. Purpose and mission matter. [The goal is to] come back changed, not just checking off a bucket list.”

Lindblad agreed. On the size issue, his company’s largest ship carries just 148 passengers. Part of that is for concern about big ships “commoditizing a place. I don’t think everything should be available to everybody,” Lindblad said.

And part, he admitted, comes down to aesthetics. “People want to be in wild places,” and a big ship shatters that notion.

“You can’t have an intimate connection to a place [with hundreds of others around you]. You may as well watch a video.”

Skjeldam pointed out the economics of bigger ships enable more people to take part in expeditions and come back as ambassadors for the environment.

Hurtigruten’s recent Antarctica season deployed the 400-passenger Midnatsol and, according to him, that worked well. The ship used purpose-built inflatable boats — not Zodiacs — for landings, and they were equipped with battery packs for silent sailing.

Passenger count, of course, impacts operating income in a business with very tough economics on top of the operational complexity. Small ships have to charge a lot to be profitable, and many companies have failed.

But Sawhney observed that driving up industry capacity eats into profits. Alaska in the 1980s earned some of cruising’s highest per diems. “Back then,” he said, “the per diem price was the cost of a cruise today.”

Session moderator Lyons questioned if the luxury ships being built will change the demographics.

Lindblad wasn’t sure the public is driving this demand: “The expedition traveler is mostly concerned about the experience. They want to hike in the tundra, kayak in the wilderness. They’re not asking for 400- or 500- square-foot cabins.”

At Hurtigruten, the new ships are positioned as providing a “comfortable base camp.”

“The luxury is in the experience,” Skjeldam said. “Operators building for luxury could be a short-term thing.” If the focus is on luxury, “some of the uniqueness will disappear.”

“I wouldn’t be in a tuxedo in Antarctica,” he added.

The panel agreed today’s consumers crave immersive experiences — not sitting over a drink, watching the scenery, but being on land, and active.

Citing the global demand for immersive experiences, Skjeldam thinks adventure travel and travel will merge in decades to come.

And expedition cruising won’t be limited to cold, remote places. Ponant is expanding in tropical and subtropical regions, Lindblad crafts expeditions in western Europe that provide deep immersion into gastronomy and history, and experiencing local life is at the core of Hurtigruten’s coastal voyages, where travelers can even take part in sourcing local foods for the ships.

As far as newbuilds pushing out older ships in the expedition sector, it depends on the company and its market.

“There are people who like older ships,” Lindblad said. “We’re on a very aggressive newbuild program. We’ll continue to operate a combination of old and newer ships. Do we worry about that? Not so much. We’ll deploy them differently.” [And older paid-for ships can charge lower fares.]

Skjeldam agreed ships’ age is less relevant than in traditional cruising, however newbuilds bring innovative technology, reduced emissions and greater safety.

 

© Copyright 2017 Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd. Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd.

Read more about Antarctica small ship cruising here.

White on white, seeing a polar bear from the ship in the Arctic.

By Ted Scull.

First timers thinking about expedition cruises  to the Arctic, Antarctic, the Galapagos or remote South Pacific islands often come to this new venture with many questions and perhaps some anxiety about what it will be like.

Pushing through ice flows. * Photo: Ted Scull

Pushing through ice flows. * Photo: Ted Scull

Steve Wellmeier, a long-time veteran in the small-ship cruise industry who now focuses on polar cruising to the Arctic and Antarctica, has a few pointers to share.

Steve Wellmeier

Steve Wellmeier

Safe and sound

He finds novice passengers are often concerned about safety, especially in remote places, the ease of getting ashore, possible seasickness on the small ship, and whether there will be enough to do in places that seem so bleak regardless of how beautiful the brochure pictures look.

As expedition cruising has matured and grown into a significant niche in the cruise industry, Wellmeier says that, “Ship owners and charterers have responded to these worries by training the staff on board to elicit the passengers’ trust straight away.” That first meeting between them is crucial in creating a professional and personal relationship that will have the passengers gradually release their concerns and begin to thrive on their adventure.

As support, the ship officers and expedition staff have better hardware: improved radar and sonar for navigation and better weather forecasts that allow the ship to alter course to seek out smoother waters. A resources manual for the officers and staff gives them extra options about landing locations and what wildlife might be present.

That flexibility does not always apply to the Drake Passage crossing enroute to the Antarctic Peninsula, though the increasing number of small ships with fin stabilizers does lessen the movement in beam seas (waves coming broadside).

Some cute seals greet the NGEX. Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

Some cute seals greet the NGEX. Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

There’s little roughing it on an expedition cruise

In addition, many vessels now have more cruise ship amenities, better accommodations, improved food and high-tech features to elevate the overall experience.

Wellmeier says that, “Passengers coming from the bigger ships already have expectations about what they want in terms of comforts and variety of activities, and the newer breed of expedition vessel will likely satisfy them once they get used to the smaller size.” When it’s a 400- or 500-passenger ship, the difference won’t seem that great compared to a wee one that handles 100 to 200.

I personally find that small ships seem much larger and more complex once you are aboard compared to eyeing them for the first time as you approach the pier.

Ben Lyons

Ben Lyons

Smaller has great advantages, especially with the ease of going ashore in Zodiacs, not in relays of an hour for each group, but all at once to provide ample time to get the feel of your surroundings, perhaps populated by lounging seals and walrus or the endless antics of penguins that bring joy to all those around you.

That brings in Ben Lyons who is CEO of EYOS Expeditions, a firm that provides expedition staff and enhances itineraries for cruise vessels and private yachts, and is licensed as a ship’s captain.

Wildlife is the big draw

When I asked him what excites passengers when they first arrive in the Arctic or Antarctica, Lyons says that it’s the initial encounters with wildlife. “In Svalbard in the Arctic, it is approaching a polar bear on an ice flow, and if curious, watching it come slowly to the ship, sometimes close enough to be able look straight down on it from the bow.” Disciplined passengers will maintain complete silence.

White on white, seeing a polar bear from the ship in the Arctic. * Photo: Ted Scull

White on white, seeing a polar bear from the ship in the Arctic. * Photo: Ted Scull

In the Antarctic, it’s those funny-looking penguins, sometimes scores or even hundreds of them doing their wobbly walk or suddenly leaping from the ocean to land upright on the beach.

The connection to wildlife is an ongoing pleasure, but if ice is present and the ship has a sufficiently high ice class, then standing forward ahead of the ship’s bridge and watching the bow breaking through the ice fields leaves an indelible picture of the polar regions’ beauty.

The specter of bad weather

Lyons says: “Bad weather can put a damper on the cruise if passengers cannot get ashore for a day or so, but knowing the territory and relying on good navigational tools can give a captain the option to find a new area that is protected and suitable for going ashore or be surrounded by floating ice showing a range of colors and endless shapes.”

Check out these 250-foot ice flows in Antarctica. * Photo: Ted Scull

Check out these 250-foot ice flows in Antarctica. * Photo: Ted Scull

Basic to all expedition voyages, the expert naturalist staff can share their respective expertise at presentations that draw on personal experience and research and with high-tech tools that reveal the underwater world directly below the ship.

In a subsequent feature, we will look at the amazing devices some expedition ships now carry that enhance understanding of the land and sea all around you, and then how to participate in exciting ventures ashore or aboard a kayak in calm waters surrounded by nature’s silent beauty. Some lines offer an even bigger treat, going ashore to camp for a night on the Antarctic Peninsula. Wowser! We will also look at the new frontiers for expedition cruises, for example, the Northeast Passage north of Russia, Bering Sea and Raja Ampat archipelago in Indonesia.

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10 Best Small Ship cruises include the Sweden-based Juno

The 10 Quirkiest Cruises.

By Ted Scull & Heidi Sarna.

This list changes in accordance with the tides, our moods, the stock market, and the new and cool cruises we learn about all the time.

Currently, here are our picks of the 10 quirkiest cruises for those who really want to do something different.

Light Vessel Patricia

Trinity House

Trinity House is a centuries-old British organization that looks after lighthouses and buoys in the waters around England, Wales and the Channel Islands using its spiffy light vessel PATRICIA. This hardworking little ship that has had Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip spending time aboard offers comfy accommodations for 12 passengers.

Join for a week, or two, and observe the inspections and replacements of channel markers and fueling and repairing unmanned lighthouses dotting the islands and rugged coastline. Often the itinerary is not known until a week or two before departure and it may change at sudden notice. The cozy social life aboard is a big draw.

Visit the Trinity House site for more info.

Trinity House Vessel PATRICIA * Photo: Ted Scull

Trinity House Vessel PATRICIA * Photo: Ted Scull

M/S Juno on Sweden’s Göta Canal

Göta Canal Steamship Company

Launched in 1874, the 29-cabin M/S JUNO is the world’s oldest registered ship with overnight accommodations, and its journeys along the 19th-century Göta Canal system are a fascinating way to experience small-town Sweden. One of our 10 quirkiest cruises for good reason, JUNO’s 3-night cruise between Gothenburg on the west coast and Söderköping near Stockholm on the east coast (a total of 382 miles) takes you through 58 locks, some single and some in stepped sets.

Charming cabins are like train compartments (bathrooms are shared!) and the dining room serves very taste set meals. Daily excursions include visits to old fortresses, churches and Viking sites, as well as the chance to bike or walk along the tow bath.

The whole experience is wonderfully old fashioned.

Visit the Göta Canal Steamship Co website for more info on this amazing cruise.

The Juno inches along the Gota Canal. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Juno inches along the Gota Canal. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

New York to Chicago via 3 Rivers, 3 Canals & 6 Lakes

Blount Small Ship Adventures

(Rivers = Hudson, Mohawk and Detroit; Canals = Erie, Oswego and Well; Lakes = Oneida, Ontario, Erie, St. Claire, Huron and Michigan.)

Yes, they all string together to form a continuous and diverse watery route for Blount’s two super nimble ships to follow while sailing between two of America’s largest cities. Head north from New York to see stately homes with Hudson River views, stopping along the way. Slide under low bridges on the Erie Canal with inches to spare.

Break out into Lake Ontario and lock through the Welland Canal in tandem with giant ore carriers. Navigate the Detroit River with the US to port and Canada to starboard and on into Lakes Huron and Michigan, with pretty towns to visit. Then Chicago’s skyscrapers begin to rise above the horizon a good hour before berthing at the Navy Pier.

Visit Blount’s website for more info.

Blount's Grande Caribe at Chelsea Piers, Manhattan. * Photo: Ted Scull

Blount’s Grande Caribe at Chelsea Piers, Manhattan. * Photo: Ted Scull

Rembrandt Van Rijn in the Arctic

Oceanwide Expeditions

Cruising the poles may be thrilling and exotic enough, but exploring the Arctic on a sailing ship as explorers did centuries ago is out of this world and good reason to deem this one of our 10 quirkiest cruises. The 3-masted, 33-passenger Dutch schooner REMBRANDT VAN RIJN was built in the early 20th-century as a herring lugger and rebuilt in 1994 to operate as a pleasure cruiser in Greenland and occasionally Iceland.

Today it’s a comfy, cozy craft for coastal voyages, and if the wind dies, the auxiliary diesel engine kicks in to keep you on course and into fjords to see Viking ruins and wildlife or just let the sails luff and stay silent while amongst a pod dolphins or whales.

For more details, here’s Oceanwide’s website.

Rembrandt van Rijn. * Photo: Kees Beekman-Oceanwide Expeditions

Rembrandt van Rijn. * Photo: Kees Beekman-Oceanwide Expeditions

M/S Katharina in Eastern Indonesia

SeaTrek Adventure Cruises

This 12-passenger Indonesian pinisi schooner has a sheer so dramatic, it’s an uphill walk to get to KATHARINA’S bow. The chunky ironwood workhorse bucks through the seas at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago with an Indonesian crew leading the way.

There are opportunities to snorkel in the middle of nowhere, laze on white-sand beaches, and experience encounters with exotic wildlife and tribal people you’ve definitely never seen before. The best itineraries are the ones with an expert lecturer on board.

For more info visit wwwSeaTrekBali.com.

10 best small ship cruises include SeaTrek Bali

The Bugis schooner Katharina takes the adventurous back in time. * Photo: Seatrek Sailing Adventures

High-tech Exploring in the Galapagos

Lindblad Expeditions

Since the 1960s, Lindblad Expeditions has been pioneering expeditions to the Galapagos and other far flung places, and in recent years enhanced by a partnership with National Geographic Magazine that brings top photographers and scientists on board. Besides the team of Ecuadorian naturalists, there’s an undersea specialist and a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor on board every Galapagos cruise.

But it’s the techy stuff that pushes the envelope: the 96-passenger NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENDEAVOUR carries aboard not only a fleet of Zodiacs, kayaks and a glass-bottom boat, but also underwater cameras and a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that dives down 500 feet to film what lies beneath. After each long and exciting day of exploring, the staff produces an amazing recap of photos and videos for passengers to marvel over.

For more info, contact Lindblad.

10 Quirkiest Cruises include Lindblad in the Galapagos

National Geographic Endeavour in the Galapagos. * Photo: Sven-Olof Lindblad

Aranui 5 in the South Pacific

Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime’s (CPTM)

Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime’s (CPTM) has operated passenger-freighters in the remote South Pacific Marquesas Islands for decades, and the Tahiti-based 254-passenger ARANUI 5 is the latest of them. It’s clear why it’s one of our favorites and makes our 10 quirkiest cruises list. Visit idyllic islands with perfect beaches while observing the workings of a cargo ship.

While the 5th ARANUI carries everything and anything the remote islands need, you travel in great comfort along with an international passenger list that is searching for the paradise that Paul Gauguin sought. Trips ashore head to cultural sites, observe local customs and enjoy a beach barbecue.

For more info, here’s the line’s website.

10 quirkiest cruises include the ARANUI 5 Passenger Cargo Liner

The Aranui 5. * Photo: Peter Knego

Russian Nuclear Icebreaker in the North Pole

Quark Expeditions

Standing on the site 60 Degrees North is made possible by sailing aboard 50 YEARS OF VICTORY, the world’s most powerful icebreaker.

When she is not doing duty keeping the Northeast Passage above Russian Siberia open to commercial traffic, she plows her way through thick ice to reach the North Pole, at one time only accessible on foot and then by air in ideal weather. As a bonus, you can have a bird’s eye view of the icy scene from a hot air balloon.

Click over to Quark’s site for more details.

North Pole. * Photo: Quark Expeditions

North Pole. * Photo: Quark Expeditions

Mahabaahu on the Brahmaputra River

Adventure River Cruises (ARC)

India’s rivers are holy places, and a cruise on one is to see India in all its glorious contrasts. The Brahmaputra flows from high in the Himalayas of Tibet, down into India’s Assam valley in the northeast and finally into the Bay of Bengal.

Pandaw’s 46-passenger M/V MAHABAAHU traverses part of it, visiting tea plantations, tribal villages and the Kaziranga National Park to see the greater one-horned Indian rhino. The boat has 11 cabins with balconies (and the rest with large windows), a massage room and a small pool, but it’s India that will keep your attention. If you’re looking for something truly different, consider the MAHABAAHU, one of our 10 quirkiest cruises.

Go to Adventure River Cruises (ARC) site for more details.

Pandaw on India's Brahmaputra. * Photo: Pandaw Cruises

Pandaw on India’s Brahmaputra. * Photo: Pandaw Cruises

RMS St. Helena to St. Helena Island

RMS St. Helena

Sadly, this ship is due to go out of service sometime in 2018. But up until then, it holds the title of one of the quirkiest ships out there. The 128-passenger Royal Mail Ship ST. HELENA is the very last in a long line of passenger, mail and cargo ships that connected the mother country to her dependents; in this case the remote and beautiful South Atlantic island of St. Helena, and intriguingly the last domicile of Emperor Napoleon.

An airport is nearing completion that will put the island residents within five hours of Johannesburg instead of five days to and from Cape Town, and apart from the convenience for the island’s population, it is hoped that foreign visitors will come in larger numbers for a holiday stay.

St. Helena’s remoteness was, for some, its principal attraction, coupled with a true liner voyage albeit rather minuscule compared to the QUEEN MARY 2, the only other true ocean liner afloat. So, if you act fast, there is still time to experience a unique combination — space available. For many, she will be missed.

The RMS docked at Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain.* Ted Scull

The RMS docked at Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain.* Ted Scull

 

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Crystal Cruises Tom Wolber
The super high tech and luxury Crystal Endeavour. * Photo: Crystal Cruises

The super high tech and luxury Crystal Endeavour. * Photo: Crystal Cruises

Just a few months after it launched the 62-passenger Crystal Espirit and announced it’s building four new river boats, Crystal Cruises has just shared more exciting small-ship news: plans to build a 200-passenger expedition-style luxury mega-yacht called Crystal Endeavour to debut in August 2018.  Named after explorer Captain James Cooks’ research ship “HMS Endeavour,” the 600-foot-long vessel will be purpose-built for expedition cruising in the Arctic, Antarctic and tropical regions as well, but at a level of luxury Cook and his retched crew could never have imagined. Crystal Endeavour will have all-inclusive pricing and an all-suite layout, with massive penthouse suites, and six dining venues.

The mega-yacht will be the first purpose-built Polar Code compliant yacht in the world with a PC6 Polar Class designation, enabling it to cruise in Polar Regions during the summer and autumn in medium “first year” ice.  She will also be fitted with state-of-the-art offshore dynamic positioning technology, with computer-controlled systems to automatically maintain the ship’s position with its own propellers and thrusters. This nifty feature means the megayacht can float atop coral reefs and other underwater wonders (including fascinating old ship wrecks) without utilizing anchors, which can damage the terrain or other underwater wonders in waters too deep for anchors.

Crystal Endeavor will cruise in the Arctic, and then follow the route of migrating whales along the coast of the Americas and Europe to Antarctica during the winter.  Along the way, she’ll visit remote islands in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, which cruise ships seldom call or cannot access.  With a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV, used extensively in the offshore industry), expedition cruises will also be organized to see sunken galleons, warships and passenger ships — even the Titanic at 12,500 feet.

For unforgettable excursions, Crystal Endeavor will carry aboard two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions, as well as two, 7-person submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, fishing stuff, paddle boards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, recompression chamber, dive support tender and a multi-person ATV.  There will even be a SEABOB — a cool high-tech underwater scooter — for moving gracefully underwater.

Of the ship’s 100 suites, the standards will measure at least 400 square feet (including balcony), plus there will be two gigantic 1,615-foot three-bedroom Owner Suites with a private gym and spa with sauna, steam room and treatment room, plus sprawling 1,507-foot balconies with hot tubs — definitely the largest guest suites of any megayacht afloat. All rooms will have butler service and 200 crew members means there’s a one-to-one ratio with guests.

The ship’s interior will include Crystal’s signature Palm Court, with 270-degree panoramic vistas for wildlife and landscape views, plus a combined 10,000-square-foot Spa and Conservatory space with a full-service spa, yoga, pilates, salon and wellness center; Jacuzzis; and an infinity pool whose base can be lifted to be a dance floor or an alfresco dining area. There will be six dining options, a 200-seat theatre, lecture rooms, cinema, card room and a computer center.

“With Crystal Esprit, we discovered there are many guests, young and young at heart, who enjoy sports at sea and discovering remote islands, and as the interests and age of luxury travelers increasingly vary, we will continue to expand our collection of luxury travel options,” says Crystal president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez. “Luxury means something different to virtually everyone, and we strive to meet and exceed the wishes of the discerning modern luxury traveler. Crystal Endeavor will cater to a particularly daring audience, one who values luxurious comfort and amenities as much as life-changing adventures.”

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Antarctica beauty. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Abercrombie & Kent

Abercrombie & Kent was founded in 1962 as a safari tour operator in East Africa and has long since expanded to include much of the world on land tours and a selection of small-ship cruise offerings, on various ships that it charters or books into as well as hotel barge cruises in Europe and the UK. In February 2019, Manfredi Lefebvre, executive chairman of Silversea Cruises, took an 85% share in A&K with the founder Geoffrey Kent keeping just 15%. For the present, A&K’s worldwide operations will continue as is.

Itineraries:

The mighty Rhine flows through the heart of Europe. * Photo: A&K

The mighty Rhine flows through the heart of Europe. * Photo: A&K

Europe: For the riverboat program, with departures scattered throughout the cruising season (April to December/January), A&K uses Amadeus riverboats, such as AMADEUS QUEEN (built 2018, 162 passengers, AMADEUS SILVER III (b. 2016 & 168p), AMADEUS BRILLIANT (b. 2011 & 150p) and AMADEUS DIAMOND (b. 2009 & 14 p). The A&K group aboard each departure is limited to 24, led by an A&K resident tour director in conjunction with a local guide and using a private vehicle when going ashore. Most river cruises last a week, a few longer, and cover the Rhine, Main, Danube, Rhone and Soane, Seine and Loire, plus Belgian and Dutch waterways during the bulb season and the Danube during Christmas season. Cruises are bracketed by hotel stays that add up to 9- to 11-day cruise tours, and one Holland to Hungary 17 days. All cabins have large picture windows and either walkout balconies or French balconies. Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner, and A&K passengers have separate reserved tables at meals. and occasionally, some are taken ashore. All gratuities included except for the resident tour director.

A&K also sells oodles of hotel barge trips all over France, Italy (Po Valley), Ireland (Shannon), England (Thames),  Scotland (Caledonian Canal) and Holland (numerous waterways).

For sailing ship cruises, the venerable 64-passenger SEA CLOUD (b.1931) and companion ship, the 94-passenger SEA CLOUD II (b. 2001) cover the Mediterranean, Iberian Peninsula and Northern Europe.

In 2018, A&K is also offering luxury expedition-style cruise charters in the Greek Isles aboard the brand new 150-passenger LE LAPEROUSE, described as “mega-yacht,” and including butler service in all suites, spa and gym with a hamman, underwater lounge, heated outdoor infinity pool, and a marina with  hydraulic platform and Zodiacs.

Asia: A&K charters Ponant’s 199-passenger LE SOLEAL  for a 14-day springtime land and sea tour beginning in Osaka then traveling south to Kyoto and Hiroshima and then following West Coast, with a diversion to an historic temple complex in South Korea, then on north to Sapporo finishing with a flight back south to Tokyo. The varied content includes Japanese culture, history, art, architecture, gardens and nature.

Asia Rivers:  In China, a 13-day tour includes a 3-night Yangtze River cruise aboard SANCTUARY YANGTZE EXPLORER (18 passengers aboard a riverboat shared with others); in Myanmar, an Irrawaddy River cruise aboard the SANCTUARY ANANDA (18 passengers) is part of an 11-day cruise tour; and on the Mekong River, sail on MEKONG PRINCESS (24 passengers) as part of a 12-day cruise tour from Bangkok and includes Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Angkor Wat.

Egypt: A&K uses the posh 12-passenger SANCTUARY ZEIN NILE CHATEAU, an intriguing-looking motor yacht with fore and aft felucca-type sails, offering four days aboard, and part of a longer 14-day Egypt and Jordan  itinerary that includes Cairo, the pyramids, Luxor, Abu Simbel, Petra, Jerash and more. Departures September through November.

Expedition Cruises: A&K takes a full ship charter of Ponant Cruises’ LE BOREAL built in 2010, limiting the capacity to 199 in all balcony cabins and  the similar L’AUSTRAL, completed in 2015. On selected dates, expeditions visit the Antarctic Peninsula with others extended to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, the expedition staff caters to children between the ages of 7 and 18 with programs aboard and trips ashore. In the Arctic, a 15-day expedition-style cruise begins in Norway and visits Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland. A 24-day Northwest Passage voyage embarks in Kangerlussuaq , Greenland and disembarks in Nome, Alaska.

Antarctica beauty. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Antarctica beauty. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Cuba: The chartered LE PONANT (built 1991 & 58 passengers) will be the focus of an 11-day Cuba cruise tour from Santiago de Cuba along the south coast to Havana. Hotel stays in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

Special Notes: See Ponant Cruises for more complete information on their vessels.

Contact: Abercrombie & Kent, 1411 Opus Place, Executive Towers II West, Suite 300, Downer’s Grove, IL 60515-1098;  www.abercrombiekent.com; 800-433-8410.

— TWS

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Planicus Antarctica Robert van Poppelen-Oceanwide

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Snapshot: Oceanwide Expeditions, based in the Netherlands, offers some of the most active and creative onshore adventures in the industry, almost exclusively in the Arctic and Antarctica regions. The ships are comfortable and efficient conveyances, not luxurious expedition cruise ships, with the exception of the brand-new HONDIUS to join the fleet in summer 2019. The focus is the destination, and this experienced firm provides a team of experts to see that you can get the most out of your expedition on foot, snowshoes, skis, and in kayaks and Zodiacs. The ships are considered basecamps.

Planicus Antarctica Robert van Poppelen-Oceanwide

Planicus in Antarctica.* Photo: Robert van Poppelen-Oceanwide Expeditions

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: The fleet includes four vessels, and they will be profiled separately, so look at the ship and the itineraries it undertakes.

A new ship, HONDIUS (178p) arrives in summer 2019. She will have a Polar Class 6 (1A-Super) certificate and offer accommodations from suites to triples and quads that may be booked as shares for those on a budget.

PLANICUS was built 1976 for Royal Dutch Navy, bought by Oceanwide and rebuilt in 2009. She operates in Antarctica and the Arctic — 116 passengers occupy 53 cabins and with shower and toilet. The largest are 10 twin superiors at 226 sq.ft., 2 twin deluxe at 161 sq. ft., 26 twins (all aforementioned with windows), 9 twins, 2 triples (1 upper berth), and 4 quads (2 upper) all with potholes. All cabins have a TV, while superior has a refrigerator, coffee and tea maker, and internet connections. The décor is attractive if plain.

Twin-bedded cabin, Planicus. * Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions

Twin-bedded cabin, Planicus. * Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions

The main lounge is forward with individual chairs and booth seating at tables, with good views and a bar, and the restaurant doubles as the lecture room. Food is referred to as hotel quality, so nothing fancy. The deck space is generous with ample room for all to see what’s around them.

Buffet dining on Planicus. * Photo: Heiner Kubny-Oceanwide Expeditions

Buffet dining on Planicus. * Photo: Heiner Kubny-Oceanwide Expeditions


ORTELIUS was built in 1989 in Poland for the Russian Academy of Sciences and has a 1A ice classification. She operates in the Arctic and Antarctica. The ship carries passengers in four-berth cabins with portholes, three-berth with portholes, two-berth with portholes, and twins with two windows, twin deluxe with three windows, and superior with a double bed and two or more windows. The last two categories add TV, coffee and tea maker, and refrigerator.

Ortelius in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. * Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions

Ortelius in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. * Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions

The restaurant operates with buffet service of hotel standard food. The lounge has a bar and there is a lecture room. Ample outdoor deck space is available for viewing.

Ortelius in pack ice. * Photo: Arjen Drost-Oceanwide Expeditions

Ortelius in pack ice. * Photo: Arjen Drost-Oceanwide Expeditions


REMBRANDT VAN RIJN was built early 20th century as a herring lugger, rebuilt in 1994 as a 3-masted Dutch schooner, and most recently updated in 2011 with modern interiors and navigation equipment. She operates with diesel engines and sails mainly in Greenland and also occasionally Iceland — 33 passengers occupy 1 triple cabin with porthole, 9 twins with porthole, and 6 twins without porthole. All have upper and lower berths and shower and toilet.

Rembrandt van Rijn. * Photo: Kees Beekman-Oceanwide Expeditions

Rembrandt van Rijn. * Photo: Kees Beekman-Oceanwide Expeditions

The restaurant has long tables and buffet dining, and doubles as the lecture room. A separate bar has stools and a lounge. On deck, there is ample open space.

Triple Cabin. *Photo: Monica Salmang-Oceanwide Expeditions

Triple Cabin. *Photo: Monica Salmang-Oceanwide Expeditions


NOORDERLICHT was built in 1910 in Germany as a 3-master schooner serving as a light vessel, hence the name, and 1991 she was rebuilt with two masts and her present configuration. The vessel operates in Spitsbergen and the Lofoten Islands — 20 passengers are accommodated in 10 cabins with upper and lower berths and wash basin, with 4 showers and 5 toilets nearby. Frosted ceiling glass brings in light from above.

Noorderlicht. * Photo: Remy Marion-Oceanwide Expeditions

Noorderlicht. * Photo: Remy Marion-Oceanwide Expeditions

The dining room with bench seating doubles as the lecture hall, and the lounge with banquette seating has a bar. The decks are wide open fore and aft.

Noorderlicht at mealtime. *Photo: Jan Belgers-Oceanwide Expeditions

Noorderlicht at mealtime. *Photo: Jan Belgers-Oceanwide Expeditions

Passenger Profile: Most passengers, regardless of age, are physically active, and some in top shape, and they hail from North America and Europe. The full span is 30-80 and most fall between 45-65.

Price: $$ – $$$  Expensive to Super Pricey

Included features: All excursions as listed in the individual itineraries. Shore adventures such as overnight camping in Antarctica are extra and can be booked in advance. Tipping guidelines are $8-10 per day.

Itineraries:

Approaching a polar bear. * Photo: Jan Belgers-Oceanwide Expeditions

Approaching a polar bear. * Photo: Jan Belgers-Oceanwide Expeditions

  • Arctic Region: 7 nights to North Spitsbergen for polar bears, and ringed and bearded seals; 7 nights South Spitsbergen for geology and landscapes; 9 nights for a Spitsbergen circumnavigation; 7 nights to West Greenland for whales and mountain skiing and snowshoeing; 7 nights to Disko Bay, Greenland for bowhead whales, icebergs and fjords. 7 nights for East Greenland for landscapes and Aurora Borealis; 7 nights in the Lofoten Islands (Norway) for Aurora Borealis, hiking, stone age petro glyphs, fishing villages, the narrow Trollfjord, and looking for whales, sea eagles. 7 nights in North Norway for whales and Aurora Borealis.
  • Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia: Antarctic Peninsula 9 & 10 nights; Antarctica Peninsula & South Shetland Islands 9 nights; Falklands, South Georgia , South Sandwich Islands and Antarctic Peninsula 22 nights. Antarctica for icebergs, a varieties of seals, penguins, petrels, and terns; South Sandwich is seldom visited and for Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins; Falklands for Magellanic, Gentoo & Rockhopper penguins, albatross, and shags. South Georgia for Fur & Elephant Seals, King & Macaroni penguins, Wandering Albatross, former whaling station, and connections to explorer Ernest Shackelton, including his grave.
Adelie Penguins. * Photo: Jan Veen-Oceanwide Expeditions

Adelie Penguins. * Photo: Jan Veen-Oceanwide Expeditions

Why Go? The Arctic offers amazing landforms and geology, icebergs and glaciers, whales, polar bears and a wide variety of birds, isolated settlements, and especially in winter, the amazing Aurora Borealis. Antarctica is well known for its bird and animal life in the sea, on land and in the air, and evidence of early expedition trips, remote settlements, icebergs in many forms and array of colors, and some of the clearest air on the globe.

Aurora Borealis, Norway.* Photo Gaute Bruvik-Visit Norway

Aurora Borealis, Norway.* Photo Gaute Bruvik-Visit Norway

When to Go? Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia are northern winter destinations while the Arctic is just the reverse. However, some of the Lofoten Islands (Norway) expeditions take place in the late fall and late winter.

Activities & Entertainment: The focus is entirely on the destination so all activities are geared to going ashore, puttering around in Zodiacs and observing wildlife, unusual land forms and geology from the deck.

Hiking in the Arctic. * Photo: Leika Akademie-Siegfried Brueck.

Hiking in the Arctic. * Photo: Leika Akademie-Siegfried Brueck.

Special Notes: Oceanwide Expeditions has a superb website with lots of information, helpful details and excellent wildlife, excursion and ship accommodation photographs.

HONDIUS is under construction

HONDIUS (178 passengers) is currently under construction in Croatia and is expected to enter service in summer 2019. Her ice classification will be 1A-Super and she will be stabilized.

Along the Same Lines: Other expedition lines that focus on the destinations and not luxury living on board. The use of sailing vessels in the Arctic is a definitely unusual.

Contact: Oceanwide Expeditions, 15710 JFK Blvd, Suite 285, Houston, TX 77031;  oceanwide-expeditions.com, 800-453-7245

TWS

 

Sea Explorer. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

Sea Explorer. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

Snapshot: Poseidon Expeditions was founded in 1999 by Nikolay Saveliev as Poseidon Arctic Voyages. Registered in the UK, the company operated its first voyage in 2001 aboard the nuclear-powered icebreaker YAMAL.  Expedition voyages center on the Arctic Region, including multiple annual departures sailing directly to the North Pole, and to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia. The firm currently charters two fine ships, the 114-passenger suite ship SEA SPIRIT, and 50 YEARS OF VICTORY, nuclear-powered and the world’s most powerful icebreaker, also with excellent accommodations for 128 passengers. The latter is a working ship at other times of the year, and she can break through ten feet of ice (3 meters). In the printed brochure, members of expedition teams are featured right up front with brief bios and their expertise.

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: SEA SPIRIT (built 1991 with recent major renovation, 114 passengers) and 50 YEARS OF VICTORY (b. 2007, 128 p).

Passenger Profile: Active people from Europe, Australia, the Far East and the US/Canada are aged 45 and up. English is the primary language onboard.

Passenger Decks: SEA SPIRIT: elevators operate between all 5 decks. 50 YEARS OF VICTORY: elevators link the four cabin and public room decks but not the bridge nor the pool and sauna located aft on the lowest of the six decks.

Price: $$ to $$$ Expensive to Super Pricey (North Pole expeditions)

Included features: One pre-voyage hotel night (most departures), all regular excursions*, foul weather parkas with destination patches, free loan of Wellington boots for Zodiac landings­, and digital voyage log. * Helicopter flights included for North Pole expeditions but not flights to Murmansk to join/leave ship.

Spitsbergen (Svalbard) - Curious polar bear comes up to the bow of the ship. * Photo: Ted Scull

Spitsbergen (Svalbard) – Curious polar bear comes up to the bow of the ship. * Photo: Ted Scull

Itineraries:

  • Arctic: SEA SPIRIT operates a program of 10-to 15-day expeditions in June and August/September that visit Iceland, including the Northern Lights, Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen (Svalbard); Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land (Russia); Spitsbergen circumnavigations; Iceland and east Greenland. Most expeditions feature photography (free) and kayaking (a fee). En route north for the Arctic season, in May the ship will embark in Plymouth, South of England and visit sites in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, ending at Leith, the port for Edinburgh. A second cruise begins in early June at Leith and subsequently calls Jan Mayen Island, and disembarking in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen. After a series of Spitzbergen itineraries, the ship heads for Franz Josef Land. Expedition dates are available for the 2020 season.
  • North Pole: 50 YEARS OF VICTORY operates three 13-day expeditions in July and the beginning of August to the North Pole starting with a flight from Helsinki to Murmansk (Russia) then boarding the ship to sail 90 degrees north and onto the North Pole with a return via the uninhabited Franz Josef Land to look for polar bears and sea birds and stop at an abandoned meteorological station. All North Pole trips feature photography lessons and helicopter sightseeing (included), barbecue, and an optional polar plunge. N.B. A Russian visa is required for this expedition.
  • Antarctica: SEA SPIRIT spends a full season with departures from late October onto late February undertaking 11-day Antarctica Peninsula cruises and several 20- and 21- expeditions to the Antarctic Islands and Antarctic Peninsula, the Falklands, and South Georgia. One cruise crosses the Antarctic Circle to 66 degrees South, now that’s about as far south as it gets! All cruises begin at Ushuaia, Argentina, except the first and last of the season that use Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Some Antarctica trips feature photography lessons (free), kayaking amongst the ice (a fee), and how about overnight camping on the White Continent (a fee). Expedition dates are available for the 2020-2021 season

 

Sea Spirit in Antarctica.* Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

Sea Spirit in Antarctica.* Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

Why Go? Few expeditions go directly to 90 Degrees North, where you can stand at the North Pole and be photographed from the air. The other destinations such as Greenland and South Georgia are little visited, and often arriving by ship is the best or only way. Drop anchor and go ashore where roads and air access do not exist. If you want to feel that you are truly away from your normal routine, then one of the expedition-style voyages is for you.

When to Go? The itineraries operate seasonally according to the most advantageous times of the year, so generally the Arctic Region in the summer and Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer.

Poseidon Expeditions

50 YEARS OF VICTORY. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

Cabins: SEA SPIRIT: All accommodations are designated as suites, all outside, and with dimensions 215, 250, 277, 353 and 437 sq. ft. The largest two categories have balconies. Twin beds convert to king-size. Amenities are TV/VCR, refrigerator, Internet Access. The headboards are partitioned mirrored glass panels. 50 YEARS OF VICTORY: Cabins are located amidships and forward, all outside and originally designed for officers and top staff who would spend months aboard breaking ice so there are desks and plenty of storage space. Windows open. The smallest are 151 sq. ft., while the rest range from 237-355 sq. ft. All have TV/DVD and only the smallest categories do not have a fridge.

Public Rooms: SEA SPIRIT: All public rooms are located aft while suites are amidships and forward. The Presentation Lounge is set up for lectures and video presentations, and above that, the Club Lounge is for socializing, with a bar and an adjacent library lounge with books on exploration and wildlife as well as for general reading. Outside deck space circles the ships so viewing locations span 360 degrees. 50 YEARS OF VICTORY: On one deck, the Victory Bar looks over the bow while, the library and lounge are just aft and the second lounge and bar are all the way aft and used for lectures and presentations. There is plenty of deck space for viewing. For both ships, the bridge, often open to passengers, is a spacious additional focus to learn about navigation and chat with the officers.

Dining: SEA SPIRIT: The main restaurant is on the lowest passenger deck and seats all at one sitting. The food is good, varied and as fresh as it can be when sailing in remote locations. In addition, an outdoor bistro serves lunch most days from a covered buffet section, and tables are arranged on the adjacent deck. 50 YEARS OF VICTORY: There is a single restaurant accommodating all passengers at one sitting. As the crew is both Russian and from other European countries, the meals will partially reflect these nationalities.

Taking sight on a polar bear. * Photo: Ted Scull

Taking sight on a polar bear. * Photo: Ted Scull

Activities & Entertainment: SEA SPIRIT: The principal emphasis are the outdoor activities relating to the destinations such as the Zodiac trips in search of wildlife and for going ashore to local communities, beauty spots and onto the ice with destinations such a penguin colonies, and even the North Pole! On board, the presentations and recaps tie in with what happens ashore. The ship is equipped with a gym and hot tub. During the evening hours, a pianist provides light entertainment. 50 YEARS OF VICTORY: Designed for long periods at sea, the ship is equipped with a massage room, gym, two saunas and heated outdoor saltwater pool, and not often found, a basketball and volleyball court. The ship carries a helicopter on an after deck.

Embarking into Zodiacs. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions.

Embarking into Zodiacs. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions.

Special Notes: Read carefully what the line suggests you bring and don’t burden yourself with too much unnecessary luggage. Excursions ashore in these remote parts as well as activities such as kayaking and helicopter sightseeing are subject to weather and wind conditions. SEA SPIRIT will be refitted, during a drydocking in spring 2019, with a more effective set of stabilizers to reduce rolling while underway, drifting and when anchored.

Along the Same Lines: Other high-end expedition lines.

Contact:

USA & CANADA – Poseidon Expeditions, 245 Waterman St., Suite 502, Providence, RI 02906;  Poseidonexpeditions.com, 347-801-2610.

UK – Poseidon Expeditions, 13 John Prince’s Street, London W1G 0JR  poseidonexpeditions.com,  +44 020 3369 0020.

Check the website for additional offices in Germany, Cyprus and China.

TWS

Silver Cloud pre conversion. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Silver Cloud pre conversion. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

In August 2017, Silversea Cruises’ 296-passenger SILVER CLOUD will be refurbished and converted into an ice-class ship and then moved to Silversea Expeditions by year-end 2017 to offer a similar experience as her fleetmates, the all-suite SILVER EXPLORER, SILVER DISCOVERER, and SILVER GALAPAGOS. After the overhaul, the renamed SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION will carry 260 passengers and sail in polar and non-polar regions; when sailing Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, the number of passengers booked on those cruises will be restricted to 200. SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION will be the only luxury ice-class expedition ship with five dining options and it will have the highest space and highest staff-to-guest ratio (nearly one to one).