Monday, 28 January 2008

Adventure Quest

Committed adventure cruiser, Roderick Eime, shares some insight on one of the fastest growing travel sectors.

Flick through the pages of any magazine or newspaper and you’re confronted with an overflowing smorgasbord of cruise travel possibilities. If this explosion of romantic ocean-going itineraries leads you to think cruise travel is on the up, then you are right. Cruising is on a rocket. But look closer and you’ll find, sometimes tacked on the end of a larger ad, adventure possibilities you may never have dreamed of.

Sure, everybody knows the irresistible, fairytale allure of the South Pacific, Caribbean and Mediterranean, but what about the frozen reaches of the Antarctic, the wilds of the Kimberley or the tiny atolls of Melanesia? Within this huge category of ‘cruising’ there exists a sometimes overlooked subset generally referred to as “adventure and expedition cruising”.

Once almost a secret society among wealthy adventurers and well-heeled thrillseekers, this type of travel has ignited the imagination of those looking beyond regular, packaged products. Travel marketers and advertising pundits are calling this emerging genre “experiential and transformational” travel where the journey is all about delivering uplifting and life-changing experiences.

Ships plying these waters can vary enormously too. They range from luxury pocket cruise-liners, replete with every creature comfort and a “quick response” crew ready to fulfill your every whim, through to refurbished ex-Soviet spy vessels. These Russian vessels are the ones largely responsible for opening up the frozen extremes of our planet and include mighty icebreakers and hardy oceanographic ships built to operate in the most challenging conditions.

At the softer end, vessels like the Australian-based Orion and Oceanic Discoverer, world-travelling Seadream I and II and Seabourne are examples of ships constructed to deliver a high, even opulent, level of luxury and still retain the flexibility and versatility of an expedition yacht. Orion, for example, not only cruises the rich tropical backwaters of PNG and the Kimberley, but ventures to the most remote reaches of Antarctica, well below the ‘circle’ and into the exclusive realm of Emperor Penguins and historic explorers.