What is ‘Expedition Cruising’?

Oceanic Discoverer on the Sepik River, PNG (Photo Rod Eime)

The term ‘expedition’ has been more frequently attached to cruise products in an attempt to give them a romantic, out-of-the-way appeal. The danger is that the original expedition cruise concept is being diluted and misconstrued.


A true expedition cruise consists of a voyage plan and itinerary that has inbuilt flexibility and redundancy. In the capricious Antarctic waters, all activities and sight-seeing is weather and ice dependent. Passengers are reminded of this time and time again and it is quite common for completely unscheduled landings to take place in fallback planning. The same exists for expedition cruises in tropical waters.

As weather, currents and tides play out in the dense South Sea archipelagos, an expedition leader and his/her captain must ‘massage’ the itinerary constantly to capitalise on emerging opportunities and avoid those closing out.

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A proper expedition vessel is more than just a smaller ship with zodiacs piled up on deck. A true expedition vessel is designed for the intended conditions and equipped to deliver the experience upon arrival, whether it be weaving through disintegrating pack ice or creeping past vivid coral atolls.

Passengers aboard expedition vessels have come to expect expert guides and lecturers to help them interpret the rich cultural and natural histories these exotic destinations deliver. Academics, researchers and authors are common both as lecturers and passengers, adding to healthy discussions and enrapturing dinner conversation.


As a niche travel genre, expedition cruising is not for everybody. Don't be "sold" by an uninformed travel consultant, you'll know immediately whether this type of travel appeals to you or not. Speak to an experienced agent or specialist operator direct.