The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Stay up to date on the science behind the outbreak>>

The trend in small-ship expedition cruising

The appetite for small-ship expedition cruising grows apace. If you want a truly immersive way to discover a far-flung destination, get on board.

Published 30 Jul 2019, 08:00 BST
Cruising the Antarctic
Cruising the Antarctic
Photograph by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Forget sharing a ship with a cast of thousands; the big news for big spenders is small-ship cruises. Traditionally, expedition ships were somewhat scant on home comforts, tending towards an ice-breaker in the Arctic or a hardy, frills-free research vessel. But the current boom in small-ship cruising is found firmly at the luxurious end of the market, a phenomenon driven by ever-more adventurous passengers. Crystal Cruises, for instance, recently announced its foray into expedition cruising in order to meet the demand from its customers, 65% of whom are repeat guests.

With several new expedition ships due to hit the waves this year, the choice of destinations and experiences available to travellers is rapidly expanding. When Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Endeavor launches in August 2020, the all-suite, purpose-built ship will be the world’s most spacious expedition yacht, with butler-serviced suites, Michelin-inspired cuisine and anchor-free positioning technology designed to lessen its environmental impact. The ship’s inaugural season will include itineraries such as a round-trip from Tokyo to Russia’s Far East and a voyage from Taipei to Bali by way of the Philippines.

Coral Expeditions’ all-new Coral Adventurer, meanwhile, debuted in April 2019 with a journey through the Indonesian archipelago to Australia’s northern shores. Among its itineraries for 2020 is a one-off, 60-day circumnavigation of Australia; costing from £21,445 per person, this is the ideal pick for passengers with deep pockets. Exclusivity is the name of the game here; the ship accommodates just 120 guests in 60 spacious staterooms, and an open-bridge encourages guests to drop by a for chat with the captain.

An even more upmarket option comes in the form of Hanseatic Inspiration, a five-star, state-of-the-art ship from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, due to set sail to Antarctica in October this year. The 230-passenger ship will feature extendable glass balconies, enabling passengers to perch directly above the waves, plus a fleet of Zodiac boats. Next year’s itineraries include the Amazon River, Chilean fjords and American Great Lakes; a 14-day cruise from Chicago to Toronto in June costs from £6,745pp.

Perhaps this year’s most anticipated launch, however, is that of Scenic Eclipse, which bills itself as ‘the world’s first discovery yacht’. Due to set sail in August, the ultra-luxurious 200-passenger ship houses two on-board helicopters and a seven-seater submarine. “It’s the next generation of luxury cruising offering unprecedented levels of discovery along with innovative, ground-breaking itineraries,” says Colin Downing, the company’s managing director.

Featuring fuel-efficient engines, advanced wastewater treatment systems, low-emission propulsion and GPS anchoring systems designed to minimise seabed damage, Scenic Eclipse will be among the most environmentally sensitive ships at sea. Such technologies — combined with top-notch comforts, minimal crowds and a sense of adventure — are positioning expedition cruises as the ultimate aquatic experience.

National Geographic Expeditions also offers a variety of cruises exploring some of the world’s most remote places alongside an expedition team including an array of experts: from seasoned photographers to marine biologists, historians or naturalists. From Northeast Greenland National Park to Cape Verde there’s over 45 trips to choose from.

Published in the Jul/Aug 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Follow us on social media 

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Flipboar

Read More

You might also like

Seven life-changing experiences to discover on a voyage through Antarctica
How to see the whale sharks of Qatar
Mapping out the Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina and Chile
Top five all-new European cruise excursions for 2020
Beyond the Caribbean with Norwegian Cruise Line

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved