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15 out-of-this-world luxpedition cruises

Expedition cruising now takes travellers to the farthest reaches of the globe in unparalleled comfort. We look at the new ships and ‘luxpeditions’ that will take you far beyond your comfort zone.

An epic voyage

The wildlife-rich subantarctic islands of Australia and New Zealand are among the many highlights of Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic’s ‘Epic Antarctica’ itinerary along the edge of Antarctica’s remote shores. The voyage will be among the first for the company’s first polar new-build, the 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance. The ship will be fully stabilised for smooth sailing, with the highest ice class (PC5) of any purpose-built passenger vessel. As well as exploring Macquarie and the other subantarctic islands, the voyage will takes guests to rarely visited Western Antarctica, the Ross Sea ice shelf and the world’s largest colony of Adélie penguins. The first of two departures sails from Ushuaia, Argentina on 28 December 2020 bound for Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island, with a reverse voyage departing on 28 January 2021.

© Bennett Goldberg/Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic

The hybrid future

Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen heralds a new era of hybrid-powered expedition cruising. For the first time in history, cutting-edge green technology will propel travellers to far-flung destinations across Antarctica, Alaska, the Northwest Passage and the Americas. The new ship – named for Norway’s legendary explorer and first man to the South Pole – combines Amundsen’s passion for discovery with Hurtigruten’s 125 years of exploration experience, ensuring a sustainable experience in every wildlife habitat and remote community she visits. Guests will travel with a veteran expedition team for a truly immersive voyage, returning to large ensuite cabins, most equipped with private balconies and some with their own hot tubs for extra indulgence. In her inaugural season this year, MS Roald Amundsen will sail through Iceland and Greenland, Alaska and British Columbia, Peru and Chile, and Antarctica and the Falklands, with a unique voyage of contrasts between New York and Costa Rica.

Luxpedition cruises
© Rinie van Meurs, via Hurtigruten

The view from above

Polar landscapes are awe-inspiring from on board a boutique expedition ship, but they’re even more wondrous when viewed from the sky. Quark Expeditions’ new technologically advanced ship Ultramarine, scheduled to sail on its inaugural 2020/21 Antarctic season, will not only carry 20 Zodiacs but also two twin-engine helicopters. While the quick-deploy boats offer guests the opportunity to set foot on select parts of the peninsula to enjoy intimate land-based explorations, the helicopters invite adventurers to take in the breathtaking views for a completely different perspective. Passengers on Ultramarine will experience the remarkable aerial panoramas on a 15-minute flightseeing excursion included in the cost of their voyage.

Read: 5 unmissable polar voyages with Quark

Luxpedition cruises
© Quark Expeditions

Venture into expeditions

Seabourn is set to welcome its first purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, in December 2021. The state-of-the-art vessel is designed to withstand polar extremes with a PC6 rating, and invites guests closer to the natural world with a fleet of kayaks, 24 Zodiacs and two custom-built submarines. Each ship will feature 132 oceanfront verandah suites and relaxed guest areas, all designed by Adam D Tihany, the creative visionary behind the design of both Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation. Like the cruise line’s luxury ships, Seabourn Venture will also include popular programs such as Spa & Wellness with Dr Andrew Weil and Seabourn Conversations, providing guests with expert insight into the history, ecology and culture of the places they visit. For her maiden season of 25 voyages, Seabourn Venture will explore the Viking heritage of Northern Europe and the wildlife of the Arctic before beginning a journey south through the Caribbean and South America ahead of nine Antarctic voyages.

A polar pioneer

Explore the poles in unprecedented style aboard the first luxury icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot. Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions’ landmark vessel is also the world’s first electric hybrid powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) designed for polar exploration, setting the stage for more sustainable cruising in the planet’s most sensitive environments. The revolutionary 135-stateroom vessel is named for another French polar pioneer, Jean-Baptiste Charcot, and gives guests a chance to follow in his wake, albeit with Ponant’s signature ‘French touch’ and sophisticated amenities such as indoor and outdoor pools, a winter garden, spa and observatory bar. With her PC2 Polar Class hull, Le Commandant Charcot will offer a range of exclusive, intense itineraries in seas where other ships cannot go, starting with North Pole journeys in April/September 2021 and South Pole trips in October 2021 and March 2022.

© Christophe Dugied/Ponant

A wild escape

With all the marvellous cruising opportunities around the world, it can be easy to forget the beauty and adventure on our own doorstep. Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast is one of the world’s most striking destinations, where rust-red cliffs meet turquoise waters, and it is best seen by yacht. The Great Escape Charter Company has been exploring this region for 20 years and has refined the adventure aboard its newly refurbished 26-metre catamaran. With only 14 guests, but three expedition tenders and a dedicated helicopter on deck, this is no ordinary cruise. Indeed, there are no set itineraries, meaning each day is yours to create, whether you choose to go hiking, fishing or touring by air. Cruises in the Kimberley operate between March and September each year, with voyages ranging from seven to 13 nights, and four-night fishing adventures taking place in October.

Read: The 10 most amazing hotel yachts

A world of expeditions

Expect back-to-back-to-back adventure and discovery on the world’s first-ever expedition world cruise, ‘The Uncharted World Tour’. Silversea’s 254-passenger ice-class crossover vessel, Silver Cloud, sets sail on 30 January 2021 from Ushuaia, Chile, arriving in Tromsø, Norway on 16 July. Over 167 days, travellers will call at 107 of the most fascinating destinations in 30 countries, six of which are all-new ports of call for the cruise line: Naxos, Folegrandos and Nafpaktos, Greece; Ksamil, Albania; Béjaïa, Algeria; and Fort William, Scotland. With a fleet of 18 Zodiacs and 10 kayaks on board, guests have the opportunity for in-depth, active exploration in each destination.

© Adrian Wlodarczyk/Silversea Expeditions

An inspirational new voyage

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will launch the second of its three structurally identical expedition ships in Antwerp on 13 October. Like her sister HANSEATIC nature, HANSEATIC inspiration is a small and manoeuvrable 230-guest vessel, designed to explore the far-off reaches of the world, from the Amazon to the North Pole. Her cutting-edge technology, including a PC6 ice class rating, is complemented by a sophisticated onboard experience. Watch whales swimming below you while standing on one of the two extendible glass balconies on the Sun Deck; snorkel warm waters right from the ship’s marina; rejuvenate with a massage at Ocean Spa; and explore the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines at The Nikkei specialty restaurant. Following her launch, HANSEATIC inspiration will cross the Atlantic for a voyage down the coast of South America, before undertaking a series of polar adventures that will take passengers down to the Antarctic Peninsula.

HANSEATIC inspiration © Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Marquesas marvels

Only the truly adventurous have ventured to the northernmost archipelago of French Polynesia. Cast in the Pacific Ocean nearly 5,000 kilometres from the nearest continental landmass, the Marquesas Islands have developed an aura of mystery. Aranui Cruises’ 126-metre-long mixed cargo and passenger vessel, Aranui 5, acts as a lifeline between the six inhabited islands and the rest of Tahiti, delivering vital supplies while guests experience the Marquesas’ volcanic shores. Complimentary shore excursions such as hikes, traditional feasts, 4WD tours, archaeological sites and visits to local markets encourage travellers to find out how this region inspired author Herman Melville, artist Paul Gauguin and explorer Thor Heyerdahl. The 13-day cruise departs Papeete regularly and visits nine French Polynesian islands, including Bora Bora.

Read: 6 exceptional river cruise suites

Pole to pole

Experience the world’s polar extremes with two of Abercrombie & Kent’s exclusive curated voyages, both led by an award-winning expedition team. Heading south on 16 January 2020, ‘Antarctic Discovery: Palmer’s Bicentennial Expedition’ commemorates the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica with a 15-day round-trip voyage from Argentina aboard Le Lyrial. Special guest and noted Antarctic researcher Dr James McClintock will lead a behind-the-scenes tour at Palmer Station on an exclusive adventure limited to 199 passengers. During the long days of the midnight sun, A&K will venture north for a 15-day voyage from Norway to Greenland and Iceland aboard the exclusively chartered Le Boréal. ‘Arctic Cruise Adventure: In Search of the Polar Bear’ begins on 31 July with a night in Oslo before guests are flown to the polar bear ‘haven’ of the Svalbard Islands. The expedition invites guests to go behind the scenes at Iceland’s Husavik Whale Museum, seek out wildflowers while walking the high Arctic tundra and visit an Inuit village on Greenland’s remote east coast.

© Richard Harker, via Abercrombie & Kent
© Justin Weiler, via Abercrombie & Kent

Antarctic endeavours

Crystal Endeavor is due to set sail in August 2020, and Crystal Expedition Cruises’ purpose-built polar-class vessel already plans to take on Asia, the Russian Far East and Antarctica. Among the 35 voyages, the 22-night ‘Antarctica & the Ross Sea Expedition’ is a standout itinerary. Departing from Hobart on 6 January 2021, she will make her way down through the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean on a lesser-known route to Antarctica. Guests will have the opportunity to visit the historic huts of Scott and Shackleton and witness the world’s largest penguin colony. The voyage ends in Christchurch (Lyttelton), and the itinerary repeats in reverse from Christchurch to Hobart on 28 January 2021. When not marvelling at the splendour of Antarctica, guests can return to their spacious room or suite and indulge at the Crystal Life Spa and six restaurants, including Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma.

Whale sharks and warriors

New Guinea may be the closest island to Australia – a mere six kilometres of separation at the nearest point – but its wildlife, jungles and people still remain a mystery to most of us. Coral Expeditions seeks to change that with its 35-night ‘Circumnavigation of New Guinea’, departing Darwin on 2 October. Sailing aboard the new 120-passenger flagship, Coral Adventurer, guests will be fully immersed in the cultural diversity and striking beauty of Papua New Guinea and these rarely visited corners of Indonesia. The circumnavigation will call at the diver’s paradise of Raja Ampat, the Spice Islands and Tufi Fjords, with an undoubtable highlight being the two mornings spent searching for and swimming with whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay. Coral Adventurer will also wend her way down the might Sepik River, paying visits to remote villages known for arts and crafts, and the Mamberamo River, called ‘the Amazon of the East’, to encounter warrior tribes.

Read: 7 yachting hotspots to add to your bucket list

Discovery eclipsed

Australia’s home-grown expedition specialist, Aurora Expeditions, will sail into the Weddell Sea on a once-in-a-lifetime voyage to witness the total solar eclipse in December 2021. Guests aboard the soon-to-launch Greg Mortimer will be accompanied by NASA astronomer Dr Michelle Thaller and NASA engineer Dr Andrew Booth, providing unparalleled insight into astronomy, dark energy and exoplanets throughout the 22-day journey. The full eclipse will only be visible from Antarctica, and is set to take place in the early hours of 4 December, putting guests in a prime viewing position. The voyage departs Ushuaia, Argentina on 24 November 2021 and will visit the South Shetland Islands, Elephant Island, South Georgia and the Falklands, as well as the Antarctic Peninsula.

Beyond the river

Aqua Expeditions is going beyond the rivers of the Peruvian Amazon and Southeast Asia with the arrival of its first coastal expedition yacht. Aqua Blu will begin cruising through Komodo National Park, Ambon and Spice Islands and Raja Ampat in East Indonesia on 16 November, introducing guests to wildlife, culture and age-old traditions, as well as the world’s most storied diving sites. With only 15 suites, the ex-British Naval Explorer will offer an intimate experience, complete with onboard certified dive guides, outdoor Jacuzzi and an array of water sports equipment. The arrival of Aqua Blu is also complemented by the 20-suite Aqua Nera, which will commence river cruises in the Amazon in August 2020, proving that expeditions aren’t merely for the open sea. Both vessels feature a one-to-one cruise-passenger ratio, cuisine experiences crafted by acclaimed chefs and expert-guided adventures on shore.

© Piero Malaer/Aqua Expeditions

Darwin’s enchanted isles

There is no better way to discover the Galápagos Islands than by sea, hopping from island to island as you follow in the wake of Charles Darwin. Quasar Expeditions’ 16-cabin M/V Evolution allows travellers to experience the islands with two seven-night itineraries. ‘In the Steps of Pirates & Darwin’ departs from Baltra, while ‘Footsteps Back In Time’ sets sail from San Cristóbal Island, both inviting travellers to immerse themselves in the landscape with walks and hikes, snorkelling trips, kayaking adventures and rides in the small panga boats. With just 32 passengers, each cruise offers intimate wildlife encounters led by expert guides by day, and 1920s-inspired elegance on board by night.

Read: 23 out-of-this-world luxpeditions

This article originally appeared in volume 34 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

Lead image © Ralph Lee Hopkins/Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic