It’s an experience more likely torn from the pages of National Geographic than Travel + Leisure.
Expedition passenger ships or expedition yachts/ships are small, with shallow drafts, and are able to inch closer to those less-visited, out-of-the-way ports or scenic wonders.
A seven to ten night expedition sailing in many ways feels more like a weeklong shore excursion than a cruise.
What sets expedition cruising apart from “normal” cruising is the relationship between the voyages and ports. On a typical ship or luxury yacht, the cruise experience is made up in equal measure by experiences ashore — both organized and independent — and various activities and entertainment onboard, provided by a “cruise staff.” When conventional ships add programs of an educational or informational nature, they are defined as “enrichment,” an augmentation to, rather than the main thrust of, the cruise experience. They are the seasoning, not the main course.
Expedition trips are led by an “expedition team,” with a team leader and sometimes a support staff of naturalists and science-oriented guest lecturers who give presentations on the politics, culture, history, geology, geography, biology, ecology or anthropology of their vessel’s destinations.
Aboard an expedition ship, the expedition leader often has a lot greater say in day-to-day scheduling and destinations, and both aspects are more fluid than in the daily programs of conventional ships. This permits the flexibility of changing course or altering plans on a dime to take advantage of weather, sea conditions, wildlife sightings or any other serendipitous occurrence.
Clearly, this format is not for everyone. One keystone of expedition cruising is the extensive use of Zodiac inflatable crafts instead of conventional tenders. Not only does this require more agility transferring to and from the ship, but often the destination is a beach or rocky shoreline lacking any sort of a pier, necessitating a “wet landing” (having to jump over the side into the water and wade to shore).
Once ashore, groups are often divided up into smaller packs based on fitness level and interest, with the heartier travelers taking off on hikes of various degrees or long kayaking outings and easier-going folks taking a leisurely, naturalist-led walk along a shoreline to look in tide pools or search for rare birds.
That’s a model for expeditionary voyaging with high-end luxury touches. Can you see yourself zipping among Arctic icebergs in below-zero weather aboard a Zodiac for a few hours, then being greeted upon your return to the ship by a nattily dressed butler handing you a steaming cup of hot chocolate flavored with Irish Cream? That’s par for the course on a luxury expedition voyage which our Argiros team can prepare and organize for you.