Small-boat expedition cruising is on the rise as travelers seek to visit remote locations in the most sustainable way possible. One company, AdventureSmith Explorations, has taken charge in organizing these types of journeys.
“Expedition cruising is a perfect match for travelers seeking to check off hard-to-reach, bucket-list destinations sustainably and actively,” explains Todd Smith, founder of the company. “Flexible routes allow for spontaneous exploration and that spirit of adventure that today’s travelers value.”
AdventureSmith Explorations expedition cruising product is booming. “Year-over-year from 2013 to 2018, our booked passenger count grew over 150 percent. To keep up with the expansion, over the past year, members of our staff have traveled to the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon, Australia, Alaska, the Columbia River, Baja California, Galapagos, Panama, Patagonia, the Polar Circle, Antarctica, the Arctic and Indonesia to scout out new expedition cruises and ships,” adds Smith.
Alaska, Antarctica, and the Galapagos Islands are the company’s most in-demand destinations for expedition cruising as small ships can navigate narrow inlets and island chains in remote locations, going where larger cruise ships can’t, and having the flexibility to explore each place in-depth. Emerging destinations include the Arctic, Indonesia, and Australia, adds Smith.
“As world tourism grows, our specialty market is also growing,” he says. “The typical expedition cruise passenger is educated, 40- to 70-years-of-age and interested in exploring destinations in-depth and with an element of discovery, active adventure options, and education. They are sustainability-minded and interested in contributing to communities and natural environments in a positive way, becoming ambassadors and advocates for these destinations upon their return.”
Worldwide, there is a growing segment of travelers, most notably millennials, who are seeking unique and customized trips. “One recent surprise is a growing number of younger female travelers who book solo trips to destinations such as Antarctica. It’s part of a trend with younger clientele to check off bucket-list destinations while they still have the ability to enjoy them fully. Examples are those reaching seven continents before 30.”
What this segment finds appealing is not only the chance to relax or take part in adrenaline-pumping adventures but themed departures that include photo-centric, culinary-focused, family-focused, and citizen science-focused cruises.
Another trend Smith points out is the building of small expedition ships purpose-built for polar expedition cruising. Amenity upgrades include helicopter pads, custom-designed inflatable skiffs, private balconies in cabins, advanced efficiencies for off-loading guests, cleaner/greener/more efficient vessels, high-tech stabilizers for a smoother ride, and more.
The small size of its ships, low passenger counts, and sustainable practices allow AdventureSmith to access remote and environmentally-sensitive areas. Its fleet of ships are designed for maximum resource recycling and has a strict policy of leave-no-trace, which includes a ban on plastic bags. The company also works with local non-profits to contribute to local economies and participate in educational and conservation programs.