Fifty years ago Lindblad Expeditions founder Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first citizen explorer expedition to Antarctica, marking the invention of the category of “expedition travel.” According to press material, Lindblad noted, “My enchantment with Antarctica had been so great since childhood that I wondered why I had never thought of it before. I was aware that the idea of setting up tours to that frozen continent would be tangled with complications. Going there might even be impossible. But inspired by koumiss [fermented dairy product], I boldly announced to everyone, ‘Our next exploratory tour will be to a place that isn’t even on the map.’”
As the saying goes, “We’ve come a long way, baby.” Today’s traveler is hungry for this type of voyage—seeking out destinations that are truly off the beaten path, ones that are most certainly on their bucket list. “We believe strongly that we are in a new age of travel,” points out Jacinta McEvoy, v.p., worldwide sales, Lindblad Expeditions. “Expedition travel provides the most outstanding experiences possible, exploring the world’s most remarkable places. People are increasingly seeking true exploration, access to remote places….” Adds Gordon Dirker, managing director, Hurtigruten North America, “People are looking for new destinations and experiences and are looking to immerse themselves and broaden their horizons.” John Delaney, sr. v.p., marketing and sales, Seabourn, concurs, noting that, “Travel agents should be looking for those signs that point to a client who wants to get off the ship and come away with immersive experiences they may never have had before.” And “surprisingly,” as Candie Steinman, MCC, franchise owner, Dream Vacations, points out, “the passengers that choose expedition cruising are usually those who have done land vacations or other adventure-based travel, rather than your typical cruise passenger.”
The demand is certainly there for expedition cruising, most especially when the cruise includes exploring the continent of Antarctica. Says Dirker, “We have seen a huge growth in Antarctica, and tripled our capacity for 2017 as a result of this demand.” Look over the expedition cruises we’ve selected for this feature, and as you go through your mental Rolodex keep in mind what McEvoy notes regarding your client base. “Travel advisors need to look at their client base, and start with those that are more adventurous, curious, intelligent, well-traveled, well-educated with a passion for learning about the wonders of the world.” And although these cruises do tend to be high-priced, don’t let that deter you from reaching out to just the right client, because as Steinman points out, “Most passengers realize costs before talking to their agents. They know this is a very specialized trip and as most are very inclusive, the cost factor is not a real problem.”
Hurtigruten, which started expedition voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002, offers two vessels for Antarctica voyages.
Midnatsol only recently began its Antarctica expeditions, sailing to Antarctica this summer and then over Christmas taking cruisers on adventures to Patagonia and Antarctica. The Midnatsol, which carries a maximum of 500 passengers and provides, as the company says, Discovery Style Voyages, offers seven itineraries, including the 17-day Southern Hemisphere Adventure: South America and Antarctica, departing March 1, 2017 with rates starting at $6,250. It sails from the mountainous peaks of the Chilean fjords to the icy plains of Antarctica, settling in for several days, and featuring up-close encounters with penguins and fur seals, as well as kayaking and hiking. There are also scenic flight options and Falkland Islands sightseeing, and, if weather permits, going ashore at Cape Horn. And, points out Dirker, the line is capable “of catering to families with our Young
Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
The cruise line offers three Antarctica itineraries aboard the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer and the 102-guest National Geographic Orion, including the 14-day Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent. Departures are in January, February, November and December, with rates for the Jan. 5, 2017 departure ranging from $13,360 to $25,480. The journey includes everything from exploring the environment via Zodiac and hiking summits to kayaking along a cliffside rookery and plenty of photo-ops of penguins (clients can even get photo tips from a National Geographic photographer). There’s also a very special sailing this October: the 18-day Historic Adventure & Extravaganza in South Georgia & The Falklands on board both Orion and Explorer. The journey, which will re-create the historic South Georgia traverse to celebrate the line’s 50th anniversary and the ending of the Shackleton 100th, will afford passengers the opportunity to hike in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton and will sail with celebrated mountaineers, plus there’ll be plenty of hiking, kayaking and Zodiac-based exploration. Rates begin at $15,930; book by Sept. 30 for complimentary roundtrip international and charter airfare.
For 2017, Ponant will offer a new Antarctica expedition, departing in March and sailing aboard Le Lyrial. The 22-day Journey in Southern Lands departs from Ushuaia in Argentina and visits the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia Island, with its final destination in Cape Town. Along the way, clients will view king penguins, humpback whales, and elephant and fur seals as they discover three of the most isolated islands in the world: Tristan da Cunha, a volcanic and mountainous land; the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gough Island, home to one of the world’s largest seabird colonies; and Nightingale Island, a refuge for many penguins. Rates start at $10,610.
If your clients want to celebrate the December holidays in Antarctica, Seabourn offers a 24-day Holiday Antarctica, Patagonia & South Georgia Island itinerary on board the Seabourn Quest. It departs Dec. 19 from Valparaiso, Chile, and includes several days in Antarctica. There’s also scenic cruising of the Gulf of Corcovado, El Brujo Glacier and the Beagle Channel, as well as a couple of days spent in South Georgia Island. Keep in mind, too, that last November Seabourn debuted Ventures by Seabourn kayak excursions in Antarctica. The kayaks launch directly from the ship’s fold-out watersports marina, offering guests the opportunity to explore Antarctica’s scenery and wildlife close up and at sea level. Guests paddle amidst white-blue icebergs, penguins, seals and other wildlife in specially designed cold climate dry suits. In addition to Antarctica, Ventures by Seabourn optional kayak excursions are offered at South Georgia Island and Port Stanley (Falkland Islands/ Islas Malvinas). With experiences like these, it’s easy to see why, as Delaney says, “cruises with an expeditionary component are growing in popularity.”