Should Be Cruising

What Is an Expedition Cruise (and Why You Should Consider One)

By: Author Carrie Ann

Posted on Published: September 14, 2020  - Last updated: June 26, 2023

What Is an Expedition Cruise (and Why You Should Consider One)

Expedition cruises are voyages to far-flung areas with a focus on the nature, history, and culture of the destinations they visit.

whats an expedition cruise

If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know that the floating city that is a cruise ship can be a destination in itself. But expedition cruises feature smaller, more intimate ships with fewer bells and whistles. You won’t find waterslides or magic shows, flashy nightclubs or noisy casinos. Instead, you’ll enjoy fascinating seminars and lively discussions with subject experts, your expedition team, and your fellow adventurers.

Maybe you think that cruises just aren’t your style? I hear you! Even though I now write exclusively about cruises and cruise destinations, for decades I was adamant that I’d never set foot on a cruise ship . Whatever you think about cruising, there are just some places on our planet that are best seen by ship, because they’re almost impossible to reach in any other way.

Or, perhaps you’re looking for a real adventure, but you still want to retreat to the comfort and amenities of a cozy ship each evening? An expedition cruise might be just the vacation you’ve been looking for! Here’s what you need to know about expedition cruises and how to find out if you should try one.

Where do expedition cruises sail?

Expedition cruises, sometimes called adventure cruises, generally sail in remote areas known for wildlife and natural beauty. Although many adventure cruises visit out-of-the-way destinations where large cruise ships can’t go, others take a more in-depth look at areas near more traditional cruise destinations.

Some of the most popular expedition cruises sail in Alaska, Antarctica, the Galápagos Islands, the Amazon, and Canada’s Northwest Passage. Other adventure cruise destinations include Papua New Guinea, the Sea of Cortez, the Arctic and the North Pole, Iceland, and the Norwegian fjords.

Adventure cruises in Africa, especially along the western coast of the continent and in Egypt, have been gaining in popularity in recent years.

Do you have to bring your own gear or equipment on an expedition cruise?

Although expedition cruisers should pack appropriate clothing for the weather conditions and expected activities, many cruise lines do allow guests to borrow or rent some gear, such as waterproof boots or wetsuits. Other cruise lines actually provide each guest their own set of cold-weather gear (like parkas and snow pants) as part of the cruise fare.

Cruise lines will have activity-based gear for passengers to use, like kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkel or SCUBA gear, depending on the climate and activities at the destination.

Some ships include watercraft like wave runners, underwater scooters, even small submarines! Any specialized gear you’ll need to enjoy these water sports will be on the ship.

whats an expedition cruise

Be sure to check with your cruise line before you pack to see what’s available on board and what you need to purchase before you travel. Most expedition cruise companies will provide you with a detailed packing list a few months before you sail. Take their recommendations seriously, because you might not have any opportunity to buy items you didn’t pack once you’re aboard the ship.

How are expedition cruise ships different from traditional ships?

Expedition cruise ships are often much smaller than the average cruise ship, and some are purpose-built to sail in the particular conditions of the destination. Many have reinforced hulls to protect the ships from ice on Arctic and Antarctic cruises. These ships also have shallower drafts than regular cruise ships, so they can access smaller inlets and shallow harbors.

Most adventure cruise ships have a passenger capacity of under 500, and many are much smaller than that. Because of these ships’ smaller size, they can travel to many locations that most ocean-going cruise ships can’t reach.

Depending on the destination, expedition cruise ships often can drop anchor when and where the conditions are right—there’s no need for the ship to wait until it reaches a port. Passengers take semi-rigid skiffs, or Zodiacs, from the ship to explore the area, get up close to marine life, or head to shore.

whats an expedition cruise

Learn more: What Is a Zodiac Boat on an Expedition Cruise?

What can passengers expect to do each day on an expedition cruise?

Expedition cruises operate all over the world, so activities on a cruise in Alaska’s Northern Passages are going to look a lot different than a cruise in the Galápagos or one around the west coast of Africa.

But generally, your daily activities will be led by your Expedition Team Leader and his or her guides. Where traditional cruises have a Cruise Director who oversees the entertainment staff, expedition cruises have an expedition team in charge of your activities, safety, and of course your enjoyment of the cruise.

Most expedition cruises will give you a choice of daily activities, and they usually have options based on your fitness level or preferences. You might choose a kayak tour to discover secluded coves, an off-trail hike with stops to learn about the native flora, or a snorkel or SCUBA trip to peer at colorful fish and corals.

Or, maybe you’ll pick a trek across the top of a glacier, a Zodiac ride to get closer than you ever thought you could to whales and dolphins in their natural habitats, or a day visiting penguins in a glacier garden.

whats an expedition cruise

On some expedition cruises, the focus might be more on culture and history. Some adventure cruises can get you to archeological sites that traditional cruise ships just can’t visit. Or maybe they drop anchor just offshore of a remote island with a culinary tradition you’d never be able to experience otherwise.

Whatever expedition cruise you pick, after a hearty breakfast (and maybe early-morning yoga, which I swear by to loosen up your muscles for the day ahead of you), you’ll meet up with your guide and the other guests in your group. Unlike the huge tour groups you usually encounter on cruises, groups on an expedition cruise are smaller and more intimate.

You’ll spend your day exploring and learning with an experienced guide. You’ll find like-minded, curious shipmates from around the world who also chose this kind of cruise for the same reason you did—to have a learning experience you can only have by getting up-close-and-personal with a destination.

What activities and entertainment are available onboard expedition cruise ships?

Activities and entertainment aboard expedition cruise ships are a bit different than on regular cruise ships! Instead of production shows, karaoke, nightclubs, and casinos, you’ll find that the focus is on enrichment. You’ll get to know the wildlife, terrain, and even the culture and history of your destination through expert lectures and educational films.

Mindfulness and relaxation is often a focus, with optional yoga or Pilates classes. Some luxury expedition ships also offer spa services, like facials and massage, for an additional fee.

Since adventure cruise ships have a smaller passenger count, you’ll probably get to know more of your fellow cruisers than you would on a larger ship. Evening cocktail hours and leisurely dinners are the preferred way to unwind after a day of adventure with your new friends.

Expedition ships have a restaurant or two, a lounge or bar, and some feature hot tubs or even a small pool. Although I love the nightlife on regular cruises, I’ve found that I don’t miss it on an expedition cruise. After a full day of adventure in the fresh air, I tend to hit the sack early and sleep like a log!

How much do expedition cruises cost?

Expedition cruises are often more expensive than traditional cruises. Prices vary by cruise line, destination, and whether or not you’re cruising at the peak of the season. Of course, stateroom category is also a major factor in the price you’ll pay for any cruise.

For a basic expedition cruise, expect to pay from about $3000 per person at the very low end, up to $10,000 or more. On cruise lines that offer a luxury or ultra-luxury experience, prices range from about $7000 to $30,000 and up.

Daily activities and excursions generally are included in your cruise fare, but some cruise lines also offer upgraded activities, such as helicopter tours, at an additional charge.

Airfare and hotel for before and after your cruise are generally not included, although some of the luxury cruise lines do include these costs in your fare.

Are expedition cruises for everyone?

Unlike traditional cruises, expedition cruising is focused on active adventures in port. Although some activities are less strenuous, such as a nature walk, beachcombing, or cultural education, a moderate level of physical fitness and mobility is needed to participate in many, if not all, of the daily activities.

Many smaller expedition ships don’t have elevators, so they may not be accessible for those with mobility challenges. Climbing into zodiacs or skiffs, and sitting on their inflatable sides to get to shore can also be difficult for the less-mobile or anyone with balance issues.

People who want to cruise with children might want to try more traditional cruise experiences until the kids are old enough for an expedition cruise. Some adventure cruise operators allow older children, but many are adults-only. Or, if your extended family or friends want to join, consider a charter! Some small-ship expedition cruise companies (like UnCruise Adventures ) offer family-friendly charters.

You’ll also need to consider your “cruise personality” before you book an expedition cruise. Is lounging by the pool all day with a cold drink your favorite part of cruising? Or maybe it’s dancing the night away and then sleeping in until lunch? When you’re in port, do you really only like shopping or relaxing on the beach? If so, you might want to stick with traditional cruises.

On expedition cruises, each day is very active, and you’ll generally have to get up pretty early to join the day’s adventures. Although there’s some downtime each day, it’s a very different experience than on the average cruise ship.

Depending on your destination, there may not be many shopping opportunities at all on your cruise. Many places you stop will only be inhabited by critters!

Do you prefer doing your own thing when you cruise, planning your own activities in port? Or do you enjoy choosing from a wide range of shore excursions to suit your particular preferences?

Expedition cruises often only have 1-3 activity choices per port, especially if it’s an uninhabited area. Of course, you can always stay on the ship if you really don’t like the options. But, as most expedition cruises offer excursions as part of the cruise fare, you’ll be missing out on adventures that you paid for.

What cruise lines offer expedition cruises?

There’s a wide variety of companies offering expedition cruises around the world, with accommodations ranging from basic cabins to all-suite ships with butler service. Some traditional cruise lines have one or more expedition ships as part of their fleet, and some specialize in only adventure cruises. A few expedition-focused tour companies also charter ships to offer specialty expedition cruises.

Cruise lines offering basic and premium expedition cruises:

  • Celebrity Cruises (Galápagos Islands)
  • Hurtigruten (Antarctica, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Spitsbergen, North America, Central America, South America)
  • Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic (North America, South America, Europe, Asia & Pacific, Antarctica, Arctic, Russian Far East, Egypt, Ocean Crossing)
  • Quark Expeditions (Greenland, Canadian High Arctic, Arctic Islands, North Pole, Russian High Arctic, Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia)
  • UnCruise Adventures (Alaska, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Pacific Northwest, Costa Rica & Panama, Galápagos Islands, Hawaiian Islands and the Sea of Cortez)
  • Zegrahm Expeditions (Africa’s West Coast, Mediterranean, Maldives, Australia, Ireland & Scotland, Black Sea, Suez Canal, Antarctica)

Cruise lines offering luxury and ultra-luxury expedition cruises:

  • Abercrombie & Kent (Antarctica, Japan, Greek Islands, Baltic, Arctic, Iceland & Norway, Northeast Passage, Australia)
  • Atlas Ocean Voyages (Aegean Sea, Black Sea, Holy Land & Eastern Mediterranean, Transatlantic & Caribbean, South America, Antarctica)
  • Crystal Expedition Cruises (Alaska, Africa’s West Coast, UK, Panama, South America)
  • Ponant Expeditions (Arctic, Alaska, Antarctica, Central America, South America, Africa & Indian Ocean, Oceania & Pacific Islands)
  • Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours (Arctic, Iceland, Norwegian Fjords, Scotland & Scandinavia)
  • Seabourn Expedition Cruises (Arctic, Amazon, Antarctica)
  • Silversea Expeditions (Africa & Indian Ocean, US West Coast, Antarctica, Arctic & Greenland, Australia & New Zealand, Galápagos Islands, South Pacific Islands, South America)
  • Viking Expeditions (Antarctica, the Arctic, Great Lakes & Canada, Galápagos Islands, Grand Journeys)

You might also like: Which Cruise Lines Are All-Inclusive?

Have you ever taken an expedition cruise? I’d love to hear what you thought of your experience. Let me know in the comments below!

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What Is an Expedition Cruise

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interior cabin cruise bed and nightstand.

Sunday 4th of October 2020

Expedition cruises are an adventurous ride and that’s what I like about them. Would love to go on one in Antarctica or Galapagos island.

Monday 5th of October 2020

Aradhana, I love the adventure, too! Hope you're able to do an expedition cruise in both places :D

Joseph Benson

Saturday 3rd of October 2020

That looks super cool! I love the photographs from up north, that looks so cool to be able to see the wildlife in their own habitat from so close.

Joe, that's one of my favorite parts of an expedition cruise, getting so close to wildlife in their own environment! If you take one, be prepared to want to constantly take photos of everything :D

Carol Colborn

Friday 2nd of October 2020

I would love to go on an expedition cruise, most especially to Antarctica!

Hi Carol, doesn't a cruise to Antarctica sound like a blast? Expedition cruises are such a great combination of adventure travel and the comfort of traveling by ship. I bet you'll love it!

Carrie Ann - I absolutely love reading your articles on cruising/cruises. I have not done one yet for I fear of the waters (silly, I know)but the more I read, I am much encouraged to try one soon. I like the idea that cruiselines offer the option to include gear when on expedition. Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

Hi Georgina, thank you! I was like you before I started cruising. I was scared I'd trip and fall overboard (which I now know is pretty much impossible unless you do something nutty like climb on your balcony railing)! You should check out my story to see just how scared I was. You might really like an expedition cruise because the ships are usually smaller and often stay closer to land.

This sounds like my kind of cruise! We really hope to be booking one in the near future, and this is much more appealing than the more touristic type. Thanks for sharing :)

Matt, you're right, expedition cruising is so different than regular cruising. It's perfect for people who don't feel like doing the typical tourist attractions! I hope you have a great time on your cruise!

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What to Expect: An Essential Guide to Expedition Cruising

Explorers in a Zodiac come ashore in Alaska

View all info

Sarah Erdman

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What is an expedition cruise?

An expedition cruise is a voyage driven by curiosity and a sense of discovery, carried out aboard a small ship designed to navigate hard-to-reach places, yet prioritizing comfort and well-being. Guests are immersed in their destination through hands-on exploration, learning about flora and fauna, geology and culture from a dynamic onboard expedition team. The ship serves as a luxurious base camp where guests can recharge and relax, enjoying excellent, locally inspired cuisine; a sauna session or a massage; intriguing talks by experts; and plenty of welcoming spaces to socialize, watch wildlife, or read a book.

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Where do expedition cruises sail?

Just about anywhere deep and wide enough to sail in destinations around the globe —that means the narrowest of Northern Europe’s fjords, the open sea, the small harbors of the Mediterranean or Costa Rica, and even the ice-clogged channels of the Northwest Passage. Where won’t you find us? Heavily touristed ports and mass-market resorts.  With small, nimble ships and talented crews, our captains can seek out remote shores and lesser-visited waterways so that our guests’ experience is authentic and personal.

What type of ship do you sail on? What are the accommodations and amenities like?

The expedition ships of the Lindblad fleet range from the new National Geographic Islander II, an intimate vessel that plies the warm waters around the Galápagos and accommodates just 48 guests, to the sister ships National Geographic Resolution and National Geographic Endurance , both Polar Class 5–Category A icebreakers that can carry up to 126 guests. We also use ships that are ideally suited to the character of their destination , including a 14-cabin vessel built of tropical hardwood on our river cruises in the Amazon and the historic tall ship Sea Cloud on certain voyages to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

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Every ship is designed to emphasize comfort and to connect guests to their destination. Cabins and suites are always outside-facing, with luxurious beds and linens, well-equipped bathrooms, and generous windows. Inviting common spaces are surrounded by windows, offering views while you’re reading in the library, working out in the fitness center, dining, or listening to an expert talk in the lounge. Some ships have observation decks stocked with books on flora and fauna, and the National Geographic Resolution and National Geographic Endurance even feature a glass igloo where guests can spend the night watching the aurora borealis in the Arctic or Antarctica. Dining is a highlight on every ship, with meals that use fresh, local ingredients and menus inspired by regional cuisine.

How do you explore on an expedition cruise? What does a typical day look like?

One of the beauties of an expedition cruise is the freedom to explore in the way that suits you. There are typically several opportunities for shore excursions or activities on the water every day, depending on your destination. You might start the day with a Zodiac outing or go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding directly from the ship. After lunch on board, you could go ashore for an energetic hike or a guided tour of a historic site, or simply grab your binoculars and find a good spot on deck to watch for wildlife. Every evening begins with a Recap over cocktails in the main lounge, when members of the expedition team highlight the day’s discoveries, sharing video footage and photographs and giving lively presentations about the natural and cultural history of the destination. Then it’s off to dinner—there are no strict seating protocols so feel free to mingle with other guests or dine with your own party. 

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What type of adventure gear is provided? Do you need to bring your own gear?

No need to pack your flippers! Each ship is equipped with a broad array of exploration tools —from fleets of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to get guests out on the water to imaging technology such as underwater video cameras that allow us to record the sights and sounds of the ocean deep. On voyages to warm destinations such as the Galápagos or the Coral Triangle, the ships also carry wetsuits and snorkeling or diving gear. For photography enthusiasts, state-of-the-art OM System cameras and lenses are available for rental on several ships.

Who are your guides on an expedition cruise?

Our onboard expedition teams are made up of passionate experts in a range of fields: marine biologists, cultural historians, naturalists, and photographers to name a few. At the helm of every team is an expedition leader, a seasoned pro in expeditionary travel, who knows how and when to take advantage of opportunities that arise and excels at getting the most out of every day. Each departure aboard the fleet also includes: an undersea specialist who dives during the voyage to share real-time images and information about the region’s marine life; a certified photo instructor on hand to help guests decipher their equipment and level up their photography skills; and a video chronicler who captures footage throughout the trip to share with guests.

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What can you do on board the ship?

The better question is what can’t you do aboard the ship! There are activities and options for every kind of traveler on board. You can…join the crew on the open Bridge to learn about navigation, rise early for a morning yoga session on deck, kick your feet up with a book in the library or on a sun lounger, gather up friends and family for a board game, observe wildlife from the deck alongside a naturalist, pause for an afternoon coffee and a pastry, attend a fascinating expert talk over cocktails, challenge yourself to a vigorous workout, or treat yourself to a full-body massage. On some ships, you can also soak in a hot tub or sweat in the sauna, edit your photos or try out the latest camera equipment in the photo studio, and enjoy a nightcap around an outdoor fire pit.

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What types of travelers would enjoy an expedition cruise?

This type of cruise is ideal for those who travel to experience and learn, who seek to explore through a host of stimulating activities. Families are a natural fit for expedition cruising, as each day is filled with adventures that spark curiosity in kids and adults alike, from watching humpbacks with whale experts in Alaska to exploring desert islands in Baja California. Those who join us solo find a like-minded community of passionate travelers and plenty of opportunities to bond with new friends on shore excursions and on board. And while there are many opportunities to be active on an expedition cruise , travelers of all ages and abilities can have a full and inspiring experience: opting for a glass-bottom boat ride instead of snorkeling, choosing the easy walk over the hike, and discovering comfortable spots on board to watch wildlife or enjoy good company.

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How are expedition cruises different from traditional cruises?

In contrast to the holistic, experiential approach of an expedition cruise, a typical cruise travels directly from one port of call to the next and features set excursions in each destination. While at sea, a traditional cruise ship serves as a floating resort, offering amenities that are vacation focused—such as swimming pools, all-you-can-eat buffets, happy hours, and nightly entertainment. The emphasis is on life on board rather than the world outside.

Main image, Zodiac coming ashore in Alaska: David Vargas

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  • First-time cruisers , Luxury cruise essentials

What is an expedition cruise?

by Emma Smith - June 11, 2018

Silversea Expedition - Cruise ship deck at sunset

Expedition cruising is much like traditional cruising, but with more emphasis placed on the experience ashore, excursions and ports of call – many of which are much more off-the-beaten-track than mainstream cruises.

Discovering some of the world’s most remote regions and getting up close to the breath-taking natural environments visited during an expedition cruise presents astounding experiences. Enjoy the unique flora and fauna of each destination, learning of the untouched territories with a team of experts to guide you. Expedition cruising is a taste of exploration and adventure like you’ve never known before.

What to expect from a luxury expedition cruise?

whats an expedition cruise

Simply put, the unique itineraries and smaller ship excursion experiences makes a cruise an expedition. Luxury expedition cruises are for the people who are looking for memories and experiences that will last a lifetime, whilst ticking dreams off the bucket-list. Specialist destinations, which are typically remote, and small ships with reinforced hulls are the core of an expedition cruise. These vessels are designed to slice through ice and sail as close as possible to the shore. Expedition ships are unique, intimate and truly indulgent. Expertly designed to transport you to tranquil lagoons, breath-taking coral reefs and frozen wildernesses that simply can’t be reached on land.

Rather than sitting by the pool with a cocktail, you will travel by Zodiac to shore for a hike to wildlife sanctuaries and icebergs. View extraordinary animals, learn of the local cultures and attend lectures from naturalists and scientists.

Sumptuous staterooms, delectable dining and luxurious spa facilities are paired with on-board lectures from biologists, historians and photographers. On an expedition cruise, your every indulgent whim catered for.

Where can you sail on an expedition cruise?

Expeditions can be anywhere in the world, though there tends to be a stronger demand for the far-flung, exotic shores of Asia and South America and the icy waters of the Polar Regions .

Most ships have reinforced hulls for sailing through chilly environments and reach sublime destinations such as Australasia , the Galápagos Islands and Antarctica.

Hidden gems within expedition cruises

We consulted with our specialist cruise concierge for experienced insight into expedition cruise destinations that our cruise lines visit, including Australia, New Zealand and Alaska. We revealed our specialists favourite off-the-beaten-track excursions that are worth implementing into visitation to these incredible expedition destinations.

Australia expedition destination top tips:

1.visit a winery in barossa valley.

Piles of grapes in an Australian vineyard

Located in South Australia, Barossa Valley is a major wine region well-known for producing some of the most famous wines, positioned on the outside of Adelaide. Walk amongst the extensive vineyards and enjoy a wine or olive oil tasting experience while visiting this beautiful valley location.

2. Take a camel ride around Uluru, Ayers Rock

whats an expedition cruise

A short trip from Alice Springs is the breath-taking view of Uluru, surrounded by desert landscapes and natural beauty, a favourite view specifically at sunrise or sunset. Whether you take a camel tour around or a helicopter over this magnificent natural feature you will be informed of its history.

3. Visit MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Tasmania

A daytrip to the MONA in Hobart, Tasmania, is the perfect excursion for those with an artistic flair. Unlike a traditional museum, there is no specific route to follow, however open to explore. This unique architecturally designed building has many large displays, exhibitions, and art pieces to capture the interest of all.

New Zealand expedition destination top tips:

1. view glow worms in waitomo caves.

whats an expedition cruise

2. Explore Rotorua

whats an expedition cruise

Natural features such as springs and thermal baths are also worth visiting, providing relaxation alongside calm yet spectacular surroundings.

3. Visit the Fjords, Milford Sound

whats an expedition cruise

Alaska expedition destination top tips:

1. experience a salmon run.

An incredible experience while amongst the wonderful waters of Alaska is to witness the salmon run. This occurs toward the end of July/beginning of August when the salmon swim upstream presenting tourists with an incredibly entertaining display. Other animal species are commonly spotted as a result of this natural occurring display also, such as bears and eagles, to feast upon their favourite meal.

2. Drink Glacial Water

whats an expedition cruise

A simple yet unique activity to experience is the opportunity to drink some fresh glacial water. There are many excursions amongst and upon the glaciers throughout Alaska when sailing on an expedition cruise, with the added opportunity on a number being the chance to drink fresh glacial water.

Which cruise line offers expedition cruises to Australia, New Zealand and Alaska?

Silver Explorer - Silversea Expedition

These stunning expedition-focused ships, are perfect for sunny climes and breaking through the ice where necessary. Experience a thrilling, awe-inspiring luxury cruise, perfect for the curious traveller looking for their next adventure. With these expedition ships you also have complimentary use of snorkelling equipment and enrichment lectures from a highly qualified expedition team, including marine biologists, ornithologists and historians.

Which other cruise lines offer expedition cruises?

Crystal cruises.

Crystal Espirit - Submarine

Offering yacht expeditions aboard Crystal Esprit , enjoy a 62-passenger, all-suite, butler-serviced accommodations on-board an intimate and elegant setting as you sail to the shores across the Adriatic and the West Indies.


Hapag-Lloyd - MS Bremen in the Arctic

Aboard the MS Bremen and MS Hanseatic, explore untouched regions, natural and cultural wonders and sail along innovative, award-winning routes. Hapag-Lloyd have also launched 2019 expedition class, Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration, which are designed for sailing through the ice on polar voyages.

Seabourn - Expedition cruise ship

Branded as Ventures by Seabourn ™, choose destinations across the globe to feature in your stunning itinerary as you explore the shores by Zodiac and trek on scenic islands. Excursions are in small groups and all equipment is provided. Enjoy an in-depth understanding of the history, ecology and culture of the places you visit with the on-board expedition team comprising scientists, scholars, naturalists and more.

Scenic Ocean

Scenic Ocean - Zodiac and submarine

Complete with Zodiacs, a seven-seat submarine and a helicopter, Scenic Ocean’s first cruise ship, Scenic Eclipse , offers you exclusive access to parts of the world which are untouched to the ordinary traveller.

Environmentally-friendly cruising

Silversea expedition guest taking pictures of a penguin in Antarctica

Aside from offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences, expeditions also promote environmentally-friendly cruising. Following the introduction of the Polar Code in January 2018, expedition ships holding a Polar Ship certificate are required to comply with specific standards concerning the ships’ construction, equipment and training of the crew when operating in the Polar Regions. This ensures that the ships are safe and staff pay attention to environmental pollution.

Hapag-Lloyd’s MS Bremen has recently undergone upgrades to make her Polar Code compliant, optimising the hulls to achieve maximum reduction in fuel consumption and using SCR catalytic converters to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 95%.

Hurtigruten are also combatting this with hybrid technology, combining the advanced construction of the hull with effective use of electricity on-board, both of which will reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20%.

On-board Scenic Eclipse , the propellers of the ship cuts through the ice using an Azipod propulsion system at the bow of the ship. This increases the water pressure which draws the ice away from the hull.

Along with Polar Regions, the AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) has revealed wildlife guidelines when watching animals in their natural environments. These include walrus, seals, reindeer, Arctic fox, birds, polar bears, whales, porpoises and dolphins.

These regulations ensure that staff and guests respect the environments they visit and that the ships themselves do as little damage as possible to the oceans in which they sail.

Explore more with an expedition cruise

Blue-footed booby - Galapagos

The goal of an expedition cruise is to bring guests on-board closer to nature, with unmissable wildlife, bucket-list destinations and interactions with experts on-board.

With a growing market for expedition cruises and a longing thirst for adventure, an expedition cruise is a phenomenal opportunity to witness once-in-a-lifetime wonders and experience an unforgettable journey.

Call our Cruise Concierge team on  0808 202 6105 for any further questions or help with booking your perfect expedition cruise today.

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Why Expedition Cruising Is Booming — and What to Know Before You Book

New small ships offer high-end adventure and wildlife viewing in antarctica and alaska, down the amazon and more.

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Expedition cruises are all about once-in-a-lifetime experiences, thrilling their passengers with exhilarating adventures and eye-opening cultural and wildlife-spotting outings on land and at sea. That might include spying howler monkeys in a rain forest, watching rare pink dolphins from a Zodiac, assisting marine scientists with real-life research, or meeting indigenous people in a remote village in a faraway place.

If that sounds appealing, you now have many more of these sailings to choose from: Nearly a dozen new expedition ships, all carrying fewer than 400 passengers, recently debuted or will make a splashy entrance in the coming months. Given their small size, these vessels can sail where so many big cruise ships can’t, and thus can deliver unique experiences.

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But don’t think you’ll be roughing it. Along with goosebump-producing adventures, expedition ships — many of them operated by higher-end cruise lines — typically pamper guests with multiple dining options, fitness centers, wellness spas, heated indoor pools and, in many cases, all-suite accommodations.

Purpose-built for extreme weather and heightened environmental awareness (including reduced emissions), these ships cost big bucks to construct, which means you’ll pay more to sail on them. But there are plenty of adventure seekers who think it’s worth the splurge, says Rob Clabbers, president of Chicago-based Q Cruise + Travel, a Virtuoso-affiliated agency. “After being stuck home for a year or two, cruisers are showing a willingness to spend more to get the experience they want. … Plus, the comfort of today’s [expedition] ships puts faraway places in passenger reach, even if, due to age or physical ability, a regular trek or safari may not work.”

While the fares can be eye-popping, they typically include nearly everything other than the most extreme outings. Plus, with interest in expedition sailing booming, value-conscious lines such as American Queen and Viking are entering the market, offering more manageable sailing prices for the budget-minded in closer-to-home areas like Alaska and the Great Lakes. (See our sidebar below for cost-cutting tips.)

Here are four examples of standout expedition cruises on new ships, at different price points.

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Ship:  186-passenger  Ocean Victory , launching May 2022 from American Queen Voyages, a new umbrella company combining the American Queen Steamboat Company and oceangoing Victory Cruise Lines

Standout cruise:  Authentic Alaska , a 12-day journey between Vancouver and Sitka (offered May through September)

What you’ll do:  Cruise through misty fjords, passing cliffs up to 70 million years old; feast on Dungeness crabs; join bear watches and botanical walks; and meet native Alaskans in their tribal homes.

Wow factors onboard:  The ship features an X-BOW design, with the farthest-forward point lying underwater rather than above it, which reduces vessel noise and vibration and potentially delivers a smoother ride in rougher seas. Swivel chairs in the windowed observation lounge offer perfect viewing from every angle. Board Zodiacs easily from sea-level platforms.


Cost:  From $4,699 per person, double occupancy

Info:  833-926-1817;

overhead view of a small zodiac boat cruising through vegetation in the amazon river

Ship:  264-passenger  Seabourn Venture,  launching July 2022

Standout cruise:   The Heart of the Amazon , a 10-day trip between Manaus, Brazil, and Iquitos, Peru (offered in March and April 2023)

What you’ll do:  Go jungle trekking or kayaking over seasonally flooded forests alive with sloths, howler monkeys and boldly colored birds. Aboard Zodiacs in Brazil, watch for rare, majestic pink dolphins at Boca dos Botos. Meet indigenous locals.

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Wow factors onboard:  In the Bow Lounge, touch screens display scientific and navigational data, with expedition experts interpreting information for guests. Large screens also project live footage from outdoor cameras, so you can spot wildlife in indoor comfort, then dash to a viewing area just outside the lounge (near water level) for close-up sightings. For warm weather ocean sails, the vessel features two custom-built submarines for exploring underwater shipwrecks and vivid reef walls, and crew members offer scuba diving lessons.

Cost:  From $10,999 per person, double occupancy

Info:  800-442-4448;

as group of passengers stands on land after being dropped off by a helicopter for an excursion from their cruise ship in the antarctic

Ship:  Quark Expeditions’ 199-passenger  Ultramarine , launched November 2021

Standout cruise:   Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent , an 11-day cruise leaving from Buenos Aires, Argentina (offered from December through March)

What you’ll do:  Explore on Zodiacs, gliding past towering glaciers and breaching minke whales, and trek snowy onshore trails past hundreds of penguins, from chinstraps to gentoos. Longer sails may include South Georgia, home to hundreds of thousands of king penguins, and the Falkland Islands, the charming British territory where you’ll likely spot albatross and some of the five penguin species that live there.

Wow factors onboard:  With the ship’s 20 Zodiacs and four boarding zones (many ships have just one or two) at a water-level marina, passengers can speedily board boats should the crew spot whale pods or other jaw-dropping sightings. Two long-range, nine-passenger helicopters can venture farther than most other shipboard whirlybirds in polar regions. Adrenaline-pumping outings include ice-sheet heli-landings and alpine heli-trekking.

Cost:  From $12,510 per person, double occupancy. (Budget tip: The company also offers 11-day cruises to Antarctica on the Ocean Diamond for $7,825 per person, sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina.)

Info:  877-977-7458;

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The Great Lakes and Canada

Ship:  378-passenger  Viking Octantis , Viking’s first polar-class expedition ship, launched January 2022

Standout cruise:  Undiscovered Great Lakes , an 8-day voyage between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Milwaukee (offered May through September)

What you’ll do:  In Michigan, bike through Mackinac Island or kayak along its shores, and in Sault Ste. Marie, marvel at the Soo Locks, an 1850s-era engineering feat. In Canada, hike boreal forests in Ontario’s Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and go birding and wildlife watching on uninhabited islands. Assist scientists with experiments in the ship’s Science Lab and take part in citizen science programs, perhaps monitoring birds to help identify migratory patterns. For a memorable cultural experience, visit with members of the Anishinaabe First Nations tribe, learning their songs and traditional fishing techniques.

Cost:  From $5,995 per person, double occupancy

Info:  800-381-4596;

view of a junior suite room onboard a cruise ship sailing in antarctica

Ways to Save on Expedition Cruises

While these cruises are high on excitement, they can be high on the price meter, too. Make them more budget-friendly with these seven cost-trimming tips.

1. Skip the balcony.  You’ll spend very little time in your cabin on this type of cruise, so don’t pay for one with a balcony if you want to economize. “Someone might save 20 percent if they opt for an oceanview cabin instead,” says Linda Speer, master cruise counselor with Cruises by Linda in Harrison, Arkansas.

2. Book very early or book late.  You’ll typically find the best pricing for these cruises by either booking far in advance or very close to the cruise date. “So once you identify the cruise lines of interest to you, sign up for their promotions, just in case there are last-minute deals,” Speer says.

3. Take advantage of loyalty programs.  If you’re a loyalty member of one of the regular cruise lines now launching expedition ships, Rob Clabbers with Q Cruise + Travel recommends inquiring whether the line will extend your past-guest discounts to its expedition sailings. “Booking your expedition cruise while you’re on one of the line’s regular cruises may result in savings and/or benefits as well,” Clabbers says.

4. Choose your cruise line carefully.  “Although Lindblad, Atlas and Viking may be the first lines that come to mind, expand your search to lesser-known companies if budget is a concern — Aurora, Hurtigruten and Quark [for example],” Speer says.

Case in point: Speer compared a Viking sailing to Antarctica in January to a similar one offered by Hurtigruten and found the latter was priced at 40 percent less. “But Hurtigruten sails with many more passengers, and regulations limit the number of passengers on the ice to 100, so there will not be as much time on land,” she notes.

5. Time your trip carefully.  Fares vary during the year, so research pricing trends and book when they’re lowest. “Looking ahead to 2023, you can save thousands per person on an Antarctica cruise by booking a March sailing, the month with the lowest fares this year,” advises Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, a cruise news and review site. “But do be aware that lower fares generally mean it’s a less popular time to cruise that region, and that could mean it’s not the ideal time to experience it.”

6. Book a non-expedition location.  In addition to cruising to such exotic locales as the Arctic and Antarctica, many expedition cruise lines also offer less expensive voyages to destinations that are not as heavy on adventure, such as the Caribbean and New England. “If the ship is your destination, this can be especially appealing,” McDaniel says.

7. Pick an older ship.  While the newest ships will have the latest design and shiniest interiors, you can sometimes save $1,000 or more by booking on a vessel that’s a few years older.

Los Angeles-based freelancer Janice Wald Henderson has sailed all seven seas, visiting more than 95 countries. She reports on cruising for Condé Nast Traveler , the Points Guy , Travel + Leisure and on radio worldwide.

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What Is A Seabourn Expedition?

Come aboard our luxurious Seabourn Expedition ships, where you'll experience wonderous remote destinations and exotic frontiers in comfort and style

whats an expedition cruise

Chart a new course aboard Seabourn Expeditions, a world-class experience of comfort and luxury as we journey to exotic locations brimming with natural wonder

Experience our world-class amenities as our outstanding crew guide you through adventures around every corner, whether by foot, splashing across the surface of the water, or diving below in our on-board Submarines.

Now Sailing - The Seabourn Pursuit

Seabourn welcomes the second ultra-luxury Expedition ship to the fleet, the Seabourn Pursuit. Purpose-built for immersive and adventurous travel experiences, the smaller sizes of expedition ships afford access to remote destinations and areas largers ships cannot reach. Seabourn expedition ships are equipped with Zodiacs, kayaks, as well as a team of expert expedition leaders enabling guests to engage in up-close wildlife encounters, off-the-beaten-path excursions, and enriching cultural experiences while providing world-class levels of luxury and personalized service.

A penguin colony in Antarctica

Witness the natural wonders of our world with Seabourn Expedition, bringing you right into the heart of rugged and ever-changing landscapes, full of exotic wildlife

Embark on a new adventure with Seabourn, a world-leading luxury experience sailing to exotic and classic destinations. Dive into rich cultures and cuisines of the modern world or sail back in time to ancient history.  

Announcing 2024-25 Expedition Cruises

Embark on an adventure like no other. Journey to remote regions of the world, surrounding yourself with breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable wildlife encounters. These new itineraries offer options in  Antarctica ,  Greenland and Iceland , the  South Pacific  and our first ever visit to  the Kimberley  region of Australia.

The Seabourn Expedition Difference

While aboard our Expedition ships, your voyage will take you through stunning scenery in style, exploring the furthest reaches in the finest luxury.

132 Ocean Front Suites

24 person expedition team.

Polar bears on a Seabourn Expedition Cruise to the Arctic

Expedition Wildlife

Continents of the world.

What is an Expedition Cruise?

Expedition cruising in Antarctica

These days expedition cruising more closely resembles traditional cruising in terms of comfort and service, the main difference being that itineraries and onboard programs offer a greater focus on the destination and the onshore experiences – and voyages tend to visit places that are more remote or off-the-beaten-track than classic cruises.

So, what makes a cruise an expedition?

Heading back to the ship after exploring on a Zodiac

Smaller Ships

An expedition ship is smaller than a classic cruise ship and will carry a more intimate cohort of guests. Expedition cruises offer all the creature comforts of classic cruise ships, in fact many are upmarket, luxury ships or mega yachts that offer all suite luxury with world class cuisine and wine menus in their mostly all-inclusive fares. Spa services and fitness centres may be on offer and public spaces, bars and lounges showcase the comfort, decor and service of a floating hotel.

Equally there are expedition ships that sit between exploration and luxury, where you can choose to cruise comfortably and more affordably, your creature comforts met, meals provided, bar service and fitness services onboard.

There won’t be onboard spills and thrills, casinos or programs of classes and large theatrical events to fill the days and nights on expedition ships, rather you will your spend days and evenings at sea listening to guest or resident expert lectures, attending destination focussed talks or mingling in the bar de-briefing the day’s adventure with your likeminded cruise companions.

Zodiac excursion in the Kimberley

Destination Emphasis and Expertise

Expedition cruises differ to classic cruises in the emphasis on intensive experiences, destination, conservation and nature. Expert specialists join you onboard and on excursions to impart their expertise of the flora and fauna, conservation programs and challenges for each destination.

Your excursions are more likely to involve heading out on Zodiac boats and kayaks to explore the sea life, icebergs and the shorelines of a destination and going ashore may involve more active immersion such as hiking, to really get a feel for the landscapes you are visiting.

You are more likely to visit conservation centres and meet researchers than on a classic cruise. Your team of experts will guide you all the way, offering their knowledge and you will feel like you a member of an exploration team or an adventurer in a less visited and uncrowded part of the world.

Cultural immersion, Papua New Guinea

Itineraries to Remote Locations

Expedition voyages generally cruise into the more remote corners of the world on smaller ships that can dock at lesser known ports inaccessible to the larger cruise lines. Specialist destinations such as the polar regions, ( Antarctica and the Arctic ), the Galapagos Islands, which are typically remote, or require smaller ships with reinforced hulls, are the hallmark of an expedition cruise.

Expedition cruises are charted the world over and explore the remote regions of Australia, such as the Kimberley Coast, the islands that nestle south of New Zealand and north of Antarctica, Papua New Guinea and Guam, the Philippines and the islands and atolls of the Pacific, Alaska or the South American coastline including Patagonia.

Scenic Eclipse I

Environmentally Friendly Cruising

Aside from offering once in a lifetime experiences, expeditions also promote environmentally friendly cruising. In regions such as the Galapagos, the Arctic and Antarctic cruise lines need to follow strict environmental and conservation codes that dictate, not just how the ships operate day to day in the region and how guests witness wildlife and protect the flora on excursions, but even the ship’s construction and equipment. This ensures your safety and the conservation of these pristine ecologically significant environments, while allowing guests to enjoy bucket list experiences with minimal impact.

Cruise lines showcase their technological innovations and increasingly minimal impact. To remove ice from the hull, the Scenic Eclipse uses a propulsion technology that increases water pressure causing the ice to separate. Silversea’s Silver Origin , purpose built for Galapagos expeditions, has dynamic positioning technology which replaces the need to drop an anchor onto the sea floor, no longer disturbing the natural surface under the sea.

Experts leading the way

Who Goes on an Expedition Cruise?

Expedition cruise passengers come from all walks of life. Guests tend to be well travelled or have a passion for adventure and global travel, the environment and preservation of the special destinations these cruises visit.

Expedition cruises with the luxury lines come at a (mostly) all-inclusive and premium cost, so you will find travellers on board who are at a stage in life where they are seeking, and can afford, to tick off bucket list experiences.

Adventure travellers can also find more affordable options, if their focus is the destination and the experiences they will have, over the comfort of the cabin they might sleep in at the end of the day.

Exploring by kayak and zodiac

Which Cruise Lines Offer Expedition Cruises?

With a growing market for expedition cruises, many operators offer a tour and cruise combination such as APT or Scenic in the Kimberley, while cruise lines such as Silversea , Ponant and the Scenic Eclipse offer luxury expedition cruising across the globe. While Celebrity are possibly better known for their classic cruises they also offer expedition cruises and Viking are offering expedition cruises on their innovative new ships Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis from 2022.

Adventure travel operators such as Intrepid and Peregrine or G Adventures offer expedition cruises in their worldwide collections, giving travellers an opportunity to take on an ocean based adventure at a more affordable price .

If you have a desire to explore remote locations and witness untamed wildlife and landscapes, an expedition cruise will offer an unforgettable voyage into far flung locations with likeminded adventurers.

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What to Expect on an Expedition Cruise

Mega-cruise liners that carry 5,000 or more passengers may not be your style. But there are still parts of the world that are better experienced from a ship—and others you can only get to by ship. For travelers with a sense of adventure, expedition cruises are an effective way of getting to the planet's more remote corners. Antarctica and the Arctic are favorite destinations for this type of cruise, and Galapagos, Patagonia, Greenland, and Iceland are also perennially popular. 

But the differences between a typical cruise and an expedition cruise go far beyond ship size and itinerary. I recently sailed on One Ocean Expeditions’ RCGS Resolute on its Central America Explorer vacation. (Note: Since this feature was researched, One Ocean began a financial restructuring and its future is uncertain, but this vacation experience is typical of all expedition cruises.) What’s so special about an expedition cruise, and would you like one? Here's what to know.

Expedition cruises offer an easy way to meet other travelers

When all cabins are full, the Resolute can hold a maximum of 140 guests—fewer people than can fill the average movie theater. This is typical for expedition vessels: Quark Expeditions’ Ultramarine holds up to 199, while Antarctica21’s Magellan Explorer has a capacity for just 73. With numbers like that, you’ll get to know your shipmates, so it helps to be at least somewhat outgoing. On my cruise, I found interesting people who possessed a real sense of wanderlust and adventure, regardless of age—one of my fellow travelers was an 89-year-old woman who tried stand-up paddle boarding in Honduras . Every evening at dinner, we sat at new tables and mingled with different passengers, though we would have had the option to sit alone had we wanted to. Everyone got to know everyone, and a familial atmosphere developed. 

Luxury expedition cruises include spas, restaurants and other amenities

But smaller ship sizes present limits. If your idea of the perfect cruise means choosing from a range of restaurants, trying your luck in the ship’s casino, or swishing down a waterslide into one of the pools on the Lido deck, then an expedition cruise will not be for you. Though amenities vary ship to ship, an expedition vessel typically has one or two dining rooms, a bar or two, a small exercise room, and maybe a small outdoor pool or enclosed hot tub without slides. Luxury lines like Silversea , Ponant , and Scenic may include spas, multiple restaurants, and other plush perks seen on larger liners, but there are only so many amenities that can fit onto a modestly sized vessel.

What food to expect on expedition cruises

If you’ve come aboard to eat and drink well, your appetite will be sated on an expedition cruise—you just won’t pig out around the clock. On my cruise, breakfast, lunch, and dinner were offered via a mix of buffet and a la carte items. Food was varied and well-prepared, and we could hit the buffet as often as we wished and even order double portions from the menu. We weren’t confronted with a dizzying quantity of food but we also never felt as if there wasn’t enough. And I still went home a few pounds heavier. Outside of set meal times, the only snacks were afternoon cookies and tea, so midnight cravings had to be satisfied via the in-cabin minibar. 

What room size and amenities to expect on board an expedition cruise

At about 236 square feet (22 sq m), my cabin was larger than standard cabins on most big ships and it had plenty of closets and cubbies plus a sitting area in front of a large window. The en suite bathroom with shower only (no tub, an omission that's also common on standard cruise ships), didn’t feel too small. The stateroom was perfectly comfortable, though not packed with amenities. (I wouldn’t have used them anyway—I was there to explore the world’s corners, not to spend time in my cabin.) Much roomier suites are available on the Resolute and other ships, but other than with the upper-end cruise lines, the emphasis is on comfort rather than luxury. That said, plenty of premium options exist for those who can afford it. 2020’s Crystal Endeavor is so blinged out its owners call it a “megayacht” and charge an average of $1,000 per passenger per night. 

On an expedition cruise, expect friendly and passionate staff

Crew members, who are for the most part a young, fit, and super-active lot, lead passengers in watersports, hikes, and animal viewing opportunities. And unlike giant cruise ships' staff, who are instructed to keep a polite distance from guests, our crew sat with us at mealtimes, goofed off with us on the beach, and joined in for a drink or two at the bar. They share an obvious passion and energy for their work, which goes well beyond a paycheck.  

Why expedition cruises don't stop at ports

With a handful of exceptions, the ports of call for expedition cruises are usually not ports at all—as you can imagine, there isn’t much duty-free shopping in Antarctica. The keel’s low draft and smaller dimensions allow expedition vessels to reach areas the big ships can’t go, such as speck-sized islands in the Caribbean  or amid the icebergs of the Svalbard archipelago. When you need to transfer to land, that’s typically done by Zodiac raft, so to get in and out of those, passengers must be reasonably steady on their feet and have a good sense of balance. A good sense of humor comes in handy as well.

Why sea sickness is common on expedition cruises

Many expedition ships are retrofitted scientific research vessels made for pushing through ice fields and riding out rough seas. Others, like the Resolute , are purpose-built for expeditions. Their smaller dimensions and shallow draft which allow them to navigate shallow waters and narrow channels, means that while they can safely rock and roll with waves, passengers feel a choppy sea much more readily than they would on a big ship. On one day with particularly rough seas, half the passengers skipped lunch and rode out the waves in their staterooms. We all made good use of the railings as we lurched through the ship’s corridors—and chalked it up as part of the adventure. 

Bird-watching on the One Ocean Expeditions cruise

Expedition cruises are all about getting chances to get close to nature. For many, that means checking birds off their Audubon “life-lists” or snapping photos of a breaching whale. Cruises typically have on board a combination of a naturalist, an ornithologist, a historian, and/or an anthropologist, as well as a ship’s photographer to capture passengers’ best moments. Daytime activities almost always involve something outdoors, whether it’s spotting sloths on rainforest hikes, kayaking close to cliff-side puffin rookeries, or watching seals cavort around your Zodiac. Evening lectures might cover photography tips, cultural history, or environmental issues. 

Expedition cruises offer a more sustainable way to travel

Travelers who choose expedition cruises are choosing a less impactful method of cruising. A nature-themed vacation usually means you’ll also notice an absence of single-use plastics, reusable water bottles, and a commitment to ethical tourism practices. For example, one of our shore excursions with One Ocean was canceled after the expedition leader learned of questionable animal welfare practices at a nature park in Colombia. Newer ships, in particular, have a smaller carbon footprint than their older, ice-breaking brethren, and many companies have charitable arms that contribute to environmental, educational, and social welfare programs. 

Expedition cruises don't come cheap

There’s no such thing as a bargain basement expedition cruise. This isn’t Carnival, so you’ll never see a 4-day/3-night voyage with an inside cabin for $349. Because of high operating costs combined with fewer passengers, expedition cruises simply have to charge more than massive ships do. There’s a reason expedition cruises are considered trips of a lifetime, to be sure, with almost no bargains to be found, especially to the Antarctic: One Ocean’s 9-night Central America Adventure cruise is priced from $4,195 per person including meals, while a 14-day Antarctica cruise with Lindblad starts at $14,680. (If polar bears and puffins are just as good as penguins and elephant seals, you can still get a polar experience and spend about half as much money by going to the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, and other destinations at the top of the world.) There are small consolations: Virtually all small ships have all outside-facing cabins (so you probably won't get an indoor stateroom), almost all the shore excursions are included in the price, and of course, they deliver you to places you simply can’t access using any other method.

Expedition cruises are more popular than ever

Like One Ocean, most expedition cruise lines build their brands around polar voyages. And those trips to the Arctic or Antarctica—especially when the price tag hits $15,000 or more—aren’t voyages you can undertake often. People save up for years to make these trips. Amazingly, even at these prices, there’s more demand than there is supply. According to Kevin Griffin, owner of vacation broker The Cruise People Ltd. , at least 45 new polar-class expedition ships are on order or set to be delivered by 2023, meaning that even those far-away polar places could soon get a lot more crowded. So it might be better head to Antarctica now, before it turns into the next Venice. 

The author and her family traveled as guests of One Ocean Expeditions but all opinions on are fully independent.

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whats an expedition cruise

What is an Expedition Cruise?

Find out what makes an Expedition Cruise one epic adventure.

whats an expedition cruise

Expect the Unexpected

Embarking on an expedition, you’ll be travelling to some of the most remote and pristine places on the planet. These are areas where nature reigns supreme and where wildlife live free. Itineraries on our expedition cruises are not completely set in stone. This gives us the flexibility of responding to challenging elements and to grasp new opportunities for exploration as they arise. The option to divert from our course is an essential and exciting aspect of expedition cruises.

whats an expedition cruise

The Destinations

Go beyond the usual highlights and iconic cities, going further to remote communities and hidden vistas few get to see. Encounter rare and exotic wildlife all around you, from elks to eagles, penguins to polar bears, and walruses to whales. An expedition cruise with us ventures to places many have only ever dreamed about: Antarctica, Alaska, Norway, Lake Titicaca, the Northwest Passage, Machu Picchu, the Caribbean, the Gálapagos Islands, Svalbard, the British Isles… the list goes on.

whats an expedition cruise

Experts in Exploration

A handpicked Expedition Team of experts will be with you every step of the way, keeping you safe on landings and revealing details, facts, and stories that enhance your sense of wonder. Each team member brings decades of experience to your expedition. Members come from all over the world and from all walks of life. You’ll find each of them to be a walking treasure trove of fascinating facts and charming stories. Together, they’ll enhance your experience and take your expedition to a whole new level.

whats an expedition cruise

Our expedition fleet ranges from small and agile ships to medium-sized, hybrid-powered vessels. At home on your haven at sea, you’ll experience an informal, welcoming atmosphere, comfortable cabins, luxurious suites, and stylish interiors made from natural materials. All are modern ice-class ships suitable for polar sailing, combining advance technology with efficient engines and light fuels. Onboard Science Centers act as the heart and hub of the ship, featuring advanced microscopes with an impressive array of biological and geological slides.

whats an expedition cruise

Taking Sustainability Seriously

Exploring our blue planet for more than a century has taught us the importance of being green. Over decades, our Captains and crew, Expedition Teams and returning guests have witnessed the impact of climate change on vulnerable polar areas with their own eyes. We want the Arctic, Antarctica, and everywhere in between to remain places of pristine nature, pure water and clean air. Sustainability is at the heart of who we are and what we do. From the beautiful natural world to remote communities, we want to ensure our expedition cruises protect them both.

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Expedition Cruise Explainer: What to Expect During an Adventurous Cruise

Take an expedition cruise to the Galapagos island.

An expedition cruise is quite a unique experience offered by some cruise lines. These are the types of cruises that are perfect for nature lovers and adventurous explorers who want to visit areas of the world that are difficult to reach by other means. If you are considering taking one of these cruises, you probably have some questions about what to expect. To give you a helping hand, we’ve got the breakdown on what goes on on one of these cruises and why you should definitely book one for your next vacation!

What is an Expedition Cruise?

Expedition cruises are a different type of cruise that focuses less on luxury services and amenities, and instead offers adventure, exploration, and immersion. These cruises typically travel to more remote destinations that will allow you to experience wilderness and natural wonders close up. They often travel to places that are difficult to get to by other means, like polar regions, isolated islands, and lush rainforests. They are typically educational experiences that focus on teaching the importance of responsible travel and promoting protection of the natural world.

  Expedition Cruise Ships

The ships used for expedition cruises are, as you might suspect, a fair bit different from typical cruise ships. For one thing, they are usually smaller in size, so that they can access more remote and shallow-water destinations. This has the added benefit of providing a more personal, intimate experience for their passengers. They also have additional technology, such as stabilizers for choppy waters and strengthened hulls for sailing through ice, so that they can brave more hazardous conditions. These types of advanced ships are offered by Hurtigruten, Silversea, Ponant, Scenic, Seabourn, Celebrity Cruises, and Viking.

Destinations on an Expedition Cruise

They were not kidding when they decided to call these expedition cruises. When taking a voyage on one of these vessels, you will feel like the explorers of old discovering unknown and untouched wonders for the first time. See remote areas like the Arctic or the Galapagos Islands. Venture to the Amazon Rainforest and see if you can spot one of their mysterious pink river dolphins. Explore areas that you couldn’t get to any other way, like the desolate and beautiful Antarctica. You may even get the chance to interact with the indigenous populations of some of these isolated regions!

Related: Unique Cruise Destinations: 3 Off-the-Beaten-Path Locations You Should Cruise To

Water Conditions and Climate

One thing you will definitely want to consider any time you take an expedition cruise is the weather and water conditions of the destinations you are traveling to. There tend to be rough seas in polar regions, which may be an issue for people who are prone to getting seasick. Many destinations have extreme weather conditions and you will want to be comfortable during shore excursions, so it is important to pack appropriate clothing. Also, varying weather can affect itineraries, so be prepared for plans changing at a moment’s notice. It’s all in the name of exotic adventure though, so it is well worth the extra hassle!

Onboard Experience

  As previously mentioned, expedition cruises put their emphasis on adventures rather than luxuries. However, that does now mean that they are devoid of comforts and entertainment. While it does vary from ship to ship, you can expect to have comfortable accommodations and a variety of dining options, from fine dining to regional cuisine offerings. Onboard activities are offered, but usually focus on education and learning, with lectures, workshops, and presentations on a variety of topics that relate to the destinations you will be exploring. This way, passengers gain a better understanding of the ecosystems that they are visiting.

Adventure Activities

The excursions and activities offered during an expedition cruise always involve getting in touch with mother nature in some way. Often, they will be centered around wildlife encounters with animals in their natural habitat. This means getting the opportunity to see whales, penguins, seabirds, and many more exotic species. Passengers will get to go hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, or wildlife watching with scientists and naturalists as guides to teach them about what they are seeing. Even when wildlife is not involved, excursions will include things like exploring glaciers, visiting archeological sites, and visiting other natural formations.

Sustainable Travel and Environmental Awareness

The main goal of expedition cruises is to educate people and teach them about the need for the conservation and protection of wild animals and their habitats. To that end, they adhere to strict guidelines to protect the ecosystems that they sail to so that they minimize their impact. While you may wish that you could get closer to the animals or explore deeper into the environments, these protocols are crucial to preserving these wondrous landscapes for the animals that live there and for future generations to be able to visit them.

Ready to book your own expedition cruise? Visit for the largest selection of cruise line deals — we can help you book the smart way! We give you our exclusive bonus offers and all qualifying cruise line offers , plus all of the cruise line loyalty program benefits . Book online at or call 800-288-6006 today.

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Atlas Ocean Voyages charts course toward 'expedition' cruises to mainstream destinations

Gene Sloan

For years, expedition cruising has been defined in the cruise world as a type of cruising that involves traveling to the most remote places in the world on small, hardy vessels that carry their own landing craft.

It has been a subset of cruising that mostly included trips to far-off polar regions, most notably Antarctica , but also such little-visited Arctic destinations as the glacier-lined East Coast of Greenland and the icy Northwest Passage.

It has been about going to places that few people have visited and where few people live.

For more cruise news, guides and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

James Rodriguez, the new president and CEO of Atlas Ocean Voyages, is out to change all that.

In his first year at the helm of the fast-growing small-ship cruise operator, he's been redefining the brand as a cruise line that offers expedition-type sailings to not just remote places but all sorts of destinations around the world, including such mainstream destinations as the Mediterranean and Australia.

"We want to make sure that we're programming the experience on board for those active travelers who really want to engage in these regions of the world through an expedition lens," Rodriguez told TPG in an exclusive interview.

Speaking at length about the brand's shifting direction, Rodriguez said it would increasingly expand beyond a core focus on expedition sailings to the polar regions to offer more voyages to other parts of the world. But these new offerings will be more active trips that draw on the ethos of expedition cruising as opposed to what he calls the "passive" sort of cruise travel that most lines offer in mainstream destinations.

The new direction comes as the line prepares to roll out several more ships in quick succession. The brand on Wednesday will unveil its third ship, the 196-passenger World Voyager.

"We're going to try to create that [expedition] element that is created in the polar regions in other parts of the world, whether we're going to East Africa and doing safaris or whether we're in the Kimberley in Australia or in the South Pacific," he said.

Related: The ultimate guide to expedition cruising

Already, the line has launched what it is calling expedition sailings in the Mediterranean, which started this past summer. But they are expedition sailings with a twist. Passengers shouldn't expect expedition cruise-type landings by Zodiac boats to see unusual wildlife and scenery, as is the norm on the typical expedition cruise to remote places such as Antarctica.

Instead, they are expeditions to experience the region's culture, cuisine and wine, Rodriguez explains.

The line is calling them Epicurean Expeditions, and they incorporate such things as culinary demonstrations and tastings on board vessels during the trips, led by top chefs and sommeliers, plus culinary-focused touring on land with local guides that involve sampling local cuisine, visiting local food markets, touring wineries and the like.

Bottling that Antarctica cruise feeling

Rodriguez and his team developed the idea for the sailings soon after he joined Atlas Ocean Voyages a year ago and sailed on an expedition cruise to Antarctica with the brand for the first time.

It was also his first expedition cruise.

"What I walked away with is there's something really special about an expedition-type program, and [I asked] how do you kind of bottle that and take it into other regions of the world," he shared.

The first step, Rodriguez said, was defining the elements that make such expedition cruises special and then figuring out how that translates to more mainstream destinations. That process led to the identification of three things.

"There's an educational component to these expedition voyages. There's [a component] where you're really immersed in these destinations ... almost to an overwhelming extent. And then there's also this inspired component," he noted. "You walk away being inspired, not only by the destinations but the experience you had and this camaraderie that you've built with your fellow guests."

whats an expedition cruise

For the Epicurean Expedition sailings in the Mediterranean, Atlas replaced the expedition guides with expertise in polar regions that normally sail with its ships with a new set of expedition team members that include guest chefs and guest vintners.

Cuisine and wine are integral to the experience of traveling around the Mediterranean, Rodriguez noted, and the trips thus worked well, he suggested. But he said he and his team realized that the epicurean focus might not work as well elsewhere. That led to plans for expedition-type sailings in other parts of the world that had more of a cultural focus.

Related: The ultimate guide to Atlas Ocean Voyages | Atlas cabins and suites guide

For these trips, called Cultural Expeditions, the line will staff its vessels with expedition team members that have expertise in things like regional history or a background in archeology, Rodriguez said.

The epicurean-focused sailings, in particular, have echoes of the sailings offered by Rodriguez's former employer, Oceania Cruises . It is a brand that is known for its culinary offerings, including elevated onboard dining and onboard cooking classrooms.

Rodriguez was a founding member of the executive team that started up Oceania in 2003 and had a leadership role at the line until leaving in 2021. Before joining the startup team for Oceania, he worked for the famed luxury line Crystal Cruises .

Still, Rodriguez said what Atlas is doing in the culinary space is different. Whereas Oceania's culinary experience revolves around onboard offerings, the Atlas epicurean expedition experience folds in a heavy dose of off-the-ship culinary exploration, he suggested.

A culinary cookoff

Onboard culinary programs are heavy, too, and include such things as a Yachtsman's Cookoff where guest chefs compete with passengers in an Ironman Chef-like competition (complete with mystery ingredients). There also are onboard wine and food tastings and other events.

"We're taking them to ... [experience] paella making when we're in Barcelona and really teaching them how to make paella," he said, citing one example of the sort of outings that occur during Epicurean Expeditions itineraries in the Mediterranean.

One caveat for the Epicurean Expeditions and other expedition-type voyages in mainstream destinations is that the land experiences aren't necessarily included in the fare, as is typically the case with expedition trips to far-flung regions such as Antarctica.

On expedition sailings to Antarctica, expedition cruise lines typically offer landings by Zodiac boats to see penguins and other wildlife, as well as scenery at no extra charge. The expedition touring experience is included in the cost of the trip.

The fares for Atlas trips in non-polar regions include one free cultural immersion per cruise that has a culinary component, such as a local market visit or a food tasting. But, otherwise, shore tours with epicurean components come with an extra cost.

New expedition destinations coming

Launched in 2021 with just one ship (the 196-passenger World Navigator), Atlas expanded to two vessels in late 2022 with the arrival of a sister vessel (World Traveller; yes, they use the British spelling for traveler). As noted above, the line's third vessel, World Voyager, will begin sailing on Wednesday after being christened in Ushuaia, Argentina. It will spend the coming winter cruising to Antarctica.

These three vessels unveiled in quick succession are just the first phase of growth for a line that already has plans to quickly expand to six ships in the next few years.

Related: Inside the first Atlas Ocean Voyages ship, World Navigator

The rapid rollout of new vessels will allow Atlas to expand to more regions of the world, which will mean more expedition-type sailings in new areas, Rodriguez said.

"These ships were built for the polar regions of the world, for the Arctic and Antarctica. But there are times [of the year] that we can't be there ... [and] as our fleet has grown, we're also expanding into other areas of the world," he explained.

Rodriguez cited the line's first voyages to East Africa as something that was in the works to incorporate a safari element that would help give the trips an expedition feel. He noted plans for sailings around Madagascar, for instance, and trips to South Africa.

Voyages that include visits to South Pacific islands on the way to Australia are also in the works, according to Rodriguez.

When Atlas ships end up in Australia, they won't do the "Sydney traditional things," Rodriguez said. Instead, they will go to places like the Kimberley region of Western Australia, which is known for its scenic, undeveloped coastline and large swaths of wilderness.

"We're trying to find those destinations that lend themselves to more of an expedition experience [instead of] a passive kind of vacation experience."

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What is Expedition Cruising? – Ultimate Guide With Planning Tips

Jess Tyroler image

Passionatefor far-away places and habañero hot sauce

Here at Secret Atlas we love expedition cruising. In this guide you will learn about expedition cruising and also our secret (our expedition cruises take just 12 guests).

yacht expeditions and private charters with secret atlas svalbard photography tour

What is Expedition Cruising?

Expedition cruising offers an alternative way to exploring than you would experience on a large cruise ship. Often expedition cruise ships are smaller and are kitted out with Zodiac landing craft. A large part of the experience is to spend time out exploring the wilderness accompanied by the safety of an expedition team. Often we explore places that are not accessible to our guests in any other way.

​​ As the name implies, expedition cruising is a way to rid yourself of your fernweh, or “far sickness” (the opposite of homesickness) with a small vessel cruise to remote destinations in  the Arctic and the North Pole, Svalbard , Greenland , and the shores of Antarctica .

Expedition cruises are different from traditional cruises in the following ways:

  • They often explore remote and hard to get to places. At Secret Atlas we specialise in the polar regions.
  • The ship sizes are smaller than traditional cruise ships. The average cruise ship is over 2000 guests whereas expedition cruise ships take anywhere from 500 to 12 guests. At Secret Atlas we specialise in 12 guest experiences and offer the smallest group sizes in the destinations we visit.
  • Expedition cruising is about exploring and ships are kitted with landing craft to go and explore remote places.
  • Expeditions are led by highly trained guides.
  • Guests are more interested in experiencing a place rather than going on a ‘cruise’.

shore landing by zodiac in svalbard

How to Choose Your Expedition Cruise

Our top tip for planning your expedition cruise is to go with the smallest group size possible. We would always recommend a ship with 50 guests or under.

Vessels larger than 50 guests have many disadvantages such as longer waiting times to join the zodiacs, going ashore with a large group of people, guests are split into groups so only half the guests can land at one time. In short the smaller the vessel the more you will get to experience.

Here at Secret Atlas, we offer the smallest group sizes on our expedition cruises from as low as 12 guests per voyage, so all guests enjoy maximum expedition cruise benefits including no downtime, the longest and freest exploration shore times, control over destinations, and more.

Our expedition cruises visit hard to reach places in the polar regions that would otherwise be inaccessible with expeditions visiting Svalbard , Greenland , Antarctica and South Georgia.

svalbard photography tour

Cruising Style

An expedition cruise is not just about the amazing experiences you will have ashore. Between shore landings, you can enjoy cruising and wildlife spotting out on deck and inside enjoy lectures and memorable discussions with experts and aficionados from around the world, including your expedition leaders and fellow adventure seekers

In sum total, expedition cruises pluck you out of the mundane, guide you to the ends of the Earth, and place you in the middle of wildlife and nature adventures. Imagine yourself inside your own Wes Anderson movie filled with colorful, bright international communities while surrounded by an array of spectacular sceneries. Now, mish-mash that image with a wildlife safari through the best nature documentaries, and you can start to imagine what your expedition cruise experience will be like.

The ability to be flexible with itineraries is one of the most important differences between a typical cruise and an expedition cruise. Imagine that you have a polar bear expert expedition leader who can guide your captain to sites where you can watch them off in the distance, or that your vessel is filled with wild bird enthusiasts who would prefer to spend longer amounts of time around the dazzling cliffs with the Snow Bunting and the Kittiwakes. On a small expedition cruise, the vessel is able to switch the itinerary to fit the guests’ preferences, or the weather conditions, to make for the best voyage possible. 

An expedition cruise places the need for further education and exploration at the center of the experience, so guests are sure to become well-educated about what they are going to witness and leave the experience feeling they have become experts, themselves. On a Secret Atlas cruise, you are guaranteed to have one expedition leader/expert for every 6 travellers. Whether in a workshop on your vessel or trekking through the wilderness, no question is likely to go unanswered, nor any guest to feel ignored.

Zodiac in front of a glacier wall

How much does an expedition cruise cost?

The budget per person for an expedition cruise is usually around 1000 euros per day. The costs are higher than a traditional cruise due tot he small group number. You can travel on an expedition micro cruise for a similar cost to a larger cabin on a vessel carrying 500. Of course on a small ship you have the huge benefit of travelling with just 12 guests.

People you´ll encounter aboard

Expedition cruises also attract different guests and employees than typical cruises. Take the following into account when you are deciding whether you would like the option of socializing, making friends or even lifelong connections on your cruise holiday.

While the requirements for the staff aboard a typical cruise ship can vary and be specialized in the entertainment category, the requirements to work on an expedition cruise tend to be quite demanding. Apart from having specialty skills needed for certain expeditions (think rifle handling and experience with polar bear protection), expedition leaders are typically required to have university degrees in fields relevant to your adventure, and are often PhDs in their fields, so their workshops and lectures around the culture, anthropology, history, geology, geography, biology, ecology and politics of the destinations are profound. Some expeditions are curated for specialty groups, so they send other specialists in addition to the expedition leaders. For example, on a Secret Atlas Photography Expedition, your vessel comes with both an expedition leader and a pro photographer to give additional workshops.

expedition cruising Zodiac cruising in sea ice Svalbard

Travellers on an expedition cruise also tend to be a little different than the typical cruising type. At Secret Atlas, we find that expedition travellers are more interested in active excursions that focus on nature, wildlife, and environmentally friendly practices. Because accessing remote destinations has requirements around mobility and agility, the expedition traveller must also be physically fit enough to participate in the activities. They must be able to transfer to and from the vessel to small Zodiac inflatable crafts to head ashore, and once ashore, have to be able to dismount from the Zodiac onto the beach or rocky shoreline (no piers or walkways here).

Once everyone has dismounted from the Zodiacs, travellers have the option of choosing to explore with a group based on their interests and fitness level. Robust travellers head out on hikes, while those that choose to stay behind stroll along the shoreline to observe the wildlife close to shore. Suppose you can imagine yourself on a Zodiac, hair whipping in the wind, followed by an hour hike into the unknown and back again in the warm and cozy vessel at the bar later that day, chatting with everyone about the sights. In that case, you might be well suited to be an expedition traveller.

What you´ll encounter aboard your vessel

It is common that traditional cruisers want bells and whistles aboard for entertainment. If you are looking for pools, multiple restaurant options and a nightclub, a traditional cruise would be your best bet. Expedition cruises, on the other hand, offer warm, safe, and comfortable places to rest and relax between experiences ashore– with less environmental impact.

These days, depending on the size of your ship, the destination, and the company you choose to tour with, you can expect your expedition vessel to have one dining room (or more), a bar, shared or independent cabins, and a couple of special amenities that will fit aboard a smaller ship. On the smallest vessels, the special amenities could be a viewing deck, an enclosed hot tub, and a library (Secret Atlas).

The cabins of an expedition ship are also more designed for comfort than the luxury staterooms available on a mega cruise ship. While the cabin sizes on an expedition cruise vary, they are likely to feature single or double berths, a desk or sitting area with a viewing window, closets and storage areas, an en suite or private bathroom (shower only). For expedition adventure travellers, this is more than enough, since they are more interested in spending time exploring the ends of the earth over spending time in the cabin.

That said, for those interested in the most personalized experience possible, it is an option to charter your own yacht expedition (crew and chef included), which can be tailored for a higher level of luxury. While a few companies offer this option, with a Secret Atlas private yacht expedition, your only limits are your own creativity. You can decide whether to splurge for extras like white-gloved butlers on hand, meals served to you in multiple courses, cookery workshops with renowned chefs, and more.

explorer expedition yacht svalbard photography tour

Expedition vessel Explorer offers a high level of comfort with the luxury of just 12 guests.

Eat well, skip the excess

If your most desired cruising wish is to overload your plate from a delicate shrimp tower and serve yourself with heaping loads of jiggling cuisines from a never-ending buffet, a traditional cruise will have what you’re looking for. Instead, on an expedition cruise, you can expect to eat and drink well, without getting out of control. At Secret Atlas, we offer tasty, freshly cooked food onboard for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Outside of set meal times, your expedition may offer snacks like afternoon cookies and tea. However, the offerings are far from sparse– many people still head home a kilo or so heavier from the delectable local cuisine available on their expeditions!

Time to disconnect

It’s hard for many to imagine limited Wi-Fi (or no Wi-Fi!) for an extended period of time, as the Internet is such an ingrained part of our existence these days. As technology continues to improve, onboard satellite Internet is more available now than before on cruise ships. While a typical cruise ship may offer package deals so you can check your email, surf the web, and upload a photo or two, once you are in remote areas of the world, a Wi-Fi connection may be impossible. That’s why expedition travellers embark on their expedition ready to disconnect from their online presence and tune in to the natural marvels around them.

When all is said and done, the smaller passenger size, the shared jaw-dropping experiences, and lack of digital devices create an intimate atmosphere on the expedition ship. So if you decide to go on an expedition, you are likely to come home with a network of adventurer friends.

Expedition Cruise Ships: Small Ships vs. Large Ships

When it comes to expedition cruises, they can be broken down into three categories. Large ships are considered to carry more than 50 guests, small ships carry less than 50, and then the micro cruise vessel carries a total of twelve passengers. 

For expedition cruising, the smaller you go, the better. Most in the expedition industry agree that having less than 200 passengers is important, since ships with over 200 passengers are restricted from landing at certain sites. They have to be very careful about the land traversed once ashore, and in some remote areas like Antarctica, no more than 100 guests are allowed to land ashore at a time. When this happens, larger expeditions dispatch small groups ashore and bring them back to make space for the next group with wait times of up to an hour . 

While this is a widespread practice, it means that the boats, and the number of passengers, have a big impact on the locations you can actually reach, the time it takes to disembark ashore, and the way activities on land are carried out. Concretely, the fewer passengers, the less time and manpower it takes to get on land, hike further through the wilderness, and get everyone back safe and sound on the boat so you can go directly from one adventure to the next. 

Here at Secret Atlas, we take the smallest boats possible, with a passenger count between 12 guests ( Secret Atlas Micro Expeditions ) and 48 guests ( Secret Atlas Expedition Cruises ). That’s the smallest size possible for the destinations we are proud to explore.

whats an expedition cruise

Expedition Cruise Destinations

Many travellers like to book their expedition cruises far in advance, so if you are interested in planning a trip like this several months to a few years beforehand, you’re not alone. For the 2023 and 2024 season, there are currently expedition cruises available around the world for warm exotic destinations like:

  • Africa & The Indian Ocean
  • West Africa & Cape Verde
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Panama Canal
  • Coastal Tanzania
  • And French Polynesia & Easter Island

But if you are ready for an adventure that will really open your eyes to a whole new world, we suggest going to mesmerising colder weather destinations like: 

Svalbard, Norway . If you haven’t been to the Arctic before, Svalbard is the perfect place to start. It offers everything from diverse wildlife, fascinating human history and some of the most beautiful glaciers and Arctic landscapes on the planet.

Greenland . One of the most unknown and isolated places in the world, replete with wildlife and some of the most beautiful landscapes and wildernesses on the planet.

South Georgia . Encounter 100,000’s of King Penguins and some of the largest concentrations of wildlife on the planet.

Antarctica . ​​With no permanent population and SEVEN species of penguin, it is the perfect place to explore, full of natural beauty, incredible scenery, ice, a diverse array of wildlife and interesting historical sites .

Planning Your Expedition Cruise

Wondering where to begin to plan for such an out-of-the-ordinary experience? Look no further. 

Check out our article on what to pack for your expedition cruise based on the season HERE. 

Get in touch with an expert member of the Secret Atlas team to guide you on any and all questions expedition cruise related HERE . Seriously, message them! They are knowledgeable, so they love to help out, particularly when it comes to questions around fitness levels, flights, extended pre and post-travel, medications, whether visas are necessary for your expedition, and more.

Expedition Cruise Travel Tips

Expedition cruises are a privileged experience that few take, so if you do go on one, make it count. Take the time to investigate the cruise provider, and make sure it’s the type of expedition you want to take. Size makes a difference in many ways, so don’t be afraid to ask questions critically. Don’t just read other people’s accounts of the experience; if you can, find video footage of the locations and cruises to decide if it’s the right place for you.

whats an expedition cruise

Little things, like earplugs and an eye mask, can make a big difference in places with 24 hours of daylight, so take time to not only investigate the locations, but also what those locations will be like at the time of your visit (with a Secret Atlas cruise, you will receive a detailed packing list and expert information so this isn’t necessary). Some tour providers even supply you with some of the gear so that you don’t have to lug it out yourself– for example, Secret Atlas provides you with the boots you will need to hike ashore.

The main takeaway for those interested in expedition cruising is that with a little planning, expedition cruises are just as accessible as traditional cruises, yet offer a far more rewarding experience.

See our voyages to learn more about Secret Atlas cruises.

People are at the heart of everything we do here at Secret Atlas, and our guests' experience is top of our list.

We've put together a video for our guests to share their experiences with you, or you can read guests' stories below.

Brett Dingwall on glacier in Svalbard

Brett’s Guest Story ­­­­­– Secret Atlas Review

"I left understanding how fragile our ecosystem is and gained a newfound respect for every…

Rachel Bibby in Svalbard

Rachel’s Guest Story – Secret Atlas Review

"Floating in the sea at 80 degrees north, surrounded by ice while the snow fell…

Katie Curbelo Guest Story

Katie’s Journey to Svalbard – Secret Atlas Review

'Out of all my experiences, this one has been the most exceptional and special so…

Zodiac Cruise in Svalbard

Sarah’s Guest Story – Secret Atlas Review

"I’ve come to realise there’s only one way I want to travel, and that’s on…

whats an expedition cruise

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What Is An Expedition Cruise?

What Is An Expedition Cruise?

An expedition cruise holiday is a type of sailing that combines the exploration of exotic destinations with the comfort and luxury of cruising.

It offers travellers an opportunity to experience remote areas, observe wildlife in their natural habitats, and explore some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. Expedition cruise ships are typically much smaller than traditional ocean cruising vessels, allowing for more intimate experiences with fewer people onboard. They also often include activities such as zodiac excursions, kayaking, snorkelling or diving trips, hiking trails and other exploratory activities.

Expedition cruise holidays offer a unique way to travel around the world while still enjoying all the comforts you would expect from a traditional cruise line. Most expedition ships feature comfortable cabins with private bathrooms and balconies that provide stunning views of your destination; they also have spacious lounges where passengers can relax after long days spent exploring ashore. Many vessels even come equipped with libraries full of books about local culture and history as well as maps detailing routes through each area visited during your voyage.

Planning Is Key To Adventure

When planning an expedition cruise holiday it is important to research which ship best suits your needs – different lines offer different levels of amenities depending on what type of experience you are looking for.

Don’t forget, we’re here to help offer unbiased advice on the expedition cruise line that suits your needs best. Call us on 0800 810 8481 to discuss your plans.

Some cruise lines specialise in adventure-based itineraries such as polar expeditions or sailing through rugged archipelagos. Others may focus on educational voyages that incorporate lectures from experts in fields like marine biology or anthropology. And, then there are those that cater to luxury travellers who desire rather more sumptuous surroundings along with their explorations ashore, whilst still having access to all of the educational resources and expert professionals aboard.

The length and duration of an expedition cruise will vary depending on where you go – some may last just one week while others can span several months! When choosing your itinerary make sure to consider how much time you want spend at sea versus visiting ports along the way; this will help determine which ship is right for you since some lines specialise in longer voyages while others focus more on shorter trips packed full with shore excursions each day. Additionally be sure to check out any special packages offered by various cruise lines that aren’t offered by anyone else.

whats an expedition cruise

Unexpected Experiences

For instance, the ship Celebrity Flora offers a glamping experience out on deck whilst sailing the Galapagos Islands. Scenic’s Discovery Yachts feature two on-board helicopters and a custom-built submarine, enabling you to explore like never before. Want to experience Antarctica like an explorer? Look no further than Hurtigruten Expeditions , who (via a silent auction) offer a unique, highly sought-after, and possibly unexpected experience… camping overnight on the snow and ice!

No matter what kind of traveller you are there is something exciting waiting for everyone aboard an expedition cruise holiday! From witnessing glaciers calving into icy waters off Antarctica’s coastlines to swimming among vibrant coral reefs in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands – every journey promises unforgettable memories filled with new discoveries around every corner!

Call us today on 0800 810 8481 to start planning your Expedition Cruise holiday.

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7 Thrilling Expedition Cruises to Book Now for 2023

By Janice Wald Henderson

Viking Octantis cruise. Antarctica. Water. Ice. Boats

Zipping around in Zodiacs, ogling endemic wildlife, dropping jaws at views that so few of us get to see in a lifetime: It's a small wonder why expedition cruising is soaring in popularity—not just with cruisers, but among all types of adventurers—thus demanding its place as a new category in our 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards . Here, we share seven alluring new journeys, each one from a winning cruise line, to consider trying to new and exciting mode of cruising for yourself.

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Itinerary : Antarctica Bridge

Departures : Five to nine-day voyages from November 21, 2022, through February 4, 2023; itineraries repeat November 2023 through upcoming Antarctic sail seasons.

Experience : Ultra-luxe Silversea debuts 200-passenger Silver Endeavour , its newest, most posh expedition vessel, for Antarctica Bridge journeys. Skip the four days round trip crossing the potentially rough seas of Drake Passage. Instead, hop on a private chartered two-hour flight in business class from Punta Arenas, Chile , directly to snowy, penguin-aplenty King George Island, Antarctica. There, the glam PC6 ice class-rated Silver Endeavour beckons. Tux-clad, white-gloved butlers stir martinis and deliver complimentary caviar to your sumptuous suite. Therapists blend indulgence with healing in a decadence-driven spa. Do backstrokes in a glass-enclosed heated pool and maybe spot chinstraps diving single file off floating icebergs. Consider such perks gravy; 20 world-class expedition experts, like marine biologists, ensure twice-daily explorations via trekking, kayaking, and Zodiacs (weather permitting) every day in this polar expedition holy grail.

Itinerary : Intriguing Indonesia

Departure : March 7, 2023

Experience : Spine-tingling adventures await on this 10-day Bali -to- Singapore sail aboard Le Lapérouse . Thrills may first unfold in the Indonesian archipelago’s Komodo National Park, encountering enormous Komodo dragons. These venomous carnivorous lizards are more than six-feet-long; expert guides keep visitors safe. In Badas, Sumbawa, attend a wedding procession in a local village and watch buffalo race in your honor. Another highlight? Visiting orangutans in a rehab facility in southern Borneo. (This writer witnessed one tree-dweller emptying his bladder on a cruiser snapping pics below.) Life onboard Le Lapérouse may be less dramatic than ashore, but French line Ponant keeps the wows flowing with Gallic gastronomy (croissants rate divine), sea-inspired sophisticated design, and evening entertainment from film-screening to live music.

Quasar Expeditions

Itinerary : Islands Born of Fire

Departure : Fall 2023

Experience : Savor an intimate eight-day Galápagos expedition between Baltra and San Cristobal, Ecuador, onboard the new 18-passenger Conservation , an all-suite luxury yacht featuring renewable energy components, a carbon-neutral footprint, and an equally eco-friendly crew. The green outlook includes chefs who source sustainably and transform ingredients into modern Ecuadorian cuisine, and a spa on a serenity mission. The agile yacht allows maximum passenger immersion in these pristine islands where endemic wildlife abounds. Enthusiastic naturalists (one-guide-to-nine-passenger ratio) lead outings via walks, hikes, snorkeling, kayaking, and panga (inflatable dinghy) rides among eight islands. Warning: Once you spot your first blue-footed booby, a lifelong love affair begins. Stroll amidst the world’s largest tortoises—averaging more than 100-years-old and often weighing more than 550 pounds—for real-life shades of Jurassic Park.

Hurtigruten Expeditions

Itinerary : East Greenland and Svalbard – A True Arctic Expedition

Departures : August 18 and September 3—2023

Experience : Join 528-passenger Maud sailing 17 days round trip from Reykjavik reveling in nearly every Arctic highlight. Visit volcanic Jan Mayenone—of Earth’s most remote destinations—in the Arctic Circle. Birds, like Brünich’s Guillemots, reign as sole residents on this moss and lichen-streaked island; surrounding waters teem with whales and seals. In Svalbard and Greenland , pristine fjords, towering mountains, and glacier-carved valleys are entrancing. Bask in the warmest welcome in Ittoqqortoormiit; less than 500 hardy souls live on this Arctic peninsula town encased by sea ice most of the year. Maud ’s nature-inspired Nordic decor pops with modern artworks. The Science Center serves as the ship hub, with lectures streamed to staterooms and suites. Three fine restaurants showcase regional ingredients. Like all Hurtigruten ships, Maud emphasizes sustainability, with zero port emissions through green technology.

Itinerary : Great Lakes Collection

Departures : June 10, 2023 through September 12, 2023

Experience : Find profound adventure exploring all five Great Lakes on a 15-day voyage between Toronto and Duluth, Minnesota, on 378-passenger twins Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis . Embarking Zodiacs in an industry-first, protected in-ship hangar, makes boarding a breeze. Behold the staggering beauty of thundering Niagara Falls, as it hurls 42 millions of gallons of water down 20 stories every minute, from a boat shrouded in mist below. Hook Chinook salmon or rainbow trout on a private charter in Thunder Bay, Canada; a prized local chef cooks the catch. Glide on a glass-bottom boat over shipwrecks as an archeologist details what lies below. With 36 experts by your side, hunt for 400-million-year-old fossils, hike boreal forests, and participate in scientific research . Later, cozy up before an onboard fire pit, browse the scientist-curated library, devour a divine dinner before snuggling in your king bed.

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic

Itinerary : Kimberley Expedition: Australia’s Wild Northwest

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Departures : July 7, 17, and 27—2023

Experience : Horizontal waterfalls? Freshwater crocodiles? It’s not your imagination (or too many onboard cocktails); such rare sightings skew typical to a remote Kimberley sail. Adrenalin-charge for 12 days between Darwin and Broome, Australia, onboard 102-passenger National Geographic Orion , a casual ship with clubby flair. This remote region is so ancient, much predates fossil existence. Immense and diverse, the Kimberley’s abundance of green-drenched rainforests, contorted red rock formations, gorges, and aboriginal art, astonishes. A certified photo instructor ensures perfect pics and the naturalist staff leads explorations. In Vansittart Bay, gape at 40,000-year-old images in an outdoor aboriginal art gallery. Find sandpipers, sharks, cormorants, and egrets among ever-present wildlife. Come chill time, head to the ship’s wellness center or hot tub, and dine al fresco on sustainable choices, soaking up good wine and eye-popping views.

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Itinerary : 10 Night Edinburgh to Dublin

Departure : September 26, 2023

Experience : Pub-crawl on an 11-day Edinburgh -to- Dublin expedition onboard 200-passenger World Traveller . Of course, sampling draft beers or wee drams of whisky are a smidgen of expedition highlights. In Scotland, scan Loch Ness in search of the famed monster. Explore majestic Stirling Castle; Mary Queen of Scots was among many royals crowned here. Listen to Manx, a Gaelic language only spoken on Isle of Man, and tour the Giant’s Causeway, a Northern Ireland UNESCO World Heritage Site formed some 50-to-60 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. Back onboard, work out, then let a spa therapist unknot those kinks. After dining on globally inspired fare, stargaze with a craft cocktail in the observation lounge with a 270-degree view.

Expedition Cruise


Your guide to epic sea adventures.

At Expedition Cruise we provide impartial advice and support to travelers looking to cruise some of the most extraordinary places on the planet. Our site covers all the major expedition cruise destinations, including the Polar regions, Alaska, South America and the South Pacific Islands.

From detailed itinerary overviews, ship guides and packing lists, to cost considerations and when to travel advice, we've got you covered!

Expedition Cruise Destination Guides

Alaska cruises.

alaska cruise

Alaska offers some of the best expedition cruises in the Northern Hemisphere. From the iconic Inside Passage cruise to the Glacier Bay cruise , you will experience a rich variety of National Park and glacier scenery on an Alaska cruise, as well as lots of wildlife.  

Arctic Cruises

arctic cruise

The Arctic is one of the least understood places on earth. It has enthralled, delighted and surprised visitors for decades. Cruise options are wide and varied, covering Iceland , Greenland , Canada , Svalbard , Russia , Norway , and the North Pole !

Antarctica Cruises

antarctica cruise

Antarctica’s massive ice shelves, awesome remoteness, incredible wildlife and extreme cold make it one of the most extraordinary places to visit on earth. The experience of seeing enormous icebergs and wildlife up close, make Antarctica an unforgettable destination.

South America


Expedition cruises off the Pacific coast of South America are truly awesome. The most popular cruises take in the Galapagos , which is an incredible wildlife destination. Alternatively, if you desire a continental cruise then those on the Amazon river or in Patagonia are amazing.

South Pacific


Cruises in the South Pacific aka the Polynesian Triangle take in some of the most iconic islands in the region - including Easter Island , Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand. If culture and island hopping is your thing, then you definitely need to check out what is on offer in the South Pacific.

Our Latest Articles

Helpful cruise resources, choosing a cruise.

choosing the right cruise-ship

Choosing the right cruise for your adventure can be challenging. In this guide we explore the main features of each expedition cruise destination, as well as when to go and what to expect.

Polar Packing List

whats an expedition cruise

Taking the right gear for your expedition Polar cruise is critical. Unlike standard cruises, an Polar cruise requires special gear for the types of temperature and weather you will experience.

Photography Tips


Expedition cruises offer some of the best wildlife and landscape settings in the World. In this guide we cover the key photography tips and tricks for your adventure.

Cruise Packing List 

Alaska cruise packing list

Deciding on your perfect cruise packing list can be a stressful time, especially if it's your first time out. In this complete guide we set out everything you need for warm, moderate and cold weather cruises.

Cruise Insurance

cruise travel insurance 2

Although it may not be the most exciting thing to think about, cruise insurance is definitely one of the most important considerations when booking your trip. Find the right insurance for your cruise here!


We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton /  Polar Explorer

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25 incredible experiences you can only have on a ship

By brian johnston, save articles for later.

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You can sail your own yacht across the Pacific, or parachute into the remote Philippines. And yes, you can hike through 150 kilometres of wilderness from the nearest Alaskan road to get to Glacier Bay – or row a boat.

Train yourself as a communications technician and work with Australia’s polar team, and you could possibly even get yourself to Antarctica.

Some destinations don’t have roads.

Some destinations don’t have roads.

For the less than intrepid, however, there really are places you can’t get to other than on an expedition cruise.

Besides, even places easy to reach, such as Hong Kong or Istanbul, simply aren’t the same when approached on a regular cruise.

It’s no coincidence cities are at their most impressive and intimidating from the sea.

It’s no coincidence cities are at their most impressive and intimidating from the sea. Credit: Adobe Stock

What cruise doubters overlook is that cruising, whatever its faults (and, yes, we’re aware of them), is an altogether different experience.

It showcases cities and coastlines from a different angle, fires up the imagination from a different perspective, and gets you to places you otherwise wouldn’t consider.

The cruise-ship experience itself also offers many differences to that of land-based touring, or a stay at a permanently anchored beach resort. Here are 25 ways it does so.

Admire great cities from the sea

Few cities present their best side from an airport. Most were designed to impress or intimidate from the sea, and harbour approaches remain exhilarating.

Rio’s voluptuous contours, Valletta’s Renaissance fortifications and squeezed-up Hong Kong are prime examples.

You’ll connect with maritime history, not least in Halifax, whose harbour – one of the world’s largest – is crowned with an 18th-century citadel. Later, a million Canadian immigrants arrived through this port, brilliantly outlined at the Pier 21 museum.

Seabourn’s “Canada and New England Fall Foliage” cruise from Montreal to Quebec City overnights in Halifax, with several departures August-October 2024. From $10,637 a person. See

Visit uninhabited islands

Access near-empty islands by ship. Pictured: Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

Access near-empty islands by ship. Pictured: Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Credit: iStock

What traveller doesn’t have Robinson Crusoe syndrome: the desire to set foot on unsullied sand in Indonesia, Polynesia or the Caribbean?

Cruises are the only way to get to such ocean outcrops. Patagonia, Greenland and Japan have empty islands, too.

Closer to home, there’s no other way (unless you’re a research scientist) to get to Australia and New Zealand’s Subantarctic islands, which feature battered landscapes, old whaling stations, sea-lion colonies and some of the world’s most abundant seabird life.

Ponant’s “Expedition to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands” round-trip from Dunedin departs January 6, 2024. From $16,540 a person. See

Channel your inner explorer on a Ponant sailing of the Milford Sound.

Channel your inner explorer on a Ponant sailing of the Milford Sound.

Unwind your mind

Let’s admit it: travel has hassles not often talked about, from working out the logistics of getting from A to B to hauling suitcases, queuing for tickets and finding somewhere decent to dine after a tiring day of sightseeing.

Nothing beats casting off on a cruise and knowing you don’t have to plan or even think about anything for another week or two, all while visiting multiple destinations in style.

APT’s 15-day “Adriatic & Aegean Seas” cruise from Istanbul to Venice departs August 22, 2024, and gets you to five countries and 15 destinations. From $13,295 a person. See

Join the supply chain gang

While cruising can insulate you from local life, not all cruise itineraries are built entirely around the needs of tourists.

Aranui Cruises operates a passenger-freighter ship that provides cargo services to remote French Polynesian islands and visits the smallest of communities.

Elsewhere, Norway’s Hurtigruten still runs its original Coastal Express route to 34 coastal communities, as it has done for 130 years, delivering and loading vital goods and supplies along the way – even in winter, when you may even spot the Northern Lights.

Hurtigruten’s 17-day “Follow the Lights Northbound” cruise from Oslo to Helsinki has several departures September 2024-March 2025. From $8986 a person. See

Crunch through the ice pack

Thoughts of the planet’s far extremes titillates travellers and, while icebergs are the main game, you’ll feel you’ve reached Earth’s end as your ship navigates in an ice pack.

The ocean has an undulating skin of ice that heaves and clanks. Air released from melting ice hisses, multiplied a hundredfold into a waterfall roar.

In grey weather under a lid of cloud, it feels as if you’re in limbo; on a sunny day everything sparkles like champagne.

Abercrombie & Kent’s “Arctic Cruise Adventure” from Longyearbyen to Reykjavik departs July 29, 2024 and navigates the Austfonna Icecap. From $32,445 a person. See 

Feel like a bygone days seafarer

Sail into certain ports and you’ll feel like an old sea dog or Hollywood extra, especially in the Caribbean, where destinations such as Port Royal in Jamaica and St Thomas in the US Virgin Island were once famous pirate lairs.

The approaches to fortified Havana and Santiago in Cuba are marvellously atmospheric. In Europe, you’ll capture the pirate spirit in Cadiz in Spain and Saint-Malo in France, with their magnificent sea-gazing ramparts and salt breezes.

Oceania’s 10-day “Iberia to Hibernia” cruise between Seville and Dublin departs June 4, 2024, and takes in Saint-Malo. From $5030 a person. See

Meet the famous and famously informed

AFL legend Adama Goodes is among Cunard’s high-profile hosts.

AFL legend Adama Goodes is among Cunard’s high-profile hosts.

Okay, you’re unlikely to encounter big movie and music stars – unless at ship launches – but special themed cruises do provide the opportunity to meet, listen to or be coached by notable experts in their field, which is something unlikely to happen on land.

Examples of past guests on cruises range from literary legend Thomas Keneally to ballet dancer Darcey Bussell, actor Warwick Davis and former prime minister Julia Gillard.

Cunard’s seven-night “Sporting Greats” cruise round-trip from Sydney departs February 13, 2024, and hosts Brett Lee, Adam Goodes, Karrie Webb and sports presenter Mark Beretta. From $1649 a person. See

Dive right in

Love snorkelling or diving? Getting to reefs from land can be a long chore, and popular spots overcrowded.

Expedition cruises get you to a bedazzlement of remote lagoons, reefs and atolls in world-class dive destinations where you’ll only have to share with a few fellow passengers.

The Maldives, Belize, Caribbean islands and French Polynesia are outstanding but, closer to home, the Philippines and Indonesia are unsung stars.

Lindblad Expeditions’ “Jewels of the Java Sea” journey between Singapore and Bali departs August 1 and September1, 2024, with snorkelling in the Badas, Bangka-Belitung and Kerimun Jawa islands. From $17,950 a person. See

Coast right along

Forget flying: opt for a picturesque sail by Palawan’s aqua shoreline in the Philippines.

Forget flying: opt for a picturesque sail by Palawan’s aqua shoreline in the Philippines. Credit: iStock

You haven’t seen the best of Norway, the Philippines or New Zealand unless, pinned to the deck in astonishment, you’ve sailed their coastline and islands. They’re beautiful from any viewpoint, but utterly gorgeous from the perspective of the sea.

And sure, you can fly to Greek islands in a tedious hopscotch of flights, but sailing towards them is a magnificent experience. Santorini’s colour-striped caldera, topped by whitewashed houses and blue-dome chapels, is unforgettable.

Regent Seven Seas’ seven-night “Santorini Sunset” cruise from Athens to Istanbul departs August 15, 2024,to several Greek islands and Bozcaada in Turkey. From $9570 a person. See

Retrace history’s greatest and darkest moments

Landlubbers can overlook maritime history, but on a ship you’re reminded of it, whether sailing like 12 million immigrants into New York past the Statue of Liberty, or into Elbe in Italy, where Napoleon lurked in island exile. Imagine you’re on a Spanish galleon in Havana, a Viking longship in Oslo, or a spice lugger in Zanzibar.

Rivers can suggest alternative narratives too: follow the mighty Columbia River for Native American, settler and Cold War bomb-making history.

American Cruise Line’s eight-day “Columbia & Snake River Cruise” from Portland to Clarkston has multiple departures April-December 2024. From $5800 a person. See

Reach the world’s remotest places

It doesn’t get more far-flung than Antarctica’s Paradise Bay.

It doesn’t get more far-flung than Antarctica’s Paradise Bay. Credit: Silver Seas Cruises

Expedition cruising provides a treasure chart of tantalising places for those excited about adding obscure places to their feathered cap.

Barely a cranny of the world goes unvisited by one ship or another, and you can tick off famously remote places such as St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Pitcairn Island and Easter Island. Here at home there are remote places to explore off Western Australia and even well-cruised Queensland.

Coral Expeditions’ “Outer-known Adventures on the Great Barrier Reef” cruise round-trip from Cairns has several departures in November 2023 and 2024 and visits Osprey and Ribbon Reefs and Sudbury Cay. From $5240 a person. See

Enjoy an insider’s look

Queue-free in Rome? It’s possible, on sailings like Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Spotlight on Faberge.

Queue-free in Rome? It’s possible, on sailings like Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Spotlight on Faberge.

Do-it-yourself isn’t always easy, especially at the world’s most-visited museums and cultural sights. Cruise lines often have fast-tracked entry into places such as the Vatican Museums, and access to special events such as the Edinburgh Tattoo or Monaco Grand Prix.

They also host exclusive events such as after-hours visits to cathedrals or museums, concerts amid ancient ruins, and tours hosted by insiders.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 10-night “Spotlight on Faberge” cruise from Rome to Monte Carlo departs July 1, 2024, and hosts Sarah Faberge; a special pre-cruise land program visits the Faberge headquarters in London. From $14,640 a person. See

Voyage to the White Continent

The bucket-list bounty hunter simply has to tick off the seventh continent, but how? Well, you could join the Chilean military – or, more agreeably, hop aboard a luxury expedition ship.

Accompanied by an expert team of naturalists, you’ll land at scientific bases or among penguin colonies, and maybe even kayak among icebergs, all without sacrificing fillet steaks or Frette linen. The ice-encrusted landscapes are awe-inspiring, so too, the abundant and unconcerned wildlife.

Silversea’s 10-day “Puerto Williams to Puerto Williams” expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetlands has several departures November 2024-February 2025. From $13,650 a person. See

Keep the whole family happy

Family zone: Norwegian Bliss’s The Splash Academy play space.

Family zone: Norwegian Bliss’s The Splash Academy play space.

The advantage of larger cruise ships is that they offer a safe and contained space, yet with a variety of distractions to entertain an entire multi-generational family, whether they’re enjoying shared activities or temporarily enjoying some me time.

Many larger ships have both kids’ clubs and adult-only spaces, flexible dining times, and interconnected or multi-bed cabins. The Pacific and Caribbean are particularly family-friendly destinations.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 14-day “Australia & New Zealand” cruise from Melbourne to Auckland departs December 21, 2024, on Norwegian Sun, which has a spa, kids’ club, swimming pools, sports facilities and live entertainment. From $4724 a person. See

Travel to places that can’t be reached by road

The Kimberley, the Amazon River, Patagonia, Greenland, northern Canada: some of the world’s most staggering destinations are almost (or completely) road-less.

Unless you have Bear Grylls’ stamina and survival skills, your only transport option is a cruise ship.

The only way to see the King George River is by sea or air.

The only way to see the King George River is by sea or air. Credit: Nick Rains

Most classic example? Alaska, where even state capital Juneau is unconnected to a transport network. The outsized wilderness will wow you with snow peaks, glaciers and, in the Inside Passage, endless islands and forests where bears and eagles lurk.

Celebrity Cruises’ seven-night “Alaska Dawes Glacier” cruise round-trip from Vancouver has several departures May-September 2024. From $1424 a person. See

Launch into legendary journeys

Sometimes the thought and subsequent sense of achievement counts as much as the destination.

Who wouldn’t like to say they’ve crossed the Atlantic or Pacific, sailed through the Suez and Panama canals or survived the rounding of Cape Horn?

The much sought-after Northwest Passage is now a cruise regular across the Canadian High Arctic, and the Northeast Passage above Russia enables expedition cruises to conclude a full circumnavigation of the Arctic. Boasting rights? You bet.

Silversea’s “Kangerlussuaq to Nome” expedition through the Northwest Passage crosses from Greenland to Alaska and departs August 23, 2024. From $59,650 a person. See

Journey to challenging destinations with ease

A traditional PNG coastal tribe perform at the Mount Hagen Show.

A traditional PNG coastal tribe perform at the Mount Hagen Show. Credit: iStock

If some destinations seem intimidating – too uncertain, rugged, complicated or crowded – that doesn’t mean you should rule them out.

Cruising makes travel easy, and will allow you to dip into places such as India, Madagascar, Myanmar or Colombia that you might otherwise not have considered. The ship – organised, relaxed, predictable – is your happy retreat at day’s end.

Case in point: Papua New Guinea, our near neighbour and yet sorely under-visited despite its wealth of scenery, snorkelling, vivid festivals and extraordinary cultures.

Ponant’s 13-day “Cultures & Nature in PNG” expedition round-trip from Cairns departs March 7, 2024. From $13,000 a person,

Put some wind in your sails

Cruising doesn’t have to insulate you from salt and sea. Companies such as Sea Cloud, Star Clipper, Ponant and Windstar operate sailing ships on which you can thrill to the crack of the sails, watch crew at work in the rigging, and enjoy a more visceral cruise experience.

There’s perhaps no better place to sail than the Caribbean, with its tumultuous maritime history of treasure ships, buccaneers and naval battles.

Lindblad’s eight-day “Caribbean Aboard Sea Cloud” cruise return from Barbados sails to island such as Guadeloupe, Dominica and St Lucia, with several departures January-February 2024. From $13,540 a person. See

Explore remote archipelagos

Cruising gets you in style around multiple islands that would be a time-consuming tribulation – and in some places impossible – to link any other way. Indonesia’s Spice Islands, Scotland’s Western Isles, Japan’s Ryuku Archipelago and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are among many examples.

Top spot? Far-flung French Polynesia which has 14 main islands scattered across 1590 square kilometres of Pacific Ocean. They range from low-lying atoll Fakarava to the jagged peaks of Nuku Hiva and ridiculously gorgeous Moorea, Bora Bora and Huahine.

Oceania’s 10-day “Papeete to Papeete” cruise around French Polynesia has several departures January-February 2024. From $5010 a person. See

Experience a completely different kind of safari

South Georgia king penguins and elephant seals.

South Georgia king penguins and elephant seals. Credit: iStock

You can, of course, do a safari on land, but swap a Jeep for a Zodiac and you’ll encounter alternative wildlife, from polar bears to bald eagles, whales to walruses.

The numbers of wildlife on the southern Atlantic island of South Georgia are stunning: elephant seals, fur seals, penguins and seabirds congregate in hundreds of thousands and, since they have no fear of humans, can be admired up close. Your obligation will be to keep a polite distance.

Aurora Expeditions’ “South Georgia & Antarctic Odyssey” round-trip from Ushuaia has several departures November 2023-February 2024. From $34,670 a person. See

Enjoy life on an ocean wave

A holiday at sea is a different experience. The passing ocean induces meditative calm, striding breeze-blown decks is exhilarating and you get elevated views of splendid harbours over afternoon tea in observation lounges.

Cruising is the most laid-back way to travel short of chilling at a beach resort. Bonus: you’ll wake up next morning to find a new destination beyond your window.

Seabourn’s 14-day “Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam” cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong departs March 2, 2024, and includes four days at sea for relaxation between bouts of wonderful but crowded Asia. From $7199 a person. See

Put the gorgeous into gorges

Sunrise on Crown Point at Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Sunrise on Crown Point at Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Credit: iStock

River cruising enables you to admire gorges from a unique perspective in places such as America’s Columbia River, the Danube’s Iron Gates between Serbia and Romania, or the splendid 250-kilometre length of the Three Gorges on China’s Yangtze River.

And while you can travel Germany’s Rhine Gorges by road or rail, it’s best from the deck of a ship as steep vineyards, crumbling castles and pepper-pot old towns pass by on both banks that can be admired from mid-river.

Uniworld’s eight-day “Castles Along the Rhine” cruise between Basel and Amsterdam has multiple departures March-November 2024. From $3999 a person. See

View extraordinary and precious art

The Kimberley of north-west Australia hides the world’s most extensive and varied collection of rock art in the world, and some of the oldest. Many of the best rock-art sites are inaccessible except from the water.

Disembark from Zodiacs, scramble up to galleries of ancient Wandjina and Gwion Gwion art, and you’ll feel the back of your neck prickle at this evidence of millennia-old human soul in such a remote and hostile landscape.

Coral Expeditions’ 10-night “Kimberley Cruise” between Broome and Darwin has multiple departures April-September, 2024. From $11,850 a person. See

Follow the explorers

Antarctica’s Paradise Bay with Silver Seas Cruises.

Antarctica’s Paradise Bay with Silver Seas Cruises.

Antarctica was the last continent to be explored, and relatively recently. The compelling 19th and early 20th-century narratives of explorers such as Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Australian Douglas Mawson are an inspiration in this vast and intimidating landscape.

Some cruise itineraries provide links to such legends by visiting polar bases, commemorative crosses and a museum in places such as the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Islands and, more unusually, Eastern Antarctica due south of Tasmania.

Scenic’s 25-day “Mawson’s Antarctica” expedition from Queenstown to Hobart departs December 15, 2024. From $42,270 a person. See

Visit multiple destinations stress-free

It’s rare on a land tour, or while travelling as an individual, to visit multiple countries or disparate destinations and certainly not without considerable time sucked away in simply getting around.

But cruises routinely glide to a half-dozen ports while you’re sleeping, giving you a taste of different destinations almost daily without you having to commit to just one. Sometimes a short affair is enough; no need for a long romance.

Azamara Cruises’ “Astounding Australia/Asia Voyage” from Sydney to Hong Kong departs March 1, 2024, and visits Queensland, PNG, Palau and the Philippines. From $3734 a person. See

Five more classic ‘only on a cruise ship’ advantages

One-time unpacking

Oh the joy, not only of unpacking the contents of your suitcase onto civilised shelves and hangers, but knowing you won’t have to do it again for a week or more. No daily repacking, no creased jumble of clothes, no digging around to find something, and no smelly shoes next to clean shirts. Nice.

Reliable dining

Eating is travel’s great pleasure. But the dining experience in touristy places is often disappointing. And who hasn’t had that sinking feeling at the thought of hauling your tired self from a hotel room into the dark to find a suitable restaurant? On a ship, reliably good, if not fine, dining is a relaxed stroll away.

Enhancement programs

Rare is the hotel that allows you to join a bridge club, learn Spanish or water-colouring or attend lectures by diplomats and scientists. But you can on a cruise ship, whose enhancement programs offer daily diversions to entertain, educate or further your understanding of the destinations you visit.

Ubiquitous service

We’ve all been frustrated at attracting the attention of receptionists, waiters or housekeeping staff in hotels and restaurants, but on luxury-end ships friendly crew are at your (hopefully considerate) call, no matter when you want another cocktail, fresh pool towel, plate cleared or problem solved.

Doing absolutely nothing

All holidays are about time out from chores, but on a cruise you can truly do nothing at all. Sit by the pool. Stare at the ocean. Eat well. Attend a show. And do it all without planning, effort or complication. Live in the moment. Sometimes the biggest luxury of modern life is simply switching off.

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Celebrity Cruises: The Complete Guide

Alisha McDarris

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Table of Contents

About Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity cruises prices, what is the best celebrity cruises ship, celebrity cruises loyalty program: captain’s club.

With sailings that run the gamut from the Caribbean to Alaska to Europe, Celebrity Cruises offers a ton of options throughout the world. The cruise line has 300 itineraries to all seven continents, many from the line’s home base in Miami.

Before you book a cruise with Celebrity, a line that’s part of the Royal Caribbean family, here’s everything you need to know.

Here are a few key features of Celebrity Cruises to help you decide if the line is right for you.

Cabin types: Depending on the cruise and ship, different cabins may be available — ranging from interior staterooms to suites with private balconies. The most premium option available, The Retreat, includes exclusive and expansive suites, dining, drinks, lounges and more.

Main U.S. routes : If you're planning to depart from the U.S., there are a number of destinations, including Alaska, the Caribbean, New England, Mexico and more. Many begin from ports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Seattle, Boston and New York.

Points currency and loyalty program: The rewards program is called Captain’s Club and you can earn Club Points with every sailing after signing up.

» Learn more: Are cruises all-inclusive?

Celebrity Cruises destinations

Celebrity Cruises can take you all over the world, from Alaska to Asia, the Mediterranean to Mexico, and other places in between. And for every destination, there are just as many options for trip length. Sail to the Bahamas for three nights, around Australia for nine or enjoy a transpacific cruise to Tahiti for 18.

» Learn more: Best credit cards for cruises

Just like with most other cruise lines, price depends on the destination and duration of the trip. A 12-night cruise in New Zealand, for example, might be $943 per person, while a four-night cruise to the Bahamas could be $259. The final cost depends on the cabin you choose, of course. On that Bahamas cruise, an interior room may be as low as $259, but a room with a veranda costs $399 and if you opt to book The Retreat, the price tag is a whopping $2,096.

Learn more : How much does a Caribbean cruise cost?

What’s included in the price?

Most Celebrity Cruises offer two booking options: Cruise Only or All Included. With Cruise Only, you can expect the following for no extra cost:


Entertainment, including theater and live music.

Room service (anytime for Retreat bookings, breakfast only for all other rooms).

If you opt for the All Included package, you also get:

Basic Wi-Fi.

Classic Drinks Package. 

» Learn more : The best cruise lines

As of fall 2023, there will be 16 Celebrity Cruises ships in the line’s fleet, including three smaller expedition ships that sail only to the Galapagos Islands. But one of the best according to some Celebrity Cruises reviews may be the Celebrity Apex, which offers itineraries from Portugal to Egypt to Scandinavia. Between the spa, 29 restaurants, two-story villa-style cabins and a photo-ready pool deck, it’s certainly a contender.

What is the newest Celebrity Cruises ship?

The newest ship, the Celebrity Ascent, sets sail out of South Florida in November and may be the poshest ship in the fleet. An Edge Series ship that’s already won numerous awards, it will start by sailing to the Caribbean before cruising to Europe and will feature more expansive views, at least 30 dining options, live entertainment, a full spa and even a rooftop garden.

» Learn more: The pros and cons of cruises

The six tiers of status in the Captain’s Club rewards program are, in order from lowest level to highest level:

» Learn more : How much luggage can you take on a cruise?

How to earn Captain’s Club points

Points are earned based on the category of your cabin (larger more expensive cabins earn more points) and the length of your cruise. So the more you spend, the more you earn. For example, you could earn anywhere from two to 24 points per night just based on the suite you book.

Power Up Points

In addition to sailing, you can earn more points through Power Up Points. You will have to sign-up for the program, then Celebrity will email you with opportunities to participate via sharing social media posts or taking surveys. You’ll get one Club Point for every 10 Power Up Points you earn, which will automatically be added to your Captain’s Club account.

Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature Card

The Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature Card also offers a way to earn MyCruise points that can be redeemed for Celebrity cruises, upgrades, and onboard credits. Sign up and score 25,000 bonus points after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.

» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now

How to redeem Captain's Club points

How you redeem your Captain’s Club points will depend on what you’re redeeming them for. For discounts on drinks packages, you’ll have to pre-pay before your cruise starts by calling 800-760-0654, while dining discounts will be taken onboard. But many benefits can be viewed and managed from your Captain’s Club account.

Note that because Celebrity Cruises is part of the Royal Caribbean family, status reciprocity exists across the two brands, meaning your status and benefits will be acknowledged on either line you’re currently cruising with whether you earned status with Captain’s Club or Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society.

» Learn more: Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival

Wi-Fi is available on all ships except for the Galapagos Expedition cruises, but you’ll pay for it: Basic and Premium Wi-Fi packages are available, though cost varies.

Various drinks packages are available on Celebrity Cruises, from a Zero-Proof nonalcoholic package that includes tea, coffee and smoothies for $30 per day, a Classic Drinks Package that starts at $89 per day and includes alcoholic drinks up to $10, to a Premium Package that includes drinks that cost up to $17 and costs $109+ per day.

For most Celebrity sailings, proof of vaccination against COVID or a negative test aren’t required. There are a few exceptions when traveling to destinations with strict regulations, so check with Celebrity before booking to find out.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023 , including those best for:

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

1x-5x Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

on Bank of America's website

1.5x-2x Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

60,000 Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card

on US Bank's website

1x-5x 5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center. 4X points on travel, gas stations, and EV charging stations. 2X points on streaming services. 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, and dining. 1X point on all other eligible purchases. Points never expire.

50,000 Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening. That's a $500 value redeemable towards travel, gift cards, cash back, merchandise and more.

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European Cruises

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Discover the Charm and Beauty of Europe 

Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultures of Europe on a voyage beyond your imagination with Celebrity. Taste wines grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, or feast on tapas on the beach in Barcelona. Explore the antiquities of Greece and the art treasures of Florence with an expert, or glide along Norway’s serene fjords to a soundtrack of tumbling waterfalls and birdsong. Celebrity can fulfill your dreams of exploring the Old World on a European cruise—and you’ll only have to unpack once.

Featured European Cruises

Mediterranean Cruises

Embark on a Mediterranean cruise along the coasts of Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Greece. Discover itineraries from a leisurely 7-night Greek Islands voyage to nine nights exploring the Italian coast and the lavender fields of Provence.

View Sample Itinerary Map

British Isles Cruises

Travel back in time on a spectacular 11 or 12-night roundtrip of Iceland and the British Isles. You’ll see everything from colorful Cork in Ireland to neolithic standing stones in Orkney and Iceland’s smoldering volcanoes.

Scandinavia Cruises

Take in some of Scandinavia’s most cosmopolitan cities, from stylish Stockholm to creative Copenhagen, on a 12-night voyage. Or, take a 7-night cruise to the Norwegian fjords to marvel at glaciers, waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains.

View Popular European Cruise Destinations

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whats an expedition cruise

British Isles

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Find Your Perfect European Cruise Vacation

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Why Cruise to Europe with Celebrity Cruises

Cruise to Europe with Celebrity and you’ll enjoy the best of all worlds, from cultural immersion and culinary adventures ashore, to our contemporary, design-led ships. Rejuvenate your spirit in The Spa, unwind by the pool, and toast the end of another perfect day at the Sunset Bar as the lights of the shore fade away.  

On Celebrity’s ships, you enjoy a different restaurant at every meal, with menus designed by a Michelin-starred chef. Try anything from mouth-watering seafood to steak, flavor-packed Italian and gourmet French cuisine. Don’t miss Dinner on the Edge on Edge-series ships, with dining under the stars on The Magic Carpet, high above the ocean, with uninterrupted views. Elevate your experience to the next level at The Retreat, with sumptuous, all-suite accommodation, access to a private sundeck and tranquil lounge, and dining at the exclusive Luminae at The Retreat. 

Let Celebrity take you to some of Europe’s most exciting ports, whether your dream is to admire the dazzling architecture of Barcelona or to sip espresso in a sunlit square on Italy’s exquisite Amalfi Coast. Sail along Norway’s glassy fjords, waterfalls tumbling from towering cliffs, or immerse yourself in the steaming waters of Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. Over the course of a week, you could visit six different ports in multiple countries and still have plenty of time to enjoy the ship. We will help you make the most of your time ashore, too, with our range of imaginative excursions, from Destination Highlights to Small Group Discoveries, or even custom-designed Private Journeys. 

A Perfect Vacation

From short sailings of 4 nights to longer, more immersive voyages of 12 nights and more, Celebrity has a European cruise for you. Whether you’re dreaming of sun-drenched beaches, the art and culture of the Old World, natural beauty, or simply absorbing the relaxed pace of life around the Mediterranean, you’ll find your perfect vacation with Celebrity.  

Featured Articles

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7 Incredible Places to Add to Your Europe Bucket List

Sure, London and Paris may attract the lion’s share of visitors to Europe, but a visit to either is really only scratching the surface.

whats an expedition cruise

15 Unique Places to Visit in Europe

With a geographic area stretching north to the volcanoes of Iceland and dipping southwards to the pebbly beaches of Greece, it’s no surprise that the list of unique places to visit in Europe is long and astonishing.

whats an expedition cruise

10 Most Beautiful Countries in Europe

Europe has such an enormous range of diversity, culturally and geographically, that it would take years to discover every one of its 44 countries and pick your favorite.

whats an expedition cruise

15 Incredible Port Cities in Europe

Europe is so full of incredible cities, islands, villages, and historic landmarks that it’s hard to choose between them to craft a vacation itinerary.

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What to Pack for Iceland

Iceland’s temperatures are known for fluctuating quickly, easily going from warm and sunny to frigid, within the same day—or even within the same hour.

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13 Best Summer Destinations in Europe

When the days start to lengthen and the air feels warmer, Europe begins to wake up for the summer.

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Three Days in Amsterdam

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Packing List for a European Summer Vacation

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Top Europe FAQs

Where can I cruise to in Europe? 

A Celebrity European cruise vacation takes you to some of the most exciting cities in the world, from Iceland and the Fjords in Northern Europe to the Mediterranean,  the Canary Islands and the stunning Greek Isles. You’ll set sail on spectacular new adventures on any European cruise with Celebrity. 

We depart from eight incredible ports in Europe including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice, and Rome just to name a few. There are plenty of ways to embrace the best of everything in the region. View our European itineraries for more details.

When’s the best time to cruise?

We offer a wide variety of Europe itineraries with our newest Edge-class ships sailing during the summer and Celebrity Infinity year round. Each region of Europe offers different experiences guests can enjoy. 

Enjoy the quintessential Mediterranean summer with spectacular beaches, warm weather, and delicious food, or sail through the Norwegian fjords between May and August, when they are at their most beautiful. Visit unique destinations like the Holy Land in the cooler months, from February to April.

How long are European cruises?

From 4-night getaways to 14-night sailings, we have options for everyone in Europe year round. Get away for a weekend to Belgium and the Netherlands or set off on a week-long adventure to the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords or the exquisite paradise of the Canary Islands. 

What should I pack?

What to pack for a cruise to Europe depends on where you’re headed, and when. For the Mediterranean in summer, you’ll need beachwear, a sun hat, and light clothes for a hot climate. The British Isles, on the other hand, is often cool and damp, even in the height of summer, so you should pack a light waterproof jacket. The same applies to Iceland, Ireland, and Scandinavia. You could be basking in hot sunshine, but there are no guarantees. 

If you’re traveling as the seasons change, in April and May, or between September and November, you’ll need to pack for all eventualities. Remember to include comfortable shoes for walking around ruins and through old castles, and something to cover your shoulders if you want to go inside churches and mosques.

Throughout the ship, casual resort wear, sundresses, shorts, polos, or button-downs are appropriate, paired with sandals, low heels, and loafers. In main and specialty dining, we ask guests to refrain from wearing swimsuits, see-through cover ups or robes, bare feet, tank tops, T-shirts, and baseball caps. 

Smart Casual attire is required for entry to main dining, specialty dining, and the Celebrity Theatre. Smart Casual means you look comfortable yet tasteful in a dress, skirt, long pants, or jeans with a stylish top or button-down. Shorts and flip flops are not considered Smart Casual. 

Each itinerary features one to two “formal” nights that we call Evening Chic. Evening Chic means you dress to impress, glamorous and sophisticated in your own way, with a cocktail dress, skirt, slacks, or designer jeans, an elegant dress top, or blazer—some guests even pack a tuxedo or gown for onboard photos. 

The daily program, delivered to your stateroom and available at the Guest Relations Desk, will be your guide to the correct attire each evening. If you do not wish to participate in Evening Chic, Smart Casual attire is acceptable for dining and attending the theater.

What can I see while I’m there?

Yes, you can request seat assignments in instances where the airline makes them available to Celebrity Cruises®. Most air carriers charge a fee for early seat assignment requests and when this occurs you will be directed to contact the airline directly to confirm your seating.

Europe has a rich, diverse mix of cultures and countries that you can immerse yourself in. See medieval towns like Tallinn, Estonia, or chic Scandinavian capitals such as Stockholm and Copenhagen. 

In the Mediterranean, visit Rome, Barcelona, Athens, Florence, and Pisa for a culture and history fix. You will see astonishing natural beauty, too, from geysers and volcanoes in Iceland to the rolling green hills of Ireland, and the majestic scenery of the Norwegian fjords. 

Pick an itinerary that matches your interests and pace yourself; some places are best explored with a guide, while in others, it can be fun to just sit and people-watch with a glass of local wine or a cold beer.

Should I book tours ahead of time?

If you are traveling in peak season, we recommend you book your Shore Excursions through My Celebrity Cruises as soon as you confirm your sailing as many attractions in Europe are extremely popular. 

Booking a shore excursion with Celebrity also means you’ll be visiting attractions with a professional guide, and on a tour that guarantees to return you to the ship on time. 

Whether you're looking for a private, customizable experience, a carefully curated guided tour with a small group, or an unforgettable trip to iconic local landmarks, we have the right option to discover any destination, granting in-depth knowledge, expertise, and a truly extraordinary experience.

Can I get around with English?

Many languages are spoken in Europe, from French, German, Italian, and Spanish to Estonian, Swedish, and Danish. Most people working in the hospitality industry speak at least some English.

Is a European cruise good for families?

A cruise to Europe is a great family vacation option as kids will be exposed to multiple cultures, not to mention millennia of history and different cuisines. You’ll find attractions that are great fun for the whole family, from the pretty Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen to the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. 

Kids will love exploring castles in Scotland and Ireland, basking in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, or spotting whales on a boat tour. The Norwegian fjords are packed with outdoor activities such as RIB rides, hikes, and kayaking, while a trip to the Mediterranean is a fantastic way to make ancient history come to life for kids in locations like the Colosseum in Rome, or the Parthenon in Athens.

Do I need a visa to cruise to Europe?

It is the responsibility of each guest to identify and obtain all required travel documents and have them available at the pier when necessary. Before leaving home, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the required travel documents you will be asked to provide prior to boarding the ship. You’ll find more information here . 

The vast majority of countries visited by European cruises do not require a visa. From 2024, Americans, Canadians, and British citizens will be required to register for the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to enter 30 European countries. 

This will be easy to apply for, inexpensive, and is simply a pre-authorization system similar to the ESTA that Europeans need to travel to the U.S. and Canada. Once you have the ETIAS, it will be valid for three years. You should make sure you have at least six months before your passport expires, too.

What type of currency will I need?

Most, but not all countries in Europe use the Euro as their official currency. All the places you will visit on your European cruise will have ATMs, and credit cards are widely accepted. Carry cash for things like taxi fares or purchases in markets. Some countries don’t use the Euro; in Britain, for example, the currency is the pound, while Sweden and Turkey both have their own currencies.

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whats an expedition cruise


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