Expedition cruises visit off-the-beaten-path ports and remote places of pristine natural beauty that offer great opportunities for observing wildlife up close. Among popular destinations are the Arctic, Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands, though expedition sailings are available in many other regions around the world. Itineraries emphasize adventure and exploration.
Expedition ships are small and often purpose-built for the region they sail -- many have strengthened hulls designed for navigating ice-packed waters, for example. A line may specialize exclusively in expedition cruising, or it may devote specific ships or itineraries to this style of travel.
Some companies have merged the exploratory aspects of expedition cruising with a luxurious onboard experience that includes superb dining, upscale accommodations and impeccable service. Even with upscale offerings on board, however, the atmosphere on these vessels and other expedition ships tends to be casual, and passengers dress comfortably day and night in attire that is appropriate considering the climate of the regions explored.
On board any expedition ship, guests can often enjoy lectures given by naturalists, wildlife specialists, biologists and historians – experts in their field who are devoted to sharing their knowledge and experiences with passengers. Presentations and informal chats alike provide unique opportunities to learn about the world.
Thrilling moments abound on the ship, from incredible views of remote landscapes to wildlife sightings in the sea and ashore. The ship’s captain might even alter course slightly or slow the ship to take advantage of a special opportunity to observe animals in the surrounding environment.
Unique activities off the ship are also an important of the expedition experience. It's common to transfer from your anchored ship into small yet sturdy motorized inflatable crafts like Zodiacs for shore landings. In Antarctica, for example, you might board a Zodiac and cruise amid icebergs to rocky beaches where penguins and lounging elephant seals await.