Not Into Typical Cruises? Here's Why Expedition Cruises Might Be Right For You

There are probably no conga lines in the Antarctic Ocean. This isn't a proven fact, but expedition cruises are a bit different than your typical cruise experience. As the name implies, expedition cruises emphasize exploration over opulence and voyaging over VIP packages. While you won't get scurvy on an expedition cruise, you may not get decorative fruit platters either. The idea of an expedition cruise is to set sail into the unknown and seldom seen. And according to a 2020 survey in Travel Market Reports, half of industry insiders who were polled predicted that sales of expedition cruises would increase 10-25% the following year. 

Unlike conventional cruises, an expedition cruise's itinerary (if you want to call it that) is designed to be pretty flexible. The weather, passenger interest, and animal migration may all dictate the activity for that day or that hour. Try telling a captain of a mega-ship you'd prefer to port in Ocho Rios over Montenegro Bay to see Dunn's River Falls. Along with getting quickly escorted off the bridge, your request will be ignored. On an expedition cruise, however, the thrill of the unknown and unplanned is often the point.

Choosing where to explore on your expedition cruise

Since the beginning of time, mankind has yearned for exploration, seeking out foreign lands like Magellan or "going where no man has gone before" like Captain Picard. Although we can't warp-speed into to space (yet), there are plenty of less-intergalactic nooks and crannies on earth to explore. Popular destinations for expedition cruises include the Alaskan coast, Antarctica, the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands. However, since expedition cruises are gaining in popularity, your choice of destination is expanding.

According to a recent article in Men's Journal, there are some new and exciting destinations literally on the horizon. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has planned a few routes that cruise the western coast of Africa for 2023, while Ponant now offers a 16-day cruise to the actual, geographically factual North Pole. Overall, the destination really depends on where you'll like to go and for how long. One characteristic of expedition cruises is their variance in duration. While some adventure itineraries last maybe a week, other routes can take months. Bring an orange.

Choosing your own adventure when planning an expedition cruise

Sure, mega-cruises may seem like an adventure at sea. But are they really? Barring, possibly, the misadventure of "drinks included," a conventional cruise is pretty, well, conventional. You'll eat, hang poolside, see cool sunsets, explore ports of call, and repeat. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. If asked, most people probably prefer a gentle Caribbean breeze over the Southern Ocean's freezing sea spray. However, you also won't soon forget that inflatable Zodiac ride to see a colony of emperor penguins.

According to the 2020 Travel Market Report, survey respondents cited wildlife experiences, the sheer adventure of the cruise, and the itinerary as the top three reasons for choosing an expedition cruise. Fortunately, most expedition cruises include awesome wildlife, a flexible itinerary, and bucket list-caliber adventures. Typical cruises can definitely be enjoyable. But for those who prefer leaving the safety of the harbor, an expedition cruise can broaden your horizon to new adventures.