More and more Canadians are discovering the joys of cruising, on large megaliners, on intimate river cruise ships, and even on traditional sailing vessels. And there’s another niche which is seeing growing interest, particularly among the 50+ crowd: expedition ship cruising. You could say it’s both the latest trend and the last frontier.
What’s an expedition ship? It’s a small ship (maximum around 175 passengers) dedicated to visiting some of the world’s most inaccessible places. On board, rather than a karaoke club or champagne bar, you’re more likely to find scientists and researchers whose lectures are one of the main attractions. “If their profession ends in ‘ist’ – botanist, archaeologist, marine biologist – chances are you’ll find them on an expedition ship,” says Pat Rochon, Vision Travel’s senior manager of active travel who likens the ships to floating classrooms.
Days are spent explore ashore (or afloat) hiking, kayaking, on board a zodiac or snowshoeing. Perhaps you hike through a pristine jungle or get up close and personal with a few hundred penguins.
Sample destinations include the polar regions, both north and south, the Amazon or the South Pacific.
Not surprisingly, the folks on board are not first time travellers. “You tend to find people from all over the world, North America, Europe, Asia, on board and they’re well-travelled, well-heeled, well-educated and curious people,” says Rochon, who has sailed on expedition ships in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
Once fairly primitive in their amenities, now that they are not purely research vessels the ships are now becoming more comfortable, with the addition of libraries, bars, saunas and hot tubs. “Think of it as adventure by day, comfort at night,” says Rochon.
An expedition ship will take you places no other ship can even get near to…some of the world’s most remote and pristine corners. No wonder it can be a life-changing trip.