The best new expedition cruise ships
The expedition sector used to be known for its old tonnage: former polar research ships repurposed for tourism. Of course, when you’re sailing to some of the most dramatic, inaccessible and fascinating ends of the earth, you’re not really on board for the ship’s décor, you’re there for the destination. But, as the demand has grown for adventure cruise, the industry has invested more in hardware – ships that allow for greater immersion, safer travel, better food and more luxurious surroundings.
Here were looking at eight of new-builds in expedition cruise – from the recently launched to those that are coming soon.
Launched: September 2019
Guests: 228 (200 in polar regions)
The World’s First Discovery Yacht, as Scenic has dubbed it, may have been much delayed due to financial issues at the shipyard, but it’s well worth the wait. The Polar Class ship has been built with adventure cruise in mind and it will explore the Arctic and Antarctica, as well as the Americas and Europe. The ship is among the most beautiful we’ve seen – from its 114 all-balcony suites to its 10 dining venues (an amazing amount given it can only carry 228 guests; 200 in polar regions). Its headline-grabbing features are its submarines and helicopter, which allow for greater exploration of Antarctica in particular.
The sixth ship in a new series, joining Le Laperouse and Le Champlain (2018), Le Bougainville and Le Dumont-d’Urville (2019), Le Jacques-Cartier will launch in 2020, along with Le Bellot. It will, according to Ponant, boast a “a subtle blend of refinement, intimacy and comfort”, with 92 staterooms and suites. The ship will begin its first season in northern Europe before heading to the Middle East and then Indian Ocean. A hybrid LNG ship, Le Commandant-Charcot, is scheduled to launch in spring 2021.
MS Fridtjof Nansen
Guests: 530 (500 in Antarctica)
The sister ship to MS Roald Amundsen, this will be Hurtigruten’s second hybrid ship, which, powered partly by electricity, will cut emissions. Light, airy and Scandi in style, the ship will have three restaurants and the Nansen Science Center, where guests can get a deeper understanding of the areas it explores. That is: Norway, Svalbard, Greenland and Antarctica.
National Geographic Endurance
Launches: January 2020
Purpose-built for polar navigation, National Geographic Endurance is a fully stabilised, highly strengthened, ice-class Polar Code PC5 (Category A) vessel. Like Greg Mortimer (see right) it will employ the innovative X-Bow design, making for smoother sailing. It will have 69 cabins, 75 per cent of which will have balconies, while 12 cabins will be designed for solo travellers. An outdoor barbecue is another nice touch.
Launched: August 2019
Named after the Australian mountaineer, one of the first two Australians to successfully climb Mount Everest, and the co-founder of Aurora Expeditions, this 104m-long ice-class ship will debut the X-Bow, an inverted bow designed to enable gentler sea crossings and reduced emissions – perfect for Antarctica, where it will sail for part of the year. The ship will feature hydraulic viewing platforms, a Zodiac launching platform and a custom-built activity platform for kayaking and diving. There are private balconies in about 80 per cent of the staterooms, and even interconnecting staterooms, which are perfect for families.
Launches: August 2020
Another new-build in the ultra-luxury sector, Crystal’s mega-yacht has been designed to cruise the polar regions, as well as Japan, Australia and the Pacific. Beautifully decorated and employing state-of-the-art technology and replete with submarine and helicopters, it promises to bring expedition and comfort to well-heeled guests – and also boasts a one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio.
Launches: summer 2020
Replacing Silver Galapagos, Silversea’s purpose-built Silver Origin will arrive in the Galapágos Islands next year. With eight Zodiacs, the ship will allow deep exploration of the region that inspired Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (hence the name). The ship will feature an area called the Base Camp for socialising and learning. With all-suite accommodation, Horizon Balconies, butler service, and 90 crew members for 100 guests, this will be the most luxurious vessel dedicated to the region.