Expedition cruising is set to burst out of the blocks in 2022 with a host of cutting-edge expedition ship launches and exciting new expedition voyages.
New expedition ships launching in 2022 and 2023
Viking Cruises has kicked off the year in style with the January launch of its 189-cabin Viking Octantis, with sister Viking Expeditions ship, Polaris, due by year-end. Octantis’s key selling points include its ‘citizen science’ space, The Laboratory, and ‘in-ship marina’, The Hangar, enabling guests to board excursion-bound RIBs, Zodiacs and submarines from within the ship.
Fellow river cruise specialist VIVA Cruises is another line launching its first expedition ship for the April to October 2022 season with all Arctic and European ocean voyages aboard the 82-cabin Seaventure featuring its VIVA all-inclusive offering. Standouts include Eternal Ice of the Arctic, a 24-day round trip from Bremerhaven, Germany, with one departure apiece in July and August.
May sees the debut of both Heritage Expeditions’ new 140-passenger flagship vessel, Heritage Adventurer, a stylish reworking of MS Hanseatic, and Silversea’s new-look Silver Wind. The latter, repurposed as an ice-class expedition ship, will focus on the Med and Northern Europe before summering in the Arctic.
The 2022/3 season also sees the delayed debut of Aurora Expeditions’ Sylvia Earle, with its Citizen Science Centre and sumptuous wellness centre, while upscale operator Atlas Ocean Voyages aims to grow from one vessel to five by late 2023.
Further ahead, Seabourn’s second expedition cruise ship, Seabourn Pursuit, launches in February 2023, a Northwest Passage sailing from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Nome, Alaska among its prize picks. Scenic Eclipse II is another big splash set for 2023, the latest upscale ‘discovery yacht’ from Scenic Luxury Cruises coming complete with Triton submarine.
New expedition voyages for 2022 to 2024
Destinations gaining traction include North America. Options for June 2023 include a 10-night Great Lakes – the American Dream cruise aboard Hapag-Lloyd’s HANSEATIC inspiration (from £5,920pp, departing Detroit) and Viking Octantis’s 15-day Great Lakes Collection itinerary between Toronto and Duluth, featuring all five Great Lakes. Highlights of Hurtigruten Expeditions’ ramped up Americas offerings for 2023/24 include its explorations of U.S. National Parks on the east and west coasts, and a new 10-day expedition cruise from Panama to Barbados.
Africa continues to suffer from Covid-19 related schedule changes with Crystal Cruises cancelling four West Africa voyages set for spring 2022. In their place, December saw the upscale operator announce a beefed-up schedule of 10- to 15-night voyages for Crystal Endeavor, from March 1 to April 29, 2022, taking in Antarctica, South America, and Europe.
Things look rosier down the line with the Comoro Islands featuring among Silversea’s 60-plus maiden calls for 2023. Most excitingly, Hurtigruten Expeditions has sprinkled some West African itineraries in its biggest ever small ship expedition cruise programme for 2023/24. Destinations served by its Dakar, Senegal-based MS Spitsbergen include Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and the Bissagos Islands.
What’s new in small-ship expedition cruising?
Hurtigruten Expeditions has also upped its Galápagos game. The line partnered up with local operator Metropolitan Touring to upgrade 50-cabin MS Santa Cruz II.
The new-look vessel features a Science Corner which will offer two Citizen Science projects – part of Hurtigruten Expeditions’ signature Science Program. Having wet its beak with a six-night Eastern Galápagos cruise, departing January 7, 2022, Hurtigruten will offer additional four-night Western and Northern options for 2023 and 2024, available year-round, with the option to combine itineraries.
Other small ship operators upping the ante include Maple Leaf Adventures whose ‘regenerative’ expeditions aboard Maple Leaf, Cascadia and Swell, a restored historic tugboat accommodating 12 guests, ply the inland waterways and coastlines of Canada and Alaska. Highlights include Wild Side of Vancouver Island, offered July 9-15 and July 16-22 for both 2022 and 23.
Speaking of Alaska, it’s currently the sole focus of Windstar Cruises’ Signature Expeditions programme featuring expert-led hiking, kayaking and zodiac expeditions in places such as Kenai Fjords.
As part of its 2023/24 Antarctica programme, Scenic is featuring three new Antarctica ‘fly-cruises’ to King George Island, including 19-day standout Beyond the Antarctic Circle (from £15,850pp, departing February 8, 2024.)
Silversea, whose Silver Cloud began its 167-day Uncharted World on January 25, 2022 – billed as the first-ever expedition World Cruise – is also channelling the fly-cruise trend. Its two-hour Antarctica Bridge flight service from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, in the South Shetlands, set to run from December 2021 into 2023, should save Silver Explore passengers two sea days each way.
Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruises in 2022 to 2024
Albatros Expeditions is featuring record visits to South Georgia for its 2023/2024 Antarctica season. The cruises will be served by Ocean Albatros and Ocean Victory, which was christened in South Georgia in December while sailing its maiden voyage.
Point clients looking for exclusive experiences towards Ponant’s late 2021 launch, Le Commandant Charcot, which sets sail for the true geographic North Pole in summer 2022. For ultimate bragging rights, suggest that clients book Heritage Expeditions’ Ultimate High Arctic Expedition. Five passengers on the cruise, departing Nome, Alaska aboard Heritage Adventurer on July 24, August 7 and August 21, 2022, can enjoy an exclusive 10-day ‘island immersion’ with the rangers on Wrangel Island, a pristine wildlife haven renowned for its polar bear denning. (From US$11,950pp, or US$35,000pp including the island stay).