Expedition cruising is the most exciting, action-packed cruise experience anywhere on the high seas. As the name implies, it's a taste of exploration and adventure in off-the-beaten-path places, but with out-of-this-world activities and accommodations. Since each expedition voyage varies based on the destination, the weather, or the unpredictability of nature, every adventure is uniquely different, but definitely unforgettable.
On the most popular voyages, you can expect some incredible bucket-list worthy experiences taking place while immersed in the world’s most beautiful places. Our CruiseInsider experts have planned dozens of these dream adventures and many have experienced expedition cruising themselves—journeys to the most remote, most exhilarating places on the planet. We know what to expect on board and onshore and have highlighted a few things for you to know.
Here's what you can expect on an expedition cruise and a variety of adventures to whet your appetite for new experiences and memories of a lifetime:
Enrichment takes precedence over entertainment on an expedition cruise. Instead of relaxing poolside with a cocktail, the expedition experience is all about getting off the ship. Zodiac boats will carry you to marine wildlife sanctuaries and icebergs. Polar excursions include sea-kayaking, glacier hiking, mountain-climbing or cross-country skiing. Warm-weather activities include swimming with sea lions in the Sea of Cortez or backpacking to see the blue-footed booby in the Galápagos Islands.
Most cruise lines bring experts aboard or alongside on the actual excursions—biologists, naturalists, geologists, anthropologists, historians and other specialists—who can identify the local wildlife or offer a cultural perspective on the place you’re exploring. You’ll discover the planet’s most remarkable places, accompanied by true experts able to illuminate everything you see. Plus, you’ll get to use the latest technology and cool new tools to help you explore everything in-depth and in style.
One key part of any expedition cruise is the emphasis on learning. Informative lectures and education is an integral part of each expedition and is evidenced in most of the on board activities. Nightlife is not what you’d expect from a traditional cruise either. You’re more likely to be offered lectures by naturalists and scientists than musicals or casino nights. In lieu of big productions and night clubs, evening entertainment often consists of talks by scientific experts to help illuminate what you’ve seen during the day.
Capture Your Memories
A picture is worth a thousand memories, and there’s no better place to pick up pointers from the pros on how to point and shoot than a photo expedition. You will create a lifetime of memories — and ones that you’ll undoubtedly want to immortalize on camera. Some expedition cruise lines, including Lindblad Expeditions, employ professional nature photographers to teach you and help you take amazing pictures of the wildlife and scenery. Having a professional photographer onboard to help you capture these unique moments can make the difference between a good picture and a great one.
Choose Your Own Adventure
On an expedition cruises you can push yourself to your limits or hole up in the library with a good book—because expedition cruising is about choosing your own adventure each day. Regardless of whether it's relaxing on the ship or rugged exploration on land, our experts can help customize your perfect day.
If adventure is calling you, here are some examples of incredible excursions you can expect to find on various expedition journeys.
- Hike across the rugged Arctic tundra on a naturalist-led guided tour to see foxes, caribou, walruses and even the occasional polar bear.
- Learn about the Arctic wildlife, polar history and interesting facts directly from the expedition team.
- Spend a night under the stars experiencing the Northern Lights up-close-and-personal, under a blanket on deck as you drift through the Arctic Circle.
- Visit an actual Antarctica research station to see the science in action with personnel who are eager to discuss their work with you.
- Experience the best pelagic birding on the planet in the Sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand, home to 126 species of birds including the rare yellow-eyed penguin.
- Visit nearby icebergs in Zodiac boats, search for whales, go on glacier hikes, and enjoy a wildlife photography session.
- Raft the rugged Chilkat River with local guides and visit at the ancient Chilkat Tlingit village of Klukwan
- Catch your own wild salmon and have it shipped home to enjoy after your cruise.
- Discover the culture and the history layered in the banks of the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
- Interact with the locals at authentic Amazonian villages and walk through the rainforest to look for monkeys, sloths, birds, insects and fascinating plant life.
- Discover the ruins of ancient temples or explore the incredible natural wonders that surround you.
- See the sunrise over Angkor Wat, a visionary and beautifully preserved 12th-century temple and the world’s largest religious monument.
- Explore rural villages as the local residents do, either on foot, or by 'cyclos' or 'tuk-tuks'.
- Gett “lost” in the beauty of the giant tropical waterfalls, lagoons and wildlife in the islands of the South Pacific.
- Learn about the ancestral lifestyles of the colorful indigenous people.
- Explore remote atolls and mesmerizing underwater attractions in Indonesia, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.
- Snorkel or dive with sea lions, whales and schools of hammerhead sharks.
- Visit 'Bird Island', home to over 30 bird species and admire the antics of red-footed and blue-footed boobies.
- Relax overlooking the Sea of Cortez and try on-deck yoga or a tranquil meditation.
- Search for gentle whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz while traveling among islands once explored by early Conquistadors.
- See Africa’s highest concentration of leopards in South Luangwa National Park—their rasping calls during night safaris create an otherworldly experience.
- Witness the massive cascade of Victoria Falls, a mammoth sheet of falling water roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls.
Greenland, Iceland & Norway
- Discover the Fjords and sculpted icebergs floating past the coastline.
- Cross the impressive volcanic plateau of Reykjanes before driving through the bustling fishing village of Grindavík.
- Snorkel, kayak, or paddle-board along the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest reef in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Spend time off the beaten path at temples like stunning Yaxha, the third largest ruin in the Maya world, beautifully situated on a ridge overlooking Yaxha Lake.
Whether you’re new to cruising or just want to try something new, expedition cruising is a great way to go beyond sightseeing and experience something much more immersive and interesting with education, enrichment and excitement at the forefront of your off-the-beaten-path adventure.
Contact a CruiseInsider expert today at (877) 734-6858 to learn more about expedition cruising and the exciting destinations where they venture.
The World's Best Festivals & Events
Around the world, in every season, festivals bring people together in colorful celebrations of unique heritages and cultures. Celebrating with locals and immersing yourself in the festivities is a great way to truly discover a destination as an insider–and the very best way to experience it all is from the comfort and safety of a cruise ship.Posted February 2nd, 2018
Insider Focus: Viking Cruises
Some cruise lines "rule" the river. Others cruise lines "own" the ocean.Posted January 26th, 2018
6 Tips for Taking a Family River Cruise
River cruising has long been associated with retirees and baby boomers, but many lines have begun to forgo their sedate, "stuffy" reputations to offer fun adventures for the whole family! With exciting sailings, exclusive savings and entire ships designed to appeal to children of all ages and multigenerational family adventures, there has never been a better time to get the brood on board a river cruise. [BREAK] A leisurely river cruise is the perfect way for families to connect while experiencing the history, cuisine and culture of exotic locales in a peaceful, scenic and enriching way.Posted January 17th, 2018