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Top 10 destinations for expedition cruises

Expedition boat visiting Ilulissat Icefjord

Expedition cruising, or adventure cruising as it’s sometimes called, is one of the fastest growing sectors of cruise holidays. But before you start imagining something out of Scott of the Antarctic and get put off, most expedition cruises actually boast 4 and 5 star luxury.

Expedition ships are also smaller than your average cruise ship. Accommodating anywhere between 80 to 400 people guests, their small size means they can visit islands and places that conventional cruise ships cannot get anywhere near. So, the destinations on your itinerary are usually untouched by mass tourism – perfect for exploration.

Here’s a run down of 10 of the best destination for expedition cruises.

Cruise ship passing through the Lemaire Channel in Antarctica

Antarctica

Without a doubt the most spectacular of all the expedition cruise destinations is Antarctica. To walk in a rookery of tens of thousands of penguins or visit the hut of the early explorers exactly as they left it is an unforgettable experience.

Adelie Penguin colony

But the Antarctic is also the most dangerous of destinations as the weather can change in an instant, so be prepared for your itinerary to change overnight due to wind and ice conditions.

Some companies also include The Falklands, South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands in their itineraries.

View of mountains and glaciers in Svalbard

Svalbard

Often called Spitzbergen, beside Walrus Svalbard is the land of the polar bear and has the highest concentration of the animal in the northern polar regions.

Polar bear warning sign

As part of Norway, it‘s also a duty free zone! A direct flight from Oslo can land at one in the morning but as there are 24 hours of daylight up here in the season many of the locals stay up in the bars and hotels to greet you.

Take note that because of the mud, slush and snow you are often asked to leave your shoes in the hallway before you enter a building!

Expeditions are available all year round, with fantastic activities to suit the season, from kayaking in summer to dog sledding in winter.

Colourful houses in Greenland

Greenland

The Inuit people who live in Greenland are a joy to meet and their churches and brightly coloured houses are a feast for the eyes.

The stunning Ilulissat Icefjord is the world’s largest glacier outside of Antarctica and is perhaps the biggest draw. Treat yourself to a helicopter ride for a birds-eye view or hop upon an iceberg cruise to visit up close.

Musk oxen, arctic fox and narwhal are visible on the wildlife side. You’ll need mosquito repellent as they can be quite active on some of the coastal sites but the icebergs and amazing scenery of Disco Bay make it all so worthwhile.

Tarrafal beach on Santiago Island in the Cape Verde Islands

Cape Verde Islands

The subtropical, volcanic islands of Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean enjoys beautiful weather all year round. The archipelago is split into two distinct groups. The southern half is distinctly African in flavour while the northern group is mixture of Portuguese, British, French and African culters making a mini mid-Atlantic Brazil.

Each island is different and landings can be on soft sand beaches, rocky coves or small jetties. Historical towns, unspoiled nature, whales and turtles, stunning volcanic scenery, great food and homemade rum are all on offer!

White sand beach in Seychelles

The Seychelles

The melting pot of British, French and Indian cultures has made the Seychelles a stunning and fascinating place to visit. Not to mention it has some of the best beaches in the world.

The islands are home to Aldabra giant tortoises, fruit bats, the Seychelles tree frog and some of the most incredible birdlife on the planet. Visit early in the year to see the wildlife at its best.

Many of the islands are uninhabited international nature reserves and don’t allow cars, so you’ll need to hire a bicycle to get around.

Polar bear on ice in the Arctic

Russian Arctic

This part of the world is wild, rugged, seldom visited, totally isolated, desolate and simply stunning. The perfect place for true exploration.

This isolation has resulted in an amazing ecosystem where the wildlife and pristine landscapes that only opened up with the demise of the Soviet Union make for an unforgettable experience.

Truly wild and remote, the Kamchatka Peninsula is arguably the highlight of the expedition when cruising, while Wrangel Island is truly the wild frontier with the opportunity to spot orca, musk ox, brown bears and polar bears.

Torres del Pane National Park scenery

Patagonia

Expedition cruises to Patagonia include the southern end of South America, covering Argentina and Chile. Many of the excursions delve deep into the southern section of the Andes Mountains, such as to the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park.

Lakes, deep fjords, and glaciers to the west with deserts and tablelands to the east make a cruise along this coastline a truly unique experience.

Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina

A must for all visitors is a visit to the Glacier Perito Moreno in the Parque Nacional los Glaciares. The marine life here is breathtaking. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of the southern right whale, magellanic penguins, orcas and elephant seals.

Giant tortoise on the sea edge, Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos

Without doubt the greatest wildlife experience on the planet, as the chance of getting so close to the animals can’t be bettered elsewhere. Each island is different as are the species inhabiting it.

There is really never a bad time to visit the Galapagos. Both wildlife viewing and water activities are fantastic all year round. The main tourist period is from June to August but do find out which species are on the island at what time of year before you go.

The islands are changing rapidly so if you’re keen on visiting, plan a trip soon. Highlights include the giant tortoises, marine iguanas and snorkelling with penguins.

Playa Espadilla Beach in Costa Rica

Central America

The eastern side of the Central American Isthmus has hundreds of small islands and archipelagos spread all the way along its coast from Costa Rica to Mexico. The waters are shallow here and on our cruise we never saw another ship for nine days.

Small tribal communities, fishing villages and holiday homes can only be accessed by ferries or the islanders own boats. The islands here are mostly inhabited and the beaches are pristine.

River excursions take you deep into the rainforest to see the ruins of ancient Mayan cities, and snorkelling in the world famous Blue Hole, with no land in sight!

Humpback whale breaching in Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez

Formed by the California peninsula running southwards on the Pacific shore of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of Baja is where you’ll see huge pods of dolphins and Humpback Whales that come here to mate and feed. You can even see them breaching from the Spanish Colonial towns or deserted islands that litter the coastline.

Expedition cruises run from November through to April, avoiding the hottest summer months and the hurricane season. They’re also timed for the best wildlife viewing opportunities.

The highlight of this cruise is when you are able to snorkel with Californian Sealion pups.

Feeling inspired to explore the world on a cruise holiday? Don’t forget your cruise travel insurance for peace of mind on your next adventure.

To find out which activities are covered with our travel insurance policies, please read our policy documents.

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