Expedition cruise basics

Between a “normal” cruise and an “expedition cruise”, the way to travel using a ship is the same. However an expedition cruise, will carry you in some of the world’s most remote areas, such as the polar regions. Expedition cruises cater for adventure-seeking travelers.
☞ What is an expedition cruise ?
Traveling on an expedition cruise (in the polar regions in particular), is a taste of exploration and adventure on, off-the-beaten-path places. Operators use ships of different sizes to carry you where the wildlife, nature, and landscape are unique and well preserved. As soon as you leave the pier, forget TV, radio, internet and mobile phone as you are now on an expedition ! You won’t see civilisation for days…
☞ How ?
Whatever its size, the ship is used as a moving means, a place to rest and restoration, as a floating hotel. But it’s also a place for lectures, briefings, movies, and a fantastic platform for observation (wildlife, ice, landscapes…)
The use of Zodiacs (inflatable boats engine), allows you to leave the vessel and observe wildlife closer, cruise between the ice, and/or to make landings in order to go hiking, exploring…
Some tour operators also offer trips in kayaks, camping and even diving.
Zodiac cruise in Svalbard Zodiacs in the Russian Far East
☞ What about activities and program ?
In the polar regions, more than anywhere else, everything depends on ice and weather conditions, including also wildlife. Most of the time, two activities per day are scheduled, but we assure you, nothing will be like the brochure you saw prior to your departure. Programs are compiled to provide a general idea of what plan “A” is, however this will change and be adapted daily and sometimes hourly, according to local conditions (read this page to know more about itinerary and program).
☞ Staff, guide, pedagogy…
On board, in addition to the ship’s crew (officers, mechanics, hotel department…), there is an expedition team (composed of guides, lecturers, Zodiac drivers) led by an expedition leader. The number of guides depends on the ship’s size and passenger numbers (there is usually one guide for twenty passengers). They all have one objective in common: share their passion for the visited regions ! They are specialists about wildlife, history, oceanography, ice…
Thanks to their training, experience and in-depth knowledge, above all is their dedication and passion for what they do. They will ensure the pedagogical part of your journey and also your safety. It’s very important that you follow their instructions and advice all the time.
☞ Which vessel ?
Different ships can convey you on an expedition cruise : from 12 passengers, up to 300 ! Some of them are ice-class strenthened vessels, others are not. Some only cruise with no landings…
The offer of the tour operators is wide and also varies, but we will most of the time, advise and recommend you, for trips on ships carrying around a hundred passengers or less. More than 200 (maximum) we can’t call that an expedition cruise anymore !
So before you book your trip, think carefully about the goal(s) of your journey, such as what do you expect exactly or hope for. Think about:
– the size of the group you would like to travel with
– the topic that interests you most (wildlife observation, cultural voyage, focus on photography…)
– language departure (for life on board, lectures, safety…)

Expedition cruise ship in Greenland
☞ Language departure:
For most of the departure process, the main language spoken on board is English. It means that all safety meetings and briefings regarding activities, lectures and so on, will be done in English. From time to time, they are bi-lingual for departure such as in, English/German, English/French, meaning that everything on board, will be done in two languages.
☞ What’s the best time to travel ?
For expeditions cruises in polar regions, we recommend you to:
– from mid-June to mid-September in the Arctic
– from Novembre to end of February for the Antarctic
But once again, ask us before your plan your trip, as sometimes the ideal time/date can be very different and accurate – for example, to see the aurora borealis, particular species of wildlife, ice conditions…
☞ How fit should I be ?
Most expedition cruises are generally accessible to all (some vessels are adapted for disabled people). However before your plan your journey, you have to assess your conditions and think about:
– the activities proposed during your trip: for example you need good physical condition for a 4-5 hours hike, although a zodiac cruise will be possible for all
– facilities on board : steep stairs, no lift…
☞ About sea-sickness…
Sea-sickness depends very much on the individual. Not everybody is prone to sea-sickness and our experience is, that only a small percentage of passengers get sick on any trip. Most of people who experience sea-sickness, are fine after a day or so at sea. If you feel that you are particularly susceptible to sea-sickness then it is a good idea to talk to your local doctor. Bring enough motion sickness tablets, or patches with you and be sure you have eaten enough, drink plenty of water and feel rested. Most of the time, sea-sickness happens during transit or sailing in open sea, but once in position in fjords of protected bays, there is nothing to be worried about…
Please note : on a small vessel (sailing boat or less than 12 passengers ship) there is no doctor on board !