First Ship from Hapag-Lloyd’s New Expedition Class Sets Sail

By Staff Writer

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises introduces the HANSEATIC nature, the first of three ships from their new expedition class. Starting in Hamburg for its inaugural cruise, the state-of-the-art vessel will travel through the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, before finishing in Bergen. In addition to cruises to the Arctic in the European summer and to the Antarctic in the European winter, the HANSEATIC nature will offer warm-water cruises to destinations such as the Amazon, the South Seas, Chile’s fjords, the Azores and Cape Verde.

The second international ship, the HANSEATIC inspiration, will be commissioned in October 2019, followed by the HANSEATIC spirit in May 2021. All three structurally-identical ships can accommodate up to 230 guests, or 199 on Antarctic cruises and circumnavigations of Spitsbergen. HANSEATIC nature has two extendible balconies, a Nature Walk deck tour at the ship’s bow which allows for wildlife sightings, on-board kayaks and 17 on-board Zodiacs and E-Zodiacs with eco-friendly electric drive systems and a marina.

The vessels also feature cutting-edge equipment and environmental technology. All three are fitted with an SCR catalytic converter, which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by almost 95 percent; PROMAS rudders with special propellers; and a special hull design to reduce fuel consumption. This aligns with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ recent green initiatives, including the disuse of heavy oil in areas that require particular protection and the use of low-pollutant marine gas oil for about 70 percent of its expedition cruises. From July 2020, marine gas oil will be used on all routes for the entire expedition fleet.

Further on-board offerings allow guests to have an immersive cruise experience and learn more about the nature and environment of their various destinations. Experts will give daily presentations in the HanseAtrium, a separable multifunctional lounge with state-of-the-art technology and large LED screens. Deck 8, the heart of the Ocean Academy, acts as a touchscreen study wall with four study seats, digital study posters and a microscope area. With featured content provided by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, as well as scientists, experts and journalists, guests can conduct individual studies and research to deepen their knowledge of the natural wonders they encounter.

The new expedition class is being financed by an investment from the parent TUI Group and all ships in the fleet are the property of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and the TUI Group.

The cruise line has also worked with the OCEANARCHITECTS architectural office to reflect their “inspired by nature” philosophy both outside and inside through the ships’ interior design.

The 120 cabins and suites on the HANSEATIC nature range from Panoramic Cabins at 21 square metres to Grand Suites at 71 square metres. There are also exclusively-outside cabins with most housing their own balcony or French balcony. Additional luxuries include spacious wellness and fitness areas and a large pool area with a counter-current system.

Dining options begin with the Hamptons speciality restaurant, which boasts 44 seats and a diverse menu, from North American specialities to the more easy-going maritime flair of the East Coast. The main HANSEATIC Restaurant seats 178 guests while the Lido Restaurant offers 184 seats, in addition to its barbecue and a show kitchen. Flexible mealtimes and free choice of seating in the restaurants ensure that guests can fit their meals around their expedition experiences, rather than vice versa.

www.hl-cruises.com

Hapag-Lloyd to Sail Western Australia for the First Time

By Staff Writer

EUROPA 2, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ newest luxury ship, will sail through glamorous harbours, spectacular nature and varied coastal landscapes in its 2020/2021 season. From the Mediterranean and northern Europe to Asia and beyond, passengers on the upcoming trips will also be able to choose from a selection of themed cruises to suit fashion, art, sport and music enthusiasts.

The itinerary includes a first-ever visit to Western Australia, where guests can sand board in the desert, do a treetop canopy walk and spot giant red tingle trees in the Valley of the Giants and experience encounters with dolphins, emus and koalas. Starting in Melbourne, the premier route will travel through Adelaide and Kangaroo Island in South Australia, and then onto Albany, Busselton, Fremantle (Perth), Geraldton and Exmouth in Western Australia before a relaxing end in Bali, Indonesia.

Of the themed cruises on offer, FASHION2NIGHT, which starts in Hamburg, Germany offers an on-board fashion show by a renowned designer, while ART2SEA is a South Africa trip with exclusive visits to exhibitions, galleries and museums. Health and wellness-themed cruise IN2BALANCE boasts a slew of special guests including Olympic champions Maria Höfl-Riesch and Fabian Hambüchen, as well as famous yoga tutor and author Shida Pourhosseini; and the music-centric MS EUROPA 2 UNPLUGGED showcases intimate, on-board performances of singer-songwriters Heather Nova, Simon Webbe and other artists.

 

For more information on each of these cruises, visit www.hl-cruises.com.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Takes a Green Step Forward

By Staff Writer

Instead of heavy oils, Hapag-Lloyd will be turning to low-pollutant marine gas oil (MGO) for all routes sailed by its expedition ships in the fleet, including the HANSEATIC nature, the HANSEATIC inspiration, the BREMEN and the HANSEATIC spirit later in 2021.

The change comes as the cruising industry explodes and more and more ships set sail in a boom that is contributing to water pollution and other problems associated with mass tourism.

Karl J. Pojer, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, said acting responsibly towards nature and the environment is now a top priority for the company: “The decision to change fuels gradually and use marine gas oil all-year round on all expedition fleet routes in future is, for us, a step in the right direction towards achieving this important objective.”

The use of low-sulphur fuels in the Antarctic has been mandatory for several years, and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises currently uses marine gas oil with a sulphur content of just 0.1 per cent in other sensitive regions like the Arctic and Kamchatka. In addition, the new expedition ships are fitted out to use cold ironing and are equipped with a SCR catalytic converter that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by almost 95 per cent.

“The sensitive cruising areas that make up our expedition itineraries should be particularly protected. There are strict regulations in place for these regions that we adhere to, of course. We also set ourselves strict regulations to abide by when our ships cruise through the more remote regions,” said Pojer.

The routes will be planned and carried out with an average speed that is environmentally-friendly, cutting fuel consumption by around one third. The Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ fleet is also equipped with seawater desalination technology to produce clean water, as well as with biological sewage treatment plants. The bow thrusters and stabilisers run on environmentally-friendly bio-petroleum.

The HANSEATIC inspiration, one of the fleets to be running on low-pollutant fuel, will also be a smoke-free ship come October 2020, from cruise INS2020 onwards. This policy applies to all interior public areas as well as on deck, including the private balconies and verandas.

The fleet is expected to set sail for the Antarctic ten times in total. Its upcoming routes will also include the company’s first South Africa cruise and a first-ever changing of passengers in Goose Bay, Canada during its voyage from Cape Horn to Cape of Good Hope.

Online booking and new expedition cruise catalogues for the 2020-2021 season are available via www.hl-cruises.com.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Reveals Spas on Board New Expedition Ships

By Staff Writer

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has revealed details of the spa and fitness facilities that will be onboard the cruise line’s three new expedition ships. HANSEATIC nature, HANSEATIC inspiration – the company’s international expedition ship – and HANSEATIC spirit will all feature a ‘wellness deck’ on Deck 8 with an extensive Ocean Spa conveying the company’s wellness philosophy, “Inspired by nature”.

The 235-metres spa will focus on nature in everything from the ingredients used in treatments to the design of the treatment rooms. Floor-to-ceiling windows will give guests access to a spectacular, constantly changing landscape, which in turn will be reflected by the colours, tones and shapes used in each space. The spa will feature an outdoor area for relaxing, a Finnish sauna, a steam sauna, hydrotherapy shower and ice fountain as well as a hairdressing salon.

When it comes to treatments, the spa will only utilise sustainable products incorporating natural ingredients produced by Vinoble, Hyapur, John Masters Organics and Nailberry. The “Inspired by nature” philosophy will also be mirrored in the vegan formulas and the use of local produce, with no chemical or synthetics added to any products.

Next door to Ocean Spa will be a 100 metre-squared fitness area featuring state-of-the-art equipment and a fitness studio with a glass front which can be fully opened out on to its own outdoor area. Floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows throughout ensure nature is always on display while cruising through the icy scenery of the polar regions or the warmer waters of the Amazon.

A fitness trainer is also on hand on each ship for personal training classes, pilates and Antarctic sun salutation sessions. The sports facilities on board are based on the three pillars of relaxation, balance and strength.

Continuing on past the fitness area guests will find the spacious Sun Deck with the pool area covering about 630 m2 and a flexible canopy ensuring the area can be used come rain, show or shine.

HANSEATIC nature will be the first of the three, new Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ expedition ships to set sail on its maiden cruise on 13 April 2019, and will be aimed exclusively at the German-speaking market. In October it will be followed by the launch of its international, bilingual sister ship, the HANSEATIC inspiration and then by the HANSEATIC spirit in 2021, which will also be aimed exclusively at the German-speaking market.

These small, first-class expedition ships will feature cutting-edge technology and the highest ice class for passenger ships (PC6). They can accommodate up to 230 guests, or 199 guests on Antarctic cruises.

Retractable glass balconies on the Sun Deck give guests the feeling of hovering directly above the water and guests can stand on the foredeck of the ship to be closer to the action – even closer than the captain.

For bookings, enquiries or to request a brochure, click here.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Releases Japan Voyages Aboard EUROPA 2

By Staff Writer

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has announced its luxury vessel EUROPA 2 will be heading to Japan for the first time in 2019, with two new itineraries on offer: a 15-day ocean cruise from Hong Kong to Tokyo and an 18-day voyage from Tokyo to Singapore.

The journey out of Hong Kong will take you to Taipei, before journeying to Jeju in South Korea where you’ll take a trip across the volcanic island to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak.

Your first port in Japan will be Nagasaki, where you’ll learn all about the city’s turbulent past on a tour, before visiting the historic Sofukuji temple and the Peace Park. This route will take you up the Inasayama hill by cable car giving you spectacular views of Unzen, Amakusa and the Goto Islands.

Continuing the historic adventure, visit Hiroshima and the holy island of Miyajima to discover the moving details of Japan’s involvement in the Second World War. You will also find out all about traditional Japanese life and the vermilion Itsukushima-jinja Shrine.

On this voyage you’ll also get to visit one of the best-known spa resorts in Japan and melt into the hot thermal springs of Beppu and the Tatsumaki Jigoku geyser on an a shore excursion.

With two full days to spend in Kobe, you can head off on shore excursions to the ancient imperial city of Kyoto, famous for its countless shrines and temples; Nara, the legendary city of myths and traditions; or bustling Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city.

Wrapping up your Japanese journey is a vital visit to the county’s sprawling capital city of Tokyo. Here, visit the imperial palace and the Ginza district at your own pace or enjoy a view over the city on a helicopter flight. There are shore excursions on offer to world-famous Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, and you’ll get to experience the high-speed Shinkansen train.

On the lengthier 18-day voyage aboard EUROPA 2 from Tokyo to Singapore, guests will not only get to know the metropolis of Japan’s capital, but also some of Japan’s natural wonders. On the itinerary are trips to Ago Bay with its fjord-like waters and Mikimoto Pearl Island, where the first cultured pearls were created at the end of the 19th century.

Ishigaki, the main island of the Yaeyama archipelago, is famed for its idyllic swimming spots and fine sandy beaches, and guests on board EUROPA 2 will get to discover its beauty on a tour, with the fast ferry also taking you to the neighbouring island of Taketomi with its long sandy beaches and picturesque town.

Other highlights include an excursion to the Shuri Castle where fascinating impressions of Okinawa Prefecture await, a visit to the Shikinaen Royal Garden, and a trip to the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle, which dates back to the 15th century.

 

hl-cruises.com

State of the Art: Cruising Southeast Asia on Europa 2

By Grace Smith

“Guten morgen,” says the young woman handing me a moistened towel as I step on board Europa 2, an ocean cruise ship that is widely regarded as the best of its kind in the world. I utter an awkward “thank you”, silently reprimanding myself for not downloading a German translation app before my trip.

My discomfort is quickly forgotten as I am handed a flute of chilled champagne and ushered into the ship’s grand atrium. Light floods through immense floor-to-ceiling windows and the room’s sleek, minimalist interiors feel more suited to a Scandinavian design hotel than a cruise ship. Contemporary artworks from the likes of Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter hang on the walls, and curved sculptures stand on plinths.

While the curated interiors are striking, the clever architectural design is what makes Europa 2 truly outstanding. The soaring ceilings, open-plan layout and absence of thick pillars means that everywhere I turn I see the endless turquoise sea surrounding Koh Samui, the Thai island where we are currently docked.

I have joined Hapag-Lloyd’s grande dame for the final leg of her Hong Kong to Singapore sailing, and am looking forward to finding out why Douglas Ward (author of the 2017 Berlitz Cruise Guide) chose to bestow the ship a five-star-plus rating. Despite its stellar reputation, the German cruise ship, which sailed its maiden voyage in 2013, is still relatively unknown in Australia, with German-speakers making up 90 per cent of passengers.

As I step into the elevator that will take me to my room I realise the turquoise waves outside are following me – the elevator’s glass walls provide unobstructed ocean views, and I reach my deck without taking my eyes off the mesmerising blue sea.

I am staying in the most modest of the ship’s 251 cabins, although as I open the door to my 35-square-metre Veranda Suite I realise that Hapag-Lloyd’s idea of modest is vastly different to that of other luxury cruise lines. The room has its own balcony as well as a lounge, walk-in wardrobe and a bathroom not dissimilar to what you might find in a boutique hotel: there’s a spacious shower, generous-sized sink and vanity and even a bathtub.

On my first day, I decide to spend a few hours luxuriating in the room, starting by taking advantage of the complimentary 24-hour room service and my private balcony while blaring The Beatles from my entertainment system (one of the few English artists pre-programmed). I pop the cork on my welcome champagne and drop a bath bomb in the tub, enjoying a soak to wash off my flight.

I emerge feeling incredibly reinvigorated – I later learn that unlike most air conditioning systems, which use partially recycled air, the air on Europa 2 is drawn continuously from the outside, adding to the freshness of my cabin. It is a subtle feature that makes a big difference and gives me a new appreciation for the attention to detail the German company pays when it comes to clever design.

I now have my afternoon to plan, and consider the activities on offer across the ship. I can play a round on the golf simulator, take a guided tour of Europa 2’s 890 artworks, sample some of the world’s largest gin collection at sea, head to the gym for a workout with a view, or visit the spa for a beauty treatment or a sauna. Not wanting to overdo it on my first day, I decide to head to the pool.

As the elevator doors open onto the pool deck, I am instantly overwhelmed by the buttery-sweet smell of baking waffles. I follow my nose to the waffle stand and take my bounty back to one of the empty sun loungers dotted around the pool. Waiters descend on me almost instantly, offering fresh coconuts, fruit salad and assorted juices.

The attentive service on deck is reflective of the ship’s high ratio of staff to passengers. Europa 2 is almost at capacity on my trip, but a limit of 500 guests means that rather than the crowded feeling common to even some of the best cruise ships, this beautiful ship feels almost empty. There are dozens of free chairs around me, I never queue at the bar, and it is not uncommon to walk along an entire floor without seeing another passenger.

After whiling away a few hours in the pool filled with filtered ocean water, I decide to continue my German cultural immersion by dining in the ship’s signature restaurant, Weltmeere. After a failed attempt at deciphering the menu I am handed an English translation, which features international dishes along with some German favourites like wurst (sausages) and brisket. Weltmeere is one of the seven restaurants on board, along with Italian, French, Japanese and pan-Asian dining rooms and an obligatory buffet, all included in the fare.

During dinner at Weltmeere, my companion asks for tomato sauce with her fries and is rather bemused when the waiter returns with a freshly prepared bowl of hearty pomodoro pasta sauce. We are more than willing to forgive this amusing miscommunication from our friendly waiter, however the general service provided in the on-board dining venues is somewhat less attentive than what one might expect on a five-star-plus ship, with orders occasionally forgotten or only partially delivered. A tip for international travellers is to head straight to the self-serve buffet restaurant Yacht Club where the selection is extensive and the views are fantastic.

As I step into the elevator that will take me to my room I realise the turquoise waves outside are following me – the elevator’s glass walls provide unobstructed ocean views, and I reach my deck without taking my eyes off the mesmerising blue sea.

After dinner, I decide to skip the tap dancing performance in the theatre in favour of checking out the ship’s nightlife epicentre, Sansibar. I am pleasantly surprised to see plenty of groups sipping cocktails and a number of couples and young families tearing up the dance floor to a mix of ’80s classics, pop hits and the occasional German folk song. It is clear that the laidback luxury of the Europa 2 attracts a younger demographic than its more formal sister ship, Europa.

As I order my Mai Tai at the bar, I convert the cost to Australian dollars – drinks are, surprisingly, not included in Europa 2’s rates. Prices are very reasonable (significantly cheaper than at a standard Australian bar). But the additional expense does detract from the feeling of complete indulgence that draws people to luxury cruising. Hapag-Lloyd seems to understand that international guests expect an all-inclusive experience, so they offer all non-German guests a €200 beverage credit – more than enough for my eight days on board.

From my table at Sansibar’s outdoor seating area, I spot a small staircase on the side of the deck. I climb the stairs until I reach what may be the ship’s best-kept secret. The open-air top deck of the ship – the only area not serviced by an elevator – has a hot tub and plenty of bed-sized sun lounges, and when I visit it is completely deserted. I can’t resist a quick soak while staring up at the clear night sky, marvelling at the fact that I have the deck entirely to myself.

Sinking into my bed that night I think about the activities I have planned for the next day: a morning yoga session overlooking the ocean followed by jet-skiing around a private island and a champagne tasting in the evening.

While there’s so much to look forward to, I find myself most excited about the idea of spending a week sailing through the beautiful waters of Southeast Asia while immersing myself in the German microcosm that is the Europa 2.

hl-cruises.com

The Changing Face of Expedition Cruising

By David McGonigal

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”

The words of 19th century travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson certainly have a romantic edge, but he was riding a donkey. When it comes to expedition cruising, the journey is as hopeful as it is inspiring, and arriving in wonderful places aboard remarkable ships is all part of the service.

Until 1966 expedition cruising didn’t really exist. In that year Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first tourist trip to Antarctica on an Argentinean naval vessel. In 1969 he launched his own vessel, the Lindblad Explorer, to explore the world’s wildest places. However, luxury on board wasn’t a vital part of the concept. The real luxury was that you were able to visit those remote parts of the world at all. While that’s still partly true, there’s a new era in expedition cruising that combines comfort and experience.

Expedition cruises visit many parts of the world including the Galapagos, the Amazon, Papua New Guinea and Australia’s Kimberley coast. But the core area remains the polar regions.

Until 1990 the number of tourists to Antarctica was tiny – a mere few hundred each year. Then the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet empire collapsed. The ice-strengthened ships of the Russian fleet found themselves underfunded and many were leased to take tourists (mainly from the United States but also Australia, the UK, Germany and Canada) to the poles, helping fund their scientifc programs for the rest of the year. It was the beginning of the polar travel boom.

Today, the second stage of expedition cruising has arrived. As many of the Russian expedition ships reached the end of their working lives, or came up against new clean-fuel requirements, they were retired. Meanwhile, travellers were demanding more comfort and expeditions with a butler service became a reality.

A popular destination of choice is the Galapagos Islands (and rightfully so), yet many of the regular expedition cruise operators don’t travel there. That’s because the Ecuadorean authorities restrict Galapagos cruising to local vessels. Standards vary widely, so if you’re looking for luxury, go with one of the established international cruise lines with vessels based in the region.

Quark Expeditions

One vessel still reflects the luxury of simply being able to do it: Quark’s nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory, can take you through the ice to the North Pole. The ship is comfortable, not luxurious, and the 14-day voyage costs from US$28,713 (about A$39,400) for a twin cabin up to US$43,154 (about A$59,200) for an Arktika Suite.

quarkexpeditions.com/au

 

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Among the most highly rated cruise ships in the world, according to the authoritative Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships guide, is the Hanseatic, one of the two expedition ships of Hapag-Lloyd. The line’s older expedition ship, the Bremen, is rated four-stars. Hapag-Lloyd is a distinctly German operation, from the quality of its finish to the attention to detail. Also distinctly German is the organisation of local cruisers, meaning the ships are often booked out more than a year in advance. Hapag-Lloyd expedition ships operate mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic with some cruises in more temperate zones.

hl-cruises.com

 

National Geographic Expeditions

Many Australians discovered expedition cruising aboard Orion, our own luxury cruise ship, which spent much of its operation around Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast and into exotic Papua New Guinea. The vessel is now the National Geographic Orion and forms part of the Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic partnership.

Others in the National Geographic fleet are National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion. Together, this fleet covers the polar regions, Patagonia, South America, Europe, the UK, Alaska, Central America and beyond. National Geographic Endeavour II and National Geographic Islander operate in the Galapagos Islands. Their most recently launched vessel, National Geographic Quest, tours Alaska and Costa Rica. National Geographic Venture is currently being constructed and set to launch October of 2018. These vessels all boast the unique selling point of having National Geographic photographers on board, which means plenty of expert advice.

au.expeditions.com

 

True North Adventure Cruises

Australia’s Kimberley does have an excellent vessel with a wealth of experience in these waters. True North, the only vessel in the True North Adventure Cruises (formerly North Star Cruises) fleet, is best known for carrying its own helicopter on board, opening up even more exploring options. Besides the Kimberley, True North also offers regular voyages in West Papua and Papua New Guinea as well as occasional cruises around the Australian coastline.

truenorth.com.au

 

Silversea

Silversea has four expedition vessels. The Silver Cloud was extensively refurbished and ice-strengthened last year, and in November will head to destinations such as Chile, Antarctica, and Argentina, carrying up to 260 passengers. As her name implies, the 100-passenger Silver Galapagos offers a series of seven-day voyages around the Galapagos Islands. The ice-strengthened 130-passenger Silver Explorer is a familiar sight in Antarctica and the Arctic, but turns up in Easter Island and Tahiti too. The 120-passenger Silver Discoverer includes the Kimberley in its largely Pacific schedule that extends from Kamchatka to Guadalcanal.

silversea.com

 

Ponant

French line Ponant is certainly visible in the Australian market these days. Indeed, Ponant can be found everywhere from the poles to Borneo and the Amazon. With four expedition ships, each accommodating about 260 guests, and characteristic French air, Ponant is rapidly gaining a strong Australian following. Ponant ships can be found in Alaska and Russia as well as the Arctic, Antarctica, throughout the Pacific and in Latin America.

au.ponant.com

The Changing Face of Expedition Cruising

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”

The words of 19th century travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson certainly have a romantic edge, but he was riding a donkey. When it comes to expedition cruising, the journey is as hopeful as it is inspiring, and arriving in wonderful places aboard remarkable ships is all part of the service.

Until 1966 expedition cruising didn’t really exist. In that year Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first tourist trip to Antarctica on an Argentinean naval vessel. In 1969 he launched his own vessel, the Lindblad Explorer, to explore the world’s wildest places. However, luxury on board wasn’t a vital part of the concept. The real luxury was that you were able to visit those remote parts of the world at all. While that’s still partly true, there’s a new era in expedition cruising that combines comfort and experience.

Expedition cruises visit many parts of the world including the Galapagos, the Amazon, Papua New Guinea and Australia’s Kimberley coast. But the core area remains the polar regions.

Until 1990 the number of tourists to Antarctica was tiny – a mere few hundred each year.  Thn the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet empire collapsed. The ice-strengthened ships of the Russian fleet found themselves underfunded and many were leased to take tourists (mainly from the United States but also Australia, the UK, Germany and Canada) to the poles, helping fund their scientifc programs for the rest of the year. It was the beginning of the polar travel boom.

Today the second stage of expedition cruising has arrived. As many of the Russian expedition ships reached the end of their working lives, or came up against new clean-fuel requirements, they were retired. Meanwhile, travellers were demanding more comfort and expeditions with a butler service became a reality.

A popular destination of choice is the Galapagos Islands (and rightfully so), yet many of the regular expedition cruise operators don’t travel there. That’s because the Ecuadorean authorities restrict Galapagos cruising to local vessels. Standards vary widely, so if you’re looking for luxury, go with one of the established international cruise lines with vessels based in the region.

 

The expedition crew

Quark Expeditions

One vessel still reflects the luxury of simply being able to do it: Quark’s nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory, can take you through the ice to the North Pole. The ship is comfortable, not luxurious, and the 14-day voyage costs from US$40,000 (about A$53,333) for a twin cabin up to US$60,000 (about A$80,000) for a suite. quarkexpeditions.com/au

 

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Among the most highly rated cruise ships in the world, according to the authoritative Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships guide, is the Hanseatic, one of the two expedition ships of Hapag-Lloyd. The line’s older expedition ship, the Bremen, is rated four-stars. Hapag-Lloyd is a distinctly German operation, from the quality of its finish to the attention to detail. Also distinctly German is the organisation of local cruisers, meaning the ships are often booked out more than a year in advance. Hapag-Lloyd expedition ships operate mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic with some cruises in more temperate zones. hl-cruises.com

 

National Geographic Expeditions

Many Australians discovered expedition cruising aboard Orion, our own luxury cruise ship, which spent much of its operation around Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast and into exotic Papua New Guinea. The vessel is now the National Geographic Orion and forms part of the Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic partnership.

Others in the National Geographic fleet are National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion. Together, this fleet covers the polar regions, Patagonia, South America, Europe, the UK, Alaska, Central America and beyond. National Geographic Endeavour II and National Geographic Islander operate in the Galapagos Islands. Two new vessels are being constructed: National Geographic Quest (expected to be in Alaska by mid-year) and National Geographic Venture (due to launch in 2018). These vessels all boast the unique selling point of having National Geographic photographers on board, which means plenty of expert advice. au.expeditions.com

 

True North Adventure Cruises

Australia’s Kimberley does have an excellent vessel with a wealth of experience in these waters. True North, the only vessel in the True North Adventure Cruises (formerly North Star Cruises) fleet, is best known for carrying its own helicopter on board, opening up even more exploring options. Besides the Kimberley, True North also offers regular voyages in West Papua and Papua New Guinea as well as occasional cruises around the Australian coastline. truenorth.com.au

 

Silversea

Silversea has three expedition vessels and a fourth on the way. As her name implies, the 100-passenger Silver Galapagos offers a series of seven-day voyages around the Galapagos Islands. The ice-strengthened 130-passenger Silver Explorer is a familiar sight in Antarctica and the Arctic, but turns up in Easter Island and Tahiti too. The 120-passenger Silver Discoverer includes the Kimberley in its largely Pacific schedule that extends from Kamchatka to Guadalcanal. In November the extensively refurbished and ice-strengthened Silver Cloud will be heading to Antarctica for the season with just 200 passengers (though it will carry up to 260 else- where). Then, after some voyages in Europe, she will be in Spitsbergen before returning to Antarctica. silversea.com

 

Ponant

French line Ponant is certainly visible in the Australian market these days. Indeed, Ponant can be found everywhere from the poles to Borneo and the Amazon. With four expedition ships, each accommodating about 260 guests, and characteristic French air, Ponant is rapidly gaining a strong Australian following. Ponant ships can be found in Alaska and Russia as well as the Arctic, Antarctica, throughout the Pacific and in Latin America. au.ponant.com

Penguin sighting

On the horizon

The trend in expedition cruising has shifted from providing acceptable accommodation in exotic places to excellent service everywhere. Stand by for what’s next.

At least 12 new expedition ship builds have been ordered in the past 12 months. Two of these have been for Hapag-Lloyd, three for Crystal Cruises and four for Ponant. Last year, Crystal Cruises announced it will launch “the world’s first purpose-built polar class megayacht” to sail in August 2018. This will be the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor and it will be as functional as it is beautiful.

The Crystal Endeavor will offer extreme adventures by air, sea and land with a complete range of toys not commonly found on today’s megayachts, including two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions, as well as two seven-person submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, paddleboards, snorkelling and scuba equipment, recompression chamber, dive support tender and a multi-person ATV. The Crystal Endeavor will also be equipped with SEABOBs – the world’s most technically advanced and powerful underwater scooter – that allow you to move gracefully underwater. crystalcruises.com

While Scenic is mainly known for luxury river cruises, it will be launching the very futuristic Scenic Eclipse in August 2018. It will operate at both ends of the earth as well as the Mediterranean and the Americas. A retractable glass roof and helicopters will ensure the 228 guests (restricted to 200 in Antarctica) make the most of their surrounds. scenic.com.au