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These New Luxury Cruises Are for True Explorers

By Gene Sloan

01.14.20

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French cruise line Ponant is launching not one, but four Explorer ships, including “Le Commandant Charcot.”

Courtesy of Ponant

French cruise line Ponant is launching not one, but four Explorer ships, including “Le Commandant Charcot.”

The experiential travel niche is being transformed by a wave of new expedition vessels that are as luxurious and amenity filled as they are primed for exploring.

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A new class of expedition ships is bringing passengers to the most extreme corners of the globe in high style. Unlike their more rugged predecessors, these chic newcomers are decked out with gourmet restaurants, expansive suites, spas, and submarines (some even bring helicopters along, too). They include posh polar-class vessels that venture deep into the Arctic and Antarctica as well as yacht-style ships designed for warmer climes. This is definitively a sleeker, more eco-friendly, and more comfortable version of adventure cruising. Here, a cheat sheet for choosing the expedition cruise that is right for you.

Ultramarine

On this Quark Expeditions vessel, you can relax in the spa after a day of extreme polar exploration.

Launching in late 2020 for polar trips and aimed at serious adventure types, the 199-passenger Quark Expeditions vessel has sea kayaks, gear for snow camping, and two helicopters to deliver passengers to hiking and skiing spots. Adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate optional activities, including mountaineering and cross-country skiing.

National Geographic Endurance

 

Head deeper into polar regions with Lindblad’s newest ice-class vessel.

Debuting in April 2020, the hardiest ship ever from expedition-cruise pioneer Lindblad Expeditions (which has a long-standing travel alliance with National Geographic) will have the highest ice-class rating of any passenger vessel in the industry, allowing it to venture deep into polar regions—including Eastern Greenland and Norway’s Lofoten Islands—in comfort. A glass-walled yoga studio lets passengers practice Natarajasana while keeping an eye out for polar bears.

Antarctica for Polar Explorers Who Might Not Be So Tough After All

Scenic Eclipse

Pick from more than 100 varieties in the whiskey bar, and indulge in gourmet dining options aboard the

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An impressive selection of upscale eateries, a full-service spa, and butler-served megasuites, plus a helicopter and a submarine for exploring, make this Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours vessel one of the ultimate expedition ships for over-the-top luxury. After a long day of high-class adventure cruising, travelers can head to the Lobby Lounge whiskey bar and choose from more than 100 top-shelf pours.  

Crystal Endeavor

Posh meets polar cruising on the “Crystal Endeavor.”

White-glove service meets high adventure on Crystal Cruises’ first expedition ship. The 200-passenger, all-suite vessel will have helicopters and a seven-person submersible, plus high tea in the Palm Court lounge, cigars and cognac at the Connoisseur Club, and a restaurant created by chef Nobu Matsuhisa.  

Ponant’s Explorer ships

 

Ponant’s Explorer ships are helping to redefine expedition cruising.

French cruise line Ponant reinvented underwater exploration in 2018, outfitting its Explorer fleet with signature Blue Eye lounges. Located below the waterline, these multisensory rooms offer a glimpse of passing sea creatures through giant windows, and photo-luminescent organisms are projected onto surrounding screens. A subaquatic soundtrack is pumped in through hydrophones. Two more Blue Eye–equipped Explorer ships debut in 2020. 

Celebrity Flora

 

A fold-down marina makes it easy to head off on nature-filled Galápagos outings.

With sprawling suites, cabanas for deck-top glamping, and menus designed by Michelin-starred chef Cornelius Gallagher, this 100-passenger yacht from Celebrity Cruises is based in the Galápagos year-round. A dynamic positioning system allows the ship to float near landing sites without dropping anchor, which means it won’t disturb the underwater habitat (a first in the Galápagos), and the fold-down marina makes heading off for nature-filled excursions a breeze.

What I Learned from the Famously Fearless Creatures of the Galápagos Islands

Silver Origin

 

Every passenger will stay in a suite on the Galápagos-bound

Also scheduled to sail year-round in the Galápagos, the 100-passenger, all-suite Silversea vessel will bring luxury to a new level. Butlers with every cabin, gourmet cuisine, and the highest crew-to-passenger ratio of any Galápagos ship will welcome passengers when the Silver Origin debuts in July.

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