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, six of the best luxury expedition cruises for adventerous travelers to book.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.