Discovery and expedition are the latest buzz words in the cruising industry as more people are seduced by the increasingly off-the-beaten-track destinations they can get to by ship these days.
There are two types of ‘’alternative’’ cruises for folk who have had enough of the Med and Caribbean and want to try something different.
Cultural cruises, offered by the likes of Swan Hellenic, Voyages to Antiquity and Voyages of Discovery, are on small ships and visit little-known ports in well-known places such as Monamvesia and Chios in Greece, and the Solovetsky Islands in Russia’s White Sea.
Their pre-cruise documentation includes a reading list so passengers can swot up on the places being visited; on board there are erudite lecturers to talk in-depth about their history and culture rather than lavish production shows.
In the case of Swan Hellenic and Voyages to Antiquity, shore excursions are included in the price because going ashore and seeing new places if part of their cruise DNA.
Then there are the true expedition cruises offered by the likes of Silversea, Hurtigruten and Hapag-Lloyd, which venture to the polar regions, around the Galapagos, to places in Russia’s Far East that few people have even heard of and many others ‘’places without postcards’’ well off the beaten track.
These are perfect for cruisers with an adventurous spirit who are happy to dispense with the cruise traditions of formal nights and glitzy shows, as well as clients who have no desire to cruise but who want to get to far-flung places that are best visited on a ship (indeed in some cases, it’s the only way there).
Rather than jackets and ties, smart casual wear will suffice; if they are visiting the Polar Regions, scarves, jumpers, woolly hats and gloves are vital items on their packing list. And rather than mooring at man-made ports with terminals, they’ll go ashore on an inflatable zodiac, often landing on beaches or rocks. Instead of learned professors talking about culture, these ships carry an expedition team of marine biologists, geologists and naturalists, as well as divers and photographers who lead the trips ashore and lecture about the environment they are cruising in.