We live in an age of fads; many become part of our culture. The new “fad” in cruise travel is expedition cruising. While expedition cruises are not that new, all of a sudden it’s the “hottest” segment of travel by water.
Several major cruise lines are building expedition cruise ships. Just launched was the Scenic Eclipse, ahead of Crystal’s new expedition ship that’s coming. Seabourn, the luxury boutique cruise line, is also building an expedition cruise ship. Ponant is building five of them! Silversea already has an expedition cruise division and, in the luxury space, was one of the first in North America to truly expand this niche. (I also posted about Celebrity Flora this past summer.)
It may be more difficult to truly define what makes an expedition cruise ship. Certainly, those built to ply Arctic and Antarctic waters, with ice-hardened hulls and expedition specialists and lecturers on board, fit the definition well. And while all of these are newer entrants into this space, what they all share in common is providing travel luxury onboard, in terms of suite comforts, while providing a diverse level of adventure excursions ashore.
Then there’s Huritgruten, the Norwegian line that is presently the largest expedition cruise line with a storied past of cruising the Norwegian coast. I didn’t mention the company above because the focus of this post is to introduce you to Hurtigruten’s new ship, Roald Amundsen, noteworthy as being the first hybrid electric cruise ship that cruises the world with an expedition team, kayaks, hiking poles, and even camping gear for those die-hards that want to have an experience of camping overnight on Antarctica (porta-potties and appropriate clothing provided, of course).
I recently had the opportunity to overnight on Roald Amundsen, visit all its stateroom categories, enjoy its dining services, and meet its expedition team. There’s a lot to be excited about.
Hurtigruten's commitment to minimizing its footprint is laudatory. Of course, battery power still has serious limitations, and the current batteries will reduce emissions of pollutants by 20-25 percent. There is room to expand battery power on board, and certainly this ship, which was initially designed a few years ago and then built, is a positive start. The next generation of batteries from the supplier are supposed to provide a fourfold increase in efficiency. Also noteworthy is how Hurtigruten plans to use fish waste to create biofuel as well as eliminating use of single-use plastics.
Surprising to me was the scope of the Science Center onboard, replete with microscopes, hi-tech tools, a lecture room, an array of minerals, skeletons of wildlife, and interesting library selections.
The spa and fitness rooms were adequate, with changing rooms, two treatment rooms, and adequate exercise equipment to keep fit onboard, as well as the largest sauna I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship that overlooks the ocean.
Staterooms were certainly comfortable in all categories, with all offering at least two comfy lounge chairs, large screen TVs, comfortable beds, and luxurious duvets and wool blankets. Bathrooms were more utilitarian, more than adequate with walk-in showers (some higher category suites had tubs), and decent storage drawer for toiletries. The highest category of suites offered the luxury of space, some with an in-room artificial fireplace.
Not all of Hurtigruten's fleet is on par with Roald Amundsen. The company has older vessels, some of which are being refitted and updated and some that are not of the same standard as these state-of-the-art ships. But we can help you choose wisely.
As for destinations, Hurtigruten is certainly a leader in Arctic and Antarctic cruising, and it has the most experience in these regions.
Hopefully, this description allays any fears on the part of travelers who have the passion to explore more of the less-traveled reaches of our planet but have feared stepping up because of perceptions of the challenges and difficulties exploring the far corners of our world. Given Hurtigruten's commitment to the environment, its cruises are worthy of consideration. Reach out to our team of experts to get your plans started.