Luxury expedition cruises are a long way from the cruise stereotype, says Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell
We’ve all seen photographs of those huge cruise ships dwarfing the Venice cityscape, witnessed their wake and the damage it can cause to canal side buildings or cursed when a place of beauty is transformed by the arrival of hundreds of visitors from the floating hotel moored in a previously empty harbour.
Having just returned from a week on a purpose-built vessel in Antarctica, the difference between cruises and the luxury expedition ship I was on could not be clearer. However, having previously travelled to two inaccessible and sensitive destinations – the Galapagos and Komodo Islands – on similarly purpose-built ocean-going boats, I do think that both vessel size and operating philosophy are imperative to understand, monitor and influence.
In Antarctica, I was on a seventy-person ship (albeit with just fifty of us on board), whilst in the Galápagos and Komodo Islands, there were less than twenty. When does small move to medium and then large – and what is the threshold?
Read on for my take on why luxury expedition cruises are different from traditional cruises, offering a very rewarding way to travel, and why they are also a supremely sustainable way to explore the world.
Of the 25 couples on board our vessel, only one had ever been on a cruise before. This could be attributed to the fact that our vessel was run by a polar specialist that is keen to stress the destination, guiding and active landings over the food and beverage or fixtures and fittings, so the trip itself attracted ‘non cruise’ types. Additionally, the scheduled time on board was under a week, whilst most cruises in Antarctica last much longer – so again, the choice of vessel and itinerary was self-selecting.