14 of the best expedition cruise lines for 2022
By Sara Macefield | 25 Feb 2022
Cruising makes exploring the world’s most remote regions that much easier. These expedition cruise lines will take you off the beaten track to discover historical, cultural and natural wonders – so we’ve picked out the very best for the year ahead.
14 of the best expedition cruise lines for 2022
Established 30 years ago, Quark Expeditions is a key player in this sector, ratcheting up a number of tourism firsts to the polar regions. The US-based line unveiled its first purpose-built polar vessel Ultramarine last November, taking 199 guests and equipped with two twin-engine helicopters, wrap-around deck and a water-level Zodiac hangar enabling guests to embark the ship’s 20-strong fleet of inflatable Zodiacs in half the average time.
Ultramarine is set to debut new adventure and wilderness activities ranging from heli-hiking and alpine kayaking to mountain biking. Quark also promises a first in polar adventure travel this summer with a sea, land and air exploration of Greenland as part of a one-week cruise from Reykjavik that includes an overnight back-country camping experience. Other voyage highlights of its Arctic summer season include a photography expedition to Spitsbergen and a Jewels of the Russian Arctic itinerary.
020 3514 2712; quarkexpeditions.com
Having debuted its newest expedition ship Silver Origin in the Galapagos Islands last summer and converted classic ocean ship Silver Wind to an ice-class expedition vessel capable of handling extreme conditions, Silversea powers into 2022 with a four-strong expeditionary fleet.In March, the luxury line’s first European Grand Voyage departs from Athens on Silver Moon for a 91-day odyssey, visiting 71 destinations in 22 countries including Istanbul, Sorrento, Bordeaux and St Petersburg before finishing in Stockholm.
Silver Explorer starts this year in Antarctica, having commenced its winter schedule of voyages from the new port of Puerto Williams in Chile last November. It then sails to the Indian Ocean for a new expedition voyage from Zanzibar to Mahé, exploring some of the most beautiful islands of the Seychelles, before spending the summer in Australia’s rugged Kimberley region.
0844 251 0837; silversea.com
This year marks another milestone for established river and ocean cruise specialist Viking Cruises when its Viking Expeditions arm is launched with two new ships. Viking Octantis has just commenced a series of Antarctica explorations before cruising North America’s Great Lakes region from May. Viking Polaris follows in August with a debut Arctic season before moving to Antarctica for winter.
Both 378-passenger vessels will be identical, with two six-guest submarines and scientific research laboratories. In an industry first, both come with the Hangar – an enclosed in-ship marina that enables guests to embark Rib boats within the ship while shielded from the elements.
0800 014 7538; vikingcruises.co.uk
When the Australian line Aurora Expeditions’ ship Greg Mortimer launched in 2019, it was the first passenger ship with a revolutionary X-Bow, an inverted bow that ensures a smoother passage and reduces emissions. This spring it is due to be joined by sister ship Sylvia Earle, which has been built to the same design and embarks on a maiden season visiting eclectic destinations championed by marine conservationist Dr Sylvia Earle, after whom the ship is named.
The 132-passenger newcomer promises to push expedition cruising boundaries with itineraries to Alaska and Haida Gwaii, the Northwest Passage, Raja Ampat, West Papua and the Russian Far East. Dr Earle joins an expedition to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska in June. Greg Mortimer starts this year in Antarctica where Aurora offers a diverse selection of activities, from camping on the ice and sea kayaking to polar scuba-diving and snorkelling.
0808 189 2005; auroraexpeditions.co.uk
The Nordic line predicts 2022 will be one of its most adventurous years yet with its first cruises to Africa’s West Coast and year-round explorations of the Galapagos, along with sailings to the Canary Islands. Russia also makes its first appearance with a 17-night voyage to the White Sea in October, while two epic Pole to Pole sailings of 93 days and 66 days depart this summer. Hurtigruten debuted the world’s first battery hybrid-powered cruise ships, Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, in 2019 and 2021.
020 3603 7112; hurtigruten.co.uk
Crystal Expedition Cruises
The upmarket line of Crystal Expedition Cruises made waves with its first ‘expedition yacht’, hailed as a game-changer for the luxury it brings to the planet’s remotest locations. The 200-passenger all-suite Crystal Endeavor brims with opulence, from butler service and a 1:1 staff to guest ratio to six dining venues – including Japanese and Italian speciality restaurants – a swimming pool and spa.
The Polar Class ship also has a two-passenger submersible for underwater exploration. Crystal Endeavor’s journey to Antarctica last November was the first of eight round-trips to the White Continent from Ushuaia. In March it relocates to the Canary Islands en route to the Mediterranean, before sailing to the Arctic for summer.
020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk
The small-group adventure travel specialist G Adventures delves into the world’s lesser-known spots on river cruises and ocean sailings on small boats. G Adventures’ new 16-passenger catamaran Reina Silvia Voyager, which has been custom-built to sail around the Galapagos Islands where it will be based year-round, starts in April, while its G Expedition adventure ship will cruise the Norwegian fjords and Arctic this summer, before relocating to Antarctica next winter.
Alternatively, there are dreamy cruises around the Maldives on traditional dhoni-style boats, and yachting escapes in destinations including Thailand, Cuba and the Mediterranean. Tropical wildlife adventures await on Amazon River cruises that promise to bring the jungle up close and give guests a window into the lives of the indigenous tribes that live along its banks. In Asia, Mekong sailings between the cities of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia will resume when conditions allow.
020 7313 6953; gadventures.com
Australia’s dramatic Kimberley region takes centre stage for Coral Expeditions as the adventure cruise company focusses on home turf with its three ships this year. Ten more departures have been added between April and June on the new Coral Geographer, which joined the fleet in March 2021. Another itinerary combining highlights of the Kimberley with the spectacular Rowley Shoals Marine Park has also been added, along with two new 18-night Across the Top of Australia expeditions to some of the country’s most remote coastal regions between Cairns and Broome.
Sailings this year will also explore the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef, the wild islands of Tasmania and South Australia and new expeditions on the Abrolhos and Coral Coast in Western Australia. Coral Expeditions will return to international shores with voyages to New Zealand, Melanesia, Japan, the Spice Islands and the small islands of the Indian Ocean from December.
+61 7 4040 9942; coralexpeditions.com
Billed as the world’s first six-star ‘discovery yacht’, 228-guest Scenic Eclipse injected a liberal slice of luxury into the expedition market when it launched in 2019 with butler service, two onboard helicopters and a six-guest submarine. Since then, the ship has been enhanced with a new restaurant and bar, wider choice of spa treatments and more diverse entertainment.
Scenic Eclipse starts the year in Antarctica, while from April to June it will embark on its maiden Mediterranean season that promises to search out small ports and hidden gems with itineraries exploring Andalusia, the Italian Riviera and the Greek islands. The lush wildlife of Costa Rica makes an appearance as part of a seven-day land extension to the ship’s new Baja California voyage in September. The line’s second discovery yacht, Scenic Eclipse II, is due to launch early next year.
0808 159 8175; scenic.co.uk
One of the most venerable names in cruise, the very British cultural brand of Swan Hellenic was resurrected in 2020 as an expedition line “to proudly continue the spirit of cultural expedition” with three new Polar Class ships built to venture into the world’s most inaccessible regions. The first 152-passenger vessel, named Minerva in tribute to Swan Hellenic’s original ship, was christened last November and will be followed by sister ship Vega in April. A third 192-passenger ship is due to arrive at the end of this year. All promise five-star luxury with elegant Scandi-style interiors and three dining venues.
While building on Swan Hellenic’s British heritage, this line has an international outlook in style and destination line-up, with Minerva’s maiden season in Antarctica, followed by South America, Alaska and the Russian Far East. Vega will cruise around the UK before spending the summer in the Arctic.
020 7846 0271; swanhellenic.com
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ expeditionary vessel Hanseatic Inspiration, which caters for international guests with bilingual sailings in German and English, offers 39 voyages in 2022/23. The 230-passenger vessel is spending January and February in Antarctica before moving to the Pacific islands and onwards to Japan and South Korea.
From here it explores Russia’s remote Kamchatka region and the outlying Kuril Islands before crossing the Bering Sea to Alaska. In August, Hanseatic Inspiration traverses the legendary Northeast Passage to Tromso in northern Norway, sailing southwards through northern Europe to the Canary Islands for the autumn and then on to South America.
0800 051 3829; hl-cruises.com
Having welcomed swish Polar expedition vessel Le Commandant Charcot to its fleet last September, this upscale French line Ponant invites guests to experience Antarctica and the Arctic like never before. The new ship’s debut summer season of 10 sailings includes voyages to the North Pole and Greenland’s northeast coast, and through the Northwest Passage. The hybrid ship, described as the company’s most ground-breaking so far, is powered by electric and LNG (liquefied natural gas) to reduce its environmental footprint.
This summer, Ponant is offering more than 150 sailings on 10 of its vessels, with new itineraries including a Landscapes and Islands of the North Atlantic cruise from Bordeaux to Dublin on L’Austral and Ancient Civilisations of the Eastern Mediterranean aboard Le Bellot, which sails from Aqaba to Valletta. The boutique line’s refurbished South Pacific ship, Paul Gauguin, which it acquired in 2019, will sail five signature routes through French Polynesia.
0808 234 3802; uk.ponant.com
The luxury mega-yacht line Seabourn has dabbled in adventure cruising since 2013 when it converted one of its ocean ships, Seabourn Quest, to ice class with a strengthened hull. But April marks Seabourn’s emergence as a fully fledged adventure line when its first purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, departs Greenwich on its inaugural voyage around the British Isles before spending summer in the Arctic.
The 264-passenger all-suite ship has two custom-built submarines that hold six guests (and they come with a handy champagne chiller), along with kayaks and Zodiac boats. Sister ship Seabourn Pursuit launches in April 2023 with a maiden voyage to Iceland.
0344 338 8615; seabourn.com
National Geographic Expeditions
This adventure travel company offers designated National Geographic cruises in collaboration with upmarket French boutique line Ponant, providing an expert, photographer, explorer or writer who accompanies sailings in addition to Ponant’s own expedition team.
This year, National Geographic bolsters its Polar region voyages to Antarctica, Spitsbergen and Greenland with warm water alternatives that explore Central America with a Panama Canal crossing; the far-flung islands of Melanesia in the South Pacific that include stops at Vanuatu and the Solomon isles; and Australia’s remote Kimberley region, famed for its spectacular coastline, breathtaking waterfalls and immense tidal range, including some of the highest tides in the world.
0147 324 2636; nationalgeographicexpeditions.co.uk