Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Should Levelers Try an Expedition Cruise?

Lonely Planet declared 2018 the year of the expeditionary cruise.

As a Leveler, should you try one? If you have always wanted to, yes.  Otherwise, maybe.

Expedition cruises can be expensive; they go to extreme areas that require special equipment and attire, skill to navigate and reach with limited accessibility. Serious expedition ships are smaller, less luxurious, without the amenities of casinos or show rooms, but are hospitable and comfortable. All of which limits potential passengers, many of whom prefer effortless experiences that follow set itineraries.

In polar climes, the ships usually provide parkas and waterproof boots, but you will need very warm gloves, head-coverings and waterproof pants in addition to normal winter attire.

Expedition cruises have itineraries but wind, seas and weather determine where you will go and what you will see. 

Levelers may not be up to all of a daily excursion. Thanks to a sinus infection that affected my balance, I wasn't when I took Poseidon's cruise to Greenland last year, but thoroughly enjoyed what I could do.

Staff made entering and exiting zodiacs safe and easy. We even transferred from one zodiac to another at sea.

While others clambered up rocky, icy slopes I stayed at lower levels learning about the geology, ecology and plant life from expert staffers who were delighted to show off the environment they loved.

When we visited a village, while others continued to reach the highest points allowed, I had time to interact with residents,

examine the museums and collections of things they valued and watch artisans at work. 

Let me give you some of the details. It was Sea Spirit's first cruise of the season and winter had been unusually harsh and long. That meant there was thick ice where there shouldn't have been, limiting the ship's access to several prime spots in the itinerary. Disappointing yes, but we visited spots others didn't see.

TIP: Cruises later in the season will be more expensive but you are more likely to see what the itinerary promises and with less physical effort.

As the cruise came to an end, it was obvious we would not be able to get far enough inland for standard transport to the airport at Kangerlussuaq. Instead, with military planning and precision, our luggage was airlifted off via helicopter, we were loaded into zodiacs in groups, delivered to an abandoned fishing camp and shuttled via helicopter to the airport.

In short, an exciting for most - intimidating for a few - experience and a story to tell for years to come.

And isn't that what an expedition cruise is all about?


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