You might think the cruise business is all about ‘big’. With the largest ships carrying around 6,000 passengers and weighing three times more than the Titanic, it might seem size is all that matters.
But just as there’s a move to bigger and better at one end, there is a firm desire to create more intimate, boutique ships at the other. We all know the saying: “good things come in small packages”. Well, that perfectly sums up the growing fleet of expedition and adventure vessels delivering enrichment and transformational experiences in some of the most stunning destinations in the world.
Some cruise lines, such as Silversea and Ponant, have set up separate expedition fleets, while others, such as Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic, APT and Pandaw, are dedicated to adventure.
With just a few dozen to perhaps a couple of hundred guests, these special little vessels delicately nudge their way through Antarctic ice fields or north to gaze at polar bears in the Arctic. To employ another catchphrase, the world is truly their oyster, thanks to their ability to venture where no infrastructure exists. No wharf? No problem. Just launch the intrepid Zodiac tenders and head for the beach.
But expedition cruising is not limited to the polar regions. Many exciting and fascinating locations can be found in the upper reaches of rivers such as the Amazon, Irrawaddy or Zambezi or on remote tropical islands such as Papua New Guinea, the Marquesas or the Galapagos, where Charles Darwin formulated his famous theory of evolution.
The Galapagos Islands, known locally as ‘Las Islas Encantadas’ (The Enchanted Isles) are probably the most popular expedition destination outside of the poles. Ever since Sir David Attenborough waxed lyrical about the amazing animals during his first BBC documentary in the late ‘70s, enthralled and curious visitors have beaten a path to these mystical islands where 100-year-old giant tortoises wander the land and gnarly iguanas snort salt from their nostrils.
Back then, the first rudimentary vessels were not much better than Darwin’s HMS Beagle. Nowadays, the quality and comfort of the small ships exploring this volcanic archipelago is a far cry from the cramped and precarious boats of even decades ago. In May, 2019, the renowned Celebrity Cruises launched Celebrity Flora, a ship designed exclusively for explorations within the Galapagos.
Celebrity Cruises president and CEO Lisa Luto -Perlo says: “Celebrity Flora was specifically designed to bring our guests closer to the Galapagos Islands than ever before. And now our new [onboard] Galapagos Glamping experience gives guests an incredible opportunity to experience the destination the ship was built for, on a whole new level, under the millions of stars above.”
The 100-passenger, energy-efficient Celebrity Flora is the line’s fourth ship in these islands and heralds a whole new era for expedition cruising regardless of destination. This new ship has all the feel of a luxury private yacht complete with exclusive dining experiences in its Seaside Restaurant, or outside on deck in the casual Ocean Grill.
Staterooms reach a new standard. Specifically, Celebrity Flora’s two Penthouse Suites are the largest in the Galapagos with separate indoor and outdoor living areas serviced by personal attendants.
Add in expert naturalist seminars and a strict recycling and waste management regime, and you have a truly 21st-century expedition experience.