While each of our voyage operators have their own particular style, many features are common to all the trips. Below we outline these features and provide an overview of expedition voyages. Should you wish any further information, please contact our team.
Our polar voyages use special ice-strengthened vessels and icebreakers to reach areas that are inaccessible to normal cruise ships. Some are former scientific research ships, others are more luxurious, but all offer warm and comfortable accommodation and a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Our expedition voyages are based on small groups, often numbering as few as 70-80 people. Small groups make for a more personal experience, allow maximum time ashore and minimise the impact on these sensitive and vulnerable environments.
Some itineraries are specific to a certain vessel, while others offer a choice. In these instances how you prioritise your requirements (passenger numbers, level of accommodation, time of year and price) may greatly influence which ship you choose.
Onboard Experts and Passengers
Each voyage is accompanied by an experienced Expedition Team, made up of polar experts such as historians, ornithologists, geologists and marine biologists. The team present lectures and are always on hand to share their knowledge and passion for all things polar, answering questions and making sure that you get the most out of your voyage. Our passengers are a wide range of ages and a variety of nationalities, but all have in common a passion for experiencing the wildlife and wilderness of the polar regions, and as such friendships form easily.
Every day will be different but during your voyage you can enjoy lectures, documentaries, wildlife viewing from the deck and regular shore landings and iceberg cruises by Zodiac (rigid inflatable boats). In between these you can soak up the scenery on deck, browse through the ship’s library, chat with your fellow-passengers in the lounge or join the captain on the bridge.
Itineraries and Routes
In the polar regions the weather, ice and sea conditions all play a big part in determining your actual route. The itineraries shown on our website are typical of what may be achieved during the holiday, but flexibility is what makes expedition voyages adventurous and exciting. All passengers must accept that the Captain and Expedition Leader will decide the exact itinerary and shore landings on a daily basis, according to the conditions.
Shore Landings and Zodiac Cruises
The expedition team will make every effort to ensure that you spend as much time as possible out and about in this breathtaking environment. This can mean up to three Zodiac excursions a day, either landing on shore or cruising amongst icebergs. Your Expedition Team will be with you to help you to understand the history, geology and wildlife of each landing site.
Equipment and Clothing
A comprehensive clothing and kit list will be sent to you once you have booked your holiday, but in a nutshell think, practical and comfortable - the layering principle is a great place to start. Thermal underwear, fleecy jumpers and a waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers are ideal. For footwear, wellington boots are most appropriate for shore landings (there are no jetties in the Poles!), while trainers or comfortable shoes/boots are fine on the ship. Some voyages provide a parka and use of wellies for the duration – please check the inclusions for each individual ship or ask our team for advice.
Health and Fitness
All passengers must in good health since the voyages take place in remote areas without access to sophisticated medical facilities. Most shore landings involve using Zodiac inflatable boats, climbing in and out of which requires a certain amount of agility. If you’re unsure about whether a trip is right for you, please have a chat with our staff.
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation can vary from comfortable quad rooms with bunks through to luxury suites – you can view details of each ship’s cabin categories, as well as a deck plan, on our individual vessel pages. All meals are included throughout your voyage, prepared by international chefs who create varied and interesting menus despite the restricted availability of fresh ingredients! Between meals a selection of cakes, pastries and biscuits keep your energy levels up, whilst coffee and tea are available throughout the day.
If you are vegetarian, or have any special dietary requirements, it is usually possible to cater for your needs, but please ask us at the time of booking.
Time at open sea varies depending on which voyage you choose, but most will include some sea crossings which can be rough. If you are concerned about seasickness we recommend a visit your doctor or pharmacist for the most effective medication – and ginger biscuits are our favourite natural remedy! The majority of each voyage is spent in more sheltered water, exploring bays and shorelines, and so ultimately a couple of days of rough sea is worth it for the experience of a lifetime once your reach your destination.
The weather in the polar regions can be very changeable, with temperatures ranging from –15°C to +6°C. The summer average is around 0°C but wind chill can make this feel much colder - whilst on calm sunny days you may be surprised by how warm you can feel at the ends of the earth!
The captain and crew are extremely experienced in navigating safely in polar seas. In addition, the vessels are equipped with all necessary safety equipment and each voyage starts with a safety briefing and lifeboat drill. The zodiacs are operated following strict safety guidelines and life-vests are worn at all times during zodiac excursions.
Shore landings are always supervised, and in the Arctic are always accompanied by a team member carrying a gun in case of polar bears. Obviously the use of a gun would only ever be a last resort; the area is always carefully checked first and no landing will be made if bears are sighted.