Cruise like you mean it – the boldness of adventure travel by sea

Adventure cruise travel has become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more travelers seek unique and thrilling wilderness vacations.

Cruise lines are building ships designed solely to visit remote and wild destinations, making cruising an ideal way to reach those far-away regions of our world. Sometimes to places that neither you nor I have heard of.

Suddenly we have access to the Amazon rainforest, Papua New Guinea, the Galápagos Islands, Svalbard, Tanna Island, the Arctic Circle, and the Antarctic. It allows us to explore the natural world as we have never seen before. And even try hiking and rafting through these landscapes.

A luxury alternative to backpacking across the ice

For those who admittedly are not particularly brave, one of the most popular ways to experience adventure travel is by joining an expedition cruise. In particular for those of us who still want creature comforts around us and a seamless journey there and back.

Opting for this type of vacation has many benefits. You have the convenience of an all-inclusive holiday and the ability to visit multiple destinations during the journey.

Additionally, the specially designed cruise ships for these regions offer luxury accommodations. Excursions are booked with the cruise line, and you travel in small groups with a guide. Comforting – especially when you spot that polar bear on the horizon.

Probably one of the best benefits is the opportunity to participate in much more than just a unique sightseeing cruise. With conservationists, geologists, and naturalists on board, you can join in inspirational talks and presentations for the destinations you visit.

So your adventure holiday becomes both a thrill and an educational and cultural all-immersive experience. You enjoy a journey with a sense of purpose, becoming a part of nature and not just a bystander.

When cruises and conservation go hand-in-hand

Adventure travel by cruise ships has been criticized for its possible negative environmental impact, including effects on local communities, wildlife, and the region’s ecology.

In response, cruise lines have made considerable strides in supporting conservation efforts through various partner programs with scientists and marine conservation charities.

For example, some cabins on expedition cruises are often allocated to wildlife experts. So while you enjoy your cruise vacation, scientists are advancing research into the region out on deck using portable research tools and technologies.

Partnerships programs with cruise lines have also been established. Royal Caribbean, for example, is in a 5-year partnership program to support the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its global conservation work.

Norwegian Cruise Lines supports the restoration of coral reefs in the Caribbean, and Silversea is in partnership with the marine charity ORCA. In addition, Seabourn has a partnership with UNESCO.

Constant innovation to conserve our oceans

Cruise ships today are taking steps to minimize their environmental impact in their design and construction. These include:

  • Implementation of more efficient propulsion systems to help reduce air and water pollution.
  • Recycling of water onboard to reduce waste.
  • Implementation of water treatment systems to reduce the amount of sewage discharged into the ocean.
  • Usage of shore power to reduce emissions while in port.
  • Incorporation of sustainable practices into their shore excursions and activities.
  • Industry-wide, the latest cruise ships will now be fully powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Cruise lines are also subject to various laws and regulations that govern their operations in remote regions. For example, in Antarctica, all tour operators, including cruise lines, must adhere to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators guidelines to minimize tourism’s impact on the environment and wildlife. These guidelines include restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in certain areas and rules on how visitors can interact with nature.

In the Arctic, the International Maritime Organization has implemented the Polar Code, which sets out safety and environmental standards for ships operating in the Arctic. The Polar Code requires ships to have special equipment and training for navigating in icy conditions and regulations to discharge waste and protect the maritime environment.

What to consider when choosing an adventure travel cruise

When choosing an adventure travel cruise, there are a few key factors to consider to find the best option to suit your interests and preferences. Here are a few tips to help you make your decision:

  • Consider your destination: think about where you want to go and what you want to experience. Are you looking for a cultural adventure, or are you interested in wildlife and natural landscapes? Do you want a tropical climate or a colder region, such as an Arctic Circle cruise? Different cruise lines and itineraries will focus on different destinations and experiences, so choose one that aligns with your interests.
  • Look into the excursions and activities offered: many adventure travel cruises offer a variety of tours and activities led by experts. Find out which guest speakers are onboard your cruise ship – is it a field of expertise you are interested in? This will add a great deal of value to the whole immersive experience in the region you visit. Also, check what the tours and activities cost or if they are included in the price of the cruise.
  • Check the ship’s amenities and services: consider what amenities and services you want on your cruise. Many expedition ships are smaller, so cabins may not be huge. Some have a casual atmosphere, others more luxurious. Some ships may have more amenities for adventure travel, such as kayaks or zodiacs – can you imagine a more exciting way to explore?
  • Read reviews: before booking your adventure travel cruise, read reviews from other travelers to get a better idea of what to expect. This can also help you identify any potential issues or concerns.
  • Research the company’s sustainability policies and ensure they align with your values.

For your next adventure cruise journey, you’ll want to meet like-minded travelers and get powerful insights into the wilds of nature. And for that to happen, you may need to be prepared to side-step out of your comfort zone, be bold, and find your inner explorer.

Have you recently been on an expedition cruise and would like to share your experience with us? We’d love to hear from you at

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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