Increase commission by selling expedition and adventure cruises, says Jane Archer
If your clients have a hankering to see penguins, do you send them a) to the Arctic or b) Antarctica? The answer, of course, is Antarctica. But did you know they can also see the cute little fellas in several spots in the southern hemisphere including the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego, Cape Town and the Galapagos?Understanding expedition cruising is increasingly important for agents as cruisers discover an appetite for adventurous holidays.
Expedition cruises have been around since the 1960s when Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered cruises to Antarctica and the Galapagos.
Since then, other companies have entered the expedition cruise market, between them taking passengers to many more remote places.
From cruises that go up close to icebergs and glaciers in the Arctic and remote civilisations in Greenland, to voyages in the croc-infested waters of the Kimberley, Australia. In Antarctica itself, there are longer voyages that also take in South Georgia and the Falklands, while Hurtigruten is venturing over the Antarctic Circle on two cruises in January and February 2015.
There are also voyages in the whale-rich waters of the Sea of Cortez around Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and through the icy Northwest Passage between Greenland and Canada, and the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East is a new favourite with expedition cruise lines.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ expedition ship Hanseatic has just become the first non-Russian ship to transit the Northeast Passage, sailing from Nome in Alaska across the top of Russia to Bodø in Norway, and at the same time it got closer to the North Pole (within 300 miles) than any other cruise ship.
For many, the thrill of an expedition cruise is visiting places few have been before. There is also the sheer excitement of getting close to icebergs or seeing polar bears, whales and crocodiles in their natural environment, and hardy souls will love the fact that it is you against the elements, for instance when crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica.
Not that expedition cruisers have to be that hardy as several ultra-luxury lines have entered the market. Silversea was the first and now has three ships sailing in the Galapagos, Arctic and Antarctica, and Pacific that are sold under a separate expedition brand.Ponant has three ships (and has a fourth launching in April 2015) purpose-built for cruising in the poles, while Seabourn made its Antarctica debut last winter after fitting an ice-strengthened hull to Seabourn Quest. The ship will be back there four times between November and January 2015.
And now Crystal Cruises has got in on the act, offering a 32-day voyage from Anchorage to New York through the Northwest Passage in August 2016. It’s on Crystal Serenity, which will be accompanied by an escort ship carrying inflatable Zodiacs and crew who have experience sailing in ice-strewn waters.
While expedition ships might vary in terms of levels of luxury, they have plenty in common. Rather than docking each day, they will mostly drop anchor and take passengers ashore in Zodiacs so anyone with a sense of adventure must have a good degree of mobility.
They must also be prepared to be flexible, especially in the polar regions, as itineraries could change daily according to weather and ice conditions.
Instead of singers and dancers, they will carry an expedition team of biologists, geologists, naturalists and other experts to lead trips ashore, take passengers on Zodiac cruises and give lectures during sea days.
Also, none of the ships have dress codes (Crystal’s black tie evening will be dropped for the Northwest Passage cruise), and when going to the colder climes, most will supply complimentary parkas and rent boots for wet landings.
Clients should also be braced for a very high price tag. A 10-day Kimberley cruise on Silversea’s Silver Discoverer in April 2015 costs from £6,550 cruise-only, while the 11 or 12-day Antarctic Explorer with Quark Expeditions costs from $5,495 cruise-only.
If the cost puts expedition cruising out of the reach of clients, never fear. The days of dull coach sightseeing excursions are long gone as cruise lines have stretched their imaginations and come up with a stack of adventures ashore to appeal to cruisers looking for an adrenaline rush.
Norway is a favourite for fun days out, with everything from dog-sledding and snowmobile safaris (offered on Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ northern lights cruises) to a weird and wonderful six-and-a-half-hour tour snorkelling with salmon trip. It’s available on a Celebrity Cruises voyage from Southampton on June 27, 2015, priced £600.
Not exciting enough? How about a 30-minute jet boat ride in Sydney Harbour with power brake stops and 270-degree spins. Or test your mettle on The Screamer, Awesome and Leap of Faith at H’Evans Scent (owned by Mr Motivator) in Jamaica. CruisingExcursions.com offers both, priced £44 and £88.48 respectively.
Join an elephant safari in search of rhinos through Kaziranga National Park in India. Offered by Far Horizon India on a Brahmaputra river cruise in Assam between mid-October and May 2015 at no cost.
Buckle up for a private ride in a Cessna aircraft over Mount Hood, near Portland, Oregon, on a tour of the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. The tour is offered by the American Queen Steamboat Company on a cruise on the Columbia River from Clarkeston to Portland, priced $249.
Get a bird’s-eye view of Stockholm (pictured below) on a three-hour rooftop tour that takes you 43 metres above the city. Offered by Azamara Club Cruises on four Baltic voyages in August 2015, priced £103.25 (minimum age 15).
Head into the wilderness on an overnight husky tour along the route of the Finnmarken dog race. Offered by Hurtigruten on Norwegian coastal voyages that start or end in Kirkenes between January 5 and April 5, 2015, priced £1,227 including a night in a lodge with dinner and breakfast.
Speed across Langjökull Glacier in Iceland in a snowmobile before a jeep ride to the Hraunfossar falls, where water emerges from beneath a lava field. Offered on Crystal Cruises’ 10-night cruise from Dover to Reykjavik departing June 28, 2015, price not yet released.
Travel around ancient Rome the 21st-century way – on a two-hour guided Segway tour. Offered by Thomson Cruises on Mediterranean itineraries that call at Civitavecchia in 2015, priced £46.
Put some va va vroom into a visit to the Caribbean island of St Maarten on a Harley-Davidson tour through the French and Dutch sides. Offered by MSC Cruises on voyages visiting Philipsburg this winter, priced £159. Drivers must have a valid motorcycle licence and be aged over 25.
Zip on a special ‘bridge suit’ and join a five-hour tour to climb to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Offered by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines on Black Watch’s 115-night round-the-world cruise departing January 2016, priced £200.
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