New capacity and heavy discounting means now is a good time to sell a once-in-a-lifetime polar cruise, says Harry Kemble
The facts: Polar cruises are red-hot right now. With new ships launching all the time and new lines entering the market, there is a huge amount of capacity. But inevitably there’s pressure on lines to fill their ships, so some prices have been discounted.
The lines: Resurrected brand Swan Hellenic turned heads recently when it offered discounts of up to 70% off brochure prices for bookings. Single supplements were also waived during the sales period.
The complex way Swan Hellenic is structured means that at the time of writing the line is operating one ship. But in 12 months’ time, it could have three vessels in its fleet of expedition ships. Silversea Cruises has five ships offering expedition cruises, including Silver Endeavour, recently acquired from Crystal Cruises.
Other lines include Ponant, Scenic, Hurtigruten, Aurora Expeditions and new entrant Seabourn, which will launch its second expedition vessel, Seabourn Pursuit, nearly a year on from Seabourn Venture’s debut.
The itineraries: There are many sailings to choose from. But one key differentiator is how much ‘expedition’ features in the itinerary. At one end of the market, you might go out on Zodiacs three or four times a day from smaller ships, typically with capacity for up to 150 passengers.
These lines include Quark Expeditions, Aurora Expeditions, Poseidon Expeditions and Oceanwide Expeditions. At the other end of the market, there are the likes of Hurtigruten, which has ships with capacity for 500 people and offers expeditions for a couple of hours once a day. In between are the likes of Swan Hellenic and Scenic, which typically offer two landings a day and carry 150-200 passengers.
Top tips: These destinations are once-in-a-lifetime places to visit, so many clients are going to expect a certain level of service. And given that it’s a niche area, they’re also going to have a lot of questions for agents to answer.
Selling points: The larger expedition ships are minuscule compared with the smaller vessels in the ocean sector. On expedition ships, clients will find a community of like-minded people who are keen to explore these lesser-seen destinations.
Also note that certain lines are great for solos. Quark, Albatros Expeditions and Intrepid Travel all offer dedicated solo cabins, while Ponant, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Swan Hellenic appeal to solo travellers, thanks to their typically low single supplements.
Another benefit is that clients will be exploring somewhere that not many people have visited, perhaps just a few thousand a year. This also means that the wildlife they see has little fear of humans. In the ocean and river cruise sectors, more than 40 ships are slated to launch this year.
But in the expedition sector, 2022 will be remembered as the year two hitherto ocean specialists launched their first expedition vessels: Seabourn, with Seabourn Venture in July, and Viking, which launched Viking Octantis in January and has Viking Polaris setting sail this month.
PICTURES: Shutterstock/Kotomiti Okuma, Tetyana Dotsenko