Expedition cruises are a complete contradiction to the typical cruise to the Caribbean or Mediterranean on huge ships full of bars, restaurants, shows, pools, gyms, spas, and organized activities.

If you want to be pampered and relax with your feet up by the pool or on a beach, an expedition cruise may not be for you. But these specialised cruises do appeal to a lot of people who crave a little adventure on their holiday.

So what exactly is expedition-style cruising? This is a cruise aboard either a small ship, large yacht, river barge, or expedition vessel that is centred around exploring places that are a little more off-the-beaten-path than what you find on a typical cruise. Think National Geographic, not Travel and Leisure.

Expedition Cruises are taken on Smaller Vessels

You won’t find the big name cruise lines offering expedition cruises. Typically, adventure-style cruising is done aboard small ships that can get closer to those smaller ports that offer even more scenic on-shore opportunities. In fact, as week-long expedition sailing may seem more like one big shore excursion.

Expedition ships don’t have a cruise director and staff that set up shore excursions for you to go off on you own. Nor do they have programs that tell you where to shop, eat, or drink when you go ashore.

What they do have is an expedition team and team leader. These teams often include scientists who give lectures about everything concerning the area of the world you are about to explore. This includes information on the history, geography, geology, ecology, and culture. This is the meat of expedition cruises.

The itinerary and daily schedule of this style cruise is not necessarily set in stone, either. Everything is flexible and the course and schedule can be changed based on the weather, conditions at sea, any unusual wildlife sightings, or any unexpected occurrence.

Where can expedition cruises take you? There are cruises like this that can take you just about anywhere a boat can go. Sea-based expeditions include:

· Alaska – This is one of the most popular choices for an expedition cruise as it is one of the prime spots for experiencing the biology, geology, climatology, and ecology of an area. These cruises anchor at night in small out-of-the-way coves where you are likely to see magnificent animals come to the shore to hunt. You can hike glaciers, climb aboard a zodiac and get right along side glaciers and whales, and visit with the Native Americans in their villages.

· Antarctica – This is probably one of the most un-visited places in the world, making it an especially exciting destination for an adventure cruise. The coast is full of wildlife like penguins, orca, and seals, but no native population within 500 miles of the sea.

Other expedition-style cruise destinations include the Amazon River, the Nile, the Galapagos Islands, the Sea of Cortez, and even the eastern coast of Canada and the United States exploring their tiny islands.

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