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What is a Luxury Expedition Cruise?

Set sail on a sea safari – with splash of A&K style – and explore new horizons from Antarctica to the Adriatic

“Only the most intrepid explorers can take you comfortably to the edge,” said Geoffrey Kent, Founder, Co-Chairman, and CEO who launched our Luxury Expedition Cruises more than 30 years ago with the first cruise to Antarctica on board HMS Explorer, affectionately known as the ‘Little Red Ship’. 

Circumnavigate the world, from the stark beauty of the White Continent to the balmy waters of tropical islands, when you set sail on a Luxury Expedition Cruise (LEC).

So, what exactly is an A&K expedition cruise, and what sets us above the plimsoll line of other operators?

While the word ‘expedition’ may suggest crampons and a sturdy rucksack, this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to our LEC voyages. 

While you may find yourself on board a Zodiac (a rigid inflatable speedboat) after mingling with penguin in Antarctica or polar bear-watching in the Arctic, there will always be a chilled glass of champagne to welcome you back on deck.

Recently coined by The Telegraph as a ‘luxpediton” by writer Jan Masters, who sailed the Southern Ocean with A&K on board the stylish Le Lyrial, complete with innovative marine technology.

“There’s a particular sweet spot where rugged adventure meets boutique luxe, and it’s nothing like the cruises you think you know,” she said.

“I have never been happier than when clambering from ship to Zodiac, zipping over waves, wind whipping my cheeks, eyes wide while watching for wildlife, before re-embarking a bit wet, a bit whacked, but within seconds – and here’s the equally important part – in possession of a glass of champagne.”

Room with a view

Unlike other expedition cruises, we carry no more than 199 guests on board - even if the ship’s capacity is much more – offering one of the best onboard ratios at sea with one staff member to every 1.3 guests.

Whether you’re waking to the sight of the moai on Easter Island or cherry blossom (sakura) in Japan, a private balcony is guaranteed with every stateroom and suite. 

During your time at sea, relax and watch a pod of dolphins dart through the waves or whales breaching in the swells. Watch as shorelines come and go as you set sail for your next port of call on this everchanging seascape.

Your balcony is the perfect spot to mark another day at sea with a sundowner served by your butler when you stay in a suite.

Explorers that “take you to the edge”

The backbone of all our ships is the expertise of the award-winning expedition leaders and world-class lecturers, whose knowledge extends from marine biology, photography, ornithology, history, and climate change.

“Only the most intrepid explorers can take you comfortably to the edge,” said Geoffrey Kent, Founder, Co-Chairman, and CEO who launched our LECs more than 30 years ago with the first cruise to Antarctica on board HMS Explorer, affectionately known as the ‘Little Red Ship’.

During your days at sea, you will be informed and entertained by our handpicked lecturers who include former Polish President Lech Walesa and Commander Susan Kilrain who was one of the first three women to pilot the space shuttle for NASA. 

For example, our expedition team has included British Royal Marine Commandos Russ Manning, who expertly pilots a Zodiac, while ornithologist Dr Patricia Silva Rodriguez brings to life why a penguin waddles (even though it has knees) among other topics. Photographic coach Mark Edward Harris enhances your camera skills to capture memorable moments to share with family and friends.

Back on board, history lecturer and master storyteller Rob Caskie may enthral you with tales of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition before you join the captain for dinner.

Shore excursions

A Luxury Expedition Cruise allows you to step onto shores out of reach for many travellers. From the legendary Pitcairn Island, the infamous spot for the mutineers of HMS Bounty, to seeing the moai on Easter Island at sunset, or sailing near the wreckage of Endurance.

For shore excursions, you will be expected to hop on board sturdy Zodiacs (which carry 12 people). You will be supplied with a life jacket and hold onto ropes around the edge. Once the pilot has skilfully navigated the waves, you can often land straight on the beach.

Each of these excursions is carefully curated by the expedition team. This includes an itinerary for children over the age of seven and is run by A&K Young Explorers Guides.

For a closer look at the challenges of climate change, you may join Antarctic research scientist Dr James McClintock on a visit to Palmer Station considered the ‘Shangri La’ of research stations. This is part of Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP) which supports wildlife conservation, habitat restoration, science research, and community education and support.

Whether you choose an itinerary for the stark scenery of the Arctic or the history of the Easter Islands, it’s often your time at sea that provides the highlights. You will never forget sailing through ice floes or seeing your first breaching whale or striding polar bear. 

Right ship for the right destination

Our chartered fleet of small sustainable ships sails on seven continents each one designed to suit its destination from the Baltic to the Pacific. 

Le Lyrial, which cruises Antarctica, is fitted out with a technologically advanced stabilising system to keep you comfortable whatever the weather. While those cruising the Med on board Le Dumont-d’Urville can go on a nautical voyage of discovery in The Blue Eye, a multi-sensory lounge located below the waterline, which explores the seabed via cutting-edge screens.

All voyages are underpinned by 60 years of A&K’s philosophy; adventure by day and luxury by night.

 “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever,” said Oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Yves Cousteau and we couldn’t agree more.

New voyages for 2023/2024

Be among the first to book onto our new voyages for 2023/2024 which include: 

Cruising the Seychelles and Coastal Tanzania
European Coastal Cruise: Portugal, Spain and France
Adriatic Voyage: Croatia, Montenegro and Greece 
French Polynesia to Easter Island Expedition

Find out how to prepare for your Luxury Expedition Cruise here