Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Been There. Done That." - Now What? Exploration of Exotic Locations By Ship in as Civilized a Manner as You Desire


  • The world is getting smaller.
  • People are traveling more.
  • More people are traveling.
  • Cruise ships are getting larger and are fitted with more amenities.
  • Travelers are becoming more sophisticated and experienced.
  • Europe and the Caribbean are getting more "Been There. Done That!" even for many Millennials.


Now what?

Proboscis Monkey in Borneo, Malaysia taken while on an
  Azamara Club Cruise Bali, Indonesia to Osaka, Japan
  • Discovering nature.
  • Discovering unspoiled cultures.
  • Discovering quiet.
  • Discovering WOW!

Some people automatically think that a cruise is clearly not the way to engage nature or the exotics. Ironically, in many instances, cruising is not only the best way; it is the ONLY way.  (You think you can just fly into that tiny Seychelles island or Cambodian village?  Not happening!)

And, to be honest, because of the aforesaid misperception, there are some pretty great deals to be had this winter and spring...just waiting for the sophisticated (or simply adventurous) traveler.

Here is a bit of a rundown of some of the major truly exotic destination cruise lines and generally what they are offering in the way of style, amenities and locales.  If you want more information (or, 'er um, want to really "explore" your options) give me a call or drop me an email.

Seabourn

Seabourn provides more of a traditional luxury cruise, with a highly inclusive product, but with expedition adventures.  It has received stellar reviews from those seeking a taste of the exotic expedition, but with all the comfort, service and cuisine they expect on a Seabourn cruise.  Seabourn has operated Antarctic cruises for a few years now and, it seems, they get better and better.

Seabourn Quest - January 2016
Photo courtesy of Captain Geir-Arne Thue-Nislen
I regularly have clients onboard the 450 guest Seabourn Quest (with its ice-rated hull) being thrilled not only with the the views, wildlife, zodiac adventures and landings, but dining with Thomas Keller (of the French Laundry and Bouchon) cuisine.  Terms like "Fabulous", "Incredible", "Breathtaking" are the norm.  The Seabourn Quest has expanded its expedition adventures from its traditional longer combined Antarctica and Patagonia cruises (21 days and longer) to include the North Atlantic (Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland as examples) and this summer, the British Isles and Ireland. (Note:  Antarctic zodiac and landings are included, but other shore excursions may be an additional cost.)

A little hike in Norway
after a zodiac expedition around the northernmost point in Europe
Starting in 2017 Seabourn is sending the Seabourn Sojourn to Alaska with a variety of cruises between Seward, Alaska and Vancouver, Canada.  Initial interest has been quite high.

Silversea Expeditions

Silversea Expedition's Silver Explorer
Silversea Expeditions has one of the most comprehensive expedition fleets and itineraries in the world.  When combined with the luxury level of service and cuisine, Silversea Expeditions provides nearly endless opportunities.

Silversea's fleet includes:
  • The 132 guest Silver Explorer, its flagship and most traveled expedition ship, visiting Antarctica (most being 10 day voyages, but three are extended with immersive exploration of South Georgia Island, for example), Greenland and Iceland, and, as it travels to/from there a Britain and Europe, West Coast of Africa and Central and South America.
  • The 120 guest Silver Discoverer offers some truly exotic and unusual itineraries from Russia's Far East and East Asia to Northern Australia, New Zealand, Micronesia, Melanesia and French Polynesia (including roundtrip Papeete, Tahiti) 
  • The 100 guest Silver Galapagos rotating seven day itineraries of the North Central and Western Galapagos Islands providing seven and fourteen day opportunities to explore this fascinating area.
  • Starting in November 2017, after an extensive refurbishment, Silversea's 200 guest Silver Cloud will join Silversea Expeditions (and renamed Silver Cloud Expedition) with a series of Antarctic cruises, presumably providing a more typical luxury cruise experience, but with expedition opportunities.

Silversea Expedition current ships are purpose built and are able to visit, and explore in depth, some extremely remote and otherwise inaccessible locales while also providing you with an all-inclusive experience from complimentary beverages to butler service...and with complimentary expedition activities and shore excursions in all ports.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises is doing some pretty amazing things of late, working hard to re-brand and refocus itself.  Presently there are two exotic cruises that are worth mentioning.

Crystal Esprit and its two man submarine
(And you may even be given the chance to drive it!)
Crystal Esprit is Crystal Cruises new 62 guest yacht which plies the Indian Ocean and the Seychelles in the winter months on a series of repeating seven day cruises.  In addition to exploring the islands it visits, you are given the unique opportunity to also explore underwater with its two person submarine.  (And, yes, if you are good, you may be given the opportunity to drive it!  My friend said it was "awesome"!)  One thing to consider, it is a long way to go for a seven day cruise, so Crystal actually starts things off with a 2 or 4 night stay in Dubai...and I highly recommend at least two days afterwards to experience one of the Seychelles unique hotels.

In a one-off sailing the Crystal Serenity has a 32 day Northwest Passage cruise from Anchorage to New York departing August 16, 2016 traveling well above the Arctic Circle above Canada.  

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has three more exotic itineraries that are well worth considering.  One of my personal favorites is their Vietnam and Cambodia combination of land and Mekong River cruise where you spend time in North Vietnam in Hanoi and Halong Bay, fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia visiting Angkor Wat and other temples, then travel down the Mekong River to Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) on a 164 passenger upscale river cruise ship..  It is far more in-depth and personal than any ocean cruise could possibly offer.  "Life-changing", "Incredibly Insightful", "Awe-Inspiring" and "Unlike anything I have ever experienced" are phrases used to describe this experience.

AmaWaterways Mekong River cruise through Cambodia
Ox Cart Ride to a Buddhist Temple
Interested in a "taste" of Africa but do not want to go on a traditional safari, AmaWaterways, utilizing the 28 passenger Zambezi Queen, combines a shorter river cruise with time in Capetown, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg, and, if you like, a three night train experience to Pretoria.

Myanmar is another exotic destination that AmaWaterways explores in-depth with a 14 day river cruise, stopping at 18 different destinations along the way; offering you are more than the typical ocean cruise 3-4 day orchestrated experience.

Lindblad Expeditions

Lindland's National Geographic Orion
providing one of its more luxurious expedition/exotic experiences
Lindblad Expeditions has a number of exotic destinations with a number of ships that, in many instances, led another life before coming to Lindblad.  As such there is a great diversity in the level of accommodation and the itineraries they operate so you may find one exotic itinerary operates in a near luxury manner while another is a bit more functional.  With eight ships operating itineraries range from the Amazon to East Asia to Africa to the Galapagos, the exotics and expeditions are available but each experience will be different. Regardless of which expedition you choose it is a fairly inclusive experience with all excursions and non-alcoholic beverages provided.  Gratuities, alcoholic beverages and such are at an additional cost.

G Adventures


If you are looking for a more affordable, and probably more rustic, exotic trip, G Adventures might just be the perfect option for you.  It has an extensive choice of escorted itineraries from Galapagos cruises to Amazon River Cruises to land trips from Morocco to Patagonia ranging from essentially tents and trucks (and public transportation) to quite comfortable three star hotels and tours.

G Adventures Peruvian Amazon River Cruise
I truly enjoyed my Amazon River cruise with my son.  It was definitely more comfortable and easier going than my prior experience sleeping in shed with latrines, no electricity and travel by canoe or powered row boat.  There is, of course, a trade-off between comfort and truly in-depth experiential hikes and wildlife observation, but for most it is great balance.

So Many Other Options...and Not All By Water!

The opportunities for exotic or expedition travel is not limited to what I have mentioned so far.  In fact, because there are so many different levels comfort, depth of experience, time constraints, distances to travel, etc., virtually every travel operator touches upon exotic, if not expedition, travel.  I would, for example, be remiss if I did not mention the breadth and quality available from Ambercrombie & Kent (having sent clients on very successful journeys from India to Patagonia), Tauck (for a more polished luxury experience) or Big Five Tours (who have put together an incredible ultra-luxury African safari and shark diving experience for some of my clients).

It is a big world out there!  Goldring Travel is here with the experience, knowledge, service and connections to not only assist you, but to assure your expectations are exceeded...while staying within your budget!

Please give me a call:

United States:         (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:   020 8133 3450
Australia:               (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:  +1 732 578 8585


Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.