These cruises price $30,000 and don’t have any set itinerary. This is what to anticipate

Think about a cruise that is a little bit of a thriller. You understand the final area you may be visiting and the place the voyage will start and finish, however every little thing else is up within the air. Would you guide it? In case your reply is sure, would you continue to roll the cube if you happen to knew it might price you $30,000?

I just lately launched into two completely different expedition voyages — a 10-nighter on Scenic Eclipse and a 14-night crusing on Seabourn Enterprise. Each have been Arctic sailings, with the previous specializing in the Norwegian island of Svalbard and the latter visiting Greenland and Arctic Canada. Apart from the area, what they’ve in widespread is their worth level — ranging from roughly $15,000 per individual or $1,300 per evening — and a slew of adjusting day by day plans that maintain passengers on their toes.

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So, what’s with the anomaly?

Expedition cruises sail to distant areas of the world, usually the place bigger ships cannot go. The seas may be tough, and the climate usually adjustments at a second’s discover, significantly in places just like the Arctic and Antarctica. As a result of many stops in these distant areas haven’t got docks, ships are pressured to tender passengers ashore with inflatable boats referred to as Zodiacs. When situations are unsafe for Zodiacs to function, the captain can determine to delay port calls, shore landings and shore excursions or cancel them utterly.

Because the expedition workforce says on Seabourn Enterprise, if you are going to guide, the secret is “flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.” This is what I skilled on my two latest cruises so that you may be higher ready to roll with the punches if you happen to’re pondering of setting sail.

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What was deliberate

Scenic Eclipse

Scenic Eclipse floats behind a hunk of blue ice simply off of Svalbard. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Scenic Luxurious Cruises & Excursions, which is thought for its upscale river cruises and land-based excursions, entered the expedition cruise scene in 2019 with Scenic Eclipse, its first expedition vessel. For its first stint within the Arctic following the trade’s 2020 shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it relied on suggestions from its first 12 months of crusing to supply a much less structured itinerary and to ensure it had backup plans in place for any adjustments that arose.

For this crusing, there was no pre-cruise signup for excursions, landings, hikes or Zodiac cruises, which meant that there was much less disappointment over missed occasions as a result of actions weren’t introduced till the day earlier than, when it was clearer what the situations could be.

Notice the largely undefined schedule, which allowed for built-in flexibility:

  • Day 1: Longyearbyen, Svalbard (embarkation).
  • Days 2-10: Svalbard archipelago.
  • Day 11: Longyearbyen, Svalbard (disembarkation).

Seabourn Enterprise


Seabourn Cruises, which is even newer to the expedition market than Scenic, tried to supply a extra concrete itinerary pre-cruise. Nevertheless, it led to disappointment amongst among the passengers on my crusing. Lots of them are loyal repeat prospects of the road who opted to strive a cruise on Seabourn Enterprise, maybe not realizing it was extra open to last-minute pivots than the ocean cruises for which the road is basically identified.

As a result of the world Seabourn Enterprise was crusing permits submarine dives and has precise cities that may be toured, the ship supplied extra tour choices than Scenic Eclipse did, they usually have been capable of be booked previous to embarkation. They included hikes, city excursions, kayaking, submarine dives, visits to canine sled camps and different actions. As a result of individuals have been capable of choose what they needed to enroll in forward of time and get excited concerning the choices they booked, they understandably have been upset when plans needed to change.

Notice the quite particular schedule:

  • Day 1: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (embarkation).
  • Day 2: Sisimiut, Greenland.
  • Day 3: Ilulissat, Greenland.
  • Day 4: Eqi Glacier, Greenland.
  • Day 5: Uummannaq, Greenland.
  • Day 6: Upernavik, Greenland.
  • Day 7: Pond Inlet, Canada.
  • Day 8: Dundas Harbor/Croker Bay, Canada.
  • Day 9: Beechy Island, Canada.
  • Day 10: sea day.
  • Day 11: sea day.
  • Day 12: Girl Franklin Island/Monumental Island, Canada.
  • Day 13: sea day.
  • Day 14: sea day.
  • Day 15: St. John’s, Canada.

What truly occurred

Scenic Eclipse

The previous looking cabin of Wanny Wolstad, the primary feminine trapper within the Arctic. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Fortunately, by pure luck, the climate was uncharacteristically sunny throughout our voyage. As a result of the ship solely revealed the place we might be going a few day upfront, after the crew had a greater concept of what the situations could be like, there have been solely a handful of adjustments, most of which occurred resulting from native wildlife sightings. At occasions, we prevented deliberate stops as a result of polar bears have been close by, and it both wasn’t protected or we did not need to disturb them. In different situations, we diverted to watch a number of pods of whales as they fed.

On someday, we skipped a deliberate touchdown and moved on to plans B, C and D earlier than the expedition workforce lastly gave up and referred to as it a sea day, full with extra trivia and lectures to maintain us busy. I used to be impressed that the workforce had contingency plans for its contingency plans’ contingency plans.

At any time when doable, various outside actions have been scheduled if we needed to skip those that have been initially on provide. Most frequently, they included Zodiac rides to view glacier ice, waterfalls or native animals like seals or polar bears.

Seabourn Enterprise


My Seabourn expedition was a special story. Most days, it was cloudy and chilly with considerably tough seas, making many of the deliberate submarine dives, kayak excursions and Zodiac sailings unimaginable for the expedition workforce to execute. It even affected the provision of sure land-based actions like climbing.

For instance, in Ilulissat, Greenland — which I used to be keen to go to after listening to concerning the wonderful glaciers there — a hike I signed up for was canceled. After I tried to take a Zodiac into city later within the day, the craft solely made it midway earlier than the bridge radioed for all Zodiacs to return resulting from worsening situations. On a number of days, together with that one, the ship was pressured to depart early to be able to keep away from unhealthy climate.

Later within the voyage, we skipped three stops utterly due to tough water and ice that was quickly forming, rising the chance that the ship would get caught if we did not maintain transferring. (Though the ship’s hull is rated as PC-6, which means it might break by first-year ice through the summer time and fall months, my crusing was close to the tip of the season, when thicker ice had begun to kind.) The timing was unlucky, because the canceled calls have been blended in with 4 deliberate sea days, which means we unexpectedly spent seven straight days — half of the cruise — confined to the ship.


Seabourn fell just a little quick when it got here to filling the unused time created by the cancellations. On scheduled sea days, the expedition workforce deliberate for downtime with submarine excursions and lectures. However on surprising sea days, the workforce didn’t placed on extra actions to fill the time that will in any other case have been spent exploring ashore. Passengers needed to discover their very own enjoyable with puzzles and board video games, in-cabin films, studying, exercises within the small health middle or journeys to the principle lounge for scoops of gelato.

The saving grace was the wildlife we noticed alongside the way in which, together with a herd of musk oxen, three polar bears and several other whales. The expedition workforce made bulletins to alert passengers, and the captain maneuvered the ship for superb viewing. Nevertheless, there have been no Zodiac sailings supplied to get us nearer.

Backside line

The “discovery workforce” on Scenic Eclipse — which incorporates expedition guides, naturalists, geologists, botanists, animal consultants, kayak leaders, bear scouts, photographers and extra — numbers practically 30 individuals. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

It is essential to notice that adjustments are depending on situations; favorable ones are sometimes dumb luck and cannot be predicted upfront. Certainly one of my sailings had wonderful situations practically the entire time, whereas one had much more clouds, fog and wind than it did sunshine. The presence or lack of animals can even make or break a crusing, significantly if there’s further time to kill resulting from schedule adjustments.

As a result of climate within the polar areas may be unpredictable, it is best to at all times count on that adjustments will happen. You may additionally think about reserving in the midst of the season, quite than originally or finish, when your ship could possibly be extra more likely to encounter tough climate or ice.

Any expedition cruise ship value its salt will make use of a stellar expedition workforce full of consultants in topics that vary from natural world to geology and expertise. When plans are canceled, they may doubtless discover a completely different place to go to, change extra iffy actions — like submarine dives and kayaking — with much less dangerous ones like Zodiac sailings, make an additional effort to identify animals for viewing or provide lectures on their areas of experience.

Your ship may even home an leisure employees that may provide impromptu trivia competitions or late-night dance events, which assist to cross the time.

In the event you’re planning to sail, carry a way of journey and a few actions like studying supplies, taking part in playing cards or an iPad with pre-downloaded TV reveals or films you have been which means to look at.

In case you have your coronary heart set on a particular port go to, touchdown website or tour, an expedition cruise to the polar areas may not be for you. However if you happen to’re capable of take adjustments as they occur and revel in no matter comes your manner, one among these voyages can present an thrilling, enriching and once-in-a-lifetime journey alternative.

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