Just a short Google search of expedition cruises returns a plethora of results, all of which are trying to sell you a cruise.

With literally hundreds of expedition cruise itineraries, choosing the right cruise to suit you can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. This feeling is also enhanced when you consider different ship options, operators and price differences. So how do you decide on your perfect cruise?

We have put together this page to answer just that. We have pooled all our resources to produce this detailed page to help you choose the the perfect expedition cruise. You'll need to consider options such as budget, ship size, region, activities, itinerary and, of course, what to look for in a good operator. All of these elements are discussed below in detail.

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Choosing The Right Cruise

Research, Expedition, or Luxury?

choosing the right cruise-ship

Choosing the type of cruise you want will help you narrow down your search for the perfect expedition.

Assuming you want to see wildlife, do some awesome activities and perhaps visit some traditional settlements, there are really only three types of cruises available; research, expedition and luxury




Your Budget

Your budget will be one of the major factors when choosing the right cruise to suit you. Expedition cruises tend not to be the cheapest style cruises on offer due to high operating costs in remote regions.

There are three major determining price factors when it comes to adventure cruises - itinerary, cabin accommodation, and optional extra activities.

Expedition cruises generally start around $1,500 and go upwards from there. At the lower end of the price bracket you can expect a fairly short cruise of around 7 days on a research style vessel in shared accommodation.

If you're travelling solo and want to keep the price down then you should expect to share with someone who is also travelling solo. Single cabins are more expensive.

Last minute cruise deals are certainly an option, however, there is no guarantee and you may just have to book on several weeks notice. There is also a myth that last minute deals save huge amounts. This is simply not the case. At best, you could potentially get 10% off.

Although expedition cruises are generally in huge demand, cruise lines actually make very small margins on cruises, given the high operating costs. To save the most money, the best way is to book well in advance. We mean at least a year, if not two!

If you can afford to splash out a little, then the advise would be to do it. These are a once in a lifetime trips and you'l love every second. With a higher budget, more epic cruise itineraries open up to you. The stars among these include the North West Passage from Greenland to Alaska and an ice-breaker cruise to the North Pole. Both cost over $20,000 and take at least two weeks.

This being said, the standard price for many epic cruises is around $4-6,000. As an example, this price bracket would get you a 11-13 day itinerary on-board an expedition vessel to the Arctic. Remember, once on-board, all meals and accommodation are included.

  • Gear

The itinerary will impact the price quite significantly depending on destination and duration. Whilst cruises to the Galapagos are common and therefore less expensive, cruises to remote areas like the Russian Arctic are more expensive because of the location.

However, many itineraries that are seemingly identical vary considerably depending on the ship you sail. As mentioned above, there are different types of cruises; research, expedition and luxury. Whist a 10 day itinerary through Alaska's Inside Passage on a expedition ship may cost you $3,000, the same itinerary on a luxury ship will cost you upwards of $8,000.

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Which Ship To Choose?

So you've decided on your style of cruise and budget. So how do you choose which ship to sail on?

Choosing the right cruise ship will have a huge impact on which itinerary you choose.

Adventure-style cruise ships vary considerably in size and this will change your experience considerably. Whilst some of the smaller vessels carry less than 100 passengers, some of the bigger luxury ships carry over 500 passengers.

Choosing the right ship essentially depends on what you want to get out of your cruise. If you're the active type who wants to make as many shore landings as possible then a smaller ship will be your best option.

Smaller vessels generally make more landings and offer more activities. However, smaller ships won't be as well appointed as larger luxury vessels and you'll feel the motion of the sea far more. This is certainly worth taking into account if you are prone to sea sickness.

If your goal is to go ashore as often as possible then you should consider a small vessel as ships carrying less than 200 passengers. This will maximise your chances of being ashore and give you the best opportunities for photographs and hiking. Smaller ships can reach shallower bays and inlets than larger ships, giving you more landing opportunities.

However, if you want a cruise ship that will give you all the comforts of home and more, then choosing a larger vessel may be the best option. Larger ships tend to only be in the luxury category. This is not to say that you can't get small luxury ships, it simply means that if you want a large ship, it will have to be a luxury one. 

Another option is a small yacht. Although this is not common, certain operators offer small adventure yachting experiences. Smaller yachts proved you with far more freedom in terms of landing locations and itinerary, however, you will feel the motion of the boat far more than you would on any cruise ship. Yacht cruises are also expensive and you should expect to pay in the region of $1,000 per day, per person.

Where To Sail?

Choosing the right cruise will very much depend upon where you want to sail. Each region offers something compelling and unique. From Polar bears in the Arctic, coral reefs on Micronesia.

Below we have provided a quick overview on each region. If you would like to know more then simply click on the titles below and you will be taken to the region's guide page.


choosing the right cruise - antarctica

One of the last true wildernesses on earth, Antarctica is a pristine environment unspoiled by humans. Expect to see towering icebergs, friendly penguins and numerous whale and seal species including orca, humpbacks and minke. 

South America

choosing the right cruise - galapagos

The Galapgos is by far the most popular expedition cruise destination in South America. The wildlife is incredibly tame and you'll get some unforgettably close experiences. Amazon river cruises are also popular as you sail through unchartered forests with only nature as company. 


choosing the right cruise - arctic

One of the most popular expedition cruising regions on earth, the Arctic is a rue explorers destination. Polar bears roam the ice, walrus haul up on icebergs and whales cruise alongside your ship. The North Pole is the ultimate expedition cruise destination. 


choosing the right cruise - australia

Australia and Indonesia are becoming more popular every year as travellers begin to realise just how beautiful these regions are. you'll witness thundering waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art, plunging gorges, deserted beaches, and a plethora of wildlife including the charismatic kangaroos. 

South Pacific

choosing the right cruise - south pacific

The South Pacific region is home to some of the most gorgeous waters, beaches and islands on earth. Swim among brightly-colorer coral, get close to marine predators and relax on pure white sand beaches as you experience the islands tribal cultures. 


choosing the right cruise - asia

Deeply cultural and beautiful, Asia expedition cruises offer diverse landscapes and people. Experience an older way of life as you cruise the Mekong or visit a monastery in Myanmar. Or perhaps witness a modern day dragon on Komodo!

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

What Wildlife Do You Want To See?

Wildlife watching is major reason why many people choose expedition style cruises as supposed to normal cruises.

It's very important to understand what wildlife you may see in what region and how likely you are to see it. Just because you're taking a cruise to Antarctica, does not mean your guaranteed sightings of an emperor penguin. In fact very few Antarctic itineraries will see them.

This is the same with whales. If your in a region that blue whales are known to occupy does not mean you will see a blue whale.

On the other hand, there are some magnificent creatures that you are guaranteed to see depending on which region you sail. Below we have listed the most popular species and what regions you are most likely to see them.

  • ORCA

The polar bear can be seen on most itineraries to the Arctic. For the best chance to see them, take a svalbard, Wrangel Island or Canadian Arctic cruise. 

Choosing The Right Operator

choosing the right cruise - operators

Okay, so you know your budget, you know the type of ship you want and you've worked out where you want to sail. 

It's now time to choose which operator you want.There are many operators in single regions all offering the same itineraries. It's therefore important to choose an operator your comfortable with. 

Below we have written our top tips for choosing an operator. Make sure you and your operator follow the guidelines set out by AECO.

Knowing Their Ship

All good expedition cruise operators should know their ship. This means they should be able to advise you on what cabin would suit you best, what activities might suit you and what ship you would prefer. Bare in mind that operators often own more than one ship. An example would be if you wanted a ocean view but suffered a little from seasickness, the operator should know which of their cabins would work best.

Food quality And Options

All operators offer something slightly different when it comes to food. Some offer buffet style dining, whilst others offer menu style. Ask if they cater to your specific food requirements and allergies, and find out how many hot meals are served each day. Dinners can range from one to three courses, depending on the ship. Also find out of meals and drinks are included.

Lectures and Guides

When it comes to guides, a good ratio to look for is 1 guide for every 10 passengers. If you have a ratio of more than 1-20 then we wold advise not sailing with that operator. Bare in mind though that large luxury cruises will certainly have more than 1-10 ratio. Your guides should be an experienced and knowledgable in their fields. Top cruises will often provide photography experts also.

Eco-Friendly Operators

Choosing a conscientious expedition cruise operator is vitally important. The environment should be your top priority and this should be reflected in your choice of operator. Look for ships with a carbon neutral scheme or operators that work alongside charities.

Check Your Itinerary Route

The itinerary and cruise route will have a big impact on choosing the right cruise to suit you and your family.

Always be careful though, many operators take different routes and you should look carefully at the trip route to make sure you're visiting the spots you want to see.

For example, whilst there are numerous expedition cruises to Svalbard, most take different routes through the archipelago. See both maps below.


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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Choosing The Right Cruise: FAQ

That's it folks - you're now ready to choose your perfect expedition cruise. Good luck!

If you have any further questions or queries in regards to choosing the right cruise, please leave a comment below and we'll respond ASAP.

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