New Expedition Ships are Changing Cruising as We Know it

What was one thing is now entirely another: This is the story of travel in 2021. Lines are blurred; our old classifications no longer hold. “No-frills” airlines roll out first-class cabins. Youth hostels are suddenly chic. Corporate chain hotels hire boutique designers, while indie boutiques go multinational.

Conde Nast Traveler.- The order, as Dylan sang, is rapidly fading. Yesterday’s travel upstarts are today’s big guns—and the even bigger guns play the role of scrappy outliers.

Confused? So is everyone. But dropping outmoded categories isn’t a bad thing. It’s made travel far more interesting while bringing together a range of travelers who’d never crossed paths before, let alone shared a ride on a Zodiac.

For eons, the cruise industry resisted categorical change. There were the big lines, with their giant floating resorts, and there were the little guys, doing their little thing on smaller ships and yachts. Their styles were as distinct as their clientele: You were either a big-ship person or a small-ship person, and rarely did passengers overlap.

The same holds for devotees of traditional versus “expedition” cruises—highly active, often rugged adventure trips, focused on nature and remote locations, where guests splashed through mangroves in search of wild tales to regale friends with back home. It wasn’t always hardcore, but it wasn’t kiddie stuff, either. Expedition cruising was the R.E.I. to traditional cruising’s Tommy Bahama. (Luxury cruising was Loro Piana.) At least that’s how we told them all apart.

Silversea Silver Origin lounge
Silversea’s all-suite Silver Origin was built specifically for the Galapagos. Jorge Prigann

Well. Things are no longer so clear-cut.

As with everything else, cruising categories are blending together, delineations falling away. Ships aren’t just big or small; now there are small-big ships and big-small ships, and a whole new armada of “megayachts.” Expedition cruises are growing more luxe, the experiences more rarefied. Luxury lines, meanwhile, are pushing into expedition territory, devising novel ways to engage with destinations.

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