Four Reasons To Take an Expedition Cruise

Find adventure, exquisite nature and more when you journey on the high seas.


After several years of travel restrictions, people are yearning to get out there and experience new adventures—often in far-flung places. Does your bucket list include once-in-a-lifetime trips to Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon or the little-traveled waterways of Alaska? Expedition cruises are the perfect way to experience them. Here’s why.

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Expedition cruises use smaller ships and carry fewer passengers than traditional cruises do—usually somewhere between 100 and 500 people. This allows for a much more intimate experience, including bonding with fellow passengers and with the expert guides on board, who may include scientists, naturalists and guides with specific local knowledge of your destinations.

This can make a big difference in your travel experience, not only on the ship but also when you go ashore. On an expedition cruise, “a guide can walk you ashore in groups of 30 and explain things in detail. You get that kind of extra attention,” says Joe Maloney, AAA assistant vice president, travel product.

Because of their smaller size, expedition cruises provide more opportunities to experience the local culture—and nature—firsthand.

“They tend to be very focused on the experiential aspect of the destination,” Maloney says. “They put you in situations where you are going to see those giant tortoises in the Galapagos or a humpback whale breach in Antarctica.”

And in ports of call, you have time (and access to local guides) to get a bit more immersed in the destination’s culture and environment.

To find out more about which AAA cruise partners feature a shipboard team of marine biologists or other local expedition guides, talk with your AAA Travel Advisor.

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It’s physics: Small, agile ships can get into places where larger ships simply can’t go, such as the Greek island of Patmos and destinations in Antarctica and Alaska. Now you can visit these places and others from the comfort of a cruise ship equipped with expert guides and modern luxuries, ready to offer adventures for all comers.

Expedition cruise itineraries go all over the map, including the Baltic Sea, the Norwegian fjords, the Panama Canal and Costa Rica.

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One of the most enticing aspects of expedition cruising is the variety of available activities, which can range from whitewater rafting, kayaking and snorkeling to exploring inlets in an inflatable Zodiac watercraft. Some ships now offer helicopter rides—affording incomparable views of the destination—and even submersible rides.

One of the best things about expedition cruising, according to Maloney: “You can be as active as you want.” If you want to go to Antarctica and climb to the top of a mountain, that’s possible. Or, if you prefer, “you can always stay on the ship and enjoy the incredible scenery,” Maloney adds.

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For many of today’s travelers, a trip is not just about visiting a destination. It’s about making decisions that have a positive impact on the environment. Many studies have found that travelers today want to add sustainability to the equation when it comes to choosing where and how to go.

By bringing fewer passengers to less-traveled areas and paying due respect to local cultures, expedition cruises are doing their part to further the goals of sustainable travel.

If you possess an adventurous spirit, a curious mind, or a desire to see and experience nature and culture in destinations across the world, expedition cruising may be a perfect fit for your next trip.

With expedition cruises, taking a special journey to a dream destination is now not only possible but also convenient and often luxurious. In these smaller, more agile ships, you can venture to places not accessible by any other means with a smaller group of like-minded passengers and take part in activities for every level of ability in exquisite natural settings. Find the cruise that’s right for you.

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