Prices for adventure cruises may seems high, but a closer look reveals the value, says Edwina Lonsdale

One of the most exciting cruise developments in recent years has been the growth in adventure travel by ship. Such a trip offers the opportunity to travel further afield, away from the tourist regions, and into truly remote, unexplored or wilderness areas, and on board a small ship, specifically adapted for this kind of travel.
On first sight, such a trip looks expensive, especially when compared to conventional cruise product. There are many reasons why an expedition costs more to operate than a ‘normal’ cruise, with so many extras creating a substantial overhead which is divided between a small number of passengers.
Each expedition carries a number of highly trained and knowledgeable experts such as naturalists and tour leaders. They are the best in their field, with years of experience in the region you are visiting. Their job is to ensure that you learn everything you wish to know, and to take you ashore (or not) aboard RIBs which enable you to explore otherwise inaccessible shores.
What’s more, you are looked after by an exceptionally well-trained crew, who work in very demanding conditions. They are in charge of your safety, and need to be specialised and responsible – this is not a team of minimum wagers.
Expedition operators spend much time researching each itinerary in depth, developing partnerships and a support network in remote areas. If they are going ashore in locations where people live, they pay villagers for access to their land, agree on ancillary benefits to the community and ensure that their presence is not damaging. Most operators have a strong ethos of responsibility, giving back to the people and location in the form of financial support, joint activity and ethical trading.
Expedition operators incur far higher fuel costs than cruise operators, using high grade fuel throughout, and in the Antarctic, the most expensive in the world. And of course the insurance for a ship that ventures into inadequately surveyed or unsurveyed areas is substantial. Provisioning is difficult and has to be done for long periods of time when the ship will be out of the range of civilisation.
So with high numbers of experts, mariners and crew, and low numbers of passengers, the overheads have to be high. But people choosing this type of holiday come back overwhelmed by the value for money, on a trip they couldn’t possibly replicate

Edwina Lonsdale is managing director of Mundy Cruising