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Future Perfect: New Expedition Cruise Ships and Itineraries for 2020

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What are the cool new expedition ships and itineraries launching in the next few years? Dave Monk takes a look…

Thinking of booking an expedition cruise in 2020? Here’s everything you need to know, from polar class laden with zodiacs to itineraries circling Patagonia and the dramatic Chilean Fjords. Prepare for some serious exploration inspiration.

Ship focus

Coral Geographer
At the Explorer bar on Coral Geographer, you can enjoy drinks al fresco as you watch the sun set. The latest addition to Australian line Coral Expeditions’ fleet will launch in late 2020. A 120-passenger sister ship to Coral Adventurer, it will have more than 1,000 square metres of open deck space, including a wrap-around promenade with panoramic views. Most cabins will also have a private balcony. Dining will be at a communal table serving buffet breakfast and lunch, as well as dinners featuring Australian and local produce. The ship also comes equipped with two Xplorer tenders and six Zodiac boats.

Expedition cruise ship: National Geographic Endurance
Lindblad is launching its first polar ship, National Geographic Endurance

Nat Geo Endurance
Expedition experts Lindblad are using the X factor on their first polar ship, the 126-guest National Geographic Endurance, launching in January 2020. The X-Bow is said to give the smoothest ride in all types of seas, saving fuel and reducing emissions. Watching wildlife is much easier, too, because passengers can look straight down the sides without having to lean over a deck rail. Other great spots to see the scenery are walk-out areas from the bridge and the observation lounge – you can even enjoy the landscape sitting in twin infinity hot tubs, saunas and a glass-walled yoga studio.

Quark Ultramarine
With two twin-engine helicopters and a 70-day operational range, the newest ship in the Quark Expeditions fleet, launching in 2020, aims to deliver the ultimate polar experience. The 199-passenger Quark Ultramarine has two dining areas, four bars, a panoramic lounge and lecture theatre. Activities include kayaking, hiking, camping, skiing and mountaineering – but guests can also relax in the spa, fitness centre and ocean-view sauna or take a stroll round the promenade deck. Single travellers are well catered for too – they can book a solo panorama suite that gives sweeping views through floor-to-ceiling windows from the comfort of their bed.

Expedition cruise: Ponant Le Commandant
The hybrid Le Commandant Charcot can sail almost silently

Le Commandant Charcot
French company Ponant will be heading to the North Pole on the hybrid electric ship Le Commandant Charcot from May 2021. Because it can switch between liquefied natural gas and batteries, the 270-passenger vessel will be able to sail almost silently in sensitive areas without producing any emissions. Even so, the ship will be strong enough to plough through dense ice as it carries guests from Spitsbergen to the top of the world. Le Commandant Charcot will also carry a scientific lab to study the ecosystems and biodiversity of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Seabourn Venture
Guests who want to see under the ocean as well as above it will be able to ride in a six-passenger submarine on Seabourn’s new polar-class ship Seabourn Venture, launching in June 2021. The two battery-powered subs – equipped with a 4K underwater camera, robot arm and even a champagne cooler – will be able to dive up to 300 metres below the surface to explore wrecks, reefs and marine wildlife. The all-balcony Seabourn Venture, and its yet- unnamed sister launching in 2022, will also have 24 Zodiacs that can carry all 264 passengers at the same time to make sure no one misses out on expeditions ashore.

Expedition cruise: Seabourn Venture - exterior rendering (front)
Seabourn Venture will bring uber-luxury to the expedition market

Itinerary focus

Dramatic Patagonia and the Chilean fjords
Lovers of mountains, fjords and glaciers should book a voyage on Greg Mortimer, the new ship from Aurora Expeditions, as it travels through Patagonia. After sailing along the Beagle Channel, the 120 passengers will be able to take Zodiac boats on the lookout for dolphins, penguins and seals. An overnight in Torres del Paine National Park will allow guests to see its granite towers and awe-inspiring landscapes. Other highlights will include watching migrating whales as they swim in search of warmer waters.

14-day cruise leaving Ushuaia in Argentina on 2 April 2020, from £5,728,

Expedition cruise penguins
Polar penguins make an irresistible photo-op

Seafaring Mediterranean
You may think you know the Med but a 17-day itinerary on new ship Scenic Eclipse will show you the highlights of Portugal, Spain, Morocco, France, Monaco, Italy and Greece in one dream trip. Like explorers of old, guests on the 228-guest ship will sail from Lisbon and follow the Atlantic coast past the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean.

On the way they will see wonderful places such as Seville, Tangier, Malaga, Barcelona, Saint-Tropez, Monte Carlo, Amalfi t and Santorini. The expedition ends 5 in Athens, another centre of ancient seafaring, but all the way guests t will enjoy the most modern comfort e on a ship that boasts a helicopter and a submarine.

17-day cruise leaving Lisbon on 11 April a 2021, from £9,776,

Expedition cruise: Morocco market
Enjoy exploring Morocco’s colourful markets

Energetic Australia
Newcomer Crystal Endeavor is heading Down Under in its inaugural season, taking up to 200 1 guests on a leisurely 14-day cruise from Cairns to Sydney via such colourfully named destinations as Ribbon Reefs, Coral Sea Islands and Magnetic Island. In Lizard Island National Park, nestled on the Great Barrier Reef, passengers will be able to go hiking, swimming and snorkelling, or take a Zodiac into the mangroves to seek out yellow-spotted monitor lizards. The waters surrounding the island include coral gardens of colourful fish and giant clams.

14-day cruise leaving Cairns on 31 October 2020, from £12,704,

Expedition cruise: The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the must-dive destinations in the world

Bucket-list Antarctica
The seventh continent is on many people’s bucket lists and now travellers can sail on the new 530-passenger Hurtigruten ship Roald Amundsen, named after the Norwegian who led the first expedition to the South Pole. An 18-day itinerary combines the Chilean fjords, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica in one cruise, giving passengers the chance to see wildlife such as penguins, whales and seals mid icebergs and floes. Because Roald Amundsen is a hybrid diesel/ electric ship, it can sometimes sail silently and emission free to ensure minimal effect on the environment.

8-day voyage leaving Santiago de Chile on 4 November 2020, fom £7,580,

Small-ship Alaska
Experience a unique view of the Last Frontier state from the 76-guest UnCruise ship Wilderness Discoverer on a 14-day voyage from Seattle to the Alaskan capital of Juneau. The route explores Olympic National Park, the San Juan Islands and Canada’s Inside Passage before arriving in Ketchikan. The ship then heads to Misty Fjords National Monument, Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound, Icy Strait, Glacier Bay National Park, Petersburg and Haines. UnCruise begins Alaska sailings in April, before the main cruise season gets underway.

15-day trip leaving Seattle on 18 April 2020, from £4,006 (plus flights from Heathrow),