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EXPEDITION CRUISING- THE PROS AND CONS

EXPEDITION CRUISING- THE PROS AND CONS

In the past few years, expedition cruising has been one of the biggest growth areas in the cruise industry, epsecially in terms of new builds. And, with the announcement of new, bespoke expedition cruise ships for both Quark and Scenic, that growth seems set fair to continue for some time to come. The big questions are, how long will it continue to boom, and how much of a difference will it make to cruising as a whole?

Time was when, even a few years ago, expedition cruising was the preserve of the very few, the truly bold and adventurous. And they were accommodated on vessels that matched the venues they visited; sturdy, reliable yet typically quite spartan in style and product delivery. Many of them were, in fact, chartered Russian ice breakers and ships with ice strengthened hulls. While the experience that they offered was truly mesmerising, the product qualiy was somewhat less than overwhelming.

That changed with the introduction of Silversea's fleet of expedition ships. Starting from 2008 onwards, the upscale, top notch line purchased and converted a number of smaller ships up to the same standards of style and service as found on the company's fabled mainstream fleet. So successful has this been that the line now plans to devote it's first ship-Silver Cloud- solely to the expedition fleet after a substantial rebuild in late November.

And others are getting in on the act, too. Crystal has already confirmed an order for a 25,000 ton expedition ship, due to be devoted to solely the polar regions, plus up close cruising in places such as the Amazon and west coast America. A second ship is also expected. Scenic has ordered a 228 passenger new vessel with no less than ten dining venues on board- overkill gone mad, for sure, but indicative of the way that things are going.

While the advent of all these ships will have little effect on the mainstream cruise market, this glut of new vessels does open up a world of opportunities to people who are perhaps tired of traditional cruising haunts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. The arrival of more Chinese and Russian passengers into the upsacle, deluxe cruise market is also a driving factor in the arrival of thse new cruising paragons; simply put, you no longer have to 'rough it' to enjoy the great, epic wilndernesses of the frozen north and south any more.

I expect this market to grow steadily, at least for the next few years. Beyond that, only time will tell.

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