It has been a busy week for the Expedition Cruise business! Silversea had an Antarctic naming ceremony for the Silver Endeavour, Atlas Ocean Voyages had a Patagonian dual naming ceremony for its World Navigator and World Traveller (which I will be on shortly), and Seabourn had an Antarctic naming ceremony for the Seabourn Venture.
Add to that, not long ago Viking had a Norwegian naming ceremony for the Viking Polaris, and, most certainly without limitation, Aurora Expeditions has its inaugural voyage of the Syliva Earle in a couple of weeks.
Now add to that the ships that already run expeditions to Antarctica from operators such as Silversea, Quark Expeditions, Scenic Eclipse, Lindblad Expeditions and, Chimu/Intrepid, and you have quite a stable of expedition options; especially noting that many are operating multiple ships. (And, trust me, there are yet more!)
Regardless of the expedition you are looking at, the marketing materials will show a ship full of 35-50 year old men and women hiking up snow-covered mountains, racing along in zodiacs, kayaking and more. That can be intimidating for those of us of over 50! All those questions about whether you are fit enough to even get in and out of a zodiac arise…and so many just end their thoughts of a polar expedition (Antarctica or the Arctic) right there.
But wait: Reality Matters!
I have been on quite a few polar expeditions and I have found that overall I am one of the youngest and most fit on each of my journeys (save the expedition team itself). How can that be? The answer is actually quite simple.
Most expeditions require at least two weeks of time, taking into account getting to/from a more remote location (Ushuaia, Argentina; Longyearbyen, Svalbard; or, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, as examples) plus the expedition itself. Not many in the 35-50 year old range can afford that much time away from home…with work schedules and young children being the primary limiters.
Most expeditions also require a fairly healthy bank account since the cost of an expedition is substantially more than a classic cruise or land journey. Again, younger folks have many financial obligations including their children (kids are far more expensive than they tell you! LOL), college funds, mortgages, etc.
Yes, there are those 35-50 year olds that have the time, but not the money. Yes, there are those who have the money, but not the time. But there are not that many that have the time, money and – importantly – the desire to explore a polar region above all others!
Younger travelers are, well, just getting to “travel”. The number of Americans (for example) that have traveled abroad is staggeringly low with 27% never having done so and only 11% having been to 10 more countries. Add to that the desire to see Italy, England and France is much higher for the new-to-international-travel person. (Here is an interesting article on the subject: Most Americans have traveled abroad, but this varies by income, education, race | Pew Research Center)
And, thus, those in the 35-50 year old range who tend to have the time, the money, and the desire is a fairly small pool. And that is where the 50-85 year old’s come in!
All of the expedition companies know this age group is the majority of who will be their guests. And, as a result, they are trained and well equipped to deal with those of us who are less agile, a bit unsteady, somewhat frail, and/or just a bit unsure.
I have many clients in their 70s and 80s that have loved their polar expeditions. In fact, many were somewhat recalcitrant to start off with a, “Well, I’ve been everywhere else. I guess I should see the Seventh Continent (or Northern Lights)” and wind up returning because it is just that amazing and the expedition companies have made them feel safe and enthusiastic.
I have clients where the husband is a bit older and more infirm (or less enthusiastic), but the wife is more active. Not a problem. He steps on Antarctica one time, enjoying the ship and the views, while she is out and about…and visa-versa!
On my recent trip to the Northwest Passage (Canada and Greenland) on Quark Expedition’s Ultramarine, I met Stuart; an 89-year-old who loved travel, but understood his limitations. He became my lunch partner and was treated to his enthusiasm most every day. He reinforced something that I have said for years:
There are those that just want to see Antarctica. There are those that want to set foot on it just one time. There are those who want to embrace it. And there are those that foolishly think they can conquer it. My clients are the first three…and each one is personally touched; not one being more so than the others.
Each of the expedition companies know their market even more than their marketing. And they bring to you so many options (expedition company dependent):
With so many options, so many different styles of expedition, an ever-expanding choice of itineraries (including flying over the Drake Passage), and locations (Antarctica, Patagonia, Svalbard, Greenland, Northern Canada, Alaska, etc.), there is no reason not to consider an expedition.
Did I mention places like the Kimberly in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Western Africa, Southeast Asia, or the Amazon River Basin? Yes, those are great expedition locations as well!