It is the remoteness, the wildness, the challenges of experiencing that raw environment - that draw us to expedition cruises. Expedition cruise travelers must understand that to have the reward of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we accept the risks of being in an untamed natural environment.
I was all set to write how ‘tis the season to christen Antarctic cruise ships. But as the Antarctic cruise season has begun, a trio of incidents has overshadowed those happier events, highlighting the very nature of expedition cruising.
The White Continent is, despite year-round snow and ice, one of the ‘hottest’ cruise destinations on the planet. For many, a trip to the Antarctic represents a dream of many years, the opportunity to check the seventh continent off a lengthy travel history and the chance to see iconic wildlife, from penguins to Antarctic orchas to leopard seals, in their natural environment.
This year’s start of austral summer in November brought to the White Continent a number of new expedition cruise ships. A trifecta of naming ceremonies: of the Seabourn Venture, Silversea's Silver Endeavour, and Atlas Ocean Voyages' World Traveller and World Navigator over a single weekend in late November, highlighted how strongly expedition cruising is associated with the Antarctic.
This cluster of celebrations illustratedhow more cruise lines and ships than ever before are now sailing Antarctic itineraries.
Simple math tells us that increases the number of times something – even very rare, like incidents on expedition cruise ships – can happen.
Scarcely had the Antarctic sailing season begun, when a trio of incidents – two of them tragic – also sadly took place. You’ll quickly see a theme: fluke acts of nature.
·Fast-changing weather – described as“during flat, calm conditions, a katabatic wind event took place” and ice floes held up the Scenic Eclipse’s submersible’s return to surface. Its passengers were able to disembark after two hours;
·During a zodiac expedition from Quark Expeditions’ World Explorer, two guests died and others were injured when their zodiac was struck by a breaking wave and overturned; and
·After the ship was struck by a ‘rogue wave,’ one guest died and others were injured on the Viking Polaris as it was sailing towards Ushuaia, Argentina.
Our hearts go out to those who passed away during the dream vacation of a lifetime.
The succession of incidents led to media speculation about Antarctic cruising. I say that’s both irresponsible and unfair.
For one thing, the law of numbers is at work here – the more times you do something (like sail in Antarctic waters) the numeric likelihood of a very rare incident occurring increases. And there are more ships than ever before sailing in Antarctic waters.
I can also say with absolute certainty that nothing – nothing – is more important to any major cruise line, including every one in this article, than the safety of its guests and crew members.They go far beyond every standard, requirement or expectation to ensure every sailing, every expedition, operates safely.
The “Very Nature” of Expedition Cruising
That brings us to the very nature of expedition cruising: in ice-class hulled ships, sailing the most remote, most wild waters of the world, with amenities like zodiacs and submarines to allow guests to take those ‘expeditions’ into the undeveloped wild that draws them to expedition cruise destinations like the Antarctic.
I’m reminded of JFK’s ‘Moonshot’ speech, where the U.S. President promised to put a man on the moon and other, seemingly impossible challenges, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Similarly, expedition cruises to the most remote and risk-inherent destinations in the world attract us not because they are easy and risk-free, no matter how luxurious and pampered the cruise experience.
Mother Nature can never be fully controlled by humans. The best ships, crews, technology and equipment can never remove all the risk from immersion in genuine marine wilderness.
It is the remoteness, the wildness, the sense of going where so few have gone before, the extra effort and challenges of experiencing that wild, raw environment - that draw us to expedition cruises to the Antarctic. Expedition cruise travelers must understand that to have the reward of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we accept the risks of being in an untamed natural environment.
By: Lynn Elmhirst Producer and Host, World's Greatest Cruises
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