Expedition cruising: The future of travel?

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Many of us dream of travelling to far flung places and exploring remote destinations, to discover pristine natural beauty and wildlife that is totally unafraid of human presence.

But by embarking on such a journey, you might become part of a steadily increasing group of travellers who, by their own actions, are compromising the very thing they are looking for, true wilderness areas undamaged by human actions.

Tourism is usually accompanied by development which, no matter how sensitively done, will invariably compromise the environment which drew people there in the first place. Fenced-in game parks to ensure wildlife sightings, desert island resorts that are more concrete than coral - a number of places in the world have become a manufactured versions of themselves.

So how can you travel to a destination without significantly changing it for future generations or damaging it beyond repair? The answer can be seen in the latest generation of expedition cruise ships that are being launched by Crystal, Scenic and Ponant. Featuring a variety of innovations ranging from advanced Azipod propulsion systems and dynamic GPS positioning to self-adjusting stabilisers, these vessels are more space ship than cruise ship, appropriate considering the remote and otherworldly nature of many of the destinations that they visit.

Designed to have less impact on the environment than existing larger ships (and much less than permanent tourism infrastructure), they burn cleaner fuel, GPS positioning avoids the need for an anchor so no harm is caused to the sea floor, and it's prohibited to leave anything ashore, so nothing blights the landscape. Even the ship's waste water must be carefully managed, and there are strict decontamination processes between each landing site to avoid any possible spread of disease.

On board, the technological advancements continue, providing an even more extraordinary experience. Ponant are planning an underwater viewing lounge, Scenic and Crystal will offer helicopters and submarines, and Crystal are planning to carry amphibious zodiacs, scuba equipment (with an onboard compression chamber) and Seabobs, powerful underwater scooters.

All this means that the next generation of expeditions will be able to take citizen explorers, a phrase Lars-Eric Lindblad used when he took his first travellers to Antarctica in 1966, to visit areas with less impact, and offer a level of discovery that was unimaginable only a few years ago. It will be a more immersive experience, not just taking you there but allowing you to see more of the destination.

This is an exciting time not just for expedition cruising but also for the future of travel. There's still a long way to go to achieve completely eco-friendly tourism, but this new wave of expedition cruise could help keep the world's most incredible coastlines devoid of hotel development, ancient monuments without the modern gift shops, and remote and pristine lands remaining just that.

Alex Loizou
Meet the author

Alex is Director of Sales & Marketing at Mundy Adventures

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