Historically, the vessels making these adventurous voyages have in most cases fallen into the 'basic' category: hefty icebreakers, often with tiny bunk bedded cabins and not much in the way of creature comforts - but still with a substantial price tag.
A handful of vessels have fallen into the four and five star categories of expedition, but the whole concept of a luxury expedition yacht is something very new, and we are going to see quite a few of these join the expedition fleet over the next few years.
One of the first of these will be Scenic Eclipse, currently under construction in Croatia and scheduled to launch at the end of January 2019. With a successful reputation as a quality river cruise operator, this is Scenic's first foray into the ocean market where, as they say, luxury and discovery combine. The ship will feature a wealth of world-class facilities and amenities, as well as a helicopter and 7-seat submarine, with all-inclusive fly-cruise packages which mean that all your expenses are taken care of up front.
Accommodation is spacious, with a verandah and butler service, and the almost 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio ensures you will be cared for throughout the ship. Facilities on board will include the Spa Sanctuary, indoor and outdoor swimming and plunge pools, expert Discovery Leaders, complimentary WiFi and a daily entertainment and education programme.
A choice of 10 dining experiences, ranging from casual to fine dining, fits with the whole theme of choice throughout the ship. Eight spacious bars and lounges as well as small and intimate venues ensure that those who are accustomed to high standards of luxury and attention to detail will be happy, whilst true adventurers for whom it is all about the time ashore will also enjoy the expert guides and lecturers. This really is a 'no compromise' product.
Sales for the first ship have been so strong that Scenic have announced that they are building a second sister ship, which will be ready in August 2019. Prepare to sail way off the radar in the polar regions, and on unusual itineraries in more conventional destinations.
Ponant is about to launch the first of a series of an amazing six new yachts, the Ponant Explorers, even more suited to expedition than the existing fleet: a limited guest capacity, sleek design, cutting-edge technology, and respect for the environment are key to the Ponant style, and we are all particularly looking forward to seeing the Blue Eye.
This multisensory underwater space will feature integrated digital screens projecting images filmed live by three underwater cameras, an immersive sound experience which can be felt in the Body Listening sofas, which discreetly vibrate in unison, and non-intrusive underwater projectors to observe the seabed and photo-luminescent organisms.
Award winning classic cruise operator Crystal Cruises will launch its first expedition yacht, Crystal Endeavor, in 2020, with stylish décor and levels of service totally in keeping with the existing fleet, combined with the opportunity to explore further afield and away from the crowds.
Meanwhile both Silversea and Seabourn offer 'luxury meets discovery' programmes, combining their fine classic cruise style with the opportunity to explore more locations in regions where the tourism infrastructure is very limited.
Exploring without compromising on your creature comforts has never been more accessible, so now is the time to seize the opportunity to discover our amazing planet in more depth than ever before.