Expeditionary Cruising offers ‘soft’ adventure, natural wonders and famous Canadians

Expedition cruising is quickly becoming the vacation of choice for baby-boomers that are looking for a unique experience. These voyages take place aboard smaller vessels, generally less than 100 passengers, and feature resource staff from a variety of disciplines to interpret the surroundings and give lectures aboard the ship. The small ship experience is dramatically different from most people’s concept of a cruise, with a high staff to passenger ratio, a relaxed, intimate atmosphere and a sense of community and shared experience. The ships have no casinos, there is no assigned seating at dinner, and there is no need for a ball gown – with destinations as diverse as the Sea of Cortez, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, Newfoundland and Labrador, hiking boots may be more appropriate.

Expeditionary cruising is also very focused on experiencing the natural environment, with shore excursions that involve flora and fauna observation, natural history education and cultural interchanges with local communities.

The term “soft” adventure has recently been coined to describe these active holidays to adventurous destinations as they aren’t limited to the 20- and 30-somethings. Indeed, the average age of travellers is 50+, and these adventurers are well travelled, well educated and have a desire to get off the beaten path.

There are a number of companies offering this sort of experience, but Canadians (and Americans for that matter) may want to consider Adventure Canada. For the past 20 years, Adventure Canada has been running small-ship expeditionary cruising to the “blank spots” on the map, remote places of beauty and grandeur.

The latest in these offerings is a 9-day, 8-night voyage to the Sea of Cortez, aboard the 62-passenger Sea Voyager, April 28 – May 6, 2007. The Sea Voyager is a luxurious expeditionary ship, with plenty of open deck space, ample cabins and even a masseuse onboard. There is also a fleet of Zodiacs, rigid hull inflatable boats aboard, so that passengers can get up close and personal with the environment. This adventure takes in the diverse avian and marine life found along the coasts of Baja California, while providing some R&R along the spectacular beaches. Sea kayaking, snorkeling and diving is also included for those who are interested, with plenty of assistance and training provided.

For those who prefer snow to sand, Adventure Canada also offers summer trips north – far North in fact – to the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. Here they use the ice-strengthened, Zodiac-equipped, 104-passenger, MS Explorer. Affectionately known as the “Little Red Ship” this was the first passenger vessel to cross the Northwest Passage, the first to the Antarctic, and the first to cruise up the Amazon. Here, passengers experience the spectacular scenery, vibrant communities and natural history that the Arctic has to offer. 2007 – 2008 is the International Polar Year (www.ipy.org) and as a result, the renewed interest in the Arctic has made this cool area a hot destination. Summer temperatures are quite manageable, however, with night temperatures around -5C and daytime highs from 10 – 15C: a nice break from the hot, hazy and humid!

Resource staff for the 2007 Arctic season includes Stuart Maclean from CBC’s Vinyl Café, celebrated authors Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson, Ken McGoogan and Robert McGhee. They will also be joined by marine mammal researchers, Inuit culturalists, professional photographers, artists and many more.

With small ships and unique destinations, these trips tend to fill fast and many people book up to a year in advance. This year, their Sea of Cortez cruise has a few spots available at a reduced cost, with savings of up to $2,000CDN.

Contact Adventure Canada at 1-800-363-7566 for information on upcoming adventures or visit them online at www.adventurecanada.com.