This type of cruise holiday is ideal if you are looking for adventure and exploration in off-the-beaten track locations which can stretch from Antarctica to the Northern Lights, and from the Amazon to the waterways of China.
Expedition cruising tends to be in smaller ships allowing them to get close to coastal and river sights and docking in the small ports not accessible to larger ships. The destination is the star with every element of the itinerary and ship life geared towards maximising your appreciation and understanding of the places visited.
Popular regions for expedition cruising are the Arctic, Alaska, the Galapagos Islands and the South Pacific, and the ultimate adventure destination - Antarctica. Inland waterways offer similar adventure with expedition cruises available on rivers including the Amazon and the Yangtze.
Shore excursions are real adventures and are often taken on foot with few of the 'frills' you might expect on a mainstream cruise. Many landings are made via inflatable zodiac boats, which require a certain amount of agility and are often onto beaches with no piers.
An expedition cruise is also 'manned' very differently from other styles of cruise holiday. The cruise director is replaced by an expedition leader, an expert in his or her field. Working with the expedition leader is a team of experts - biologists, geologists and even anthropologists whose knowledge fits the itinerary and who act as guides on shore and provide lecturers on the ship.
Until recently, taking an expedition cruise meant sacrificing some the comforts associated with a mainstream cruise. But companies are now combining exploration and destination-focused adventure with quality cuisine and sophisticated service.