Expedition ships represent one of the largest categories of cruise vessels being built for 2021, and these run the gamut from rugged, hard-driving ships to vessels that offer all the comforts of a true luxury cruise.
Expect these small ships to make big waves when they set sail next year. We've also included a few ships that are fully finished and debuted this year but have yet to carry paying passengers onboard due to the ongoing global health crisis.
Australia-based Coral Expeditions introduces its Coral Geographer in March, when it set sail on a 19-night journey from Cairns to Broome.
The line's newest purpose-built expedition vessel, Coral Geographer is a sister-ship to the 120-passenger Coral Adventurer that debuted in 2019. It will boast all-oceanview cabins and over 1000 square metres (roughly 10,700 square feet) of open deck space.
Coral Expeditions notes Coral Geographer will offer the same design and build as Coral Adventurer, with one important distinction: due to popular demand, the vessel will increase the number of spacious Bridge Suites onboard to six. All will feature the line's trademark "Horizon Bathtubs" for unparalleled relaxation and views.
The vessel will also offer Coral's signature Xplorer tenders for comfortable, hassle-free excursions, along with six zodiac rafts for remote shore landings.
Coral Geographer will also offer some perks rarely seen on other expedition ships, including guided engine room tours and a special lounge for passengers on the starboard wing of the ship's navigation bridge.
Coral Geographer Itineraries: Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific
The 200-passenger Ocean Victory debuts with Victory Cruise Lines in 2020, expanding the line's itineraries to include voyages to Alaska in 2021.
Though the ship is designed by SunStone (a ship management and leasing company), Victory will be one of its primary operators.
The ship will also be distinctive, sporting what's known as an X-Bow; a swept-back bow that has been used on deep-ocean vessels in Arctic waters for several years now. The X-Bow promises a smoother ride for passengers with lower noise and vibration levels. Its design prevents the bow from "bottoming out" in heavy seas, which often causes the hull to crash and vibrate noticeably.
The ship will also offer a full complement of expedition gear, including 20 zodiac rafts and a fleet of kayaks. A dedicated expedition team will accompany the vessel's sailings.
Ocean Victory will offer passengers two dining venues, a forward-facing observation lounge; an infinity pool; a dedicated lecture room; a coffee bar; and a fitness center and spa.
The ship is outfitted to Polar Class 6 ice specifications, making it capable of operating in the waters of Antarctica and the Arctic.
Ocean Victory Itineraries (For Victory Cruise Lines): Alaska, Pacific Coastal
In addition to Silver Moon and Silver Dawn -- both classic luxury vessels -- Silversea will also inaugurate the brand-new Silver Origin, a 100-passenger luxury expedition vessel designed expressly for year-round service in the Galapagos Islands.
Silver Origin will replace Silversea's former vessel in the Galapagos, Silver Galapagos, which is being retired. Silver Origin continues Silversea's tradition of offering one of the only true luxury experiences in the Galapagos Islands, complete with butler service, pillow menus, complimentary beverages and Wi-Fi internet access, and a team of local expedition leaders.
Silver Origin introduces a number of new concepts to the line that extend beyond the flashy new suites and sumptuous public areas. One such noteworthy addition is Basecamp, a lounge and education center that also functions as a zodiac staging area and an informal gathering space. Expect this innovation to work its way onto Silversea's other purpose-built expedition vessels in the future.
Silver Origin Itineraries: Galapagos Islands
Ponant's sleek Le Commandant Charcot (pronounced shar-co) is an icebreaker with Ponant's trademark French style and design. Named after French polar scientist Jean-Baptiste Charcot, Le Commandant Charcot is notable for being outfitted as a Polar Class 2 icebreaker, making it capable of reaching the geographic North Pole; a feat made by only one other passenger ship, Quark's 50 Years of Victory, on a regular basis.
The ship will be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) technology and will offer battery power for emission-free use in select areas and sailing conditions.
Le Commandant Charcot offers some unique features amongst the luxury expedition world, including an indoor swimming pool, a conservatory, a panoramic restaurant,an onboard cigar lounge, and an aft-facing outdoor pool that spans the entire width of the vessel.
The cruise line may be based in France, but its voyages are decidedly international. American tour operator Tauck regularly books space onboard for its cruise-tour passengers, and the line's French décor and sensibilities attract cruisers looking for something out of the ordinary.
Le Commandant Charcot is scheduled to make its first sailing in May on a voyage from Le Havre to Reykjavik. It could emerge as one of the most beautifully designed expedition vessels ever.
Le Commandant Charcot Itineraries: Antarctica, Arctic, North Pole, Northwest Passage
Quark Expeditions has been around for some time, but believe it or not, the 199-passenger Ultramarine will be the company's first-ever newbuild (other vessels are chartered for set terms or consist of older tonnage).
Ultramarine represents a significant step forward for the company. Debuting in May 2021 on the company's expeditions to Svalbard in Norway's far Arctic, the sleek grey-on-yellow expedition vessel has been designed from the ground-up to explore the world's most remote places.
Ultramarine isn't designed to compete with Quark's specialty ships, like the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov or the nuclear polar icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory. Instead, it targets the luxury segment of the market. To that end, expect more sumptuous surroundings and lavish interiors than some of the line's more rugged polar fleet.
Ultramarine will boast redesigned mud rooms for storing boots, jackets and outerwear, complete with wider corridors and more space for changing in and out of gear. It will also offer a state-of-the-art auditorium for lectures and expedition briefings; a Polar Boutique stocked with necessary gear; a spa, sauna and fitness center; and a number of dining options, including a (more) formal restaurant and a casual bistro.
The ship also features four different zodiac embarkation points for fewer delays in getting passengers to the action; and a fleet of two twin-engine helicopters for aerial explorations.
Unusually for a small expedition ship, Quark Ultramarine will also offer a wraparound promenade deck for wildlife viewing.
Ultramarine Itineraries: Arctic, Antarctic
Crystal's first newbuild in nearly two decades was supposed to enter service in 2020, but delays due to the COVID-19 coronavirus have pushed the vessel's debut to simply "Mid 2021", according to the company. An exact date has yet to be announced.
Crystal Endeavor will offer a 1-to-1 crew to passenger ratio, and an almost-unheard of passenger-space ratio of 100. Simply put, it is in the running for most spacious cruise vessel ever. From the ground up, the ship has been designed to mimic the line's larger, more classic luxury vessels in a form that is purpose-built for expedition cruising.
Designed expressly for cruising the world's polar regions, Crystal Endeavor will spend a fair amount of time in the Arctic and Antarctic. The ship will also offer worldwide expedition itineraries to warmer climates.
Passengers onboard will find Crystal's hallmark service, while favored dining venues from the line's larger vessels make the transition, including the classic Waterside Restaurant and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's Umi Uma and Sushi Bar.
Topping off the ship will be a glass-enclosed, two-level solarium for perfect views during imperfect weather.
Crystal Endeavor Itineraries: Antarctica, Artic, Worldwide
The 196-passenge World Navigator will debut in July as the lead vessel for newly-formed Atlas Ocean Voyages, which enters the luxury expedition segment of the market.
The 423-foot World Navigator will offer some striking features for the fledgling expedition line, including The Water's Edge, a unique bow-mounted viewing area with heated seating for cooler climates. The ship will also offer a forward-facing navigation lounge; a variety of inclusive dining venues; an onboard theatre; and a new spa concept by L'Occitane called SeaSpa.
Atlas is also throwing in a number of inclusions into voyages aboard World Navigator, like roundtrip airfare, premium beverages, butler service in suites, Pilates and spinning classes, prepaid gratuities, and other amenities that place the ship squarely in the luxury expedition arena.
Select excursions are also offered complimentary in ports of call.
World Navigator Itineraries: Mediterranean, Caribbean, South America, Antarctica, Transoceanic
The new sister-ship to Oceanwide Expedition's 174-passenger Hondius, Janssonius will continue the line's trend of offering newbuilds that are strong, agile and comfortable, while perhaps not chasing after the ultra-luxe category that so many other cruise lines are.
Instead, Janssonius will focus on providing a comfortable and cozy expedition experience, offering flexible polar voyages throughout the Arctic, Antarctic, and sub-Antarctic regions.
To that end, Janssonius will be outfitted with a protected indoor zodiac staging area that can also be used for activities like kayaking. The ship will be equipped with two separate gangways to improve passenger flow and limit crowding during ship-to-shore operations, and will be outfitted with a full fleet of zodiac rafts.
Janssonius will also offer a dedicated observation lounge, with a separate adjacent lecture room for presentations and expedition briefings in numerous languages.
All cabins aboard Janssonius will feature ocean views, coming equipped with either porthole windows, regular windows, or balconies. Balconies will also be offered on upper-level suites. All will be decorated in a classic mid-century modern style, according to the company.
Janssonius Itineraries: Arctic, Antarctic, Sub-Antarctic****
Swan Hellenic returns in 2021 with its first newbuild, Minerva.
Scheduled to be the first of two identical polar ice-class expedition ships, Minerva is named after the beloved vessel of the same name that operated for Swan Hellenic before the company went bankrupt in 2017. This new rebirth, however, returns Swan Hellenic and Minerva to the seas once again.
The new Minerva, scheduled to set sail in November, boasts a striking green hull and can carry 152 passengers to some of the world's most remote places. Most of its 76 cabins and suite will offer private balconies and will be lavishly decorated.
The vessel will also offer a dedicated team of expedition specialists and a fleet of zodiac rafts for shore landings.
Minerva Itineraries: Arctic, Antarctic, Russian Far East
The sister-ship to National Geographic Endurance (which was delivered but did not enter service in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic), National Geographic Resolution is the second of Lindblad Expeditions modern expedition vessels designed for voyages to the world's most remote polar regions.
Like several other ships debuting in 2021, Resolution features the distinctive X-Bow styling that is designed to improve handling in heavy seas; something that will no doubt reassure potential passengers concerned about the rough Drake Passage crossing between South America and Antarctica. The ship is also built to Polar Class 5 ice standards.
Roughly 75 percent of all cabins aboard Resolution will offer private balconies. All are decorated in a tastefully modern style using natural earth tones, and range in size from 140-square-foot cabins designed for solo travellers to the 430-square-foot Category 7 suite. All cabins are outside facing, and some at the lower end of the accommodations ladder will offer nautical porthole windows.
Resolution will also offer two restaurants; a Chef's table for private dining; and an abundance of bars, lounges and spaces for lectures, education and briefings. Two infinity jacuzzi tubs are also offered on the ship's upper decks.
Keeping with Lindblad Expeditions' educationally-minded experiences, Resolution will offer some fun toys for exploration, including an onboard ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) capable of beaming back undersea video and images; a fleet of expedition landing craft and sea kayaks; an underwater camera, hydrophone and video microscope; and a team of expedition leaders.
National Geographic Resolution sets sail from Ushuaia on November 17, 2021 on an expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
National Geographic Resolution Itineraries: Arctic, Antarctic
The newest vessel for Aurora Expeditions, Sylvia Earle is another newbuild built and designed by SunStone featuring the distinctive X-Bow technology.
Upon entering service for Aurora in November, Sylvia Earle will take 132 passengers travelling in 70 cozy cabins to some of the world's most remote destinations, including Antarctica and the Arctic.
Onboard, passengers will find a fleet of zodiac rafts; a dedicated mud room; a swimming pool and wellness center; a stern-mounted loading and unloading area; and even an onboard lounge that doubles as a science and exploration center.
Sylvia Earle will also offer dedicated lecture facilities; an onboard library; and a variety of bars, lounges and restaurants. Cabins range from twin shares with porthole windows to the top-of-the-line Captain's Suite, complete with sitting area, private balcony, and a walk-in closet.
Sylvia Earle Itineraries: Alaska, British Columbia, Mexico, Russian Far East, Antarctica
Seabourn's long-awaited Seabourn Venture will set sail in December 2021, functioning as the line's first purpose-built luxury expedition vessel.
While past Seabourn ships have found themselves pressed into expedition service, Seabourn Venture will be truly designed for the world's most remote places. The ship will be outfitted with a PC6 polar class ice-rated hull for cruising in Antarctica and the Arctic, and will offer a full suite of double kayaks, mountain and e-bikes, and 24 inflatable zodiac rafts. The ship will also be staffed by a full expedition team as part of Seabourn's Ventures program.
With 132 all-balcony, all-oceanview suites onboard, Seabourn Venture will uphold Seabourn's tradition of understated luxury and quiet elegance that have become the line's trademark.
Seabourn Venture will offer a number of striking spaces onboard, including the 270-degree Constellation Lounge. This new space will offer floor-to-ceiling windows, serving as go-to place expedition lectures, wildlife viewing sessions, cocktails, and even afternoon tea.
Sebaourn Venture also introduces the new Bow Lounge. As the name implies, this takes a commanding forward-facing space onboard the ship, with a subtle nod to mimicking the ship's Navigation Bridge. Consoles will provide passengers with interactive navigational data piped down from the bridge, while serving as one of the ship's premiere lounges.
Seabourn Venture sets sail in December.
Seabourn Venture Itineraries: Antarctica, Artic, South America
Updated December 14, 2020