The ultimate guide to Atlas Ocean Voyages cruise ships and itineraries
It isn't often that the world gets an all-new cruise line. But that's what happened earlier this month as new small-ship cruise specialist Atlas Ocean Voyages debuted with its first sailing.
Based in Fort Lauderdale, the new “luxe adventure” brand is promising upscale, adventurous voyages on small but well-appointed expedition vessels — the sort of vessels that carry their own landing craft for exploring in remote, off-the-beaten-path places.
Created by a company that’s already big in river cruising and operates ocean ships for other brands, Atlas initially will focus heavily on voyages to the ultimate playgrounds for small expedition ships, Antarctica and the Arctic. It’ll also offer a sprinkling of trips along the east coast of South America and in the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea too.
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For now, Atlas only is operating a single ship, the 196-passenger World Navigator. But it plans to quickly ramp up in size with the addition of four more vessels over the next three years.
Related: Which cruise brand is right for you?
3 things TPG loves about Atlas Ocean Voyages
- Its focus on upscale adventure
- The abundance of wildlife viewing areas on its ships
- The stylish design of its ships
What we could do without
- Extra charges by the megabyte for WiFi access
The Atlas Ocean Voyages fleet
As noted above, Atlas only is operating one vessel for now. But it already has four more ships on order from a shipyard in Portugal for delivery over the next three years. By 2024, it should be a five-ship brand, and there's already talk about an order for a sixth vessel.
All of the ships will be sisters to each other with very similar layouts and features, making up what Atlas is calling its Explorer Class. And they'll all be what is known as expedition ships -- vessels built extra tough to travel to some of the most off-the-beaten-path parts of the world, including Antarctica and the Arctic.
As is typical for ships of this type, they all will have a polar-class rating that’ll allow them to travel deep into the polar regions in addition to warm-water locales, and they'll carry Zodiac boats for exploring.
World Navigator, which just debuted this month, is the prototype for the series and notable for its intimacy. Measuring 9,930 tons, it’s designed to hold far fewer people — as noted above, just 196, not including crew — than is typical for a cruise ship, even in the luxury space.
Even 196 is a bit of an overstatement, as the line will be using some passenger cabins on every voyage to house entertainers and expedition guides. As a result, the vessel is unlikely to ever sail with more than 184 passengers, the line has said. On some itineraries, the maximum passenger count will be even lower.
Only a handful of upscale cruise lines, most notably France-based Ponant and Windstar Cruises, focus on vessels with so few passengers.
The next two ships in the series, World Traveller and World Seeker, should arrive in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
World Traveller (and, yes, that's Traveller spelled the British way) should open for bookings soon.
First look: Inside New Atlas Ocean Voyages ship World Navigator
Destinations and itineraries
For its first year in operation, Atlas is focusing heavily on the two big bucket-list destinations in the expedition cruise space, Antarctica and the Arctic.
World Navigator will spend more than four months -- from mid-November 2021 to the end of March 2022 -- operating nine- to 12-night voyages to Antarctica out of Ushuaia, Argentina. Come summer of 2022, it'll reposition to the Arctic for trips that feature stops in Norway's icy and wildlife-filled Svalbard archipelago, Iceland and Greenland.
In between sailing in the two polar regions, World Navigator will offer a mix of sailings to South America, the Baltic and the Mediterranean.
Note that Atlas will be expanding its array of itineraries over the next year as it begins to announce routes for its second and third vessels.
In all ports, passengers have access to one or more included port excursions as well as additional extra-charge excursions.
Who sails Atlas Ocean Voyages?
The answer to "who sails Atlas" is still in a bit of flux, as the line has just started up operations and is only beginning to take bookings in volume. But the brand is targeting well-heeled travelers who want an upscale experience that is more active than what is typical on some luxury vessels.
Alberto Aliberti, the line's president, recently told TPG that they're expecting a core audience in the 50-something to 60-something age range, with the typical passenger being someone who is looking for an upscale, active experience that isn't too formal.
Atlas may be positioning itself as a luxury brand, but Aliberti is adamant it not be a stuffy sort of luxury.
He's purposely set the dress code to be casual -- a polo shirt with slacks for men at dinner is just fine (no jacket required). And he's eager to keep the dining and cabin service experience unfussy.
"The feeling we're looking at is kind of like a country club after a round of golf, when everyone is still in their shorts, they're relaxed [and] they're having some drinks at the bar," Aliberti said during a reception for travel agents on World Navigator's inaugural sailing.
Cabins and suites
World Navigator and its coming sister vessels have been designed for intimacy with just 98 cabins a piece. That's far fewer cabins than you'll find on most luxury ships -- luxury line Seabourn, for instance, operates vessels that have 226 to 302 cabins. But it's typical for expedition ships.
The 98 cabins on the vessels can be broken down into three broad categories: oceanview cabins, balcony cabins and suites. But the vast majority of the cabins (72 out of 98) are balcony cabins.
There are no windowless "inside" cabins, as you'll sometimes find on cruise vessels.
The balcony cabins, notably, can further be broken down into two broad sub-categories. There are traditional balcony cabins, where there's an interior part to the room and a separate outdoor balcony. But there also are what some lines are calling "infinite veranda" balcony cabins -- cabins where the balcony space is incorporated into the interior part of the room and only becomes a "balcony" with the opening of the top half of a window wall facing the sea.
Related: Everything you want to know about Atlas cabins and suites
The latter are the sort of balcony cabins found on the newest Celebrity Cruises ships and vessels operated by several river cruise lines, including Avalon Waterways and Crystal Cruises, and they feel bigger than the traditional balcony cabins -- even though the total size of the two types of rooms including balcony space (270 square feet) are the same.
Note that Atlas plans to phase out the oceanview cabins on its first ship, World Navigator, over the coming year. There only are 10 of them, measuring 183 square feet apiece, and even now, they're not always all available for booking. Atlas is using some or all of them on many itineraries to house the ship's expedition guides and entertainers.
But in early 2022, the line plans to convert six of these cabins from rooms designed for two people into "solo suites" designed for just one traveler. This is notable, as solo suites are relatively rare on luxury expedition ships.
At the same time, Atlas will be taking the rest of the oceanview cabins on World Navigator out of its booking pool, leaving it as an all-balcony-and-suite vessel.
But that's all happening next year. For now, oceanview cabins on the ship still are available.
Design-wise, all of the cabins and suites on World Navigator evoke the 1940s with such flourishes as glossy mahogany walls and chrome accents, though the rooms are thoroughly modern. Accents in shades of brown, black and rich greens as well as silvery blues (including green velvet throw pillows and sleek, built-in side shelves covered in stitched tan leather) create a rich and luxuriant aesthetic.
Bathrooms in all categories of World Navigator cabins are lined with marble and feature upscale L'Occitane toiletries.
The suites on the ship (there are 10) range in size from 382 to 465 square feet.
Restaurants and dining
As is typical for small cruise vessels, World Navigator has just a handful of dining options.
There is one main restaurant, Porto, where passengers have most of their meals. Located at the back of the ship's main public deck (Deck 4), it has a relatively large covered outdoor seating area overlooking the wake of the vessel in addition to indoor seating.
Both the indoor and outdoor portions of Porto are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, with dinner's bringing rotating, regionally inspired menus (one night might be Italian themed, the next night Peruvian themed). In addition to regionally inspired menu items, the dinner menu has an "always available" section with classic main dishes such as filet mignon and a salmon filet. Always available sides include steamed spinach and truffle fries.
In addition to the main restaurant, there's a grill next to the pool on the ship's main pool deck that transforms at night into an open-air "chophouse," as the line is calling it. Called the 7Aft Grill, it serves up black Angus filet mignon, New York Strip steaks, chicken and lobster grilled with a combination grill-oven cooking process called “jospering” that originated in Spain. Atlas says it's the first cruise line to add a jospering-type grill to a ship.
World Navigator also has a cafe on its main public deck called Paula's Pantry that serves up espresso drinks, pastries and some heartier grab-and-go items (including soup and sandwiches that are available from late morning through the early evening).
Room service also is available, and there's an afternoon tea with lovely cakes, cookies and other treats set up each afternoon in the top-of-the-ship Dome lounge.
Entertainment and activities
The entertainment and activities on World Navigator will vary a bit depending on the part of the world in which it is sailing. On trips to Antarctica, for instance, daytime activities will revolve heavily around landings by Zodiac boats to see wildlife such as penguins. On trips in the Mediterranean, the vessel will have much more of a yacht-like feel on board with passengers mixing time on the pool deck with both adventurous and traditional excursions in ports.
As is the norm on very small ships, World Navigator doesn't have a big, splashy theater that's home to production shows, comedy acts and the like, as is often found on larger vessels. But evening entertainment can be lively with live piano music and sing-alongs in the vessel's top-of-the-ship Dome lounge, as well as dancing in the Dome lounge on its small dance floor.
On early sailings, the ship has sailed with an onboard piano player/singer who entertains nightly as well as a rotating feature performer (when TPG was onboard the ship's inaugural sailing, it was Broadway vocalist Michelle Murlin, who performed in "Les Miserables" and "Cats").
The ship's cruise director also performs some nights in lounges.
World Navigator has two main lounges -- the aforementioned Dome lounge and the Atlas lounge, which is located on the main public deck. There's also a small auditorium adjacent to the Atlas lounge that is used for lectures related to the destinations that the ship visits and other presentations. The ship will sail regularly with experts on the places it is visiting for such lectures. For instance, on the line's initial sailings this month between Greece and Egypt, an Egyptologist was onboard giving talks about the Egyptian pyramids, Alexander the Great and other related topics. There also was a speaker on pop culture.
The Atlas lounge is home to an "Apres Sea" happy hour each day -- the ship's at-sea version of the end-of-the-day Apres Ski get-togethers that are common at ski resorts.
As noted above, World Navigator is an expedition ship designed for adventurous sailings to faraway parts of the world, and these often are trips where the main "entertainment" of the day is the adventure of landings by Zodiac to see unusual wildlife and scenery.
World Navigator currently is sailing with six Zodiac boats on board for landings and soon will add six more in advance of its repositioning to Antarctica for the winter.
World Navigator also sails with a floating adventure dock that can be used to launch Jet Skis, kayaks and paddleboards that are kept on board, and there’s a mudroom with cubbies where passengers can keep their parkas and boots during polar adventures.
World Navigator, notably, also is loaded with indoor and outdoor observation areas -- something that can make all the difference during a trip to a place like Antarctica.
Among the most notable of these is the Dome lounge mentioned above, which is perfectly designed for viewing scenery and wildlife during daylight hours. Located at the very front of World Navigator, on its highest deck, it features a curving wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that offers stunning views in three directions at once (as well as a view straight up through a glass dome that tops the space — hence its name).
Better yet, doors on each side of the Dome observation lounge lead to outdoor viewing areas that also wrap around three sides of the ship.
World Navigator also offers a close-to-the-waterline outdoor observation area at its very tip that will offer equally stunning views during expeditions in scenery-rich places such as Antarctica and the Arctic. Called The Water’s Edge, it boasts a long, curving bench that’s heated from within to take the chill off during adventures in such cold-weather locales.
Plus, there are two more outdoor observation areas at the back of Decks 5 and 6 — the two main cabin decks. This allows passengers in cabins a quick place to run outside for a view when the captain announces that wildlife has been spotted.
The pool deck and other venues
World Navigator features a relatively large deck-top pool area — something you don’t always find on a ship carrying fewer than 200 passengers. It’s home to a pool, two hot tubs, rows of lounge chairs and a pool grill and bar.
Other venues on board include a small but enticing L’Occitane spa with two treatment rooms, a relaxing lounge area and a sauna; and a small fitness center. There's also a jogging track on the very top of the ship, as well as some outdoor fitness equipment. Just be warned that, given the ship's small size, you'll have to make quite a few revolutions of the jogging track to run a mile.
Note that there is no hair salon onboard. Ships as small as World Navigator don't always have hair salons. There also are no self-serve launderettes. But the vessel offers wash-and-press laundry service for an extra charge (see more below in the What to Know section).
A small retail shop on the ship's main public deck sells sundries that you might have forgotten, such as sunscreen and toothpaste, as well as Atlas logo wear, perfume and some souvenir items.
The ship also plans to operate with an "open bridge" policy where passengers can enter the bridge at times to see how it works (though this policy has not been implemented so far).
As is typical for lines specializing in small ships and expedition ships, Atlas does not offer specific children's programs on its vessels or provide child care on board.
What to know before you go
Atlas Ocean Voyages operates international, multi-country itineraries where passports always are required. In keeping with the rules in place in many countries around the world, passports should be valid for at least six months after the end date of your trip and have sufficient blank pages for entry stamps. Note that it is important that the name on your reservation be exactly as it is stated on your passport.
Atlas includes gratuities for crew as part of its fares. Passengers aren't expected to tip the crew at the end of voyages.
Related: Everything you need to know about tipping on a cruise ship
Atlas has been advertising that it includes WiFi in its fare. But, for now, it's not unlimited WiFi. Passengers on initial sailings of World Navigator this year have gotten just 150 to 250 megabytes of data on a complimentary basis per sailing, depending on their cabin category. Additional megabytes of data come with an extra charge that starts at $45 for 500 megabytes.
Atlas had intended to offer unlimited Wi-Fi with no data limit on sailings — and still does intend for this to be the way it operates. But it’s struggling with the fallout from a wiring mistake during the building of World Navigator that’s forcing it to ration bandwidth for now. Executives hope to have this fixed soon.
Related: Wi-Fi on ships really is getting better
Carry-on drinks policy
Atlas allows passengers to bring their own alcohol onto ships, typically with a corkage fee. But there's little need to do so. Wine, beer, spirits and cocktails of all kinds are available onboard at no extra charge, as drinks are included in the fare.
On all ships, smoking (including electronic cigarettes) only is allowed in designated outdoor areas. It’s forbidden in cabins and on cabin balconies. Passengers caught smoking in their cabins will be charged a cleaning fee and could be removed from the ship.
World Navigator does not have self-serve launderettes. The vessel offers wash-and-press (or press-only) laundry service for an extra charge but no dry cleaning service. As of August 2021, the cost to wash and press a shirt or blouse was set at $4.80 per item. The cost to wash and press a dress was $7.30.
Related: Everything you need to know about cruise ship laundry services
World Navigator has standard North American-style, 120-volt outlets in rooms as well as European-style, 230-volt outlets and USB ports.
The currency used on Atlas itineraries is U.S. dollars. All vessels operate on a “cashless system,” with any onboard purchases you make posting automatically to your onboard account. You’ll receive a card that you can use to make charges. This same card also is what lets you into your cabin.
You must be 18 to consume alcohol on all Atlas itineraries.
Atlas ships aren't formal in their feel, and casual dress is the order of the day. There is no specific dress code, and resort wear (think: a polo shirt and slacks or a skirt) is just fine not only during the day but in the evening. It's a no-jacket-required sort of ship.
Related: What to pack for your first cruise
Two of World Navigator's 98 cabins --one balcony cabin and one oceanview cabin -- are designed as accessible cabins. The balcony cabin is of the type that has a slide-down window as opposed to a traditional balcony. The accessible oceanview cabin, which is currently designed for two occupants, is one of the cabins that will be converted into a "solo suite" early next year. So starting in 2022, the ship will have a single accessible solo cabin.
Both of the accessible cabins are designed with Americans with Disabilities Act compliance in mind with a much more open-concept layout than the ship's other cabins to allow for easy movement and much bigger and more open bathrooms. The bathrooms, specifically, have shower areas with shower chairs built into the walls, safety bars in multiple locations and lower-to-the-ground sinks.
Closets in the rooms have specialized hanger rack systems with pull-down devices that will bring the hanging rack down, making it reachable for someone in a wheelchair. There also are emergency call buttons next to the beds that aren't found in the rest of the ship's cabins.
Atlas Ocean Voyages' loyalty program
Atlas Ocean Voyages currently does not have a loyalty program. But the line has said it is in the process of developing one.
How much does an Atlas Ocean Voyages cruise cost?
Atlas Ocean Voyages sailings aren't inexpensive. Nine-night Greek islands voyages start at $5,799 per person. That works out to more than $1,200 per day for a couple sharing a room. The line's core expedition sailings to the polar regions are even more. Nine-night Antarctica trips start at $10,599 per person.
But as is typical for cruise lines at the high end, Atlas is including a lot in its base price. In addition to a room on board and all meals, the fares include round-trip airfare from select U.S. and Canadian gateways; drinks, including beer, wine and spirits; shipboard Wi-Fi; prepaid gratuities; and (perhaps most notably) shore excursions in every port.
In addition, Atlas offers one very unusual inclusion as part of what it’s calling All-Inclusive All the Way pricing: Emergency medical evacuation insurance for every passenger.
The included flights alone can be worth more than $1,000 in added value, as many passengers will find themselves flying long distances to reach Atlas ships.
Note that the included-drinks menu on World Navigator features one to three mid-level brands of each major type of liquor. Higher-end liquors come with an extra charge. There is one included bourbon whiskey, for instance, Knob Creek, and two included vodkas (Ketel One and Absolut Vodka Citroen). You'll pay $6.50 or $7.20 extra, respectively, for a pour of Tito's or Grey Goose vodka.
There's a wide selection of included beers on World Navigator as well as a number of included wines. There's also an extensive list of extra charge wines available by the bottle.
Related: 15 ways that first-time cruisers waste money on a cruise
How to book
If you're sure you know what sort of cabin you want on World Navigator and on which specific itinerary, you can head over to AtlasOceanVoyages.com to make a booking directly.
That said, given the complexity of booking a cruise — there are a lot of decisions to make during the booking process, trust us — we recommend that you use a seasoned travel agent who specializes in cruises.
A good travel agent will quiz you about your particular interests, travel style and preferences, and steer you to the perfect cruise line, ship, itinerary and cabin for you. They also can help you if something goes wrong just before, during or after your voyage.
If you're sure that Atlas Ocean Voyages is your line, look for a travel agent who specializes in trips with the brand. You want someone who understands all the little quirks that are unique to Atlas cabin categories and, preferably, has done a ship inspection to see the cabins first hand.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about new cruise line Atlas Ocean Voyages.
Built for adventurous travel to faraway places such as Antarctica and the Arctic, it's a small and intimate ship at a time when small and intimate is what many luxury travelers are craving most.
If your idea of the perfect cruise ship is a giant vessel loaded with all sorts of amusements, such as the ships operated by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, the line's vessels probably aren't for you. But if it's exclusiveness you want, and a bit of adventure, the five ships that the line is scheduled to roll out over the next three years could be a great choice.
TPG’s Gene Sloan recently reported live from the inaugural voyage of World Navigator. You can find all of his dispatches from the ship on his author’s page.
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