5 amazing adventures you can take on Crystal Cruises’ swanky new expedition ship
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan is sailing on Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Endeavor as a guest of the line. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by Crystal.
Designed to carry just 200 passengers, the yacht-like, 538-foot-long vessel, dubbed Crystal Endeavor, is filled with some of the most elegant restaurants afloat, cozy lounges, a spa and a small army of highly-trained staff (there are more than 200 crew members on board, more than one for every passenger).
But Crystal Endeavor isn’t just about cruising in the lap of luxury.
As I’m seeing this week during one of Crystal Endeavor’s first sailings, a 10-night circumnavigation of Iceland, the ship is as much about adventure as it is pampering.
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Built to be as tough as it is upscale and carrying Zodiac boats for landings in remote areas (as well as kayaks for exploring), it’s the latest in a new crop of small, super-high-end “expedition” vessels designed to take well-heeled travelers to the most remote, hard-to-reach places.
Already on this trip, we’ve zipped along the cliffs of an Icelandic fjord in Zodiacs looking for seabirds and seals, and we’ve landed by Zodiac on remote islands off the Icelandic coast that are home to just a handful of residents. The schedule for tomorrow includes a 4-plus-mile hike on an island above the Arctic Circle.
But Crystal Endeavor soon will set off for even more off-the-beaten places, ranging from a remote side of Antarctica that draws relatively few passenger vessels to little-visited countries along the west coast of Africa.
Here, a look at five of the most amazing itineraries that already are on its schedule for later this year through the first half of 2024:
Antarctica and the Ross Sea
Call it the most epic Antarctica itinerary ever. Instead of operating a typical 11-night sailing to the White Continent from Ushuaia, Argentina, which is the main hub for Antarctica trips, Crystal Endeavor in 2024 will operate two much-longer, 22-night sailings to the destination that begin and end in Australia and New Zealand — a routing that will allow for access to parts of Antarctica that are much more rarely seen.
Kicking off on Jan. 6, 2024, and Jan. 28, 2024, respectively, in Hobart, Tasmania, and Dunedin, New Zealand, the voyages will include extended time exploring Antarctica’s lesser-visited Ross Sea area.
The trips will include several days around Ross Island, which was the base for many of the best-known early Antarctica expeditions. It’s still home to the explorer huts used by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. Other destinations on the schedule include Cape Hallet, which once was home to a scientific base run jointly by the U.S. and New Zealand, and Terra Nova Bay, which is home to active Italian and South Korean research stations.
The details: Fares start at $39,399 per person, not including taxes and fees.
Antarctica (the more traditional way)
In addition to the above, Crystal Endeavor will regularly operate more traditional expeditions to Antarctica out of Ushuaia, Argentina, that range from 11 to 19 nights.
The shorter sailings will include around eight days of exploring along the Antarctica Peninsula, which is teeming with penguin colonies between November and February as well as seals, whales and seabirds. They’ll also bring passengers sightings of immense glaciers and icebergs. The longer sailings will add stops in the Falkland Islands and sometimes South Georgia Island, known for its huge colonies of king, yellow-crested macaroni, long-tailed Gentoo and black-banded chinstrap penguins.
The details: Fares start at $15,599 per person, not including taxes and fees (for a 15-night sailing departing on March 3, 2023).
The Northeast Passage
There’s almost nowhere in the world more remote than the Arctic islands above mainland Russia, and that’s where Crystal Endeavor will be going during a single, epic voyage scheduled for 2023.
Lasting 28 nights and covering more than 4,000 miles, the sailing will be a complete crossing of the Northeast Passage, the icy Arctic sea route at the top of Russia. It’s a very rare trip, something that only a handful of expedition cruise specialists such as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have ever attempted (I was on what was only the fourth-ever sailing through the Northeast Passage by a non-Russian expedition ship, in 2018 — since then, only a few more such vessels have made it through).
Starting Aug. 2, 2023, Crystal Endeavor’s Northeast Passage trips will be one-way voyages between Tromsø, Norway, and Anadyr, Russia, that takes in such hard-to-reach places as polar bear-filled Franz Josef Land, the world’s northernmost archipelago, and the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago. The latter set of islands only was discovered in 1930.
The ship also will push through pack ice to the North Siberian Islands, home to large numbers of walruses and seabirds. A visit to Wrangel Island, another polar bear haven, also is on the schedule.
The details: Fares start at $62,099 per person, not including taxes and fees. The fare includes a one-way flight between Anadyr, Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska, at the end of the sailing as well as a night at a hotel in Anchorage.
The West Coast of Africa
Country counters, take note: Crystal Endeavor will be one of the few cruise vessels sailing up the west coast of Africa in 2022 with two back-to-back voyages that bring you to 12 countries in just 27 days.
The first of two voyages, a 16-night trip from Cape Town, South Africa, to Tema, Ghana, that starts on March 20, 2022, will include stops in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Benin and Toga. The second voyage, an 11-night trip from Tema to Dakar, Senegal, beginning on April 5, 2022, brings visits to Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Senegal.
Excursions along the way will include visits to historic sites, including UNESCO World Heritage sites; virgin rainforests; wildlife sanctuaries; and beaches.
The details: Fares for the two voyages start at $16,299 and $11,299 per person, not including taxes and fees.
Crystal Endeavor will set off on another epic Arctic adventure on Aug. 17, 2022, when it departs from Reykjavík, Iceland, for Greenland.
The 16-night trip will include stops at small coastal settlements such as Sermiligaaq and Tasiilaq on the East Coast of Greenland as well as massive calving glaciers such as the Knud Rasmussen Glacier and Karale Glacier, located in the rugged northeastern region of the country.
Passengers also will have the opportunity to see scenic fjords lined with soaring, sheer cliffs, hot springs as well as such wildlife as whales, seabirds and seals as the ship visits sites along the southern and western coasts of Greenland, too.
The details: Fares start at $27,499, not including taxes and fees. Fares include one-way flights from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to Montreal and a one-night post-cruise hotel stay in Montreal.
TPG’s Gene Sloan is reporting live this week from Crystal Endeavor as it sails on one of its first voyages, a circumnavigation of Iceland. You can find all of his dispatches on his author’s page.
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