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Worst timing ever? Kontiki Expeditions, a new cruise line, plans to launch later this year

June 27, 2020
5 min read
Worst timing ever? Kontiki Expeditions, a new cruise line, plans to launch later this year
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Even as most established cruise lines around the world remain mired in a global halt to operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's a new cruise company hoping to start up by the end of the year.

To be called Kontiki Expeditions, the just-announced brand plans to specialize in voyages on intimate, yacht-like vessels that will hold just 18 passengers a piece.

The idea sounds great. The timing? We're not so sure.

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Designed to offer trips to off-the-beaten-path places that only can be accessed by very small ships and yachts, Kontiki Expeditions is being billed as a "new concept in luxury ocean vacations focusing on conscious travel and immersive experiences."

The company's initial vessel will be 128 feet long and feature nine suites, a sun deck, a gourmet salon, two outdoor lounges, bar, Jacuzzi, spa treatment room and fitness area. To be called Kontiki, it's scheduled to debut in December with sailings on two itineraries along the little-visited coast of Ecuador.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

An artist's drawing of the 18-passenger Kontiki. (Image courtesy of Kontiki Expeditions)
An artist's drawing of the 18-passenger Kontiki. (Image courtesy of Kontiki Expeditions)

The two initial itineraries will be one-way routes between Mompiche in the north of the country and Mompala in the south. They'll offer a chance to explore small Ecuadorian towns, historic sites and nature areas full of wildlife while traveling in an upscale vessel with a wellness focus.

“We are pioneers in offering luxury sea expeditions along seldom-traveled routes,” the founder and CEO of Kontiki Expeditions, Carlos Nuñez, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Our new expeditions reveal the beauty and authenticity of coastal Ecuador, passing through small, uncrowded towns and historical sites; forests and wetlands; pristine beaches; and protected ecological reserves.”

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The new ship will sail with wellness professionals, naturalist guides and a local chef. There will be 10 crew members in total as well as two local experts.

Related: When will cruise ships resume sailing? A line-by-line guide

An artist's drawing shows the Jacuzzi area planned for the new 18-passenger Kontiki. (Image courtesy of Kontiki Expeditions)
An artist's drawing shows the Jacuzzi area planned for the new 18-passenger Kontiki. (Image courtesy of Kontiki Expeditions)

The vessel will carry kayaks, paddle boards and snorkeling equipment for passenger use. Diving also will be an option.

Nuñez said a fundamental part of the Kontiki program would be to support the communities its vessels visit.

During initial sailings in Ecuador, passengers can expect to see such wildlife as blue-footed boobies, sea lions and howler monkeys, the company said. A focus on cuisine will include the incorporation of local seafood and produce on board and on land as well as tastings of local chocolate.

An artist's drawing of one of the nine suites planned for new vessel. (Image courtesy of Kontiki Expeditions)

The company said it would implement measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus such as temperature screenings for passengers and enhanced cleaning. Crew will wear masks and gloves when serving meals, and meal times will be staggered.

While most cruise lines around the world have halted all operations, a handful of small ships in Europe -- mostly river ships -- have just begun resuming voyages on a very limited basis. Industry watchers say small vessels that focus on single-country itineraries may have an easier time restarting operations than bigger ships with itineraries that include multiple countries.

In part, this is because small vessels offer a sort of small-group travel that’s easier to manage in an era of social distancing than the mass tourism of big ships. The typical river ship in Europe, for instance, has fewer than 100 cabins. It essentially operates as a small boutique hotel — albeit one that happens to move from town to town. Touring always is in small groups or on an individual basis. Onboard spaces rarely are crowded.

Fares for the new Kontiki Expeditions sailings start at $7,245 per person per week, based on double occupancy, and include all activities, meals, and transfers to and from ports. Solo traveler rates and private charter rates are also available.

More information on Kontiki Expeditions is available online at the company's website.

Planning a cruise for when sailings resume? These stories can help:

Featured image by An artist's drawing of the first vessel planned for Kontiki Expeditions. (Image courtesy of Kontiki Expeditions)

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023