It was explorer and tour operator, Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered the concept of expedition cruising in the late 1960s. He believed that by showing people wild environments first-hand they would become a force for good in the preservation of the planet. The Swedish-American entrepreneur went on to build the first modern expedition passenger ship, the Lindblad Explorer, in 1969, which carried 104 travellers to Antarctica on the first voyage of its kind, and paved the way for sea travel to the hard-to-reach regions of the world.
Today, expedition cruises continue to take place on small passenger ships, typically carrying between 100 to 300 passengers. Led by an Expedition Leader and a team of scientists and naturalists, itineraries are built around immersive and interactive experiences in remote places such as Antarctica, Svalbard, Greenland and the Kimberley in Australia. Exploratory excursions are typically on land and via inflatable power boat (Zodiac) tours. Other common activities include hiking and kayaking programmes.
On the ship, the team of experts – from marine biologists and geologists to historians and ornithologists – deliver presentations on the environments, cultures and wildlife they might come across during their trip. Unlike conventional cruises, the expedition experience has a huge focus on learning, rather than entertainment.