These days, Antarctic cruises are a dime a dozen as countless tour companies operate multi-week expeditions to the continent. But, few boast a truly luxurious experience. That’s all about to change as Aurora Expeditions — a company which has been leading polar expeditions for more than 25 years — recently announced plans to upend today’s polar leisure cruise model in a big way.
For decades, the baseline for Antarctic cruise liners has been to repurpose old (sometimes very old) polar research vessels into ships loosely fit for leisure travel. On the outside, the ships look much as they did in their former incarnations — solid, rugged, rigid designs with all the charm of a Russian icebreaker. Because–in many cases–that’s exactly what they are. Base- and mid-level cabins often involve cramming up to four passengers in a single room, and only the priciest, flagship suites promise modern amenities like a private bathroom.
This month, Aurora Expeditions in partnership with SunStone Ships announced a state-of-the-art, ice-class vessel that will be built to current high-performance polar code specs. The 104-meter leisure ship will be among the most technically advanced of its kind, promising never-before-seen protection for passengers and the environment. Indeed, from the outside, it appears to be part submarine and part luxury cruise liner. Among the new features is a purpose-built X-BOW. The updated bow design allows the ship to slice through the high seas with far greater stability and less vertical movement which equates to a far more comfortable ride for passengers. This is noteworthy for travelers crossing the notoriously choppy Drake Passage en route to Antarctica.
The rear of the ship will feature a custom designed deck to accommodate a larger numbers of divers and kayakers, plus a sea-level platform for Zodiac boarding. There will also be a mudroom to ensure skiers and climbers have a dedicated space to prepare for their off-ship expeditions. Inside is where passengers will notice a markedly improved cruising experience, however. Most cabins will offer private bathrooms and balconies. Luxury common amenities will include an 180-degree observation deck, plenty of outdoor viewing platforms, and a wellness center with a sauna, gym, and spa.
This currently nameless ship is slated to debut during Aurora Expeditions’ 2019/2020 Antarctic season which runs from November to March. Full itineraries will be announced later this year.