Adventure and expedition cruising is exploding, with more than 20 expedition ships now on order throughout the world.
The trend, predicted earlier this year by the industry organization CLIA, or Cruise Lines International Assn.), has developed as an increasing number of passengers request off-the-beaten-track sailing.
"Adventure travel is growing at a record pace and cruise expeditions are seeing the impact," according to a CLIA report, which added that itineraries for destinations such as Antarctica regularly sell out.
The flood of new ships will begin next summer when Ponant's mega-yacht, Le Lapérouse, debuts for Tauck cruises. The 180-passenger French luxury ship will sail its initial itineraries in Iceland.
Following its launch, another 18 new ships will be launched within an 18-month window, with other deliveries scheduled through 2021, according to industry records. Many of the ships are being designed for fuel efficiency, low environmental impact and on-board comfort.
Lindblad's ship, for instance, will have a distinctive bow that provides fuel efficiency while improving guest comfort in rough seas, according to company reports. It will also be able to tolerate icy seas, allowing access deep into polar regions. The ship's expanded fuel and water tanks will enable extended operations in remote areas.
In addition, 75% of the new ship's cabins will have balconies and multiple observation decks inside and outside, and a new Zodiac loading system that will simplify shore visits.