Forget the tropics: Cruises to cold-weather destinations like Antarctica and Greenland are growing in popularity, Fran Golden reported for Bloomberg.
The rising appeal of the Arctic stems from its remoteness and inherent exclusivity, thanks to high prices and how much time it takes to reach, according to the owner of luxury travel company Black Tomato.
Going on an Arctic cruise has become "the high-end version of saying, 'I'm going on a big Alaska cruise,'" says another luxury travel exec.
Cruise lines are also offering shorter trips to the Arctic, drawing in a younger generation that may not have been able to afford a two-week or longer cruise, according to Bloomberg.
Forget the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
These destinations are increasingly attractive to travelers because of their remoteness, exclusivity, and air of adventure, according to luxury travel experts. To meet the rising demand, cruise lines are adding more itineraries and building ships specifically meant for navigating polar waters.
The appeal of the Arctic lies in its exclusivity and air of adventure
Traveling to places like Antarctica, Greenland, and the fjords of Norway requires a large chunk of both time and money. Many other limiting factors make traveling to such places even more difficult. That's especially true of Antarctica, according to Tom Marchant, the owner and cofounder of luxury travel company Black Tomato — and he doesn't expect that to change.
In fact, Marchant told Business Insider he doesn't expect Antarctica will ever be serviced by such a supply of transportation options that the price of getting there will be driven down.
"At the end of the day, it's a very remote, hard to access, wild, and extreme environment," Marchant said.
Getty Images/Steve Allen Photo
This inherent exclusivity may be particularly appealing to wealthy millennial travelers, who want unique, exclusive experiences and adventure in their travels.
"Experience, that's become the currency," Seabourn president Rick Meadows told Bloomberg. "People want stories to tell their friends and family — to say 'We went to Greenland and saw all these things' to a room full of people who have not had that experience."
Cruise lines are building more Arctic vessels to keep up with the demand — and the ships are getting smaller and more luxurious
While ships to Arctic destinations used to be "mostly bare-bones expedition ships," Golden wrote, the "new breed of polar ships is smaller, nimbler, and far more comfortable."
Take the Lindblad Expeditions ships, some of which can only carry 40 or 45 passengers and are booked out by only one or two families, according to Albert Herrera, senior vice president of global product partnerships at luxury travel company Virtuoso.
Lindblad is offering more than 25 itineraries to Arctic destinations in 2020.
Then there's the brand-new Magellan Explorer, which has just 35 cabins, most of which come with king-size beds and private balconies. The ship includes a glass-enclosed observation lounge, a fully-stocked bar, a gym, a sauna, and a fleet of 10 Zodiac boats.
In 2019, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours launched the Scenic Eclipse, an all-suite ship that will bring 200 passengers to Antarctica with luxury trappings such as an indoor pool, a meditation room, a 110-bottle whiskey bar, two helicopters, and a six-seat submarine, according to Bloomberg.
And Silversea Cruises, a luxury cruise line based in Monaco, has seen a more than 100% increase in bookings to colder destinations in the past five years and they've adapted their offerings in response, a publicist told Business Insider.
The company recently converted the first ship in its fleet, Silver Cloud, into an expedition ship so it can join Silver Explorer, the company's first ship built specifically for cruising Arctic destinations. And in 2020, another Silversea ship, Silver Whisper, will be the first-ever cruise ship to visit all seven continents in one journey — including Antarctica — in a journey that costs a minimum of $65,400 per person.
Silversea is offering roughly 80 Arctic itineraries in 2020, ranging from $9,990 per person for nine days in Norway to $38,100 for 10 days in Antarctica.
Arctic cruises are are also getting shorter, making them accessible to a wider demographic
Arctic cruises have traditionally been pricey and long, with itineraries lasting two weeks or longer, which limited the customers to mostly to baby boomers, according to Bloomberg.
But as travelers are increasingly interested in cold, remote destinations, cruise lines are starting to offer trips as short as seven nights, which appeals to younger travelers who may not have otherwise been able to afford a multi-week polar cruise, or find the time off work for them.
Herrera recently told Business Insider that he thinks Antarctica will be one of the top travel destinations of 2020.
Going on an Arctic cruise has become "the high-end version of saying, 'I'm going on a big Alaska cruise,'" Herrera says, showing how the boundaries of luxury travel are being pushed to ever more distant — and frigid — destinations.
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