Between 2019 and 2023, 41 new expedition ships will be delivered from 17 cruise operators, introducing over 8,500 berths to the market and easily doubling 2018 capacity, according to the 2019 Expedition Market Report by Cruise Industry News.
That was the orderbook outlook as of May 13, 2019, well up from the 28 ships that were on the projected forward-looking orderbook the prior year.
More impressively, it does not include a number of projects pending from established players, options that will be confirmed, and a number of new market entrants expected to be announced shortly.
Expedition ships are built for rough operating environments, with strong ice-class hulls and months of fuel and provision space. They are also much smaller than the average newbuild of the major cruise lines, with an average orderbook size of about 214 guests each.
The new ships have brought a new era to expedition cruising, which was more or less made possible when the Soviet Union collapsed, freeing up well-built Russian research ships for charter operations in Antarctica or the Arctic
As tour operators built their portfolios of business and developed programs over the years, the ships changed too, helped in part by older smaller three-star cruise vessels converted to expedition service.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises was among the early innovators with two ice-class niche vessels sailing year-round adventure itineraries.
Hurtigurten was able to take their prowess from the Norwegian coast and harsh conditions and convert to a tourism program, including Antarctica and is now expanding to 10 year-round expedition ships by 2021.
Silversea and Ponant followed in the late 2000s with dedicated, luxury expedition ships, essentially uncorking the market.
Now the possibilities are endless, from the new 100-guest Magellan Explorer set to debut for Antarctica21 later this year to the recently introduced 530-guest Roald Amundsen from Hurtigruten.
For many niche and luxury brands, expanding into the expedition market means keeping their customer base. After cruising in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska and Asia, affluent cruisers with time money are looking to the new frontiers: Antarctica and the Arctic.
About the Expedition Market Report:
The 2019 Expedition Market Report by Cruise Industry News is a comprehensive overview of the booming expedition market, profiling 39 operators, over 40 new ships and projecting capacity growth through 2027. The 196-page PDF is a deep dive into all aspects of the expedition cruise market.