Sustainable and Cultural Expeditions: Swan Hellenic’s Answer to Demand

Swan Hellenic's Diana

Relaunched in 2021, Swan Hellenic is on a growth path, with a third expedition and new itineraries coming this year. The brand is led by industry veteran Andrea Zito, who has 30 years of experience and has seen the changes that the expedition market has gone through over the past decades.

“When I started, cruising was in its infancy, and we still had steamships. But everything evolved quite quickly, and at the beginning of 2000, expedition cruising began using converted trawlers, research vessels, and icebreakers,” he said, noting that the expedition market is an “industry within the industry.”

“At the beginning, passengers were very adventurous because of the rough conditions. The whole purpose was really the adventure,” Zito noted.

These passengers continue to exist, he said, but are now joined by a different clientele who want to see Antarctica, for instance, “because it is on their bucket list.”

Modern expedition vessels allow the market to attract a broader audience, Zito added, with new hardware being built that offers additional features, state-of-the-art sustainability, and a much more comfortable experience.

“Like the big lines that differentiate and cater to everybody, the expedition sector is also opening up to different needs. We are seeing a much larger demographic and much younger people.”

Sustainability is a mindset that is coming naturally, and Swan Hellenic’s cultural expeditions fit right into this trend, Zito noted.

“Passengers want to see sustainability, but they also want to hear from experts onboard, with lectures about climate change or about the fragilities of the environment we are crossing,” he said, noting that not only the cruising industry but shipping, in general, is one of the most sustainable ways of traveling.

The social politics in Russia, however, continue to be a challenge for expedition operators in the Northern Hemisphere, Zito said.

“Sixty-five percent of the Arctic belongs to them, and it’s the nicest, widest, most interesting, and least traveled part of it.”

As a result, itineraries are currently concentrated in Svalbard, he added, with destinations like the Bering Strait and the Aleutian Islands remaining off-limits for the time being.

Regarding deployment, Swan Hellenic operations include four months in the North and four months in the South, Zito said.

“For the other four months, you have to cross through warmer waters and it’s very interesting what you can and find,” he added.

In 2023, for instance, the SH Vega is offering new itineraries in West Africa, exploring the last 800 kilometers of virgin coastline in the region, Zito said.

“We want a place that is a ‘wow’ and is also a unique place to be reached by ship.”

The expeditions include visits to Congo and Gabon, allowing guests to visit the Loango National Park and Conkouati-Douli National Park.


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