Meet the Cruise Newcomer That's in a Category of One
Imagine you were launching a new cruise line right now. How would you go about it?
- Trade in the mega-ship with a floating city on board for brand-new small ships that are much more efficient and environmentally friendly. Add plenty of space on board with fewer than 200 passengers, who can retire back to staterooms that all include balconies or ocean views, plus enough space for amenities such as walk-in closets? Check.
- Avoid itineraries that wash-rinse-repeat on the same ports in favor of sailings that span the globe -- from Antarctica to Novorossiysk -- and don't just drop you off at the port with a large group and a guide, but rather offer activities like body rafting and paragliding as well as MAX SHORE itineraries that leave the ship behind to explore places like Petra, Cappadocia and Chernobyl, with 5-star overnight immersive land experiences? Check.
- Deliver on-ship amenities like Michelin Star-inspired cuisine, L'Occitane bath amenities, unlimited premium pours and complimentary Wi-Fi, that smooth out the edges of those exploring days that are all boots and binoculars? Check.
- Build in traveler-friendly perks, like flexible policies to move your reservation if needed and reduced deposits, plus international flights from 15 U.S. and Canada airports to get you to and from the ship -- all included in the upfront price? Check.
If your curiosity is piqued, then you should be checking out Atlas Ocean Voyages for your next cruise. This newcomer starts sailing in July 2021, and is already making news with their plans to combine the rugged adventure of expedition cruising with the refinement of a luxury experience. Essentially, they're creating a new category of "luxe-adventure" cruising, and here's how they are doing it.
Small Ship, Big Adventure
Instead of following the cruise crowd, Atlas itineraries go off the beaten path. That includes Greek islands that rarely see cruise ships like Elafonisos, where Simos Beach is in the running for one of Greece's best beaches; or walking in the steps of the original Santa Claus not in the North Pole, but in the small seaside village of Demre, Turkey, where St. Nicholas was bishop in the 4th century; or taking a selfie amid the sand-swallowed fingers of the La Mano sculpture on Playa Brava in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
World Navigator will be the first of five Explorer Class luxury expedition ships to launch (four more will follow by 2023) when it sets sail from Malta in July 2021. The ship is aptly named -- in its first year, World Navigator will visit six continents. Yes, that includes Antarctica, where the Polar Category C and Ice Class IB vessel will help 186 passengers earn their "Red Nose" for crossing the Antarctic Circle (along with serious bragging rights).
While exploring several of the seven seas, World Navigator will be using one-fifth the fuel of a conventional cruise ship. In ecologically sensitive regions like coral reef zones, the ship can turn off the main engine and use only the quiet, electric-hydro propulsion system to cruise up to five knots without disturbing marine wildlife, and bringing guests to spots other ships can't reach.
Maximizing Shore Excursions
This is cruising for the curious wanderer. You won't find glamping in a Bedouin tent under a starry night sky amid the sands of Jordan's Wadi Rum on many cruise itineraries. Likewise, most cruise brochures don't talk up taking guests on a surreal journey through the abandoned Ukrainian cities and countryside near the Chernobyl nuclear plant. These complimentary MAX SHORE excursions are a vacation in the middle of your cruise vacation, available on select Black Sea and Holy Lands sailings.
Excursions on Atlas Ocean Voyages are designed to take guests to places they've never been before and do things they've never done before. This Adventure Ashore program is grouped into "color" and "excitement" collections -- call it a mix of FOMO and YOLO.
The "color" variety focus on immersive experiences like a dinner-theatre samba show in Rio de Janeiro, sitting in the seats of the Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily, imagining a tragedy performed millennia earlier in front of the backdrop of Mount Etna or a trip to the edge of the Sahara Desert to gaze at the Giza pyramids and lock eyes with the Sphinx. The "excitement" excursions are going to include action verbs such as hike, climb, rappel and surf. Get a bird's-eye view usually seen only by the Christ the Redeemer statue as you hang-glide over Rio, or body-raft through the canyons of Alcantara Gorge in Italy or sand-board down a desert dune at the Fayoum Oasis outside Cairo.
Some of these experiences even start before your cruise -- whether it's rafting in southern Greece on a four-day Peloponnese adventure, wandering through the rock caves and valleys of Cappadocia or sipping your way through a three-day tour of Tuscany's best wineries. Book one of these pre-cruise immersions and they'll fly you out a few days early to start your vacation before you even get on board the ship.Atlas's unique itineraries also allow for a deep dive into a culture or region. For example, on the 13-night Intense Brazil sailing in October 2021, World Navigator will stop in six different spots along the Brazilian coast, including late-night departures to allow for an extra caipirinha before returning to the ship after a Brazilian beach day in Buzios (considered the St. Tropez of Brazil) and an overnight in Rio (so you can samba all night long).
You Won't Be Bored On Board
On many expedition cruises, what you gain in access to amazing places like Antarctica or the Amazon, you lose in amenities on the ship. With Atlas's custom-built ships and curated partnerships, there's no "roughing it", even on a rugged adventure.
It starts with a stateroom that includes a queen bed and ocean views (9 of the 10 stateroom types have a walk-out or Juliet balcony). And, if you choose a suite, butler service is included, along with 24/7 room service, gratis. The indulgence continues with L'Occitane en Provence amenities in the luxury marble bathroom with a spa shower.
As you explore the ship, take advantage of the fully equipped health center, go for a run on the top deck or venture down to the Water's Edge Lookout for a unique whale (or dolphin or penguin or leopard seal) watching opportunity 30 feet above the ocean surface. For a special treat, book a treatment or two at the first SeaSpa by L'Occitane at sea.
There's plenty to sip and savor, with gourmet dining available at four venues featuring locally sourced regional dishes and options that range from healthy to decadent. After dinner (or really any time of day), recap your recent adventures over a mixologist-crafted cocktail at one of the ship's four bars or lounges.
"All Inclusive All The Way" is a Huge Vacation Value
Expedition cruises usually cost a pretty penny -- it's not uncommon to see the price tag for the cruise alone to top $20,000 for two travelers -- and that's before you add on flights, excursions, gratuities and other extras.
Atlas Ocean Voyages wants travelers to approach their cruise differently. It's all included in the upfront price. That means roundtrip flights from 15 airports (for all staterooms) to Europe, the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica, a complimentary excursion on every itinerary in select ports, all dining and drinks (including room service), the daily Après Sea pop-up social, prepaid gratuities, enrichment programs with on-board experts and Wi-Fi throughout the ship.
Add up all of the experiences you're not paying extra for, and it'll be tough to go back to cruising the old way again.