Meet the Expedition Company that Puts Polar Exploration Within Reach
Even among the worldliest travelers, only a relative few have witnessed the raw wilderness of Antarctica. Not many humans have cast their eyes on the region’s towering blue-tinged glaciers, heard the emotive call of a humpback whale or felt the mounting excitement as they prepared to set foot on the earth’s most remote landmass.
Venturing to the austere and uninhabited poles of the earth is not your typical vacation; it’s a journey that's traditionally been undertaken by scientists and researchers. And yet, for intrepid travelers, the drive to go there is undeniable.
For the so-driven, there are various cruise lines that offer Antarctica itineraries. But there’s a big difference between choosing an operator who also tours the Caribbean and Mediterranean and one that specializes exclusively in the polar regions.
Quark Expeditions is one such operator. A 30-year veteran in the polar adventure space, the company’s intimate polar-class expedition ships are specifically built to cruise through sea ice, to transport travelers safely to the shores of glacier-carved landscapes and to respond in real-time to the extreme and ever-changing natural world.
Whereas higher-capacity cruise ships are limited to one shore landing per day, Quark Expedition’s small, agile ships allow for multiple daily landings and adaptable itineraries, ensuring guests make the most of every surreal second. These attributes are just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to why Quark Expeditions should steer your trip to the last great wilderness. Ahead, a deeper look at what sets Quark Expeditions apart, and how to get onboard.
Quark Expeditions’ first commercial sailing was in August 1991, when adventurers-turned-cofounders Lars Wikander and Mike McDowell led a group to the North Pole. That lone journey completely changed the game of commercial polar exploration. Set on the decks of a nuclear-powered Arctic-class icebreaker, Quark Expeditions’ maiden passenger voyage was the first tourist trip via the Arctic’s historic Northeast Passage — ever.
In the three decades since, the company has emerged as an industry leader for taking curious and resolute travelers to the far extremes of the world.
Exclusively Arctic and Antarctic
Research polar cruises and you might be surprised to see some familiar cruise lines as options. Perhaps you’ve even sailed with one on a tropical cruise. Again, this is just one of the factors that sets Quark Expeditions apart — Antarctica and the Arctic are the only two destinations in the company's portfolio of flexible and immersive itineraries.
The difference between a Quark Expeditions polar experience and one with a traditional cruise line lies not just in what you see, but in the depth of immersion and next-level off-ship adventures. You won't just see a penguin — you'll have the chance to visit a quarter million penguins on South Georgia Island while en route to the 7th continent. You won't just see the South Ocean from the deck of a ship, but with the Quark Expeditions team, you'll have the chance to dip your kayak paddle right into the fabled waters, or plunge into Arctic sea water for a soul-jolting experience neither mind nor muscles will soon forget.
If trekking through tundra where few others have set foot sounds appealing to you, you've met your match.
Small Ships Built for the Journey (and the Scenery)
All Antarctic cruises require expedition-caliber ships, but Quark Expeditions' ships far surpass the industry standard.
Take the newest member of the fleet: the Airbus-helicopter-equipped Ultramarine. Quark Expeditions' team of architects, naval engineers and designers devoted more than five years to planning and building the new addition. Ultramarine is equipped with two twin-engine helicopters set on helipads above the deck; and 20 quick-deploy Zodiacs. With these state-of-the-art resources and the ship's efficient design, the team can get guests off the ship and out into the polar landscape in a fraction of the time it would take on larger ships.
Sustainability was also a top consideration in the new ship's design. As part of Quark Expeditions' serious commitment to conservation and positive impact in the polar environments, Ultramarine is equipped with a ground-breaking system that converts waste to energy onsite.
Agility may be the name of the game on Ultramarine, but the 199-passenger ship also offers numerous observation spaces with stunning views of the polar landscape, plus top-notch onboard amenities. Think cozy, fully enclosed panorama lounges, wraparound viewing decks and saunas with front-row seats to the icescape just beyond the windows.
On the all-suite World Explorer, up to 172 passengers can take in the breathtaking beauty from the top deck’s heated pool or their suite’s private balcony. Even the smallest of the fleet, the 128-passenger Ocean Adventurer, doesn’t skimp on outdoor deck space or social areas — including the outdoor hot tub, an ideal spot for relaxing after a day of exploring.
Each ship is engineered to weave through mazes of icebergs and respond in real time to spontaneous wildlife viewing opportunities. Both onboard and off, polar specialists — wildlife experts, biologists, glaciologists and historians — will be on hand to lend insight on the mind-blowing natural experiences that will become part of daily life during your journey with Quark Expeditions.
Adaptable Itineraries for Endless Adventure
Magnificence and spontaneity go hand in hand in the Southern Ocean, and every second is an opportunity to experience something spectacular. At any given moment, you may spot an albatross gliding overhead; emperor penguins toddling over pristine snow; Weddell seals calling out over the ice; or the tails of migratory humpback whales cutting through the deep blue waters. That’s why Quark Expeditions' itineraries are designed to be immersive, adaptable and responsive to the calls of the natural world.
So what does that mean, exactly? Quark Expeditions isn't bound by strict itineraries. Captains can change course should a pod of orcas present itself, so you won't miss a single wildlife sighting.
Quark Expeditions’ 199 passenger cap also means increased flexibility and opportunity for more excursions. They head to shore multiple times per day, while larger cruise ships are restricted to a single shore landing daily. Fewer passengers means quicker transitions from ship to shore, once again allowing guests to make the most of their much-anticipated Antarctic voyage.
There are excursions geared to all fitness and comfort levels: naturalist-led wilderness hikes, Zodiac adventures aimed at wildlife spotting and tranquil sea kayak jaunts that bring you to glaciers that seem lit from within. Guests also have the opportunity to experience the albatross' perspective during a flightseeing tour of the silvery frozen ocean and mammoth snow-covered peaks.
Whatever form of Antarctic exploration you favor, you'll be left with memories to last a lifetime.