By Mike Richard of themanual.com
These days, Antarctic cruises are a dime a dozen as countless tour companies operate multi-week expeditions to the continent. But, few boast a truly luxurious experience. That’s all about to change as Aurora Expeditions — a company which has been leading polar expeditions for more than 25 years — recently announced plans to upend today’s polar leisure cruise model in a big way.
For decades, the baseline for Antarctic cruise liners has been to re-purpose old (sometimes very old) polar research vessels into ships loosely fit for leisure travel. On the outside, the ships look much as they did in their former incarnations — solid, rugged, rigid designs with all the charm of a Russian icebreaker. Because–in many cases–that’s exactly what they are. Base- and mid-level cabins often involve cramming up to four passengers in a single room, and only the priciest, flagship suites promise modern amenities like a private bathroom.
This month, Aurora Expeditions in partnership with SunStone Ships announced a state-of-the-art, ice-class vessel that will be built to current high-performance polar code specs. The 104-meter leisure ship will be among the most technically advanced of its kind, promising never-before-seen protection for passengers and the environment. Indeed, from the outside, it appears to be part submarine and part luxury cruise liner. Among the new features is a purpose-built X-BOW. The updated bow design allows the ship to slice through the high seas with far greater stability and less vertical movement which equates to a far more comfortable ride for passengers. This is noteworthy for travelers crossing the notoriously choppy Drake Passage en route to Antarctica.