Last week a friend gave us a catalogue of “expedition” cruises offered by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The glossy photograph-filled magazine touts cruises that you can take to some of the world’s most remote places. The sales pitch runs along the lines of: Buy a ticket, fly to Chile, board a luxury small cruise ship and suddenly you are part of an expedition in the footsteps of Shackleton.
Now I’m not knocking such cruises. I think it is great that people can access these very special places in a safe and, in the case of the National Geographic ships (I assume), reasonably environmentally friendly way.
But these trips are not expeditions, they are cruises. An expedition, at least in my opinion, is something that the participants plan and execute themselves.
For example, a couple from, say Massachusetts, who save to buy a cruising boat, fit her out, learn to sail her safely, and then spend a summer holiday sailing the 200 odd miles to Roque Island, Maine, perhaps including their first overnight sail, are, at least to me, on an expedition. They will be exposed, probably for the first time, to 25-foot tides and fog so thick you can hardly see the bow. And they will succeed or fail at dealing with these challenges by themselves.
Contrast this to a couple that boards a plane flown by someone else, to meet a ship crewed by someone else, to make a voyage planned by someone else, to board a Zodiac piloted by someone else, to land on a beach pre-checked for dangers by someone else.
To me, one of the many wonderful things about offshore voyaging in small boats is that every cruise is an expedition, regardless of how far we go, because we do it ourselves.
What do you think? Leave a comment.