New Polar Ships

Over the next two years, cruise companies will launch at least 12 new ice-class ships that will spend six to eight months each year in and around polar regions, delivering Shackleton-style thrills. With once-inconceivable technology, these vessels will think greener, provide smoother sails in rough seas, and plow deeper into remote regions, edging closer to the true North and South Poles. An added bonus: Their luxury levels approach, if not top, megabucks yachts. Here, our guide to these ice-bound newcomers sure to transform Antarctic and Arctic sails into the coolest cruises imaginable.

BY JANICE WALD HENDERSON — Fall 2018

JUST LAUNCHED

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Blue Eye lounge on Ponant cruise ship

Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain 

French bilingual line Ponant triumphs with these 184-passenger twins for Arctic exploration. They feature a Gallic chic design, with elegant king-size-bed staterooms, pool with countercurrent swimming, and theater with an LED wall as the stage backdrop. An adjustable hydraulic platform provides easier Zodiac embarkation for expeditions.

More to like: Experience close encounters with wildlife and sip martinis on a vibrating couch in Blue Eye, the utterly futuristic multisensory underwater lounge delivering real-time marine views and sounds. Yes, crew members pour passengers Veuve Clicquot on icebergs.

Sails: Le Lapérouse debuted its Arctic route in June, with no plans for a return before 2020, at the soonest. Le Champlain launches in October and departs on its first Arctic voyage May 30, 2019 — sailing eight days round-trip Reykjavik, Iceland. Three more identical cruises in August.

More info: 888-400-1082; us.ponant.com

STILL TO COME THIS YEAR

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Quark Expeditions’ World Explorer

World Explorer

Quark Expeditions goes upscale with this 176-guest ship featuring all exterior cabins with balconies, plus a library touting polar adventure tomes, and a gym, pool, sauna, and spa.

More to like: Observation decks ensure easy wildlife sightings. Adventuresome cruisers can sea kayak, camp ashore in tents, and stand-up paddleboard. Novice kayakers will feel like pros on sit-on-top kayaks, which offer greater stability for beginners.

Sails: Antarctic voyages begin with a 20-day Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica journey, cruising round-trip Ushuaia, Argentina, departing Dec. 16, with additional Antarctic voyages through mid-March 2019.

More info: 888-979-2061; quarkexpeditions.com

COMING IN 2019

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Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer

Greg Mortimer

From Aussie company Aurora Expeditions, this ship sails with 120 passengers in polar regions and comes with a hot commodity —
an X-Bow that pierces waves with greater stability than a traditional bow. Besides improving fuel efficiency and reducing air emissions, the X-Bow promises far smoother sails in even high seas. Plus, the ship can anchor without disturbing the sea floor via GPS technology and high-tech steering to hold position without using heavy chains and anchors.

More to like: Most cabins have balconies. The ship will also boast a wellness center, 360-degree open deck and sundeck, and library. In Antarctica, ski down virgin glacial slopes and go mountaineering. In the Arctic, polar snorkeling and scuba diving entice.

Sails: First Antarctic cruise heads out for 12 days round-trip Ushuaia, Argentina, departing Oct. 30, 2019, with additional ones scheduled through mid-March. An 11-day Arctic cruise launches June 22, 2020, round-trip Longyearbyen, Norway, with additional ones scheduled through August.

More  info: 888-485-5080; auroraexpeditions.com.au

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Inspiration’s sundeck glass balconies

Hanseatic Inspiration

Schnecken and schnitzel buffs may prefer this 199-passenger PC6-rated ship from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a bilingual German line that will sail the Antarctic.

More to like: Inspiration’s showstopper? Sundeck glass balconies with glass flooring; step out, and it’s like hovering over water. 

Sails: Launches October 2019. Among the expected itineraries, a 23-day Antarctic expedition. No additional details available at press time.

More info: 877-445-7447; hl-cruises.com

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Roald Amundsen’s cabin with balcony

MS Roald Amundsen 

With its auxiliary electric engine, this 530-passenger ship from Hurtigruten can reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent.

More to like: Cabin and suite designs embrace native Norwegian materials such as birch, oak, and wool, and amenities include three restaurants, infinity pools, saunas, gyms, Jacuzzis, and large observation platforms. A science center will offer workshops in subjects such as photography and biology. Next-gen underwater drones will deliver real-time video to iPads and smartphones. Better yet, don a mask digitally displaying that real-time ocean-view video. It’s so virtual reality-ish, like deep-water diving without getting wet.

Sails: Roald Amundsen debuts next May, with the first Arctic cruise sailing 12 days between Longyearbyen, Norway, and Reykjavik, Iceland, departing July 26, 2019.

More info: 888-896-2123; hurtigruten.com

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Scenic Eclipse Sanctuary Spa pool

Scenic Eclipse 

This all-suite, butler-staffed ship has Polar Class 6 status, the highest ice-class ranking for passenger ships. Plus, newfangled zero-speed stabilizer fins 50 percent larger than standard promise greater ship stability in the polar regions’ turbulent  waters. Built for 228 guests, Eclipse limits capacity to 200 passengers for Arctic and Antarctic cruises.

More to like: Enjoy 10 dining experiences, two heated pools, and a spa. In the owner’s penthouse suite, soak in a private outdoor Jacuzzi, sipping bubbly. The ship ups the luxe quotient even more with a submarine and two helicopters.

Sails: The debut 11-day Antarctic voyage cruises round-trip Ushuaia, Argentina, departing Jan. 27, 2019, with multiple voyages until March. The first Arctic voyage sails 11 days round-trip Longyearbyen, Norway, beginning June 16, 2019, with multiple voyages until mid-August.

Looking ahead: Scenic plans to launch a yet-to-be named Scenic Eclipse twin in 2020. The first Arctic expedition cruises for 13 days between Copenhagen and Tromsø, Norway, departing June 10, 2020. Subsequent journeys meander the region until September. 

More info: 844-788-7985; scenicusa.com

IN 2020

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Crystal Endeavor Penthouse Suite

Crystal Endeavor

This 200-passenger eye-catcher could win the 2020 expedition ship beauty award. But more than just pretty, it also has a PC6 rating and will plow beautifully through medium first-year ice.

Sails: Launches in August 2020 and departs on its first Antarctic cruise Jan. 6, 2021, sailing 22 days from Hobart, Tasmania, to Christchurch, New Zealand. 

More Info: 888-722-0021; crystalcruises.com

Le Bellot and Le Surville

Along with the traditional Ponant yachtlike vibe, these 184-passenger sister ships will introduce more advanced vessel technology, such as nonintrusive underwater projectors so guests can observe the seabed without risk to the marine biosphere.

Sails: No details available at press time.

More Info: 888-400-1082; us.ponant.com

 

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National Geographic Endurance from Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic

National Geographic Endurance

This 126-guest ship from Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic will compete as the world’s most technically sophisticated expedition ship. Endurance’s X-Bow diminishes pitching, keeping the ship stable during stormy weather, and reduces fuel needs. Zero-speed stabilizers also reduce seasickness risk.

Sails: Debuts January 2020. No additional details available at press time.

More Info: 800-397-3348; expeditions.com

Quark Expeditions’ Solely Polar Vessel

This yet-unnamed ship will carry 200 passengers and focus on polar travel only, sailing to uncommon destinations such as the Ross Sea. New safety designs include two separate engine rooms and a fully operational emergency bridge.

Sails: No details available at press time.

More info:  888-979-2061; quarkexpeditions.com

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