The luxury expedition cruise sector is predicted to bounce back from the pandemic, sooner and with even more customer demand than ever before. When this happens (fingers crossed in the next 6 to 12 months) Blue Zissou will be ready, even at short notice, to provide destination advice and bespoke shore excursions tailored to meet each company’s specific guest needs.
Before the pandemic cut short its expansion, the expedition sector was enjoying unprecedented demand. According to Roberto Martinoli, Silversea, CEO. this optimism has led to 27 new-build luxury expedition ships coming into service and 4 conversions on existing ships at a cost of $3.8 Billion.
While expedition cruising continues to focus mainly on the polar regions (most new builds have ice-breaking capabilities and a higher degree of self-sufficiency) there is also a move towards “warm water” expedition cruising. Its this development that most excites us at Blue Zissou, especially as our part of the world – the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is attracting a lot of attention from itinerary planners, lured by the promise of new, previously ‘unexplored’ expedition destinations.
So, what is Expedition Cruising and how is it different from traditional cruising?
Some say that modern expedition cruising started with Lars-Eric Lindblad who believed that once travellers experienced the wonder of the natural world with their own eyes they would be a force for the preservation of these places. It’s a philosophy that permeates the entire sector to this day.
Pioneering trips to Antarctica and the Galapagos in the 1960s were the first to take travellers where only scientists and explorers had gone before. The early expedition cruises were rugged, they used chartered icebreakers, modified fishing trawlers and converted soviet era passenger ships.
These ‘work-a-day’ vessels have since been replaced by purpose built expedition ships that offer a higher level of comfort and provide better access for passengers of all ages and abilities. Unlike the more traditional cruise ships where bigger is often seen as better, expedition ships are smaller with less draft allowing navigation to anchorages other ships can’t reach. They also carry fewer passengers, 100 to 200 being typical. This allows for more intimacy, for example, on many ships passengers have access to the bridge at all times and are soon on first name terms with the captain and crew, a nice touch that fosters camaraderie.
In the newest ships the luxury factor has been turned up to maximum. Passengers become ‘guests’, suites replace cabins, there are personal observation decks instead of porthole windows and even mini-submarines. Choices of fine dining options, onboard lectures and high quality shore excursions that immerse guests in all the cultural and environmental magnificence that each carefully selected destinations has to offer, complete the transformation.
Encouragingly, there’s a new focus on sustainability through better design, practice and attitudes – this alone represents a big shift and a direct challenge to the poor environmental/social image that mainstream cruising has struggled to shake off.
Why is there so much interest in the WIO?
Impossible as it may seem, the Polar regions are already getting too crowded, with expedition ships sometimes forced to take turns to make shore landings. A 140% increase in passenger capacity over the next 18 months is only going to make the need for alternative destinations more pressing.
This has been a hot topic amongst expedition cruise operators for several years. And the WIO has been identified as having the potential for a ‘warm water’ expedition destination.
The WIO offers the type of immersive experiences that expedition guests are seeking without overcrowding: coral atolls, pristine reefs, exotic coastal communities and island states with rich histories and still active ancient trade networks. While some places like Zanzibar and the Seychelles are already well known, there are thousands of kilometres of African coastline, inlets and islands still waiting to be discovered, and even favorites like Zanzibar can surprise when you take a fresh look beyond the tourist hotspots to uncover hidden gems.
Blue Zissou is better positioned than any other company to service this growth in expedition cruising to Northern Mozambique
At Blue Zissou we are excited about this growth of expedition cruising to the region, it will provide new opportunities for Northern Mozambique and fresh demand for our organisational skills and creativity.
Blue Zissou directors have more than 30 years in tourism, developing experiential, immersive and life enhancing activities for high end travellers. Our team are young, dedicated and 100% local which adds authenticity. These factors have given us a creative edge.
Over the past 6 years we have serviced the shore excursion needs of all the ships that have visited Ilha – and built up a big reputation in the process. Its a reputation that recognises our professionalism; compliance with regulations and insurance requirements, efficient administration and practical organisational skills. As well as our sustainable approach, long term community relationships and flare for creative tour design giving cruise companies, itinerary planners and the all important guests better options; different, safe and authentic experiences to build upon.