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I sailed on a cruise line you know nothing about—here are 5 reasons why you should give it a try

side by side image of an expedition cruise ship and a girl smiling

Would you sail on a cruise line you’ve never heard of before? What if the cruise would visit the world’s most dreamy, intrepid destination?

Last month, I did just that, and it was the most worthwhile travel decision I’ve made all year.

It’s far too easy to become complacent when planning vacations. Although there is an immeasurable amount of ways to vacation, from Caribbean cruises to African safaris, many travelers end up vacationing the same way year after year.

I, too, found myself lacking diversity in my vacation choices. Throughout the past two years I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve been to popular destinations like Cozumel and The Bahamas. When was the last time I had tried something new… something that would change the way I view the world?

Weddell seal laying on an iceberg

So when planning an autumn getaway earlier this year, I went to the world map above my dining room table for inspiration. Where was the most adventurous, unknown destination I could visit?

Antarctica seemed to shine brighter than anywhere else on the map, so it was decided. I would visit Antarctica by any means possible.

Why I booked a cruise on a cruise line I knew nothing about

Sea Spirit cruise ship

Like planning any type of vacation, I was overwhelmed by the amount of choices for visiting Antarctica. Fortunately, I had two must-haves for the experience, which offered, at the very least, a starting point for my research.

First, I had to visit Antarctica by sea, as visiting by air is far more rare (and costly). Second, I wanted the experience to be on a small vessel, as this would provide a more intimate way to discover the continent.

Ultimately, my research led me to Poseidon Expeditions, an expedition cruise line founded in 1999. The cruise line has won several prestigious awards for their polar cruise offerings, such as the Best Polar Cruise Operator of 2023 by the World Travel Awards. Plus, the cruise line’s ship sailing to Antarctica was the right size for what was sure to be a memorable experience.

outer deck of Sea Spirit cruise ship

So, even though I had never heard of Poseidon Expeditions before my research, I soon found myself en route to Argentina to board the grandest of cruise itineraries.

What ensued was one of the most fulfilling travel experiences of my life, and here are five reasons you should give Poseidon Expeditions a try.

Poseidon Expeditions has just one ship, the M/V Sea Spirit, and the ship’s small size is ideal for the polar regions

Sea Spirit cruise ship by Poseidon Expeditions

Some cruise lines may have dozens of vessels, but Poseidon Expeditions has just one ship: the Sea Spirit. The cruise line gives the Sea Spirit its full attention, frequently updating and refurbishing the ship to ensure it offers a modern, deluxe experience for passengers.

With a gross tonnage of just over 4,000, the Sea Spirit is among the smaller cruise ships traveling to the Antarctic. The ship has a maximum capacity of 114 passengers, a stark contrast to ships that can hold 200 or more guests.

For those just beginning to browse Antarctica cruises, a bigger ship might seem like the finest option. Typically, the larger a vessel, the more space it has for areas like lounges, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Yet when choosing a vessel for an Antarctica cruise, smaller ships are preferred, as cruises to the region are governed by strict regulations. Only 100 passengers are permitted ashore from a particular ship at any given time, and vessels with over 500 passengers are not able to make any shore landings at all.

two travelers standing in front of a large iceberg

This is why you’ll see cheaper Antarctica cruises offered on mega ships with several thousand guests. Passengers on these sailings are unable to disembark the ship in Antarctica. Consequently, they miss out on a core part of the Antarctic experience.

With a maximum of 114 passengers on the Sea Spirit, there’s no need to take turns with other passengers in order to go ashore. The cruise line’s optional kayaking add-on ensures some guests are kayaking while others are ashore, meaning everyone can disembark the ship at the same time.

girl smiling with a penguin in the background

At certain landings, we were able to spend around two hours ashore, something that wouldn’t have been possible if we had to take turns with other guests on a large ship. Of all the benefits of cruising with Poseidon Expeditions, the capacity of the Sea Spirit is perhaps the greatest selling point.

lounge on Sea Spirit cruise ship

Overall, despite the Sea Spirit’s small size, all spaces are maximized to their full potential. There are two lounges on the ship along with a library, gym, spacious restaurant, outdoor jacuzzi, and a wraparound Promenade deck. The ship never once felt crowded, and it was the perfect size for having such a small passenger capacity.

The quality of the cruise line’s expedition guides is top notch

zodiac cruise on sea spirit cruise ship

Expedition guides can make or break an Antarctica expedition cruise, and it was clear Poseidon Expeditions hires only the best of the best.

Of everything that astounded me during my time in Antarctica, I was most impressed by the quality of the Sea Spirit’s expedition guides. On my sailing, there were thirteen members of the expedition team, ranging from polar historians to biologists, kayak guides, photographers, and geologists.

Expedition guides are at the forefront of guests’ experiences while visiting Antarctica. They pilot the small zodiac boats that take guests ashore, set up walking areas on landing sites, and provide information on Antarctica’s geography, history, and wildlife during shore activities.

Onboard, expedition guides hold lectures and events that allow guests to further immerse themselves in the Antarctic region. One particularly interesting lecture, as an example, was about the successful 2022 expedition to find Ernest Shackleton’s iconic lost ship, the Endurance.

Enrichment lecture on cruise ship

Not only was the topic intriguing, but the lecture was given by an expedition guide who had actually traveled to Antarctica on the 35-day expedition. This was just another example of the level of expertise the Sea Spirit’s guides have on the polar regions.

I was surprised by how involved expedition guides were in the day to day life of passengers not only during scheduled programming, but in leisure time as well.

Unlike service-oriented crew members, expedition guides are welcome to hang out in passenger areas. This meant I was able to chat with expedition guides all over the ship, not just during excursions and lectures.

From discussing Antarctica’s birds with the ship’s ornithologist at lunch to chatting about the history of polar expeditions with historians at the bar, every interaction with expedition leaders led to a more thorough understanding of this fascinating region of the world.

The Sea Spirit has a stellar passenger to crew ratio, and the crew was committed to providing top-tier experiences to guests

Sea Spirit passengers and crew

I never understood the importance of a cruise line’s passenger to crew ratio until my sailing with Poseidon Expeditions. There are around 70 crew members onboard for the Sea Spirit’s maximum capacity of 114 passengers, and this leads to exceptional personalized service.

On mainstream cruise lines with thousands of passengers, it’s easy to feel like just a number onboard. With the exception of your cabin attendant and dining room waiters, it’s rare for any crew members to learn your name.

On the Sea Spirit, Poseidon Expeditions’ crew learned my name within the first day. Not only that, but the service-oriented crew members referred to me as Madame Jenna. Talk about feeling special!

crew member Sea Spirit cruise ship

It was clear the crew members aimed to make every moment for guests unforgettable. After each chilly activity ashore in Antarctica, for example, guests were welcomed back onboard with warm hand towels and piping hot cups of tea. And during a sightseeing cruise of Deception Island, the crew offered guests Bailey’s and hot chocolate to keep us warm while watching the views.

While subtle, I appreciated these touches and the way they enhanced my overall experience on the Sea Spirit.

Poseidon Expeditions’ itineraries take you to the world’s most remote destinations

penguin walking on hillside

Poseidon Expeditions focuses almost exclusively on the polar regions—Antarctica and the Arctic. A few sailings are offered each spring to the British Isles, but the vast majority of departures visit polar regions.

Unlike cruise lines that may offer sailings to a vast array of destinations, such as cruises to the Caribbean, Asia, and Alaska, Poseidon Expeditions’ puts its focus solely on delivering the most marvelous polar cruise experience possible.

If you’re unfamiliar with polar cruising, you might assume all cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica are similar. After all, how much could glaciers, wildlife, and scenery vary from region to region?

In reality, the polar regions offer spectacular diversity not only when comparing the two poles, but within each region as well.

large iceberg in the sea

Antarctica cruises range from shorter sailings along the peninsula to cruises crossing the Antarctic circle. 17-day itineraries to Antarctica visit not only the continent, but the Falkland Islands and South Georgia as well, the latter of which is home to half the world’s population of king penguins.

In the Arctic, passengers can spot polar bears in Svalbard, witness the northern lights in northeastern Greenland, and even venture as far north as the polar ice edge. Unlike in the Antarctic, cruises to the Arctic include stops in small towns and cities in the region, from Reykjavik in Iceland to Ittoqqortoormiit in Greenland.

Needless to say, if there’s an itinerary you’re searching for in the polar regions, it’s offered by Poseidon Expeditions.

A Poseidon Expeditions cruise is vastly different from a traditional cruise, but I found it to be significantly more rewarding

jenna standing on snow

If you’re accustomed to sailing on mainstream cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises, you’ll find that a Poseidon Expeditions cruise is a tremendously different type of experience.

Traditional cruises market themselves as a leisurely vacation experience. While onboard, passengers can spend the entire day lounging by the pool, attending nightly production shows, and visiting busy ports that may see upwards of 10,000 passengers daily.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this type of cruising, and it is, unquestionably, a relaxing getaway. Personally, though, I don’t find I grow much as a traveler from this type of vacation, especially if I’m visiting the same ports I’ve been to dozens of times before.

Visiting Antarctica, on the other hand, will change you. Exploring a destination so remote and forbidding—yet inexplicably beautiful—challenged me, astonished me, and grew my appreciation for Earth’s most fragile environments.

Lemaire Channel

Every aspect of the experience was rewarding, including when I stood atop a cliff following an arduous hike in the snow and when I was dwarfed by endless fields of sparkling ice. I felt so incredibly alive in Antarctica in a way very few places could ever make me feel.

While cruising on a traditional ship, it’s easy to forget where you are with all the distractions onboard, from water slides to zip lines and nightclubs. The destination your ship visits is secondary to the experience onboard the vessel.

In Antarctica, though, every single moment is immersive, and Antarctica itself is at the forefront of the experience. For travelers in search of a more adventurous, unique way to cruise, Poseidon Expeditions is sure to deliver what you’re looking for.

Feeling inspired to visit Antarctica with Poseidon Expeditions yourself next season? Get an additional discount of $500 USD for cruises in the 2024/25 Antarctic season by using the code #JENNA500 when booking.

For more details on expedition cruise offerings, contact Poseidon Expeditions directly.

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