The Pacific Islands are meant for expedition cruising, a necklace of tropical islands and atolls set against clear blue seas, with extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities and a series of local cultures and tribes to experience first-hand, each one as fascinating as the next. Expedition cruise operators in the South Pacific in particular know where to go to seek out the best wildlife experiences, and journeys are accompanied by expedition leaders, naturalists and local cultural experts.
Expedition cruises cover a wide and ever expanding swath of the Pacific Islands including Hawaii, but primarily in the South Pacific which encompasses parts of Australia and New Zealand as well as Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, which are physical regions defined by their indigenous cultural affiliation and origin. The map at left shows the islands and nations as they are grouped into these regions.
Each expedition company has its own unique itinerary, with some trips focusing on one small set of islands in one region, and another that covers all four regions, with selected island visits in each of them.
June through December, with most expedition cruises scheduled for October through December when it rains less often and the chance of cyclones and rough seas is lower.
While there are any number and type of resorts sprinkled throughout the South Pacific, expedition style cruising offers an unparalleled level of access and reach in this vast oceanic area. Most vessels used in expedition cruising carry anywhere from 20 to 240 passengers. The types of craft include small sailers, large motor yachts, expedition ships or, most commonly, luxury expedition ships. The expedition and luxury expedition ships have a distinct advantage over sailing vessels or yachts in that their speed allows them to cover more nautical miles and distance. Their shallow drafts allow them entry into areas where the large cruise ships cannot go, and their captains and expedition staff know all the best hidden atolls and lagoons.
What characterizes a South Pacific expedition adventure is the services of an Expedition Leader, naturalist staff and sometimes cultural historians or specialists. It is they who arrange the shore visits, and scout the best wildlife viewing opportunities and activities such as cultural shore visits or wildlife habitat explorations. Beach visits are also a highlight, allowing for some tropical down time. And given the extraordinary marine environment, water activities are plentiful, whether that is exploration by Zodiac craft, snorkeling with sea turtles or even scuba diving some of the most abundant and beautiful reef systems on the planet.