Expedition Cruise Travel Guide

Expedition cruises are educational adventures where nature reigns supreme. Sail into the sublime to experience a new connection with nature and gain an appreciation for the world that surrounds you. Prepare for one-of-a-kind experiences that can’t be planned in advance as each day of learning is decided with potential wildlife sightings and local conditions in mind. The true delight of the expedition is the surprise that could be right around the corner: a pod of whales swimming in the distance; kayaking next to a freshly calved iceberg; a polar bear and her cubs resting on sea ice. With each new experience, Road Scholar’s professional excursion leaders and onboard photographers, naturalists and anthropologists are there to share their knowledge for an immersive, educational journey unlike any other.


There’s no better way to escape the everyday grind and get back to basics than with a breath of fresh air before setting out to explore the untouched wilderness. Personalized educational experiences set the stage for getting up close to nature and wildlife with expert instruction to get the most out of your discovery. Get an up-close look at 40-foot gray whales as you learn about their migration route in the lagoons of the Baja Peninsula. Give penguins the right of way as you snowshoe carefully curated trails in Antarctica’s untouched wilderness. Discover Greenland’s three-mile-wide Eqip Glacier, one of the world’s most active glaciers, situated high above the Arctic Circle. Feast on the bounty of the Canadian Maritimes as you circumnavigate Newfoundland and walk through North America’s oldest European settlement in the learning adventure of a lifetime. 

Why Expedition Cruises?

Regardless of where you are in the world, expedition cruises make the most of their natural surroundings. Unlike traditional itinerary-based cruises, the expedition is all about adventure. If the captain spots something of interest in the distance, they can head in that direction to enhance the experience for guests and crew alike. This flexibility adds an air of unpredictability that leaves each cruise different from the last and you longing for more.

When you step on board an expedition ship, prepare for a cruise unlike anything else you have experienced. These cruises have a unique feel to them that is shaped by the itinerary; when you come on board, everything is supplementary to the destination. Road Scholar’s onboard experts — ranging from professional biologists and geologists to photographers and anthropologists — are there to enhance your understanding of the ports of call and the overall journey. Many expedition cruises use their platform to promote and educate about environmental and other local causes, partnering with local communities and NGOs to strive towards their mission for proactive, sustainable tourism.

Specially built to access some of the remote waterways in the world, expedition vessels are enhanced to sail through some of the sea’s toughest conditions. Ice-class hulls can expertly navigate far-flung natural wonders or small ports that are inaccessible to larger ships. Onboard exploration tools allow passengers to discover the true nature of the world’s fascinating regions alongside expert-led excursions and instruction. All the while, these custom-built ships are designed to create an intimate environment that will maximize your expedition experience.



Why Sail With Road Scholar?

Meet the Experts

When you come away from an expedition cruise, you will be fulfilled with newfound knowledge and firsthand experiences like you were in a National Geographic or David Attenborough documentary. Instead of lounging by the pool and watching an extravagant performance, onboard activities are centered on a host of experts who are part of the journey to share their expertise with you. Expedition cruises bring professional photographers, biologists, geologists, anthropologists and other experts to serve as resources for the environment and cultures you will experience. Throughout the journey, they present lectures and host discussions to ensure you are getting the most out of your expedition. When you travel with Road Scholar, there will often be additional opportunities to meet with these experts so no questions are left unanswered.

The World is Your Classroom

Craggy coasts and iceberg-filled bays await as your expedition ship gracefully lowers anchor. Become fully immersed in the destination as you’re transported into the heart of untouched wilderness and authentic cultures on itineraries as exciting as the destinations in store. These ships are often built for a specific destination with exact measurements — shallow drafts, narrow bodies or ice-strengthened hulls — in order to access select ports of call. Smaller expedition ships can sail tight waterways and shallow outlets to off-the-beaten-path locales and across open water to iconic destinations that have been dreamed of from a world away. From the remote fishing villages in northern Iceland to the Galápagos’ hidden coves, expedition cruises will return your focus to the world around you and leave you longing for more.

Intimate Experiences

The days of having to face the crowds while you’re on vacation are behind you. With an average size of fewer than 200 passengers, public areas will never feel too crowded and there will always be a cozy corner to relax with book-in-hand or grab a seat at the bar to schmooze with your new friends. Lectures with onboard experts will fill with familiar faces and open seats in the dining room will seem to summon you. Plus, you will develop a relationship with the crew as you interact every day, making the cruise feel more like a home away from home than a floating hotel. When you embark on an expedition cruise with Hurtigruten, their custom-built ships are designed to offer the intimate expedition experience while accommodating a greater number of passengers, more in line with ocean voyages.  

Sustainability is Key

As concerns about environmental sustainability have become more prominent in the collective conscious, a greater emphasis has been placed on responsible travel practices. Expedition cruises value the environment above all else and are constantly developing and implementing new sustainable practices and technologies onboard the ships. From only serving sustainably sourced food to seeking alternative fuel methods — the Norwegian expedition company, Hurtigruten, launched its first hybrid-powered ship in 2018 — and contributing to local charities and NGOs in the regions of the world they visit, expedition cruise lines are rising to the occasion.



Educational Expeditions with Road Scholar

Go where nature leads on a rugged expedition ship that brings you close-up to wildlife and natural wonders. With no set schedule, your captain charts a general course determined by weather, sea conditions and recent wildlife sightings.


At Road Scholar, our expedition cruise programs can bring you across the world. With a diverse cohort of shipmates, you’ll be able to learn and discover the wildlife, landscapes, and cultures around you. From riverboat cruises to ocean voyages and expeditions, we have several cruise programs to choose from.

35+ Number of educational expeditions with Road Scholar See them all

“We had the most wonderful experience on our expedition to Norway. The ship itself was an experience and we saw the most beautiful scenery. Each of the ports of call were unique. Our Group Leaders were masterful and ensured we have memories that will last a lifetime.”

— Pauline, Road Scholar Class of 2015, from Elyria, Ohio —