Quark Expeditions is known as the premier company specializing in polar expeditions. They operate 5 ships in Arctic and Antarctic and offer different levels of adventure, from the traditional soft adventure experience to camping in a tent on Antarctic ice. There are several reasons that the company is considered the leader in Polar expeditions. One is their fleet - all specifically designed to operate in polar waters. Another is the variety of their options for different experiences - from luxury cruises to environments that are more like an experience on a research vessel.
Ships - Quark doesn’t operate traditional cruise ships – those large cruise liners holding thousands of guests. This is because the size of these ships makes it difficult (sometimes impossible) to easily and safely maneuver into calm bays and so we can provide daily exploration opportunities –shore landings and Zodiac cruising ̶ which are the heart of expedition travel. Instead, we operate expedition ships. These are much smaller nimble vessels, carrying fewer than 200 passengers, all equipped with Zodiacs (inflatable landing craft) for transfers from ship to shore, and back.
We call our expedition vessels “Polar Adventure Ships,” and adventure is exactly what they deliver. Quark’s ships will get you to some of the most isolated and breathtaking wilderness areas in the world. And we’ll also get you there safely and comfortably. Ice class matters in polar travel. All our ships feature ice-strengthened hulls for superior navigation in ice-packed polar waters. And our North Pole ship (50 Years of Victory) is the most powerful icebreaker with the highest ice rating in the world, and is equipped with a helicopter for aerial sightseeing. Their officers and crew too boast decades of experience navigating icy waters.
Cabins are generally small (as they are on most small ships) - standard cabins range from about 120 sq ft to 150. There are suite accommodations that range up to 300 sq ft or more. On the ships more suited to soft adventure there are amenities such as saunas, spas, even an indoor swimming pool. The nuclear powered ice breaker, 50 Years of Victory, even carries a helicopter for sightseeing over the ice.
Life on Board - Life aboard an expedition vessel is like staying at an adventure lodge that moves through the landscape. Every morning you awaken to a stunning new view and new adventures. You share the comfort and wide range of activities with a small number of like-minded travelers. Never more than 128!
Base Camp is the Ship
Every vessel in our fleet becomes an expedition base camp. Unpack once. Visit an exciting range of places, because the ship moves. The ships are equipped with inflatable landing crafts - Zodiacs - for transfers and ocean-level cruising. All cabins have exterior views. You have a choice of cabin categories, from shared-facility cabins to suites.
Varied and Frequent Activities - On and Off the Ship
Activities off the ship are frequent and varied. Visit communities in the Arctic or research stations in Antarctica. Hike tundra carpeted valleys or ice fields. Optional activities include sea-kayaking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountaineering.
The onboard education program informs and prepares you for shore landings. You can play board games in the bar. Or borrow a polar-themed book from the library. There are outside decks with extraordinary views of birds on the wing, whales in the water or the passing landscape.
Meals are Generous and Tasty
Some say that a polar expedition is the adventure that occurs between meals. Our professional chefs prepare three meals a day in galleys that can rock and roll. At lunch and dinner there are three choices of main course, including a vegetarian option. And an entree is never repeated during a voyage. Breakfasts are buffet style. And BBQs on the deck redefine outdoor dining!
Adventurers like You
There is no such thing as an average polar traveler. Choosing to sail to the Arctic or Antarctica immediately sets you apart. You become a member of an uncommon, well-traveled fraternity of adventurers.
Itineraries - the ships sail in Arctic waters in the summer and Antarctic regions in the winter. Itinerary length varies from 10 to more than 20 days. When choosing an expedition, the first question is Arctic or Antarctic.
Novice polar travelers often believe that a trip to Antarctica is interchangeable with a trip to the Arctic. Perhaps that is due to holiday cards and soft drink commercials that erroneously depict polar bears and penguins living together in harmony. The differences between the regions are more significant than their differing locations on the globe.
The Arctic is an ice-covered ocean surrounded by land. In contrast, Antarctica is a continent surrounded by an ocean. Humans have inhabited the Arctic for 4,000 years. Antarctica has never had a native population. The first record of humans reaching the Antarctic is about 200 years old.
The biology of the regions is different. The natural habitat of polar bears, walrus and musk oxen is the Arctic. Walrus and musk oxen can be found in herds. Polar bears are essentially solitary creatures. Penguins are found in the wild south of the Equator. Surprisingly, only five of the 17 species of penguins are associated with Antarctica. Penguins breed in colonies that can have as few as a thousand inhabitants and as many as half a million. The abundance of wildlife in the Antarctic contrasts to the Arctic's greater diversity of species, but smaller numbers of animals.
When shown a photograph of ice, experienced ice masters, (mariners with special training in navigating through polar waters), can identify the polar region in which the photograph was taken. Although it is harder for ordinary people, one difference that is readily noticed is that Arctic ice is often 'dirtier' than Antarctic ice. Icebergs are present in both regions, but if a traveler wants to see "big ice" - Antarctica is the place to go.
The Cost - small ship cruising is expensive but adventure cruising to the unexplored regions of the planet is more expensive. Antarctica is generally more than the Arctic. Prices range from $600 to over $1200 per person per day for a standard cabin.
Sample Itineraries - from the Arctic and Antarctic collections: