This boundary-breaking expedition cruise line was founded due to the ambition and drive of two men with a huge love for exploration. Before their visit in 1991, both Lars Wikander and Mike Mcdowell had conquered all but a few places on earth, but not the North Pole. Having always harboured aspirations to set foot on this vast terrain; it was no surprise these two explorers instantly fell in love with this awe-inspiring place.
They were not content to keep the wonder they had seen to themselves though, and so set about making this, and other previously uncharted destinations, more accessible to members of the public who shared their passion for expedition travel. The brand of adventure holidays that they have created provide truly once in a lifetime experiences to all who climb aboard.
Since then, Quark Expeditions have allowed people from over 50 countries worldwide to visit a range of landscapes that remain relatively unaffected by humans and which offer an unimaginable feast for the eyes because of this. By specialising in both Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, they have created an unrivalled experience which encapsulates everything explorers love about traveling to new places with the added benefit of being able to do so with knowledgeable experts in tow.
In the process of forming one of the world’s best expedition cruise lines, Quark have been able to achieve some fascinating firsts within the realms of overseas adventure travel. These include conducting the primary tourist-based trip through the Northeast Passage, which took them across the Russian Arctic, and the first ever carbon neutral trip to Antarctica; aboard their ground-breaking ship Ocean Diamond, in 2012. They also held the first ever ocean-bound polar film festival on another of their ships, Sea Spirit, in November 2013.
During your voyage on any of Quark’s expedition cruise ships, you will be able to visit the bridge to observe the captain in action. This ‘open bridge’ policy means you can take a look at your expedition path whenever you like to see where you have been and where you are heading.
Whether you are looking to take a short trip or a more detailed, twenty-five day expedition, Quark are well-versed in creating memorable adventures that are, quite literally, poles apart from anything else you have ever experienced on your travels. Whether you are keen to explore the South Pole or take a trip inside the Arctic Circle, they have plenty to offer when it comes to polar expeditions. With strong commitments to safety and sustainability (including the availability of carbon neutral voyages) and with multiple awards to their name, they offer exciting polar cruises which are sure to leave you with a taste for expedition tourism.
On all of Quark’s vessels, accommodation comes in the form of cabins or suites. Some ships have a mixture of the two whilst others, such as Sea Spirit, are ‘all-suite’ ships. Some rooms may offer more space than others but all come with a high level of comfort, en-suite facilities, TVs and DVD players.
The top suites on certain ships even offer the luxury of having your very own private balcony, which will ensure that you don’t miss one second of the passing beauty if you don’t want to. Your accommodation on-board all of Quark’s voyages will be your home on the waves and the perfect base for the thrilling adventures which are sure to unfold.
On all of the cruises that Quark expeditions offer there is an excellent chef who will provide all your meals and daily snacks throughout your voyage. You also have the added luxury of not having to worry about the additional cost of these as they are all included in the price. Certain ships also extend this offer to include beverages as well, so you can relax in the knowledge that you won’t be hit with a hefty bill when your journey comes to an end.
Dining areas do vary from ship to ship, but all vessels have at least one spacious, unreserved seating space in which guests can eat their meals within a relaxing environment. Most dietary requirements can be met, as long as you detail these on the Medical Information Form which you are provided with before you travel. Vegetarians are well catered for with a choice of delicious pastas, vegetables, fruit and grains.
As you may expect, facilities do differ depending on which ship you are travelling on, but there are a few constants across all the liners. Every vessel has a gym, a polar library, a boutique which sells all the clothing you will require for your extreme adventures, and food and drink facilities. Other interesting things on offer include: saunas, hot tubs, sun decks, massage treatments and wireless access to the internet. Please visit the ships page to find out which of these can be found aboard which boat. The suites on-board Sea Spirit even have access to a satellite phone so that you can boast of your fantastic experiences to everyone back home.
The expedition ships themselves also have a range of features to help them escort you to and from your destinations in a completely comfortable and safe environment. From fully-enforced hulls to the use of active stabilisers, each ship is designed to cope perfectly with even the most uncompromising of conditions within some of the most isolated places on the planet.
Quark may only specialise in expedition tours to the Arctic and Antarctica, but this doesn’t mean there are not plenty of options when it comes to routes to take and places to visit. When travelling north, you can stop off in the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Iceland and Spitsbergen (the largest of the islands that make up the Svalbard Archipelago). There’s also the option to go all the way to the North Pole; taking your adventures as far north as possible. During your expedition to the Arctic you may be lucky enough to spot a number of different animals including: polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes and reindeer.
If you would prefer to explore the wild terrain of the great white continent then there are some equally enthralling opportunities when travelling into Antarctic waters. Embarking from Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city situated in Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile, you can make your way to various destinations such as Cape Horn, The Falklands, South Georgia and, of course, the Antarctic Peninsula.
Keep your eyes peeled throughout your journey for many different species of penguin, seals and even whales, as you take part in hiking, mountaineering, snowshoeing and kayaking among other pursuits. There is also the chance to learn from the experts as they host educational presentations about the surrounding landscape.
Quark Expeditions have announced that they will continue to offer trips to the North Pole on board the nuclear ice-breaker ‘50 Years of Victory’ for another three years. The ship was originally expected to be retired after the 2015 season, but will now be part of the fleet until at least 2018.
This has been made possible by the fact that the renovation of another ice-breaker, Sovetskiy Soyuz, will be completed ahead of schedule. Victory’s retirement from commercial expeditions was down to the fact that she was needed full-time in her role as an escort ship for smaller vessels crossing the Antarctic Circle. However, with the upgrade of Sovetskiy Soyuz set to be finished much sooner than expected, she is free to welcome passengers on board beyond next summer.
‘50 Years of Victory’ has the highest ice-class rating of any ship in operation. She can make mincemeat of thick icepacks in this unforgiving part of the world and is adept at ferrying excited explorers to 90 degrees north in the safest way possible. With three more summers of ice-breaking adventures to look forward to, travellers can once again plan their conquest of the North Pole aboard this triumphant vessel.