Cruise lines have had to look for new destinations in recent years. Because their industry was booming until the COVID pandemic. In this context, more and more companies also entered the expedition travel market, as demand in this segment was particularly high. River cruise operators also rushed into this niche. But the latest addition comes from an unexpected corner: the Adevntures by Disney river cruise company, part of the Disney group, plans to offer two Antarctic voyages starting in December, and they’ll be primarily for families.
The company operates both voyages in cooperation with the French company Ponant. For years, this company has been one of the major providers of more luxurious expedition cruises to the polar regions on board ships carrying more than 200 passengers. In December 2021 and again in January/February 2022, Adventures by Disney plans to take guests aboard Le Boréal and Le Lyrial, respectively, to the Antarctic Peninsula on 12-day voyages starting from Buenos Aires. The company’s offer is aimed primarily at its core audience, families with children. To this end, guides specially trained by Disney are to impart interesting facts on board the ships and also look after the guests on land, as is customary for guides, and ensure safety.
Those who believe that Micky, Donald and Co. will provide entertainment on board, as is the case on other Disney cruise ships, will be disappointed. The focus of the trips will be on the region and the exciting and varied nature. “Nature takes center stage and unique experiences abound,” the company writes on its website. But it exaggerates a bit when it writes: “as you hike THROUGH penguin colonies”. The guides on board will make sure that the guests will stick to visitor rules and guidelines. In addition to the usual tasks, they are to be specially trained by Disney to be able to pass on knowledge about animals, the environment and also nature conservation to the guests in a targeted manner, as various media write.
The offer starts in Buenos Aires and ends there as well. But, as usual in the industry, the 12 days also include arrival and departure days, while the actual trip only starts on the third day from Ushuaia and ends there again on the twelfth day. The voyages are expected to be operated aboard the two ships Le Boréal and Le Lyrial, both of which have been taking Ponant guests to the polar regions for many years. According to the Adevntures by Disney website, reservations will be available for special guests beginning January 19 and for the general public beginning January 22.
The announcement by the company, which is independent of the well-known cruise line Disney Cruise Line, comes at a time when the expedition cruise industry is facing gigantic challenges. For in addition to the current pandemic, which has put virtually all societies into a slumber, the increasing numbers of visitors and ships in Antarctica have also been considered a problem by some experts. The IAATO, the association of Antarctic tour operators, reports that 56 ships and yachts brought a total of almost 74,000 guests to the whole of Antarctica last season.
With more ships being built at the moment, and more to enter the market in the future, many fear that this could lead to overcapacity, price wars and disputes over the best landing and observation sites in Antarctica. This in turn raises concerns about damage to the fragile ecosystems of the Antarctic. However, the IAATO and its members will do everything possible to ensure that these problems do not arise. The challenges have been regularly discussed for a few years now and solutions have been worked out and seriously implemented by the members, including Ponant. After all, everyone has the same goal: to preserve and show the diversity and beauty of Antarctica to future generations.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal