Since the pandemic, the expedition travel industry has also come to a virtual standstill. One company, however, had so far been able to weather the storm caused by COVID measures and sailed both an Arctic and a sub-Antarctic season: the New Zealand company Heritage Expeditions. In addition, the owners Aaron and Nathan Russ also acquired a gem among the expedition ships, the former MS “Hanseatic”. Now the New Zealand company has presented its plans with the new acquisition and surprises with many innovations, but also keeps old proven in the program.
Heritage’s plans range from northern Japan in early June, across the northern part of the Pacific Ring of Fire with the Aleutian Islands via Alaska into the Russian Arctic to Wrangel Island for the launch of their flagship Heritage Adventurer into her new life. On the one hand, this means that the New Zealand family business will continue to focus on its strengths in the most remote tourist regions of the Arctic.
“The ship gives us the opportunity, thanks to its speed and technology, to go to even more remote and even wilder places, offering our guests something new under the proven Heritage concept.”Aaron Russ, Owner Heritage Expeditions
At the same time, however, new, even more remote areas are also being included, such as the Kuril Islands or Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” explains Aaron Russ, one of the owners of Heritage Expeditions. “Our destinations in the Arctic, even with theHeritage Adventurer, are still the our favourite areas of Kamchatka, Chukotka and Wrangel Island, which are hardly developed for tourism. But the ship gives us the opportunity, thanks to its speed and technology, to go to even more remote and even wilder places, offering our guests something new under the proven Heritage concept.”
Another innovation will be the offer of German-speaking guides, who will be permanently present on some of the departures. French had already been provided for in the past, but now the offer is to be extended to include German.
The biggest change in Heritage Expeditions’ plans with their new ship will be the departure point for the Russian Arctic. Instead of departing from Anadyr as in the past, passengers will board in Nome, Alaska. After that, the ship will sail to Chukotka in one day and start its journey along the coast from Provideniya or Lavrentiya. “Nothing changes for the trip as a whole,” Aaron Russ promises. “Because we’re leaving in the afternoon and we’ll arrive at our destination the very next morning, just like before. But logistically it is better for us. Because for passengers, access from Alaska is easier than from Chukotka.” This applies primarily to flights, as there are direct flights to Anchorage from Europe. “It also makes it more convenient for guests, as there are fewer changes to make.” From Alaska’s largest city, the flight then continues to Nome by charter flight. There, according to Heritage, they are already looking forward to the chance to show European guests the beauties of Alaska before or after their trip. At the end of the season, an exciting trip from Nome along the entire Russian coast to Japan awaits the guests. A highlight, as the cruise will combine virtually all the highlights along the Russian Far East (Chukotka, Kamchatka, Kuril Islands) and northern Japan in one trip.
Plans have also been made for the 22/23 Antarctic season. Here Heritage Expeditions relies on the highest ice class of its Heritage Adventurer. The ship is to take passengers to the Ross Sea twice from New Zealand and offer them the unique experience of Antarctica in a scarcely visited region. “In her career, our ship has already made history here as the southernmost passenger ship. This is possible thanks to its highest ice class,” says Aaron Russ in conversation. Here you have the opportunity to visit the historic sites of Scott or Shackleton on the one hand, and to experience the Antarctic wildlife with emperor penguins, Ross seals or orcas on the other hand, embedded in the background of mighty table ice mountains.
“Wild and remote will continue to be our destinations.”Aaron Russ, Heritage Expeditions
But the subantarctic islands between New Zealand and Antarctica, such as Campbell and Enderby, are also on the Heritage Adventurer‘s itinerary. These islands are particularly suitable for ornithologists, wildlife and nature photographers, as the diversity of the sub-Antarctic can be experienced here like nowhere else in the southern hemisphere: penguin species found nowhere else in the Southern Ocean, coupled with spectacular landscapes and a variety of marine mammals to be discovered around the islands. The natural paradises, which Heritage Expeditions describes without exaggeration as the “Galapagos of the South”, can be reached more comfortably with the Heritage Adventurer, as the ship’s size and stabilizers allow it to make the journey there more comfortable. But locally, the focus continues to be on nature and experiencing it. “Wild and remote will continue to be our destinations. However, the Heritage Adventurer ‘s stabilizers make for the most comfortable journey possible,” says Aaron Russ.
Something that Heritage Expeditions had excelled at in the past was cruising between polar regions. The islands at the edge of the Pacific like Papua New Guinea or Melanesia are also offered by the New Zealanders and will be continued with the Heritage Adventurer. Here, in addition to the fantastic natural worlds, cultural insights into the lives of the islanders are also on the agenda. “Because we’ve been coming here for years and have many friends here, we can give guests deeper insights into the fascinating culture and nature of this region even with a slightly larger ship,” says Aaron Russ. “This makes us unique and for guests their experience as well.”
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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