For nearly 30 years, Zegrahm Expeditions has been bringing travelers to many of the world’s most remote destinations on all seven continents. As an adventure-focused tour operator, the company offers many benefits for those wanting unique experiences in some of the planet’s most fascinating places.
On a Zegrahm small-ship cruise, you’ll get expert guidance, luxurious comfort, personalized attention, gourmet food, and a chance to make lasting friendships with like-minded people.
In addition to being able to dock in secluded harbors that are off-limits to big cruise ships, the more intimate vessels Zegrahm charters give passengers a more authentic travel experience. Being part of a small group allows visitors to immerse themselves more deeply in the local culture, learn about the flora and fauna from the expedition staff, and make unforgettable memories in the process.
Smaller cruise ships also mean using less gas and resources and producing less waste, leading to a lower carbon footprint for your travels. So simply by choosing an expedition cruise with a company like Zegrahm, you’re choosing a more environmentally responsible alternative to mega-cruises.
Here are 10 more benefits of small ship cruising
with Zegrahm Expeditions
1) Exploring Remote Places
If you’ve ever wanted to explore Antarctica’s rugged landscape, hike the wildflower-carpeted mountains of New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands, or cruise the Amazon River, a small ship voyage is an excellent way to make those dreams come true.
Using some of the world’s best-chartered vessels, which are carefully selected for the respective regions they travel (taking anywhere from 26 to 160 passengers), Zegrahm specializes in organizing expeditions to relatively unspoiled, remote destinations. Each trip is designed to offer travelers a unique opportunity to check items off their bucket list.
Upon reaching a far-flung port, you can simply walk off the ship to visit a tiny village or take a small Zodiac ride to explore an untouched beach. You can savor the gorgeous views and take in the local culture with few other travelers in sight.
Jon Nicholson, Zegrahm’s Director of Planning & Product, shares this fond memory: “I won’t forget landing at the island of Tikopia on the Solomon Islands via Zodiac. The village was all out waiting for us, as they rarely have a ship stop by. Landing on the beach surrounded by 50 kids, all of whom were genuinely excited to see us, was an unforgettable experience.”
2) One-of-a-Kind Itineraries
Every year, Zegrahm’s field leaders and program managers create a line-up of expeditions that are so far from standard travel routes, it virtually guarantees a truly once-in-a-lifetime vacation. For 2020, Zegrahm offers an array of small-ship cruises and overland adventures to satisfy everyone’s interests.
Those interested in Asia may enjoy cruising Along the Mekong, enjoying timeless river scenes, discovering the Buddha-crammed Pak Ou Caves, and exploring beautiful Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. History lovers will enjoy circumnavigating the Black Sea and exploring the surrounding countries’ busy bazaars, archaeological treasures, and stunning landscapes.
Discussing Zegrahm’s new destinations, Nicholson shares, “In 2020 we have a new Palau to Taipei sailing, which goes to two National Parks in the Philippines—Tubbataha Reef and Apo Reef—that even other expedition travel companies have not started going. The underwater life is phenomenal. It also visits a number of smaller islands within the Philippines archipelago.”
“We also have a trip to the Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand, which only a very limited number of people can visit each year,” he adds. “It’s among the world’s least modified environments and home to diverse plants and animals, including unique species of penguins.”
3) Land & Sea Adventures
Because Zegrahm offers expeditions by land and sea, there are often opportunities to combine your cruise with a land-based itinerary in order to make the most of your journey.
For instance, if you’re taking the small-ship cruise to Wild & Ancient Britain with Ireland, you can add the Royal Scotland extension to dive deeper into Scottish history. Similarly, if you are going on Ultimate Seychelles with the Aldabra Atoll, add an extension to Tanzania and enjoy an unforgettable safari since you’ll already be flying through that part of the world.
4) All-Inclusive Opportunities
When you go on a Zegrahm Expeditions cruise, nearly everything is covered in the cost of your trip. This includes everything from snorkeling and birding to wine tasting, cultural tours, and traditional performances.
You don’t have to worry about entrance fees, landing/port charges, or gratuities. Enjoy meals onboard and ashore, with beer and wine served with lunch and dinner.
The company has dedicated staff members waiting to answer your questions and help arrange flights prior to departure. You’ll even receive a pre-departure packet detailing everything you need to know about your expedition.
Upon arrival, your transfer will be waiting for you, and you will be transferred back to the airport at the end of your trip for your return flight. The only things not typically covered in the cost of your small-ship cruise are airfare, Scuba diving excursions, land extensions, and expenses of a personal nature.
5) Expert Guidance
An excellent guide can really help make a trip more memorable. Zegrahm Expeditions places premium importance on hiring top experts in their respective fields.
Depending on the destination you choose to explore, you’ll find a dream team comprised of marine biologists, geologists, botanists, historians, anthropologists, divemasters, archaeologists, and more.
Some of them also happen to be writers and photographers who are passionate about exploring the natural world around them. These field leaders are friendly, engaging, and knowledgeable, and are always eager to make sure you’re getting the most out of your experience.
Zegrahm Expeditions historically has a high loyalty factor. Some expedition staff members have their own devoted followings, with many customers booking journeys based on the experts who are leading them. Each expedition’s page on our website lists the leaders (including their biographies), so you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of expedition staff on your trip.
6) Individualized Attention
When you go on a Zegrahm cruise, you’re under the care of an outstanding guest services team that ensures you have the best time from the moment you step onboard until you catch your flight home.
Here, you’ll never be just one of 3,000 passengers rubbing elbows while trying to disembark the ship, or searching for an empty table at the dinner buffet. Instead, you’ll enjoy uncrowded common spaces, an intimate library where you can relax with a good book, a pleasant dining experience, and practically no lines getting on and off the boat.
Onboard, the expedition team knows your name and your specific needs. For onshore excursions, there is at least one guide for every 15 passengers, guaranteeing that you get personalized attention. Depending on the ship and departure date, a certified doctor is often on board should the need for medical attention arise.
7) Forging Bonds with Fellow Travelers
Some of the best friendships are formed during life-changing expedition cruises. If you’re on a ship for a week to 10 days with just 30 to 40 passengers, you’re likely to see them every day and share wonderful experiences.
Given that Zegrahm’s small-ship cruising itineraries are largely focused on nature and adventure, you’re likely to meet other travelers with similar interests. You’ll find no shortage of interested parties willing to recap the day’s adventures over dinner or drinks. Who knows, you may even find future travel buddies in the process!
If you’re traveling alone, the small group size is ideal for making new friends throughout the expedition. Zegrahm also offers friendly solo travel fares with no single supplement fees. The company also offers a chance to pair you with a same-sex roommate for any of their expedition cruises.
8) Enriching Onboard “Edutainment”
The best way to learn about a destination is by immersing yourself in it and experiencing its cultural beauty and natural wonders. However, a well-curated series of onboard activities adds a great deal more understanding to your expedition.
Zegrahm cruises offer a series of lectures, photo presentations, interactive walks onshore, and daily recaps by field experts who share their intimate knowledge of the region so that come away having had a well-rounded experience.
Guides on Zegrahm excursions help travelers understand the importance of local ecosystems and show ways to explore it without causing damage, whether it’s teaching the importance of respecting the trail in the Galapagos Islands or being mindful not to get too close to the wildlife in Antarctica.
9) Better for the Environment
Mega cruise ships are powered by enormous diesel engines that contribute to air pollution, not to mention the sewage created by about 3,000 to 5,000 people a day.
Small-ship cruises are far less damaging to the environment. All the ships Zegrahm charters are plastic bottle-free. Guests will receive a reusable bottle upon boarding, which can be filled up at water stations around the ship. The ships also only burn MGO (marine gas oil), which is a much cleaner-burning fuel.
With responsible travel on the rise, taking a small-ship cruise has the power to help make a positive change in the world. Zegrahm Expeditions co-founder and noted marine biologist Jack Grove has said that making a difference was at the core of the company from the beginning.
He recalls, “It was not just about making money. If we’re going to burn fossil fuels to get our clients to the most remote parts of the world, it was clear that we must ensure that our travelers return home as ambassadors for conservation and the preservation of biodiversity.”
Zegrahm helps destinations by creating sustainable revenue streams for local populations, helping to protect nature and wildlife, and illustrating the importance of conservation. When a small ship arrives on the shores of a small town, bringing up to 150 people, it helps the local economy and often creates a tourism industry where it didn’t even exist before.
10) Premium Accommodations & Food
The vessels Zegrahm charters come with contemporary ocean-view staterooms and offer access to myriad amenities, such as a dining room, library, lounge, observation deck, and a fleet of Zodiacs for excursions ashore.
Le Bellot, the ship used for the Circumnavigation of Iceland cruise, boasts elegantly designed suites with lounge areas that open to the outside. Public spaces include an underwater lounge, outside bar, pool, dining area, theater, panoramic lounge, sundeck, and a single-seating dining room. If you need some pampering or want to keep up your workout routine in between shore excursions, there’s an onboard salon and spa as well as a fitness room.
For the Amazon Voyage, the luxurious riverboat Zafiro will be your vessel. With classic touches blended with modern comforts in all of its 19 suites, the Zafiro offers floor-to-ceiling windows for viewing the rainforest’s natural beauty, plus private balconies for the rooms in the Upper Deck. The dining room serves regional specialties and contemporary cuisine in a casual, yet sophisticated setting overlooking the world’s longest river.
Meals on Zegrahm vessels include American and international specialties, with chefs cooking up dishes made with ingredients sourced from frequently visited ports. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, while table service is provided at dinner. No matter what your daily adventures may be, you can come back to a fully stocked bar and delicious meals. Afterward, you can have a restful night in a comfortable cabin as you cruise your way to yet another fascinating destination. –Lavanya Sunkara
BIO:Lavanya Sunkara is a writer, animal lover, and responsible traveler based in New York City. Her love of nature and adventure has taken her all over the globe. She cherishes sharing her experiences and being a voice for the voiceless. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Nature Traveler.