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Expedition and small-ship cruise travel may have slowed to a standstill following the arrival of COVID-19, but the docket of upcoming new vessels underscores an exciting future for this market. As with the year’s new ocean cruise ships, several of the new debuts are carryovers from last year, making 2021 a busier than usual year with 15 new ships on the docket. The pandemic has proven that planned schedules can easily change or be delayed, so take each of these as a solid approximation.
Le Commandant Charcot (Ponant)A genuine icebreaker from Ponant, Le Commandant Charcot is coming to the North Pole in May. The ship will be purpose built for polar regions with a PC2 ice class which places it ahead of competitors in the PC5/PC6 range. (Lower numbers equate to stronger hulls.)
Coral Geographer (Coral Expeditions)Slated for this year is Australia-based Coral Expeditions’ new Coral Geographer. The 120-passenger sister ship to Coral Adventurer will mark the line’s third expedition vessel and come equipped with convenient Xplorer tenders to comfortably access shore excursions.
Crystal Endeavor (Crystal)Delayed from August 2020, Crystal Endeavor is now on pace for a May 2021 introduction. The luxurious expedition ship and its remarkable one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio is set to debut in Japan.
Evrima (The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection)Shoreside hotelier The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first entry into the ocean market was supposed to have already launched. However, the 298-guest Evrima will have to wait until this July to unveil its brand of pampering sea suites, dining and other amenities.
Janssonius (Oceanwide Expeditions)Joining the 2019-launched sister ship Hondius will be Oceanwide Expeditions’ new PC6-ice strengthened Janssonius in November 2021. Its expeditions will begin in Antarctica where 72 crew will cater to up to 170 passengers in 80 cabins.
Minerva (Swan Hellenic)Also scheduled to arrive in November is Swan Hellenic’s PC5-ice classed Minerva in Antarctica. Following the brand’s relaunch last year, the company just opened an office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to support sales in the U.S. market.
National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution (Lindblad Expeditions)Ready to debut not one but two new ships in 2021 is Lindblad Expeditions. Carried over from last year, National Geographic Endurance — which will launch in April — will be joined by National Geographic Resolution in November. Both polar-class (PC5) vessels will sport smooth X-Bow hulls.
Ocean Explorer (Vantage Cruise Line)Chartered from SunStone Ships, Vantage Cruise Line’s Ocean Explorer will be one of three X-Bow-equipped, PC6 Infinity-class vessels to embark in 2021. The 170-guest ship is on the calendar for Scandinavian itineraries in June.
Ocean Victory (Victory Cruise Lines)The second such Infinity-class vessel setting sail is Ocean Victory, chartered by Victory Cruise Lines (alternating with Albatros Expeditions) beginning in Alaska and British Columbia in July 2021. It will be the brand’s most contemporary ship, marking a departure from the traditional Victory I and Victory II.
Sea Cloud Spirit (Sea Cloud Cruises)Switching gears to sailing ships, Sea Cloud Cruises’ new three-mast Sea Cloud Spirit is scheduled for an April maiden voyage from Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Accommodating 136 guests, the ship will offer balcony cabins to target an updated cruising clientele.
Silver Origin (Silversea Expeditions)Also on hold from 2020 is Silversea Expeditions’ latest entry into the Galapagos Islands. The luxurious Silver Origin is set to welcome clients in May 2021 with a capacity of just 100 passengers, 90 crew members and eight adventures Zodiacs.
Sylvia Earle (Aurora Expeditions)The Sylvia Earle from Aurora Expeditions will be the year’s third chartered Infinity-class ship and sister to the line’s Greg Mortimer when it debuts with an average of only 132 guests. Among its features, come October in Antarctica, will be an X-bow and a double-decker glass lounge.
Ultramarine (Quark Expeditions)Quark Expeditions is another veteran player preparing to launch a new ship in 2021. Ultramarine will be the line’s latest PC6-ice classed vessel, accommodating less than 200 guests starting in May from Oslo, Norway.
World Navigator (Atlas Ocean Voyages)Meanwhile, Atlas Ocean Voyages is set to debut as a new line with its first ship, World Navigator (one of five planned newbuilds), in July 2021 on the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The company’s All Inclusive All The Way approach will extend to an included shore excursion in every port.