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Jacqueline Gifford

Expedition cruising, which involves smaller ships and adventurous itineraries, is having a moment. Australis and Quark Expeditions, which specialize in remote destinations, topped the Small-Ship Ocean Cruise Lines category of the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards for the first time in 2016, a sign that travelers appreciate trips that are both intrepid and comfortable. Here’s the lowdown on this up-and-coming category.

The Ships

Typically small (think 200 passengers, not 2,000) and able to anchor in smaller ports. Many have reinforced hulls for sailing icy waters.

The Destinations

Remote and bucket-list-worthy, like Australia’s Kimberley Coast, Antarctica, and the Galápagos Islands. Closer to home, you can experience the wilderness of Alaska expedition-style.

The Vibe

Don’t expect to kick back by a pool with a margarita—the expedition experience is all about getting off the ship. Zodiac boats will carry you to marine wildlife sanctuaries and icebergs. On board, you’re more likely to be offered lectures by naturalists and scientists than musicals or casino nights.

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