How Quark Expeditions has pioneered polar exploration

The cruise line has been a trailblazer in the expedition cruise industry for almost 30 years
How Quark Expeditions has pioneered polar exploration
Spaces like the spa with floor-to-ceiling windows will bring a touch of luxury to Ultramarine (Image: Quark Expeditions)

By Rebecca Gibson |

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Inspired by the beauty of the North Pole when they first visited in 1991, Lars Wikander and Mike McDowell were decided to build a company that would make the remote regions of the world accessible to like-minded adventurers. Since then, Quark Expeditions has taken thousands of travellers on environmentally responsible expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, earning a name as one of the world’s leading polar expedition travel companies.

“We’ve been a trailblazer in polar adventure travel for three decades,” says Malcolm Ellis, senior vice president of operations at Quark Expeditions. “We continue to be driven by the same expeditionary spirit upon which we were founded: the desire to go beyond the horizon and deeper into the polar environment to provide guests with life-changing experiences in the most spectacular places on earth.”

Quark Expeditions’ relentless push for innovation has driven the company to achieve multiple successes over the past 28 years. Notable accomplishments include a number of firsts: tourism transit of the Northeast Passage, circumnavigation of Antarctica for commercial passengers (in 1997), non-scientific visits to emperor penguin rookeries, circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean and carbon-neutral voyages to Antarctica (onboard Ocean Diamond in 2011).

“We’ve achieved a long list of firsts that have defined what is possible in polar adventure travel,” says Ellis. “Currently, we’re leading the way when it comes to making polar expedition cruising more sustainable. For example, we’ve recently launched our Polar Promise, which details our concrete goals to continue to enhance efforts to preserve the polar regions. They include measuring, reporting and reducing carbon emissions, as well as developing solutions to reduce waste in the port and communities where we operate. In addition, we’re creating a zero-waste roadmap that includes the adoption of technologies like MAGS – the world’s leading micro auto gasification system – on our two newest ships: World Explorer and Ultramarine.”

Set to debut in 2020, Ultramarine has been designed to help Quark Expeditions push the boundaries of polar expedition further than ever before. The 128-metre-long ship is being built at Croatia’s Brodosplit shipyard using construction materials that are entirely recyclable.

“From the bold exterior to the comfortable and contemporary interiors, our internal and external teams have come together to create a truly unique ship that will present unprecedented expedition possibilities for our guests,” says Ellis. “The ship’s keel has been laid and the build is progressing well. We’re proud and excited to see the vision behind Ultramarine coming to life.”

Onboard highlights will include 102 suites across nine categories, including six solo suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and the largest entry-level twin suites found on ships in Ultramarine’s class.

“Each suite has been meticulously designed to keep guests inspired by, and connected to, the breathtaking polar landscapes outside,” notes Ellis. “They will have spacious entryways, spa-inspired bathrooms with heated floors, premium sleep zones and decor that reflects the polar landscapes.”

Public spaces will include the Panorama Lounge, two restaurants, a wine-tasting bar, a lecture theatre with comfortable seating and a high-resolution LED screen, and the Wellness Centre with a spa, a sauna with ocean views and a fully equipped fitness room with a separate space for yoga sessions. In addition, the ship will have a Polar Boutique and two ‘Ready Rooms’ next to the zodiac (inflatable landing craft) hangar, outfitted with individual lockers for each guest to dry and store personal items and expedition gear between excursions.

“All of these superbly appointed spaces will feature floor-to-ceiling windows that allow guests to stay connected to the breathtaking landscapes outside while they’re enjoying the many luxuries inside,” adds Ellis. “Ultramarine will also have a forward-facing Observation Deck and a 360-degree wraparound deck, offering more outdoor wildlife viewing areas than on any other cruise ship of her kind.”

Two simultaneously operable helidecks for twin-engine helicopters and an internal hanger with capacity for 20 quick-deploy Zodiacs, sea kayaks, paddle boards and more will enable guests to enjoy flightseeing, heli-hiking, heli-skiing and other adventure excursions.

“Quark Expeditions already offers the largest portfolio of adventure activities in the industry, but the specialist equipment on Ultramarine will enable us to take guests to new destinations, including those that are only accessible by air,” says Ellis. “This will give them a unique aerial perspective that will rarely ever be seen by other people. We’ll also be adding new destinations to our portfolio for Ultramarine.”

According to Ellis, Ultramarine will be in a “league of her own” when she debuts. “Ultramarine’s best-in-class operational performance, leading-edge technology, sustainability features, advanced safety systems helicopters and other amenities will allow us to take guests deeper into the polar wilderness faster and safer than ever before,” he explains. “Like her name suggests, she will be a one-of-a-kind vessel that provides passengers with an ultra-immersive, ultra-inspiring, ultra-exciting experience that is second to none.”

As always, Quark Expeditions has meticulously chosen an expert team to sail alongside the guests and ensure everyone has the trip of their lifetime.

“We have seasoned expedition leaders who know the destinations intimately, and world-class experts who will enhance our guests’ connection to the environments they’re exploring via onboard lectures and wildlife spotting opportunities,” says Ellis. “It’s this unmatched expertise, coupled with the most diverse fleet of polar-class vessels in the industry, that will help us to maintain our market-leading position and continually pushes the limits of what’s possible in polar exploration.”

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