Oceanwide Expeditions has acquired a well earned reputation as a world leader in small-scale seaborne adventures off the beaten track in the Arctic and Antarctic Polar regions.
With an emphasis on educational lectures by experienced guides throughout its voyages, the operator focuses its attentions on those travellers who want to discover destinations from the inside.
Here Breaking Travel News sits down with managing director Michel van Gessel to discuss the future of this unique venture.
Breaking Travel News: How does Oceanwide balance environmental and economic concerns? What does the organisation do to ensure its activities are sustainable?
Michel van Gessel: By using a new, modern expedition vessel m/v Plancius we have been able to reduce the fuel consumption per passenger with 30 per cent.
All garbage is taken back to the homeports; waste is therefore limited in the Polar Regions.
We have developed ecological products such as cleaning materials in order to decrease the impact on the environment.
BTN: What are the core markets – in terms of age, nationality, gender, social group - for the company? Do the majority of these clients have any sailing experience?
MvG: International clientele, core-markets are France, United Kingdom, German speaking market, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, US and Canada, Australia.
Average age group between 50 and 70-years-old, highly educated, interested in nature experiences.
About 50 per cent have participated in a cruise before.
BTN: Has the economic climate taken a toll on passenger numbers at Oceanwide? Is the picture set to change in 2010/2011?
MvG: The market is improving, moderate price increases for the coming season.
BTN: Which are the most popular destinations for Oceanwide sailings? Which locations are accessible during which seasons?
MvG: In the Arctic (between June and October): Spitsbergen and Greenland.
In Antarctica (between November and April): Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
BTN: How are the onshore elements of voyages planned? Can itineraries be shaped by the interests of passengers?
MvG: Our voyages are primarily defined as explorations and we spend as much time ashore as possible.
We can be flexible, taking advantage of wildlife opportunities by using our zodiacs for both landings and cruises. Our knowledgeable guides assist on these outings, providing detailed information also during our lectures on board. Our passengers appreciate this travel programme.
On charters, tour operators have the possibility to design their own itinerary for their passengers.
During our Basecamp voyages, passengers can choose their own activities such as hiking, kayaking, camping, snowshoe walking and scuba diving.
On those departures all activities are free of charge.
BTN: Can you describe life onboard Oceanwide vessels while at sea? What activities are on offer? How about sleeping and dining arrangements?
MvG: During a typical day in the Polar Regions we offer at least two shore excursions by using our inflatable zodiacs. Duration of the shore activities are approximately two to three hours.
During the day on board we offer lectures about various Polar related topics, such as bird life, sea-mammals, glacier formation, history etc.
All shore activities and lectures are included in the price.
Between the shore activities, the vessel sails to the next destination and passengers are enjoying the scenery in our observation lounge and outside on deck. Three superb meals per day are served in the restaurant.
BTN: Are there any safety concerns with Oceanwide? Have there ever been any incidents aboard ship?
MvG: Our new vessel Plancius has been built according to the latest safety regulations for passenger vessels of Lloyds Register. The vessel flies the Dutch flag.
Our vessels operate in the remotest areas of the world and although we take every precaution necessary, incidents can not be ruled out.
BTN: Finally, has the Oceanwide victory in the 2009 World Travel Awards acted as a catalyst for the organisation? Does the title feature in your advertising? How else does Oceanwide promote its offering?
MvG: Oceanwide Expeditions is proud to have won the contest World’s Leading Polar Tour Operator and is advertising this in its promotional material.
Our travel partners have confirmed the importance of this award and it is for us a recognition of a quality product that has been developed over the years.
For the latest Oceanwide information head over to the Oceanwide website.