Quark Expeditions

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Quark Expeditions fleet

Review of Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions (quarkexpeditions.com) is specialized in polar cruises company operating year-round itineraries to Antarctica and Arctic destinations. Being the planet's last pristine wildernesses, Earth's polar regions offer unique travel vacation experiences.

One of the industry's small cruise lines, Quark Expeditions is a USA-based expedition travel company headquartered in Seattle WA and part/subsidiary of the UK-based company Travelopia Group Holdings Ltd.

Quark Expeditions was established in 1991 by Mike McDowell and Lars Wikander. In 1998, Wikander became the company's majority owner. In 2001, he became Board Chairman, after Patrick Shaw joined as President and CEO.

The company became part of TUI Travel (UK-based corporation) on May 1, 2007.

In May 2016, Quark became part of Travelopia (UK-based global travel division of the former TUI Specialist Group).

The company's current President is Andrew White.

Quark Expeditions logo

In 2016, TUI Group sold Travelopia to KKR & Co (NYC-based global private equity firm) for USD 404 million (EUR 381M). Currently, Travelopia Group owns 53 brands and is one of the world’s largest theme travel companies. It specializes in polar cruises, sailboat and yacht vacations, private jet travel, custom-made holidays, sports-themed tours, school expeditions. In FY2016, Travelopia Group generated a turnover of EUR 1,17 billion. Annually, it serves 800,000+ travelers and 70+ global destinations. Prior to 2014 (when TUI AG merged with TUI Travel PLC), Travelopia was part of Specialist Group and managed as an independent company.

On November 24, 2003, Quark Expeditions became the first travel company to offer a "total solar eclipse cruise" in Antarctica. In 2021 were planned two "Antarctic Eclipse" voyages during which our Moon will completely block the Sun to produce the solar corona phenomenon. The Earth's total solar eclipses happen approx every 400 years. The Antarctic solar eclipse will occur on December 4, 2021, in the Weddell Sea.

  • Quark's Antarctic Eclipse cruises feature as special guests Fred Espenak (US astrophysicist), Babak Amin Tafreshi (National Geographic photographer) and David Baron (author of the 2017-published book "American Eclipse" /themed on the solar eclipse on July 29, 1878).
  • The two "Antarctic Solar Eclipse 2021" voyages were scheduled for World Explorer (17-day itinerary, November 26 - December 12) and Ocean Diamond (20-day itinerary, November 25 - December 14).
  • Prices started from USD 17,000 pp.

What separates Quark cruises from voyages offered by other polar travel cruise lines are the ships' adventurous expedition teams and their relentless passion to explore the infinity of the icy ocean waterways. They are never content to stay in one place for too long, always looking to innovate and improve passengers' cruise experiences.

In 2017, Quark started an all-inclusive fly-cruise program on the chartered from Noble Caledonia (UK-based travel company) expedition ship Island Sky.

In September 2023, Beth Mercier (Regional Director of Sales for Latin and North America in the period 2018-23) was promoted to Senior Director of Global Sales, while Becky Francis was appointed as Regional Director of Sales for EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

Starting from November 2024 (winter 2024-2025 Antarctic season), Quark Expeditions offers complimentary (fly-cruise price inclusive) Wi-Fi and bar service. Free alcoholic beverages include beer, domestic wines and spirits (by the glass), and cocktails. The drinks are complimentary at the ship's bars/lounges and also during dinner.

Quark cruise ships

Quark cruise ships are smaller-sized expedition vessels, with max capacity 200 passengers. All ships are equipped with Zodiacs (large-capacity inflatable boats) used for landings and general passenger transfers (ship to shore). The company calls its vessels "Polar Adventure Ships" as the adventure is the main theme on each itinerary reaching some of the world's most isolated wilderness areas.

In 2019, World Explorer became the company's first newbuild (under charter from Mystic Cruises USA) and most advanced polar expedition vessel.

Quark fleet's newest ship is the 2020-built/2021-inaugurated Ultramarine. Ultramarine carries two "Airbus H145" helicopters (twin-engine) with capacity 8 passengers (plus the pilot). This allowed Quark to develop an immersive (helicopter-tour-based) adventure program that, at additional charge, offers unique activities like heli-hiking, alpine kayaking, heli-landings, flightseeing. The aircraft features an advanced autopilot system, great fuel efficiency and reduced noise levels (eco-friendly), interior padding (quiet flight), separated seats (comfort), large windows (scratch-proof) for taking photos.

Onboard announcements in English are made via the ship's public address (PA) system. This will happen in cases of wildlife sightings, itinerary changes, Zodiac landings (instructions for going ashore), also in cases of emergencies. These announcements can be heard in all public spaces and also in staterooms. On cruises with non-English-speaking groups, announcements are repeated in other languages.


Quark Expeditions' smoking policy doesn't allow smoking in the ship's interior (which includes passenger cabins), also near the Zodiac boats and on shore excursions (landings). Shipboard smoking is permitted in a designated area only (ask the crew about it). Cigarettes must be extinguished properly and disposed of in the proper receptacle. Throwing cigarettes overboard is forbidden. Consuming personal alcohol anywhere on the ship is prohibited. Alcoholic beverages will be not served to passengers under 18 years of age.

On all Quark ships, the dress code is casual, but dressing up for Captain's Welcome Reception is recommended.

All items purchased from the onboard shop (Polar Boutique), drinks (at the lounge/bar) and services (laundry, postage, satellite communications, optional tours booked, etc) are charged to the passenger's onboard account. Payments of these accounts are made at the Reception Desk towards the end of the cruise. Passengers can pay only in cash or via credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express as checks are not accepted.

The cruise ship provides an English-speaking doctor who manages a medical facility (onboard clinic) stocked with common prescription medicines and basic first aid equipment. Passengers under regular treatment must bring a sufficient supply of their medicine.

To access the Internet on the ship, passengers must purchase a pre-paid PIN card (available at the Reception Desk). These cards can be used to access the internet from all kinds of personal devices (computers, tablets, smartphones) and are based on data used (not time connected. Although in some cases Internet connections work from the cruise cabins, the best connections are in the ship's public areas.

Making phone calls from the cruise ship requires purchasing a pre-paid PIN Card. Voice PIN cards allow calling from the cabins (or passenger phones) to shore phones (at various rates per minute, depending on ship location and phone type. Ship-to-shore communications are via Inmarsat Capsat Fleet 77 (satellite phone and Internet) and cost extra.

By international maritime law, all passengers must participate in an emergency (muster) drill within 24 hours of departure. Upon embarkation, all passengers receive a ship safety briefing outlining appropriate onboard behavior and all emergency procedures. Next muster drill is mandatory and familiarizes all passengers with the lifeboats, lifejackets, the vessel's emergency evacuation routes.

Passengers are advised to be careful while walking on outer decks (decking can be slippery), always to use the handrails and wear proper footwear.

Quark cruise deals

Quark Expeditions cruise deals are inclusive of:

  • 1-night pre-cruise hotel stay, group transfers (airport-hotel on the day prior departure, and hotel-ship on embarkation day)
  • onboard accommodation (daily housekeeping service)
  • all onboard meals (breakfasts, lunches, dinners) - know that the ship's galley/kitchen can't prepare kosher meals
  • all Zodiac landings (daily, weather permitting) and Zodiac transfers and cruising (daily)
  • media presentations by Expedition Team members and special guest lecturers
  • waterproof expedition boots (shore landings)
  • complimentary Quark Expeditions logoed parka
  • lifejackets and immersion suits
  • complimentary coffee, tea and cocoa (24 / 7)
  • hairdryer and bathrobe (in all cabins)
  • pre-departure materials (including maps)
  • all service taxes and port fees
  • all onboard luggage handling
  • emergency evacuation (medevac) insurance to a max benefit USD 100,000 pp
  • Fly-cruise deals are inclusive of complimentary house wines (by the glass), beers and spirits on the ship, also of all gratuities (staff and crew) and all domestic flights (prior to embarkation).
  • Shipboard laundry and Ironing services are available at additional cost.

Sister-brands of Quark Expeditions are the travel companies "International Expeditions" and "Zegrahm Expeditions", both specializing in international travel vacations to destinations in Alaska, Southeast Asia, Oceania / French Polynesia, Australia New Zealand, Africa (Botswana), Europe (Mediterranean, UK).

On January 23, 2019, Quark Expeditions announced a partnership with Passport Online Inc - Beaverton (OR USA)-based company specializing in e-marketing for the travel industry. The Passport Online marketing platform allowed Quark cruises to be available for booking on thousands of travel agency websites (with nearly 6 million monthly consumers).

(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021

Due to the COVID pandemic, Quark Expeditions suspended its fleet's passenger shipping operations by canceling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 15, 2020, through early-June 2021.

Operations resumed in 2021 on June 2 (Ocean Adventurer/Svalbard Norway), June 25 (Ultramarine/Spitsbergen), November 3 (World Explorer/Antarctica), November 25 (Ocean Diamond/Antarctica-South Georgia-Falkland Islands).

All affected bookings received full refunds (100%) in FCC (future cruise credit), including on prepurchased through the company packages and services.

Itinerary of Quark Expeditions

Along with the company-owned vessels, Quark Expeditions also charters cruise vessels from other lines. Among the chartered vessels are two Russian icebreaker ships - Kapitan Khlebnikov and 50 Let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory).

The company's newest ship - World Explorer, is a newbuild vessel scheduled for delivery in 2019. Steel was cut for World Explorer on September 8, 2017, at WestSea Shipyard in Portugal. The expedition vessel is the first in a series of ships being built by Mario Ferreira’s Mystic Cruises and Mystic Invest companies.

Arctic cruise itineraries

Quark Expeditions Arctic cruise itineraries map

In the European Arctic, Quark cruise ships (Ocean Nova and Ocean Adventurer) offer the unique "Polar Bear Safari" tour on Spitsbergen Island (Norway's Svalbard archipelago). The 9-day cruise tour (prices from USD 5200 pp) starts from Longyearbyen and includes tundra hiking, Zodiac fjords cruising, wildlife viewing. The "Spitsbergen Explorer" cruise tour itinerary (prices from USD 6300 pp) is also operated by both ships, as well as a 13-14-day cruise tour itinerary (prices from USD 7300 pp) visiting Iceland, Greenland, and Norway (Spitsbergen).

Quark cruises in the Arctic regions are themed "Northern Lights". The itineraries visit Iceland and Greenland and include domestic flights (between Reykjavik and Akureyri, also between Akureyri Iceland and Constable Point Greenland). Prices vary by the itinerary - from USD 6000 pp (10 days) to USD 8400 pp (14 days).

Quark's Canadian Arctic cruise itineraries visit Baffin Island, with prices ranging between USD 6500-9000 pp (13-18 days) with included lodge stay. The Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge is located on Somerset Island (near Hudson’s Bay). The lodge has a capacity of 26 guests and is served by 16 staff members. The cruise tour experience features gourmet cuisine, accommodation (double or single cabin with en-suite sink and WC / marine toilet), main lounge, dining room.

The North Pole cruise (themed "The Ultimate Arctic Adventure") is the company's most special offer for cruising through packed ice on the Russian nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory. The 14-day cruise tour (prices from USD 28000 pp) also includes a helicopter tour and hot-air balloon tour and stopping at Franz Josef Land (Russia).

The North Pole-themed "Barneo Ice Camp" is a 3-day land tour (prices from USD 20000 pp) with included domestic flights between Svalbard Island and Barneo Ice Camp (Russia-operated seasonal science station in the Arctic Ocean. This itinerary starts with an Antonov AN-74 (transport aircraft) flight to the Russian Arctic research base and continues with a Mil Mi-8 helicopter flight.

Arctic itineraries 2023-2024

In September 2020, Quark released details on Arctic 2022 season marked by the company's newest polar ship - Quark Ultramarine, also offering helicopter-supported land tours. The program included a "Greenland Adventure" plus special itineraries including "Under the Northern Lights" (Arctic Norway, Iceland and Greenland expedition), a 14-day voyage to Spitsbergen Island (photography-themed), 7- to 14-day long voyages through Svalbard Islands Norway.

Norway (May-June-July 2022)

  • 7-day Spitsbergen Highlights: Expedition in Brief
  • 10-day Introduction to Spitsbergen: Fjords, Glaciers, and Wildlife of Svalbard
  • 12-day Spitsbergen Explorer: Wildlife Capital of the Arctic
  • 14-day Spitsbergen In Depth: Big Islands, Big Adventure
  • 14-day Spitsbergen Photography: In Search of Polar Bears

Greenland (August-September 2022)

  • 9-day Greenland Adventure: Explore by Sea, Land, and Air
  • 14-day Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & East Greenland
  • 15-day Essential Greenland: Southern Coasts and Disko Bay

Canada (September 2022)

  • 9-day Arctic Express Canada: The Heart of the Northwest Passage
  • 12-day Canada’s Remote Arctic: Northwest Passage to Ellesmere Island
  • 17-day Northwest Passage: In the Footsteps of Franklin
  • 17-day Northwest Passage: Epic High Arctic
  • 20-day Best of the Western Arctic: Canada and Greenland

Arctic Russia 2022

Multi-Destination voyages in 2022

  • 14-day Arctic Saga: Exploring Spitsbergen via the Faroes and Jan Mayen
  • 15-day Three Arctic Islands: Iceland, Greenland, Spitsbergen.

Highlights of Quark Expeditions' Arctic 2024 season include:

  • New 12-day "Gems of West Greenland: Fjords, Icebergs, and Culture" in-depth exploration along the island's west coast.
  • The return of popular itineraries that enable passengers to explore with the most experienced team in the Polar Regions, including "Canada's Remote Arctic: Northwest Passage to Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands" and "Spitsbergen Explorer: Wildlife Capital of the Arctic". Many of these voyages are offered on the new, technologically-advanced ship Ultramarine.
  • The largest portfolio of off-ship adventures in the industry, including Flightseeing, Exclusive Heli Landing, Heli Hiking, Tundra to Table, Ice Sheet Experience, Mountain Biking, and Sea Kayaking.

Greenland Explorer itinerary (2024)

In January 2023, Quark announced Ultramarine's new 11-day "Greenland Explorer: Sail and Soar the Alpine Arctic" itinerary (roundtrip from Reykjavik Iceland) scheduled for launch on September 14, 2024.

Prices started from AUD 16600 (GBP 9495 / EUR 10780 / USD 11695) per person with double occupancy.


The unique voyage also features the "Tundra to Table: Inuit Culinary Experience" with traditional Greenland dishes prepared by local chefs.

(Day 1) Arriving in Reykjavik (hotel overnight)

(Day 2) included charter flight to Narsarsuaq Greenland (from Keflavik Airport), boarding the ship in Narsarsuaq (South Greenland)

(Days 3-4) east coast fjord cruising, Lindenow Fjord/Kangerlussuaq

(Days 4-5-6-7) Arctic Patagonia coastal cruising, Cape Farewell, transiting Prince Christian Sound/Ikerasassuaq Strait, Tasermiut Fjord

(Days 8-9-10) Western Fjords cruising, Greenland Ice Sheet (landing), Qassiarsuk, Narsarsuaq (flight to Reykjavik/Keflavik hotel overnight)

(Day 11) Reykjavik (independent program)

Antarctica cruise itineraries

Quark Expeditions Antarctica cruise itineraries map

In Antarctica, Quark Expeditions operate the following cruise tour itineraries, all (except flight cruises) crossing the Drake Passage and with embarkation/disembarkation in Ushuaia:

  • 10-11 days (themed "Discovering the 7th Continent") - prices start from USD 5600 pp. It is operated by the ships Island Sky, Ocean Diamond, Ocean Endeavour, Ocean Adventurer.
  • 14-day (themed "Southern Expedition") - prices start from USD 8500 pp. It is operated by the ships Ocean Diamond, Ocean Endeavour, Ocean Adventurer.
  • 20-day (themed "Antarctica Peninsula in Depth") - prices start from USD 1200 pp. It is operated by the ship Ocean Endeavour.

Some Antarctic itineraries also visit the Falklands (Malvinas) and South Georgia Island (UK).

  • 20-day (themed "Explorers and Kings") - prices start from USD 12000 pp. It is operated by the ships Ocean Diamond, Ocean Endeavour, Ocean Adventurer.
  • 23-day (themed "Epic Antarctica") - prices start from USD 14000 pp. It is operated by the ships Ocean Diamond, Ocean Adventurer.
  • Optional tours and hotel stays are offered in Santiago, Buenos Aires, also to Easter Island (Chile) and Iguazu Falls (Argentina-Brazil border)

Quark Expeditions fly-cruise itineraries on MS Island Sky

As chartered by Quark Expeditions, MS Island Sky cruise ship is operated with all-inclusive (flights included) deals.

Quark's "Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake" cruise itinerary (duration 7 or 8 days) visits King George Island and the Antarctic Peninsula without cruising the Drake Passage (instead of flying over it). This Antarctica fly-cruise is inclusive of charter flights between Santiago (Chile), Punta Arenas (Chile), and South Shetland Islands (King George Island), where is the embarkation on the ship bound to Antarctica. The itinerary's duration is 7 or 8 days.

Quark's "Antarctic Explorer: All-Inclusive" cruise itinerary (duration 10 days) visits the Antarctic Peninsula and is themed on wildlife viewing and onboard lectures (penguins, seals, whales). This fly-cruise is inclusive of domestic flights in Argentina (between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia), also of all gratuities and onboard drinks. Ship embarkation is in Ushuaia (late afternoon). The itinerary includes passing through Beagle Channel, cruising through the Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, and Antarctic Peninsula. Disembarkation is in Ushuaia following the flight to Buenos Aires (price-included).

Quark's "Antarctic Express: Crossing the Circle" cruise itinerary (duration 11 days) is also inclusive of all domestic flights (between Punta Arenas and King George Island, where are the ship embarkation/disembarkation). This fly-cruise is inclusive of 2 charter flights and features crossing Drake Passage (on day 2) and Crossing the Antarctic Circle (on days 6 and 7).

Quark Expeditions related cruise news