Quark Expeditions fleet
Review of Quark Expeditions
IMPORTANT: Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, for now, Quark Expeditions doesn't suspend its fleet's operations by cancelling voyages with pre-scheduled departures in March-April 2020.
Quark Expeditions 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 expedition cruise travel company headquartered in Seattle WA. The company was established in 1991 by Mike McDowell and Lars Wikander. In 1998, Wikander became Quark'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 (global travel division of former TUI Specialist Group). Company's current President is Andrew White.
On November 24, 2003, the company became the first (currently only) to offer a "total solar eclipse cruise" in Antarctica. In 2021 are planned two such "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 Weddell Sea.
- Quark's Antarctic Eclipse cruises will 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).
- Quark Expeditions "Antarctic Solar Eclipse 2021" cruises are offered on 2 ships - World Explorer (17-day itinerary, November 26 - December 12) and Ocean Diamond (20-day itinerary, November 25 - December 14). Prices start 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.
Quark cruise ships
Quark cruise ships are smaller-sized expedition vessels, with max capacity up to 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.
Quar fleet's newest member is named World Explorer. This is company's first newbuild and most advanced polar expedition vessel.
- Onboard announcements in English are made via 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 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 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 behaviour on the ship and all emergency procedures. Next drill is mandatory and familiarizes all passengers with the lifeboats, lifejackets and the cruise ship'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 - US-based (in Beaverton OR) company specializing in e-marketing for the travel industry. The Passport Online marketing platform allowed Quark cruises to be available for booking on thousands travel agency websites (with nearly 6 million monthly consumers).
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).
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 first in a series of ships being built by Mario Ferreira’s Mystic Cruises and Mystic Invest companies.
Arctic cruise itineraries
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 capacity 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 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.
Antarctica cruise itineraries
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.
- 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 with 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).
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