On an Expedition Cruise, Shared Adventure, Discovery Make a Powerful Connection

Cruising as a couple is romantic just by its nature: the beautiful vistas, the indulgent spa treatments and the intimate bubbly-drenched dinners for two. Relaxing in the sun or exploring a region’s historic charms are the vacations of honeymooners’ dreams.

But an expedition cruise? It’s a voyage of a different stripe. It means stepping outside your comfort zone to learn about different cultures, creatures, climates and more. Is the voyage still romantic if you’re sweaty and spent after exploring the frozen tundra or tramping through a hot, humid jungle while dodging the byproducts of animal life?

The ship you travel on matters, too. It hasn’t been all that long since ships that sailed in adventurous waters were pretty basic, featuring staterooms with twin or bunkbeds bolted to the floor and a shower over the toilet, where meals were always communal and public spaces quite limited to a dining room and adjacent bar.

“What really has changed the tenor of expedition cruising, particularly but not limited to couples, is that travelers want at least the same amount of comfort when they travel as they do at home,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, travel journalist and editor in chief of Discover. She’s speaking from experience, having recently returned from an Antarctica Bridge voyage on Silversea’s Silver Endeavour, with her husband, Teijo Niemela.

It was a busy cruise, as she expected, with two on-land landings per day and occasionally an extra ride around icebergs on Zodiacs. “Still, Teijo and I managed to carve out some precious downtime,” she tells us. A ritual post-dinner cocktail in the laid-back Observation Lounge most nights, and meals at romantic La Dame and Il Terrazzino, Silver Endeavour‘s intimate French and Italian restaurants, “gave us a chance to share our experiences of the day in a setting quite unlike any other place in the world.”

Spencer Brown is by no means alone when it comes to expedition cruising offering unexpectedly romantic moments. Whether already coupled or single, we spoke to numerous travelers who agreed (in fact, several had met their significant others on the actual expedition cruise itself).

Despite a dress code that leans toward utilitarian and the extra exertion that may come with hills and dales, something about these adventurous, often remote itineraries intensify a bond.

That chill in the air? It encourages couples to get closer on a Zodiac outing like this one in Svalbard in the Arctic./Silversea

“Of course, it depends on your idea of romantic,” says Theresa Russell, a journalist who specializes in cruising. “[If you] travel with the right person, you can snuggle in the Zodiacs to stay warm; celebrate a hike or something that pushed you to your limits; find a quiet place on deck and enjoy the scenery with your favorite beverage.”

And, she adds that you can “revel in knowing that you experienced something great with somebody you love.”

The following first-person accounts may entice you to step away from your routine and consider an expedition cruise for your next voyage.

Chilly temperatures can be hot

One inveterate cruiser, who asked us to withhold her name, met an “exceptionally attractive man,” at a hosted officer’s dinner on board an Arctic expedition ship. Soon, they were inseparable.

She credits the “expedition vibe” for the extra spark. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle up with someone special by a faux fireplace when it’s freezing outside or soak together in a hot tub at the top of the world with a crackling ice field sprawling as far as you can see?

More cruises together have followed, and the connection remains strong, thanks to many experiences, that, she says, beg to be shared.

Shaking up a routine can amp up the passion

Sharing adventures, like this hike to Alaska’s Davidson Glacier, may make you feel even closer to your partner./Lucia Griggi/Silversea

“Part of my passion for expedition cruising lies in the pursuit of the unexpected, which only heightens my sense of romance,” says Janice Wald Henderson, a journalist who specializes in luxury cruising.

“It’s easy for couples, whether married a few years or a few decades, to fall into relationship patterns.” But expedition cruises mean no two days are the same, so patterns are “shaken up,” she says, “because you are suddenly doing everything differently, every single day.”

“With all our senses heightened by adventure — be it bouncing on a Zodiac, trekking through an Indonesian jungle eyeing orangutan or ogling chinstrap penguins in Antarctica — it’s only natural to see each through equally fresh eyes.”

That change in perspective makes a huge difference, she says.  “We tend to fall in love with each other all over again.  

“I say to all couples, ‘Go on an expedition cruise. You will rediscover love anew.’”

Destination wedding: Antarctica

A clip from The Kelly Clarkson Show shows actress Kate Walsh (best known for her role as Dr. Addison Montgomery on long-running medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy”) dishing about her love life. Nothing unusual about it, except she acknowledges she met the love of her life and her now-fiancé on an expedition cruise to Antarctica. “I saw the penguins, check,” she tells Clarkson, “the ice, check, whales, check — and man, check.”

Finding love at the South Pole isn’t as rare as you might think. Even more common? Exchanging vows where the penguins are witnesses.

Australian cruise and travel journalist Louise Goldsbury, who met a boyfriend on an Alaskan expedition cruise, knows firsthand the power ice has to melt a heart. “My friends got married in Antarctica [on the ice with the penguins] by the captain,” she says.

As writer Jennifer Billock notes in a story for Travel + Leisure, the penguins are already in tuxedos. Billock was planning her wedding throughout summer and fall of 2022 but decided eloping on an expedition cruise would be even better.

Although expedition vessels usually are not equipped to accommodate last-minute weddings, this late-October trip allowed the couple to exchange vows on the White Continent’s Half Moon Island near a chinstrap penguin colony.

“Through laughter we exchanged Sea Bands instead of rings,” Billock writes. “We waved as we headed out (followed by echoing cheers, applause and penguin squawks) on a serene private Zodiac ride around the bay with Champagne and macarons.”

Alone together in far-flung destinations

A couple stargazes in Zanzibar, off Tanzania, where Silversea expedition cruises call./Shutterstock

A commercial for Chanel No. 5, featuring actress Marion Cotillard, shows two lovers imagining themselves dancing on a golden moon. Besides the gorgeous clothing and set design, the appeal of the moon is that it’s both special and remote.

The same can be said of the destinations on an expedition cruise. Whether you’re visiting the depths of the Amazon jungle or a village in Greenland, you’re bonding over an exceptional, shared experience. Sharing those otherworldly sights and interactions with someone you’re close to heightens the excitement.

Stepping foot in the most remote places on Earth with someone you love also is a chance to reflect on ideas of beauty, fragility, the power of nature and the tenacity of explorers who came before. Pair these life-altering moments with the luxuries of fine dining and intuitive service onboard your cruise ship, and it’s a recipe for pure bliss.

Simply “stargazing is romantic with the right person,” Goldsbury says. “The remoteness of the destinations [offers] the ultimate privacy and intimacy for couples.”