At One Ocean Expeditions, we take pride in the fact that our senior management team build our activities and itineraries based on their own prior experience and knowledge.
We sat down with our Managing Director, Andrew Prossin (AP), Our General Manager, Cathy Lawton (CL), and our Head of Operations, Aaron Lawton (AL), to get further insight into their personal experiences of the new destinations we are heading to in 2019, which include Chile, Central America, Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
Why did you choose these destinations for One Ocean Expeditions’ new itineraries?
AP: The number one reason really is that over the years, many of our guests have asked about these destinations. Regularly on the ship, we talk to people about the world, what they are interested in and where they want to go and we often get direct suggestions – like, you should operate voyages in Panama! We know that many of our clients are very interested in the Panama Canal. Being on a ship that goes through the Panama Canal is really one of life’s great thrills. The Chilean Fjords are absolutely magnificent, the scenery and the awe-inspiring weather there, the wildlife and of course the people. I’ve heard the part of the North Atlantic that we are going to described as ‘the kitchen of European weather’ – it’s a tremendously volatile and dynamic place in terms of weather. On land that weather has influenced everything from the wildlife to the nature and even the culture. Not to mention the golf courses!
Which of these new destinations have you personally been to?
CL: I’ve been to Costa Rica, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland and Chile.
AL: I’ve spent time exploring Costa Rica on a family vacation. It seems whenever I travel I’m thinking, how do we explore this area with an expedition cruise vessel? Scotland, I’ve spent a bit of time in and again looked at it from an expeditions perspective and I think it will be a pretty exciting destination. I’ve always wanted to go to the Faroe Islands and it was an easy decision to include it as a stop, sailing from Scotland to Iceland. I’ve spent some time in Iceland, around the southern and central part. We’ve got some really exciting new programs!
AP: I’ve been to all of them – some more recently than others. Scotland, Faroe Islands and Iceland, as well as the Northern Ireland and Scotland golf courses, are all places we have visited over the years. The same is true for the Panama Canal, Central America and even western South America. I’ve been there many times and at different times of the year and coming through in April/May will be a fantastic time to be there.
Which was your favourite and why?
AP: To choose one destination is tricky. I guess it would depend on what mood I was in! Even though I’ve been through the Panama Canal several times, I can’t wait to go back and see how it’s evolved as it’s been under new management for the past few years. The wildlife on each of these voyages really is remarkable, as well as the peoples in the different countries we will visit. It really depends on your mood and what you are looking for in a holiday. To me, the history of that whole region and its link with Europe is really fascinating and when you get over to Europe – the wilds of Scotland and the Faroe Islands – these are all once-in-a-lifetime places to visit.
AL: I am very excited for an expedition cruise around the Scottish Isles, getting out to the Orkneys, Outer Hebrides and the Shetlands. It will be great to explore. I’m actually a bagpiper with some Scottish heritage and I have a passion for many things Scottish. To sail the ship in a place where I can justifiably wear a kilt whilst doing my job will be pretty fun! I’ve spent the last few years in the polar regions and I don’t know if I’m built to take warm temperatures. Scotland is not renowned for overwhelming heat, so that’s another reason why I like the Scottish itineraries. Saying that, I’m very excited about the potential of Central America and to get off the beaten track from the usual cruise destinations here to really explore. Can you ask me this question again after we’ve done these programs??
CL: It’s very hard for me to pick a favourite as they are all so different. If I had to choose, I’d say my heart lies in the Highlands of Scotland, covering the north and west coasts. The Grampian Mountains offer dynamic photographic opportunities, showcasing waterfalls, green rolling hills, and incredible hiking opportunities. The coastal areas are literally covered with ancient castles of historical interest. Some of these have been recommissioned by local clan families to be showcased to visitors and are very close to their original condition.
Is there a particular memory from these trips that stands out?
CL: I especially enjoyed Costa Rica as it offers such a wide range of diverse wildlife in one of the most incredible beach areas of Central America. We saw sloths, monkeys and incredible birdlife. The warm water was amazing, and there were so many hiking opportunities and great photography. I’ll never forget the crocodiles in the river outflows!
AP: Well the Panama Canal is an interesting place. It’s a funnelling of ships from everywhere in the world, trying to get anywhere in the world. So, when you’re in the holding places, waiting for your turn to go through the canal, you literally see ships and people from all over the world! There are passenger ships, freighters, science vessels, drilling ships and oil tankers – all different shapes and sizes and lots of different flags. It’s a tremendously interesting place, just even while you’re sitting there waiting your turn. There is never a dull moment. It actually reminds me of that scene in Star Wars where they are in the saloon with creatures from all over the Galaxy!
AL: I think a particular memory for me that stands out is in the Highlands of Scotland, not too far from the coast, going up through a valley. In expedition cruising, we take what Mother Nature gives us in terms of weather, wildlife, situations, experiences, sights and we make the best of it. We were in a valley, the wind was howling and these rain squalls were coming through and then the squall would pass and we would get 3 ½ minutes of sunshine. Every stream coming down into the valley was gushing, every waterfall was pumping and it was absolutely magnificent. I dried my hands and my face off and whipped out my camera to get some photos. I was laughing as I took my third photo and the next rain squall came through and I had to dive for shelter again. To me, that typifies expedition cruising. Taking advantage of every weather system and experience you get and trying to make the most of it. I love any place on a sunny day, but I also love the drama of big weather when we are exploring the remote regions of the world.
Did you have a favourite local guide that you remember?
AP: I remember the manager of the shipping agent in Panama, Francis, he was quite a fellow! With him, you had a sense that you were with a guy that knew the score and wondered at the things he had seen come and go through the canal over the years. I remember one of the Kuna Indians that guided us around the San Blas Islands by zodiac. I vividly remember the great day we spent there. The Chileans are really wonderful people and the business contacts we made there we are actually using now. The people of Iceland and the Faroe Islands are wonderful. It’s going to be great to rekindle all of those relationships.
CL: The guides we had in Costa Rica were incredible. They shared so much knowledge about the local wildlife that can be hard to find – what to look for, sounds in the jungle to assist in wildlife identification and so on. It really made the whole experience.
Why is it important to experience these destinations on a small-expedition ship?
CL: The benefit of experiencing all of these areas by expedition vessel is coastal water access. Given the number of wildlife, scenery and photographic opportunities, coastal areas by ship allow for immediate immersion in the destination. Also, robust rubber zodiac access allows for landings in difficult areas that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach. The kayak and stand-up paddle boards will be really well utilized in the warm climes of Costa Rica. Given that our voyage operates during the tail end of the dry season, high ceiling days are usually the norm, offering hot, sunny days with only the occasional rain shower in the afternoon (which is a nice change!).
AP: In many of these itineraries, there are literally places you just couldn’t get to in a large ship, without pulling up to a dock and getting on a bus. To really do it like we do it, it makes a huge difference. We can get the ship into small bays, national parks, etc. and land on a beach by zodiac. You couldn’t land a 1000 people on the beach this way, but you can land 100 easily. There are a few locations, for example, Chile, where we will be more civilised about how we explore. Most of it though is true expedition stuff and that’s always done best with a small group.
AL: One of the special things about exploring these new destinations on a small expedition cruise ship is that we have the flexibility to do just about whatever we want to do. We can break the group up by interest, activity, and each of us go off in a different direction. The support requirements on shore are less and therefore we can cater to just about every individual request. That’s the magic of expedition cruising. You tell us what you want to do and choose your own adventure and we look at how we can set that up and make it happen.
Thanks for your time everyone! That was really interesting. Do you have any final comments?
AL: I really think people should experience these new destinations on small ships. If you come to a community where your ship overwhelms the population and its resources, it’s really hard to build out the individual adventure for each passenger and it’s not great for the community! With a small group, we can do that and a lot of the places we have chosen to visit on our trips are small communities or adjacent to them. They are areas that would easily be overwhelmed by larger ships and larger passenger numbers. We’ve tried to fine-tune our itineraries to take advantage of our small passenger numbers.
AP: One last thing! When I’ve been to these places before we’ve had limited activities, but this time we are super excited to evolve to where we are introducing the kayaking, the stand-up paddle boarding and the bicycle touring – that’s going to be a lot of fun. These new destinations are going to be perfect for it. Especially in the warmer waters, being able to paddle around and not have to worry about the issues with cold water – it’s going to be absolutely wonderful for people. It will make for a wonderful holiday and we are able to do all of this included in the price!
For more information on our ‘Islands of the North Atlantic’ voyages click here.
For more information on ‘Central America’ voyages click here.
For more information on our Chile voyage click here.