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Quark Expeditions

About Quark Expeditions

Lars Wikander and Mike McDowell, the cofounders of Quark Expeditions, took the first group of commercial travelers to the North Pole In 1991. That inaugural, game-changing expedition—the first-ever tourism transit of the Northeast Passage—set Quark Expeditions on a course that would put us at the forefront of polar exploration. We’ve spent the last three decades taking travelers on polar expeditions to remote parts of the Arctic and Antarctic where no one else has set foot. Polar expeditions have evolved since Quark Expeditions’ 1991 journey aboard the nuclear-powered icebreaker Sovetskiy Soyuz. While that first journey solidified Quark Expeditions’ role as the leader in polar adventure, we’ve not rested on our laurels. We’ve continued to achieve new firsts. We’re forever driven to forge new paths in polar explorations.  


We're Proud of our Firsts in the Polar Regions

  • 1991: Quark Expeditions took the first group of travelers to the North Pole.
  • 1992: Quark Expeditions undertook the first non-scientific visit to Emperor penguin rookeries.
  • 1997: We completed the first circumnavigation of Antarctica for commercial passengers
  • 1999: We completed our first circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean
  • 2004: Quark Expeditions was the first to confirm the most northerly Emperor penguin rookery near Snow Hill in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica
  • 2008: Quark Expeditions hosted the maiden voyage of the nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory to the North Pole
  • 2011: Our “Three Arctic Islands” trip was voted one of National Geographic Traveler’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime.
  • 2013: Quark Expeditions hosted Jonathan Shackleton (cousin of famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton) and Falcon Scott (grandson of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott) on an expedition to the 7th Continent where they camped out together.
  • 2013: Quark Expeditions hosted the first-ever floating polar film festival onboard the Sea Spirit
  • 2017: Quark Expeditions started Quark Academy, making us the only expedition company in the polar regions with its own proprietary polar training institution.
  • 2019: Quark Expeditions commenced the building of our very first purpose-built polar vessel, Ultramarine
  • 2019: Quark Expeditions advances its sustainability framework with the launch of Polar Promise.
  • 2019: Quark Expeditions offers expeditions into the remote, seldom-visited Russian archipelagoes of Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya.

Why Choose Quark Expeditions

The Best Team

When you venture into the untouched wilds of the Arctic and Antarctic, you need a great team around you. And we have the greatest. You’ll join elite guides trained at Quark Academy—which surpasses every standard imaginable for safety and preparedness in the Polar Regions—and interact directly with world-class polar experts. Our philosophy? The team that explores together, discovers more together.

Our Expedition Team | Guests will travel with the most experienced team in the industry—some of whom have honed their polar expertise over more than 200 expeditions in their 20-plus-year career. The guest experience is enriched by paddle guides, photography guides, geologists, ornithologists and other experts who share their expertise as it relates to each specific polar destination.

Always an Opportunity to Learn | Guests, whether they’re new to a topic or are longtime enthusiasts, broaden their knowledge base as they learn from expert presenters (on polar history, glaciology, ornithology, penguin science, marine biology etc.) . These world-renown polar authorities share their expertise daily in the context of what guests see and do during their off-ship excursions.

Learn in all environments | Our 1:6 expedition team member-to-guest ratio means you’ll have all the attention you want throughout your voyage and excellent access to polar experts. You could be standing on the deck of a ship, binoculars in hand, discussing seabirds with one of our ornithologists. This enriched (and often spontaneous) interaction with staff is apt to happen on ship, on a Zodiac or during a shore landing.

World Class Training | Quark Academy, the only proprietary polar training program in the industry, ensures guests have the safest and most immersive experience possible—with the best team in the industry during shore landings and Zodiac excursions. All participants at Quark Academy are fully immersed in the rules and regulations set out by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). The safety of guests—as well as wildlife—is always paramount.

We Take You Deeper

Quark Expeditions goes where others simply can’t. Or won’t. But our expert guides’ abilities to read unknown terrain means where there’s a will, there’s a way—and that way could be by kayak, Zodiac boat, helicopter, or even hot air balloon. In an environment so unpredictable, it pays to have a few backup plans. We don’t just expect the unexpected, we embrace it.

Explore the Environment | Being able to read the polar landscape better than anyone else, our experienced team will maximize your time off ship, whether it’s on a guided walk across the tundra, a Zodiac excursion, kayaking outing, shore landings or wildlife-watching adventures. Our team’s goal is to get guests off the ship and out into the polar landscapes as often as possible—all the while sharing their expertise to fully immerse you in your polar environment.

Adventure Options | Guests can choose from the largest and most unique selection of off-ship Adventure Options in the industry, enjoying one-of-a-kind off-ship experiences no one else can provide. Off-ship activities enable guests to fully immerse themselves in the Polar Regions, whether it’s kayaking deep fjords, Zodiac cruising to distant shores, flight-seeing in one of our two helicopters, camping overnight, hiking or mountain biking. Our goal is for guests to have the deepest experience possible.

Small Ship Advantage | Our small ships (128 to 199 passengers) will take you to places larger ships can’t navigate. Our fleet of smaller vessels can satisfy your inner explorer—that urge to explore deep fjords, hike across tundra where few humans have ever set foot, or kayak through an ice-laden waterway. Guests on large ships miss out on such authentic and immersive polar experiences! On ships like our newest polar vessel, the game-changing Ultramarine, you’ll be able to explore deeper on our two twin-engine helicopters and fleet of 20 quick-launching Zodiacs for off-ship experiences no one else can provide.

Our latest ship | Ultramarine’s helicopters provide you with fresh perspectives of the Polar Regions while taking you to places previously inaccessible.

Community and Culture Experiences | Not only will you be immersed in the natural environment of the Polar Regions (deep fjords, glaciers, icebergs, ice-laden landscapes, snow-capped mountains and tundra), but you’ll also experience and learn firsthand about the culture and traditions of the local people during community visits, such as Greenlandic and Inuit communities.

Regional Experts | The Quark Expeditions team will do everything to get you off the ship and out exploring the polar landscape as often as possible. Equally important are the regional experts who will accompany you in the field, sharing their in-depth knowledge as you marvel at your surroundings.

The Most Innovative Itineraries

We’ve been pioneering new types of expeditions into the Polar Regions for over 30 years now. We not only offer the most itineraries, but the most varied as well. Regardless of where you venture, you can explore culture, wildlife, science, physical activity, and more. To put it simply: More places to explore, more ways to explore them.

The Leader in Polar Adventure | Guests will travel with a team that has achieved more polar milestones than anyone else in the business. A few of those polar firsts include: in 1991, we were the first to bring consumer travelers to the North Pole; in 2003, Quark Expeditions passengers become the first humans to witness a Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica; and In 2004, our team was the first to confirm the fabled Emperor penguin colony at the remote Snow Hill Island in Antarctica. We were also the first to circumnavigate the Arctic and Antarctica.

One-of-a-kind Itineraries | Working with local communities, especially in the Arctic, has allowed us to create itineraries and off-ship experiences exclusive to Quark Expeditions. It’s these local partnerships—nurtured in some cases for years if not decades—that has led to an output of innovative itineraries offered by no one else: Greenland Adventure: Explore By Land, Sea and Air, which has provided helicopter access to rarely-visited parts of Greenland; Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill, which enables guests to experience one of the rarest wildlife sightings on the planet; and Spitsbergen Photography: Under the Midnight Sun, where we rely on local knowledge and the environment to dictate our route.

Variety of options | Guests have flexible options when choosing from our abundant itineraries, which range from 7 to 23 days. You’ll easily find a trip to fit your budget and schedule—and customize according to your interests. If you’re time-strapped, there are our Fly/Express itineraries. Wildlife enthusiasts can choose voyages that focus on, say, polar bears or penguins. Those eager to cross the next big thing off their bucket list can choose to fly over the vast Greenland Ice Sheet in a helicopter—and then land and set foot on it. For others, it may be crossing the Antarctic Circle. There’s something for everyone!

The Most Adventure Activities

Every voyage starts on a ship, but the real adventure happens off-ship. In the polar wilds, we camp, kayak, mountain bike, hike and fly by helicopter to remote locations. We paddleboard on icy waters, and rise above the polar landscape in hot air balloons. With the most adventure options available, how you experience the Polar Regions is entirely up to you.

Immersive Experiences | Guests can be assured of a truly immersive experience. Kayaking, for instance, brings you closer to the ocean surface, while camping brings you closer to nature and the polar terrain. There’s no shortage of ways to immerse you in the Arctic or Antarctic environment. In fact, Quark Expeditions offers the most off-ship activities in the Polar Regions!

Levels for all explorers | Our adventure options and off-ship activities are geared to all ages and level of fitness—and interests. You get to choose the outing that best suits you. Our hiking options, for instance, accommodate those looking for a leisurely stroll to take photographs to more advanced hikes for guests who want to pump up their heart rate. In our Greenland Adventure voyage, you can choose an energetic outing on helicopter-supported mountain biking, or opt for the overnight camping where you get to sit idly by a fjord and soak up the ambiance of South Greenland.

Helicopter innovations and more! | Innovation is in our DNA. Quark Expeditions was the first to offer SUP boarding and hot air ballooning in the Polar Regions. And now we’ve introduced helicopters—for more than just flightseeing. Guests choose from the largest selection of helicopter-supported activities in the Polar Regions, including alpine kayaking, Alpine Heli-trekking and Ice Sheet landings, to name a few.

Small Ships

When it comes to polar expeditions, you’re only as good as where your ships can take you. And our diverse fleet of small polar vessels, which includes icebreakers and expedition ships, can take you to places larger ships can’t navigate. Equally key is our fleet of Zodiac boats, which let us make landfall where others are not able. Trust us: when you travel all the way to the edge of the world, you’ll want to reach out and touch it too.

Our small expedition ships can take us places | Those larger, unwieldy ships can’t navigate. Smaller polar vessels can take you to remote, tiny villages and settlements, often through narrow fjords and channels. This ability to get off-the-beaten path and avoid overcrowded shore landings means you have a much more authentic polar experience. Most indigenous settlements, for example, simply cannot accommodate huge numbers of visitors from those larger expedition vessels. Because of our relatively smaller numbers of guests, there’s no endless waiting to embark and disembark. (Who wants to do that while on their dream polar trip?) Our smaller ships are much more intimate and friendly, enabling guests to quickly get on first-name basis with the expedition crew, onboard staff and fellow passengers. Small polar vessels resonate with the explorer in all of us!

Diverse Fleet | Our vessels offer you a wide range of choice in terms of capacity (135 to 199); price points ($8,000 to $40,000); cabins (solo, couple or group) and even style of ship. For instance, you may be attracted to the classic wooden touches of Ocean Adventurer, the world-class spa on World Explorer, or the sturdiness of 50 Years of Victory. Then, of course, there’s our game-changing new ship Ultramarine.

Ultramarine: Unrivalled base for polar exploration | Equipped with two twin-engine helicopters, 20-quick launching Zodiacs, superb onboard amenities (including a sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows), advanced sustainability systems, and the largest portfolio of off-ship adventure options in the industry, the technologically-advanced Ultramarine has forever changed the way we explore the Arctic and Antarctic.

Rewards Programmes

The Best Team

When you venture into the untouched wilds of the Arctic and Antarctic, you need a great team around you. And we have the greatest. You’ll join elite guides trained at Quark Academy—which surpasses every standard imaginable for safety and preparedness in the Polar Regions—and interact directly with world-class polar experts. Our philosophy? The team that explores together, discovers more together.

Our Expedition Team | Guests will travel with the most experienced team in the industry—some of whom have honed their polar expertise over more than 200 expeditions in their 20-plus-year career. The guest experience is enriched by paddle guides, photography guides, geologists, ornithologists and other experts who share their expertise as it relates to each specific polar destination.

Always an Opportunity to Learn | Guests, whether they’re new to a topic or are longtime enthusiasts, broaden their knowledge base as they learn from expert presenters (on polar history, glaciology, ornithology, penguin science, marine biology etc.) . These world-renown polar authorities share their expertise daily in the context of what guests see and do during their off-ship excursions.

Learn in all environments | Our 1:6 expedition team member-to-guest ratio means you’ll have all the attention you want throughout your voyage and excellent access to polar experts. You could be standing on the deck of a ship, binoculars in hand, discussing seabirds with one of our ornithologists. This enriched (and often spontaneous) interaction with staff is apt to happen on ship, on a Zodiac or during a shore landing.

World Class Training | Quark Academy, the only proprietary polar training program in the industry, ensures guests have the safest and most immersive experience possible—with the best team in the industry during shore landings and Zodiac excursions. All participants at Quark Academy are fully immersed in the rules and regulations set out by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). The safety of guests—as well as wildlife—is always paramount.

We Take You Deeper

Quark Expeditions goes where others simply can’t. Or won’t. But our expert guides’ abilities to read unknown terrain means where there’s a will, there’s a way—and that way could be by kayak, Zodiac boat, helicopter, or even hot air balloon. In an environment so unpredictable, it pays to have a few backup plans. We don’t just expect the unexpected, we embrace it.

Explore the Environment | Being able to read the polar landscape better than anyone else, our experienced team will maximize your time off ship, whether it’s on a guided walk across the tundra, a Zodiac excursion, kayaking outing, shore landings or wildlife-watching adventures. Our team’s goal is to get guests off the ship and out into the polar landscapes as often as possible—all the while sharing their expertise to fully immerse you in your polar environment.

Adventure Options | Guests can choose from the largest and most unique selection of off-ship Adventure Options in the industry, enjoying one-of-a-kind off-ship experiences no one else can provide. Off-ship activities enable guests to fully immerse themselves in the Polar Regions, whether it’s kayaking deep fjords, Zodiac cruising to distant shores, flight-seeing in one of our two helicopters, camping overnight, hiking or mountain biking. Our goal is for guests to have the deepest experience possible.

Small Ship Advantage | Our small ships (128 to 199 passengers) will take you to places larger ships can’t navigate. Our fleet of smaller vessels can satisfy your inner explorer—that urge to explore deep fjords, hike across tundra where few humans have ever set foot, or kayak through an ice-laden waterway. Guests on large ships miss out on such authentic and immersive polar experiences! On ships like our newest polar vessel, the game-changing Ultramarine, you’ll be able to explore deeper on our two twin-engine helicopters and fleet of 20 quick-launching Zodiacs for off-ship experiences no one else can provide.

Our latest ship | Ultramarine’s helicopters provide you with fresh perspectives of the Polar Regions while taking you to places previously inaccessible.

Community and Culture Experiences | Not only will you be immersed in the natural environment of the Polar Regions (deep fjords, glaciers, icebergs, ice-laden landscapes, snow-capped mountains and tundra), but you’ll also experience and learn firsthand about the culture and traditions of the local people during community visits, such as Greenlandic and Inuit communities.

Regional Experts | The Quark Expeditions team will do everything to get you off the ship and out exploring the polar landscape as often as possible. Equally important are the regional experts who will accompany you in the field, sharing their in-depth knowledge as you marvel at your surroundings.

The Most Innovative Itineraries

We’ve been pioneering new types of expeditions into the Polar Regions for over 30 years now. We not only offer the most itineraries, but the most varied as well. Regardless of where you venture, you can explore culture, wildlife, science, physical activity, and more. To put it simply: More places to explore, more ways to explore them.

The Leader in Polar Adventure | Guests will travel with a team that has achieved more polar milestones than anyone else in the business. A few of those polar firsts include: in 1991, we were the first to bring consumer travelers to the North Pole; in 2003, Quark Expeditions passengers become the first humans to witness a Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica; and In 2004, our team was the first to confirm the fabled Emperor penguin colony at the remote Snow Hill Island in Antarctica. We were also the first to circumnavigate the Arctic and Antarctica.

One-of-a-kind Itineraries | Working with local communities, especially in the Arctic, has allowed us to create itineraries and off-ship experiences exclusive to Quark Expeditions. It’s these local partnerships—nurtured in some cases for years if not decades—that has led to an output of innovative itineraries offered by no one else: Greenland Adventure: Explore By Land, Sea and Air, which has provided helicopter access to rarely-visited parts of Greenland; Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill, which enables guests to experience one of the rarest wildlife sightings on the planet; and Spitsbergen Photography: Under the Midnight Sun, where we rely on local knowledge and the environment to dictate our route.

Variety of options | Guests have flexible options when choosing from our abundant itineraries, which range from 7 to 23 days. You’ll easily find a trip to fit your budget and schedule—and customize according to your interests. If you’re time-strapped, there are our Fly/Express itineraries. Wildlife enthusiasts can choose voyages that focus on, say, polar bears or penguins. Those eager to cross the next big thing off their bucket list can choose to fly over the vast Greenland Ice Sheet in a helicopter—and then land and set foot on it. For others, it may be crossing the Antarctic Circle. There’s something for everyone!

The Most Adventure Activities

Every voyage starts on a ship, but the real adventure happens off-ship. In the polar wilds, we camp, kayak, mountain bike, hike and fly by helicopter to remote locations. We paddleboard on icy waters, and rise above the polar landscape in hot air balloons. With the most adventure options available, how you experience the Polar Regions is entirely up to you.

Immersive Experiences | Guests can be assured of a truly immersive experience. Kayaking, for instance, brings you closer to the ocean surface, while camping brings you closer to nature and the polar terrain. There’s no shortage of ways to immerse you in the Arctic or Antarctic environment. In fact, Quark Expeditions offers the most off-ship activities in the Polar Regions!

Levels for all explorers | Our adventure options and off-ship activities are geared to all ages and level of fitness—and interests. You get to choose the outing that best suits you. Our hiking options, for instance, accommodate those looking for a leisurely stroll to take photographs to more advanced hikes for guests who want to pump up their heart rate. In our Greenland Adventure voyage, you can choose an energetic outing on helicopter-supported mountain biking, or opt for the overnight camping where you get to sit idly by a fjord and soak up the ambiance of South Greenland.

Helicopter innovations and more! | Innovation is in our DNA. Quark Expeditions was the first to offer SUP boarding and hot air ballooning in the Polar Regions. And now we’ve introduced helicopters—for more than just flightseeing. Guests choose from the largest selection of helicopter-supported activities in the Polar Regions, including alpine kayaking, Alpine Heli-trekking and Ice Sheet landings, to name a few.

Small Ships

When it comes to polar expeditions, you’re only as good as where your ships can take you. And our diverse fleet of small polar vessels, which includes icebreakers and expedition ships, can take you to places larger ships can’t navigate. Equally key is our fleet of Zodiac boats, which let us make landfall where others are not able. Trust us: when you travel all the way to the edge of the world, you’ll want to reach out and touch it too.

Our small expedition ships can take us places | Those larger, unwieldy ships can’t navigate. Smaller polar vessels can take you to remote, tiny villages and settlements, often through narrow fjords and channels. This ability to get off-the-beaten path and avoid overcrowded shore landings means you have a much more authentic polar experience. Most indigenous settlements, for example, simply cannot accommodate huge numbers of visitors from those larger expedition vessels. Because of our relatively smaller numbers of guests, there’s no endless waiting to embark and disembark. (Who wants to do that while on their dream polar trip?) Our smaller ships are much more intimate and friendly, enabling guests to quickly get on first-name basis with the expedition crew, onboard staff and fellow passengers. Small polar vessels resonate with the explorer in all of us!

Diverse Fleet | Our vessels offer you a wide range of choice in terms of capacity (135 to 199); price points ($8,000 to $40,000); cabins (solo, couple or group) and even style of ship. For instance, you may be attracted to the classic wooden touches of Ocean Adventurer, the world-class spa on World Explorer, or the sturdiness of 50 Years of Victory. Then, of course, there’s our game-changing new ship Ultramarine.

Ultramarine: Unrivalled base for polar exploration | Equipped with two twin-engine helicopters, 20-quick launching Zodiacs, superb onboard amenities (including a sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows), advanced sustainability systems, and the largest portfolio of off-ship adventure options in the industry, the technologically-advanced Ultramarine has forever changed the way we explore the Arctic and Antarctic.

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