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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
I originally found Aurora Expeditions on the internet a couple of years ago when we did a Scottish sea kayaking expedition with them. We realized at that time that Aurora was BY FAR the best expedition organization we had ever traveled ... Read More
I originally found Aurora Expeditions on the internet a couple of years ago when we did a Scottish sea kayaking expedition with them. We realized at that time that Aurora was BY FAR the best expedition organization we had ever traveled with anywhere. The lectures, personnel, the superb experts of Scottish history and archeology that traveled with us, the food and everything else were simply PEERLESS! There was simply nothing to criticize. Therefore, we decided to do our South Georgia/Antarctic kayaking expedition with them this past January. Were we the least bit disappointed??? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! In fact, this most recent South Georgia/Antarctic adventure with Aurora excelled to a seemingly impossible level that even exceeded our previous Scottish expedition with them. Thank you, Gary, Robyn, Alex, Allen, Alasdair, Judy and all other members of the incredible Aurora Expedition staff that made our travels with Aurora simply peerless experiences of a lifetime. How can one expect better than perfection! Thank you Aurora. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
I chose Polar Pioneer for the round Svalbard trip because a smaller ship would have less environmental impact, would be friendlier and would feel more like an expedition. The Aurora team were completely fantastic - knowledgeable, ... Read More
I chose Polar Pioneer for the round Svalbard trip because a smaller ship would have less environmental impact, would be friendlier and would feel more like an expedition. The Aurora team were completely fantastic - knowledgeable, experienced, careful about our safety, efficient getting us into and off the zodiacs, friendly and looked after us really well. They worked hard to avoid other ships also circling Svalbard and to find wildlife for us to watch. Utterly professional. It took a couple days to settle down into the slower rhythm of shipboard life. The twice daily zodiac trips, usually landing for a shorter or longer walk, were fascinating - wildlife, flora, experiencing the tundra terrain, walrus/seal/whaling hunting history, glaciers and ice. And the two days we spent north of 80 latitude, drifting in the ice in the ship, were just wonderful. It was a privilege to be able go up to watch wildlife from the bridge, or to go out on the bow in the wind and closer to the sea and ice. I loved it all. The twin cabin was snug with lots of storage for clothes and suitcases. Lots of hot water for showers, towels replaced as often as you required, and cleaned daily. Food was really excellent, fresh, varied and well cooked, with a vegetarian option, and hot drinks, fruit and biscuits were available 24/day. I had the misfortune that my luggage was delayed in flight so went on the 10 day trip with only one hastily bought change of warm clothes plus minimal toiletries (no binoculars, walking pole, chargers etc). I was loaned more warm clothes by Aurora staff and had many offers of long johns etc and charging for electronic equipment by lovely fellow passengers. What could have been a miserable disaster turned out to be an utterly memorable experience. And Aurora staff also tracked down where my luggage was and arranged for it to be waiting for me at Longyearbyen for my flight home. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was my first time booking with Aurora Expeditions and I decided to take a leap of faith in booking one of the bigger and pricier trips: Antarctica. I couldn't have better things to say! I'm a very well traveled woman in my ... Read More
This was my first time booking with Aurora Expeditions and I decided to take a leap of faith in booking one of the bigger and pricier trips: Antarctica. I couldn't have better things to say! I'm a very well traveled woman in my 30s- traveled on this trip solo. The experience was flawless from start to finish. Amazing itinerary which the crew needed to adjust during the trip due to weather considerations (it is Antarctica and the weather is unpredictable after all) and IMPECCABLY adjusted. The crew was professional, knowledgeable, fun and adventurous. The food was tremendous. The activities were the stand-outs of the trip- led by true experienced professionals. This trip was the real deal. Plus, met lots of great people on board of all ages. I look forward to traveling with Aurora in the future! And yes, have no hesitation to do the exact same itinerary again. Side note:For those taking a cruise to Antarctica, give yourself a few days at the start of your trip- I witnessed a few people almost miss the boat due to flight delays. Plus, lots of amazing things to do in Patagonia, so the days won't be wasted! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
I was to undertake the Jewels of the Artic cruise embarking Reykjavik (Keflavik Port) and disembarking Longyearbyen. The ship provided by Aurora Expeditions is Polar Pioneer and I am in a triple share (cabin 301) and had made acquaintance ... Read More
I was to undertake the Jewels of the Artic cruise embarking Reykjavik (Keflavik Port) and disembarking Longyearbyen. The ship provided by Aurora Expeditions is Polar Pioneer and I am in a triple share (cabin 301) and had made acquaintance with my roomies on the bus to Keflavik. I had chosen this cruise for the small number of passengers (54) and the fact that the smallness of the ship allows it to enter fiords that the larger ships are unable to enter and at the time the price was right. The fact that you are off the ship in a zodiac twice a day when allowable dependant on the weather also appealed to me. Some times you just cruise the shoreline looking at the magnificent cliffs or amongst the glaciers. And other times you step ashore and dependant on your level of fitness you can go on a long walk a short walk or just wait near the zodiacs all under the watchful eye of an expedition leader. Keeping in mine that the terrain is very rocky and at times unstable with steep inclines will determine your decision .Expedition leaders talk about the artefacts found and history of the area. You always return to the ship for lunch speaking of which the meals are excellent breakfast help yourself but lunch and dinner are served. The menu along with times for meals is posted on the notice board the night before with the option to change to vegetarian if you so choose. If you do not want to hang on the bow deck you are always welcome to sit at the bridge and watch the Artic sail by and see if you can spot a polar bear or seal. And if you do it is a bonus but not guaranteed not on this cruise. The shared bathroom facilities worked well with my own experience of never having to wait The water was always hot (be careful as water very hot) A bar of soap (Dove soap)and pack of tissues is provided in your cabin and if you want ,clean towels every day (I had mine changed every other day).If you want a clean towel you just put your towel on the floor outside the cabin. There is a laundry service but I took my cloths line and found that cloths where dry the next morning if not later that same day. There is little by way of organised entertainment in fact none but on those days of just sailing (4 in total) there are lectures given by the expedition leaders. Some interesting some not so. Towards the end of the cruise there was movie night with documentaries being shown. There is bar and this is where most people hang out this is also where the laptops are for downloading your photos for share purposes and also for the best 6 for the photo book of the journey. The bar is also the place where at the end of everyday the expedition leader gives a recap of the days events and what is expected to happen tomorrow Boots for shore landings are provided at no extra charge Hint: Take lambs wool innersoles and toe warmers they both work a treat Because it is so cold camera battery life is shortened so again Hint: take hand warmers to keep battery warm as well as your hands or put battery and memory cards in your pocket body heat to keep warm Hint: take dry bag for camera when in zodiac can get wet or if small enough but inside life vest but attach to a langland around your neck zodiacs can get bumpy Wifi is available for a cost so come on people live without it for a few days. There is a doctor on board so if you have not brought your own medical kit take advantage if need be to use the services of the doctor who by the way doubles as an expedition leader If I have one complaint it would be kayaking .I am a novice - but have kayaked in Alaska (and I thought the extra cost a bit prohibitive) but I would have loved to have had a paddle in the Artic Sea but I was not in the league of the kayakers who would be taken out everyday by an expedition leader and be out for hours and unlike the zodiac users would be given baileys with their morning tea break. So I think consideration should be given to some people like myself As is done on these voyages if you are silly or stupid enough you are given the option of a polar plunge . I would recommend this cruise to anyone interested in wakening to snow covered mountains, a tiny village of coloured houses ,to mountains so high you cannot see the top ,to be surrounded by sheet ice yes this cruise is for you but if you want luxury cruising this is not for you. Remember that Polar Pioneer is an expedition ship and therefore no bells and whistles just the basics and you feel every wave Dependant on costing I would use Aurora Expeditions again but sometimes when you compare the cost of twin share with own bathroom and maybe 100 people the economics speaks for itself (and yes that can also come at a cost) Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We chose Polar Pioneer mostly because it was a small ship with maximum 54 passengers as well as the fact that it was able to go to many places that the bigger ships could not & that they would change the route depending on weather, ... Read More
We chose Polar Pioneer mostly because it was a small ship with maximum 54 passengers as well as the fact that it was able to go to many places that the bigger ships could not & that they would change the route depending on weather, wildlife sightings etc. …..this turned out to be an excellent choice!! The Ship: Being a smaller ship the cabins & communal areas were basic but very comfortable. We chose a twin window cabin with private bathroom (there were also share bathroom options), the bathroom was fine & the beds were comfortable with an area underneath to store our suitcases. There were 2 dining areas, a lecture room & a bar where we met at the end of each day to recap our day’s activities & plan for the following day. I would have liked larger viewing windows in these areas (as we had on ms Expedition in the Antarctic) but as it turned out my favourite place was on the bow – because it was here I could watch as the ship cruise through the ice & when we nosed into the pack ice this is where the Polar bears came up to investigate us & I felt so close that I could hear them breathing as I stood mesmerized by the sparkle of their translucent fur in the sunlight (up until then I had always thought Polar bears fur was just white). The Food: Food was buffet breakfast each morning with the usual cereals, yogurt, fruit, pastries, bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans & breakfast sausages. Lunch & Dinner were set meals that were put up in the morning so that if we wanted something different we could opt for the vegetarian meal. Lunch was usually soup followed by hot meal such as beef stroganoff, chicken curry, fish & chips, wraps, ham & cheese toasties. Dinner was a salad followed by a hot meal such as lamb shanks, salmon, local fish, meat & vegetables, then dessert such as apple crumble & ice cream, pudding etc. There was also coffee, tea, hot chocolate & biscuits available 24 hrs a day. One night we had a BBQ on the deck with complimentary soft drink, beer & gluhwein (hot mulled wine) & dancing afterwards which was a lot of fun, The Expedition Team: The expedition team were excellent & very knowledgeable on the area as most had been there many times. They were very approachable & there were many opportunities to chat with them & to ask questions. The seven main team members were made up of an expedition leader, 3 biologists – one who’s expertise was marine animals, one land animals & the other birds (one of the biologists was also a previous expedition leader), as well as 3 others who had experience in just about everything. We also enjoyed the open bridge policy and spent time up there with the crew on the look-out for wildlife. The Expedition, Itinerary & Wildlife: Our 10 day expedition was basically to circumnavigate the main Svalbard island of Spitsbergen in a clockwise direction & we were informed from the start that this itinerary was open to change depending on weather, ice, wildlife opportunities etc. Our first night aboard we were informed that due to a low pressure area building up on the west coast it had been decided by the expedition leader in conjunction with the captain that we would now go in an anti-clockwise direction & this turned out to be a very good decision. We also managed to go much further north around into the ice pack than expected (81o 37.6’ N) & this is where we had the most ‘up close & personal’ experiences with Polar bears as they came to investigate our ship. We saw a total of 23 polar bears, some up very close to the ship or zodiac & some that were further away. We saw bears feeding, bears with cubs, bears on shore and bears on ice & at times felt that we were part of a David Attenborough documentary especially as we watched a mother & cub run then swim to escape an aggressive male. We walked up to walruses hauled out on the beach, saw them sunning on rocks & swimming near our zodiacs (luckily not too close – as one of the kayakers had to use his paddle to dissuade one walrus from eating his kayak). There were numerous puffins, skuas, terns, gulls, geese, & other Arctic birds, while the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet were an amazing sight, sound & smell with over 100,000 pairs of breeding guillemots. We also saw Arctic foxes lying in wait for the possibility of an egg, chick or injured bird falling from the ledges. We caught glimpses of a blue whale & fin whale but they were more in the distance & saw a few seals, but these seemed nowhere as prolific as Antarctica. There were usually two excursions a day, a landing and a zodiac cruise. As we had about a dozen kayakers this meant that each time there were 5 zodiacs each with only 8 pax. so disembarkation was quick & easy. Landings were usually split into long or short hikes. The threat of polar bears meant that at all times you need to be part of a group with an expedition team member at the front & at the back with a gun as well as at strategic spots to keep a look-out. In summary we would highly recommend this ship for those interested in learning about the history & enjoying the scenery & wildlife of Spitsbergen but remember the Polar Pioneer is definitely an expedition ship not a luxury cruise liner cheers, G&G Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
We had exceptionnal opportunities to go on shore and discover Antarctica and its wonderful wild life. We went for zodiac cruises or outings on shore 2 to 3 times per day (about 5-7 hours!). The cruise leaders (Gary and Robyn) were ... Read More
We had exceptionnal opportunities to go on shore and discover Antarctica and its wonderful wild life. We went for zodiac cruises or outings on shore 2 to 3 times per day (about 5-7 hours!). The cruise leaders (Gary and Robyn) were really wonderful. They took time to teach us how to discover Antarctica in a respectful way without disturbing the wildlife and minizing the biosecurity risks such as spreading alien biological species. We learned during the trip that the leaders were scientists, which have been actually involved in research projects in Antarctica. This certainly explained their deep knowledge and their passion for Antarctica. The boat was great. It is a small boat, which has good equipment. There are many places to watch the landscape. Even the bridge is accessible to the passengers, which allows us to see how the boat is drive and to watch the see in a warm atmosphere when the whether is too bad. Its icebreaking ability allowed us to go into Lemaire Channel, covered with ice. An exceptionnal experience! only ice-strengthen boats can do that. The cabins are big enough with plenty of storage space. However, the comfort was closer to a youth hostel or mountain hut, rather than a 5 star hotel. However, when you go to Antarctica to walk among the penguins, the comfort is not the focus. I would definitely sign up to go back again and again on a trip on Polar Pioneer! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
Aurora looked after us from start to finish booked everything the trip itself was far beyond our expectations the Russian crew went out of their way to make the trip great, the guides were outstanding , knowledgeable and friendly and had ... Read More
Aurora looked after us from start to finish booked everything the trip itself was far beyond our expectations the Russian crew went out of their way to make the trip great, the guides were outstanding , knowledgeable and friendly and had our safety in mind at all times with out being police like. We went with some reservations about the trip with things we had read on the internet but they were all far from the truth , the food was really good and lots of it which can be a bad thing. The bar was really well priced and worked on the honour system after hours. The ship was very clean and comfortable and being a small ship holding 50 passengers friendships were soon formed. The time spent ashore was brilliant being small group enabled us to do things big groups can't do and see. Could not recommend this organization enough; will defiantly travel with them again. A lot of the passengers had done several trips with them Read Less
Polar Pioneer Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 2.0 4.6
Dining 4.0 5.0
Entertainment N/A 4.3
Public Rooms 2.0 4.7
Fitness Recreation N/A 4.8
Family 1.0 4.8
Shore Excursion 5.0 5.0
Enrichment 5.0 4.8
Service 4.0 5.0
Value For Money 5.0 5.0

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