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39 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
I have never been on a cruise ship before, so have nothing to compare this to. I was there for one thing; to see Antarctica. I had no other expectations, as this is an adventure cruise. We had an absolute blast on this cruise. ... Read More
I have never been on a cruise ship before, so have nothing to compare this to. I was there for one thing; to see Antarctica. I had no other expectations, as this is an adventure cruise. We had an absolute blast on this cruise. Antarctica was worth every penny. We haven't seen wildlife/scenery like that ever in our life before, and don't think we ever will again. We opted for the 11 day Antarctic Explorer cruise with Quark Expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavour. First off, everything from Buenos Aires including the hotel and chartered flights were great. We had absolutely no problems at all and Quark were very well organised in getting us into and out of Buenos Aires. Everything was superbly organised in regards to the daily activities in Antarctica and I felt like they really made sure to maximise our time in Antarctica, which was our main objective! Of course, there is a massive emphasis on safety, making sure they knew where everyone was at all times, and making sure to leave nothing behind in Antarctica. I was very impressed with the crew's attention to detail on these matters. Yes, sometimes they have to talk to you like you are 12 years old, but unfortunately we did see some passengers do some pretty silly things - I can understand why staff need to be so regimented. The itinerary for your time in Antarctica obviously depends on the weather, but we were able to do both a landing and a zodiac cruise most mornings and afternoons. You would generally have around 1-2 hours on land and then the same on a zodiac cruise per outing. There were minimal waiting times, they certainly have it down to a fine art. Plus, there was always a cup of hot chocolate waiting for you when you boarded the ship after a long day out cruising. We felt as though we saw everything we wanted and our time there wasn't impeded by the number of people on board. The guides make a point of swinging the zodiacs around so that everyone has a chance to get a look and take their photos. On the landings it is easy to escape people and find your own quiet space. We also stopped at a Ukrainian research station and another day, we broke through some thin sea ice at the end of the Lemaire Channel - which I was not expecting. Fascinating stuff! Our expedition leader was Solan and it was obvious that he loved his job and worked 24/7 to make sure that we had a great time. The expedition team worked around him tirelessly (but happily it seemed) throughout the cruise. The expedition team was made up of scientists, historians, photographers etc which made the zodiac cruises/landings and any discussion you had with them very interesting. They were very good at mingling with the passengers and would often come and sit with us at lunch or talk to us at the bar. We even had a nobel peace prize winner on our expedition team and the BBC on board!!! During cruising days, we were given lectures by the various marine biologists, historians, glaciologists, penguinologists etc which I thoroughly enjoyed! I found the actual ship much more comfortable than expected, considering it was an adventure cruise. To me, it felt quite luxurious (although again, I have nothing to compare it to). There was drinking water available in the communal areas, so make sure you bring a drink bottle of some sort. All communal areas were quite large and comfortable. There was plenty of space for everyone. I was really impressed with the meals provided on the cruise. I was not expecting such creativity and really felt that they all did a great job with what they had. The meals were buffets for breakfast/lunch and a 4-5 course meal for dinner. The buffets had plenty of variety, with menus that changed each day and the dinners were overall fantastic. Plentiful wine was served at each dinner - dangerous just before entering the drake passage. They just keep on re-filling your glass! There are free yoga classes daily on board the Ocean Endeavour which you only need to put your name on a list for. The bar was well equipped and open every day/afternoon, a beer cost around 5-6 USD and I think the same for a glass of wine. They did have a few nights where you were given free glasses of champagne, ie. the captain's welcome etc. Hospitality was amazing at all times on this ship. Staff were extremely well-trained and were very helpful (even let me take some food down to my husband who was feeling a little under the weather). They worked the restaurant with ease, even when we were crossing the Drake and the boat was moving from side to side - I was impressed! We were always greeted with a smile. Our rooms were made everyday and beds turned down during dinner. I took my nikon SLR with a 18-110mm lense and a go-pro and was really happy with that. We did the camping and felt it was worth it - a great place to do a go-pro time lapse. In summary, the actual Antarctic experience was fantastic and well-managed. We would do it again, we felt it was great value for money. Of course, you would get a more personal experience on a smaller boat with less passengers, but that would also have cost a lot more. The amount of people didn't bother us at all, as there are plenty of communal areas to escape to and the expedition staff managed the landings so well. Entertainment on the ship was great, plenty of interesting lectures to attend. Food was great, considering the isolated place that you are travelling to. Hospitality was faultless. Rooms and facilities were comfortable and well furnished. The ship did roll a little in the drake passage and a lot of people were sick, but the doctor was very responsive and had plenty of sea sickness tablets to dish out (also free). Would I do it again? Hell, yes! If only I could afford it ;) Read Less
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