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Old Feb 15, 10, 11:38 am   #1
 
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Ship comparisons

Hi,

I'm hoping to do an Antarctic cruise in December, probably one of the 12-14 day ones. Because the itineraries for many of these cruises are similar, I'm having a tough time narrowing down the options, so the ships and their amenities are one of the things I'm looking at. If you've cruised on any of the following ships, could you please offer some feedback? The following questions come to mind, but if I've omitted anything, please comment on it:
1. Did you feel as if the crew was knowledgeable?
2. How stable was the ship/how much motion did you feel during the Drake Passage crossing?
3. In terms of the number of passengers, too many? Just enough? Not enough?
4. How were the accommodations? Did you feel as if you were roughing it compared to other ships?
5. How was the food?
6. How were the ships other amenities?
7. Was there internet access? (Yes, I'm a workaholic, and may need to get online a few times.)

The ships I'm looking at are:
Akademik Ioffe
Akademik Sergey Vavilov
Clelia II
M/S Expedition
M/V Clipper
Marina Svetaeva
MV 'Le Boreal'
National Geographic Explorer
Ocean Nova
Orlova
Polar Pioneer
Polar Star
Ushuaia

I've put together a spreadsheet of 8-16 day cruise options in December 2010, and I think I've found all of the ships that seem to be cruising in that time period. If you're thinking about an Antarctic cruise for next season, I'd be happy to share my spreadsheet with you. (Although mine focuses on December 2010, I'm sure most of these ships have sailings in other months, too.) One of the more frustrating parts of this is that it's hard to find a comprehensive list of ships that are sailing Antarctic routes.

Thanks!
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Old Feb 16, 10, 1:10 am   #2
 
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Akademik Ioffe
We did One Ocean Expeditions' trip a year ago on Multanovsky, that seems to be about the same size and type of vessel as Ioffe.

Drake Passage can be a pain but it's just a few days (;-). I'd feel more safe on a ship made for Artic voyages than on a cruise ship made for comfort. The quality of accommodation, food and everything else was fine. The best cabins are usually at the top but the ship actually rolls less in the lower cabins. Window isn't such a big deal either. We still talk about the "Exorcist night" in the Drake Passage..

There was no internet although there was an option for telephone calls (and e-mail?) if required. Pretty expensive. Forget working with internet access.

The ship crew was russian and most didn't speak much english, friendly and very professional. They knew the ship, they've probably been in much worse place than a typical tourist Antarctic trip and I'd rather have them steering the ship than anyone from the Caribbean.

Overall I would put emphasis on the company doing the expedition, we found most of the One Ocean staff very good, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It's fun when the staff is as enthusiastic about the trip as you are. The bartender and chef were also part of their staff and most of the food was amazing considering the environment.

It was a small ship so it was never a question if there's room to make a landing or a zodiac cruise, on a bigger ship you may have to take shifts. A small ship can change route much more easily as the conditions change for every trip. Our trip was in mid January and it was pretty good timing; the previous trip didn't see sun and some of the places were still blocked by ice, we had great weather, plenty of blue sky and the place was as Antarctic as one can image. We later heard that a trip in late January had already a lot less snow and ice.

The worst part of our trip was that we booked the expedition through a 3rd party, their service level dropped quite a bit after they got the money and we didn't learn who was actually doing our cruise until at the very end. Also there were plenty of information that we never received, like where to meet in Ushuaia ;-) I would highly recommend you figure out the actual company doing the cruise and book direct.
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Old Feb 16, 10, 6:21 am   #3
 
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Originally Posted by ojala View Post
We did One Ocean Expeditions' trip a year ago on Multanovsky, that seems to be about the same size and type of vessel as Ioffe.

Drake Passage can be a pain but it's just a few days (;-). I'd feel more safe on a ship made for Artic voyages than on a cruise ship made for comfort. The quality of accommodation, food and everything else was fine. The best cabins are usually at the top but the ship actually rolls less in the lower cabins. Window isn't such a big deal either. We still talk about the "Exorcist night" in the Drake Passage..

There was no internet although there was an option for telephone calls (and e-mail?) if required. Pretty expensive. Forget working with internet access.

The ship crew was russian and most didn't speak much english, friendly and very professional. They knew the ship, they've probably been in much worse place than a typical tourist Antarctic trip and I'd rather have them steering the ship than anyone from the Caribbean.

Overall I would put emphasis on the company doing the expedition, we found most of the One Ocean staff very good, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It's fun when the staff is as enthusiastic about the trip as you are. The bartender and chef were also part of their staff and most of the food was amazing considering the environment.

It was a small ship so it was never a question if there's room to make a landing or a zodiac cruise, on a bigger ship you may have to take shifts. A small ship can change route much more easily as the conditions change for every trip. Our trip was in mid January and it was pretty good timing; the previous trip didn't see sun and some of the places were still blocked by ice, we had great weather, plenty of blue sky and the place was as Antarctic as one can image. We later heard that a trip in late January had already a lot less snow and ice.

The worst part of our trip was that we booked the expedition through a 3rd party, their service level dropped quite a bit after they got the money and we didn't learn who was actually doing our cruise until at the very end. Also there were plenty of information that we never received, like where to meet in Ushuaia ;-) I would highly recommend you figure out the actual company doing the cruise and book direct.
I wholeheartedly agree on everything you wrote. I travelled with the Yamal and the Orlova. Tour Company was Quark Expeditions. Don't book through a middleman!

If you are a workaholic, don't go there. No internet access!
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Old Feb 16, 10, 7:01 am   #4
 
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Thanks for the feedback! You described the ship Multanovsky as a smaller ship. How many passengers? I found conflicting pieces of info re. whether the Ioffe holds 86 or 110 passengers.

Alas, if the choice is between going to Antarctica and checking email a couple times, or not going to Antarctica, I'm going to Antarctica. I'm self-employed, and disappearing from my client's radar screen for two weeks (even with their knowledge & advance warning) could kill my business. In this economy, I have no choice, so unfortunately it might limit my ship selection.
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Old Feb 16, 10, 7:22 am   #5
 
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One more reason to take a tour with a small ship: It can go to places where a large ship isn't allowed to. Due to environmental regulations 100 pax may be allowed to land on island X by zodiac where a larger ship with 200 pax onboard is not.
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Old Feb 16, 10, 8:01 am   #6
 
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Originally Posted by daysleeper View Post
One more reason to take a tour with a small ship: It can go to places where a large ship isn't allowed to. Due to environmental regulations 100 pax may be allowed to land on island X by zodiac where a larger ship with 200 pax onboard is not.
I noticed that Abercrombie & Kent's new ship, Le Boreal, can carry more people but caps Antarctic cruises at 199 passengers. I'm sure that's a factor.
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Old Feb 17, 10, 3:38 am   #7
 
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Originally Posted by chgoeditor View Post
Thanks for the feedback! You described the ship Multanovsky as a smaller ship. How many passengers? I found conflicting pieces of info re. whether the Ioffe holds 86 or 110 passengers.
Looking at the deck plans, our Multanovsky had 29 cabins. The expedition staff needs cabins as well so it was about ~50 passengers.

Ioffe has 59 cabins so it's actually bigger and would hold ~100 passengers. Perhaps it's 86 + staff, or 110 w/o staff.

I was very pleased with the number of passengers on our ship, makes all the zodiac loadings and landings pretty fast. I would definetly not want to go on a Antarctica cruise that is bigger than Ioffe's ~100 passengers.

Quote:
Alas, if the choice is between going to Antarctica and checking email a couple times, or not going to Antarctica, I'm going to Antarctica. I'm self-employed, and disappearing from my client's radar screen for two weeks (even with their knowledge & advance warning) could kill my business. In this economy, I have no choice, so unfortunately it might limit my ship selection.
You might want to check renting an Iridium or Inmarsat terminal and connect it to your laptop. Iridium is pretty slow for data so Inmarsat might be the best option, a quick looks gives terminals from $40/week and 25 Mbytes of data costs about $170. It's not cheap on the ships offering internet access either.
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Old Feb 17, 10, 8:38 am   #8
 
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Originally Posted by ojala View Post
Looking at the deck plans, our Multanovsky had 29 cabins. The expedition staff needs cabins as well so it was about ~50 passengers.

Ioffe has 59 cabins so it's actually bigger and would hold ~100 passengers. Perhaps it's 86 + staff, or 110 w/o staff.

I was very pleased with the number of passengers on our ship, makes all the zodiac loadings and landings pretty fast. I would definetly not want to go on a Antarctica cruise that is bigger than Ioffe's ~100 passengers.



You might want to check renting an Iridium or Inmarsat terminal and connect it to your laptop. Iridium is pretty slow for data so Inmarsat might be the best option, a quick looks gives terminals from $40/week and 25 Mbytes of data costs about $170. It's not cheap on the ships offering internet access either.
Thanks for the Iridium/Inmarsat suggestion.
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Old Feb 17, 10, 8:56 am   #9
 
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I did the Ioffe and agree with the above. I wanted the adventure and the atmosphere and got it. The Ioffe is not luxe by any means but I had the best time with a great crowd. The Drake passage was rough, if you even think you might get seasick take the meds preventatively. Once it hits, the only way to get drugs to help is by injection. The zodiac trips were great. We made it all the way down to the Antarctic circle, which they told us doesn't happen on every cruise. Even got a certificate to prove it.
I'm not the A&K egyptian thread and helicopter type, so I couldn't comment on any trip of that financial class..
I booked through Peregrine in Australia, very reliable and responsive. Last I checked they ask USA residents to book through Adventure Center.
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Old Feb 18, 10, 4:08 am   #10
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You didn't mention Kapitan Khlebnikov (the big Russian icebreaker). Quark charter it and supply their own tour crew and kitchen staff. Its a rough ride in the Drake - make sure the chair in your room is tied down as it may fall into your bunk. Food is 1st class (once you are comfortable eating it).

This year (2010/11) will be the KKs last in the Antarctic. Worth it if you can make it. Their email access was about $1 / kb. They stressed that you should not sent images or attachments due to cost. No internet.
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Old Feb 18, 10, 6:50 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by og View Post
You didn't mention Kapitan Khlebnikov (the big Russian icebreaker). Quark charter it and supply their own tour crew and kitchen staff. Its a rough ride in the Drake - make sure the chair in your room is tied down as it may fall into your bunk. Food is 1st class (once you are comfortable eating it).

This year (2010/11) will be the KKs last in the Antarctic. Worth it if you can make it. Their email access was about $1 / kb. They stressed that you should not sent images or attachments due to cost. No internet.
I wish is could make it, but the Kapitan Khlebnikov leaves in early December 2010 (my target travel date) for a 32-day Antarctic cruise! Sounds fabulous.
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Old Feb 19, 10, 5:31 am   #12
 
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The Drake passage was rough, if you even think you might get seasick take the meds preventatively. Once it hits, the only way to get drugs to help is by injection.
Agreed, we took the meds for both ways just to be sure. But still once I had to finish the lunch early, head to the bed and have a boost pill. About third of the passengers were pretty absent for those days..

Even if the sea isn't rough, the boats aren't that stable -- they have been made to be work horses, not pleasure ships.
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Old Feb 19, 10, 7:05 am   #13
 
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Originally Posted by ojala View Post
Agreed, we took the meds for both ways just to be sure. But still once I had to finish the lunch early, head to the bed and have a boost pill. About third of the passengers were pretty absent for those days..

Even if the sea isn't rough, the boats aren't that stable -- they have been made to be work horses, not pleasure ships.
Good to know, and it sounds like everyone should take the meds to be careful. Even though I've always enjoyed the motion of boats, I'll probably be sailing with people who don't. Sounds like we'll go for lower-level cabins toward the center of the ship if we can. (I always find it ironic that the cheapest cabins usually have the most motion and the more expensive ones are usually in the parts of the boat that feel the most movement.)
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Old Feb 19, 10, 9:31 pm   #14
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National Geographic Explorer
My wife and I are taking the Explorer this winter to the Antarctic. We've been on her sister ship, the Endeavour, twice. Once above the Arctic Circle and once to the Antarctic Peninsula. This winters trip will be our 7th with Lindblad overall. (Alaska, Baja, Arctic, Galapagos, Antarctica, Alaska/Canada, Antarctica)

The NG Explorer is a new ship, custom built and stabilized for arctic travel. No helicopters, but very comfortable accommodations and GREAT food. The ship carries National Geographic photographers and naturalists who have been with Lindblad for dozens of years. They will get you on land when none of the other operators can.

If connectivity is an issue, they have an on-board Inmarsat link shared throughout the ship over WiFi. In Antarctica, you are never so far south that connectivity is an issue.

The Drake is going to be rough, but can be handled well enough with medication (supplied in bowls on the bar ). I never missed a meal on their trips.

The Explorer takes 148 guests in 81 outside cabins. The Endeavour held 96 guests. I'm wondering what it will be like with 50 extra people this time, but with 96 on a 15 day trip there was time to get to know everyone.

You will have a blast no matter which company you choose. Before we went to Antarctic ourselves we often met fellow Lindblad fans who had been there three, four, or even more times. Couldn't understand it at the time, but now we're heading back ourselves for the second time in two years. LOL.

If you don't want to spend all your spare cash on adventure travel in future years, do not go with Lindblad on this trip.

We did our first trip with them in 2006 and have averaged two trips a year ever since

Last edited by birdstrike; Feb 19, 10 at 9:36 pm.
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Old Feb 19, 10, 10:22 pm   #15
 
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My wife and I are taking the Explorer this winter to the Antarctic.
Birdstrike, I can't wait to hear details about your trip! Does "this winter" mean you're going in the next month or two, or this coming December?
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