Any recommendations on who to go with?
Any recommendations on who to go with?
have just posted my comments re my trip to antarctica in feb 2012 - after chatting with all my fellow passengers and experiencing the trip myself i reckon you can't beat quark - their agents in oz are peregrine - but you need to book well in advance - but a truly awesome trip - if you go there take +++ film or video
I visited the Antarctic Peninsula several years ago with National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions aboard their National Geographic Explorer. The trip was incredible and I am sure that, no matter which travel company you end up choosing, setting foot on the Seventh Continent will be one of the highlights of your travel experiences.
Having previously had an excellent time with a land-based National Geographic Expedition I was happy to see that their quality continued out on the sea. The crew was very professional yet approachable. There were experts - naturalists/scientists and professional photographers - on board who not only gave lectures but were also available for one-on-one discussions or instructions (such as with photography). They helped make this unique trip even more special. The National Geographic Explorer is an ice class 1A ship, not quite an ice-breaker, but with a hull reinforced and strengthened enough that we got to see it in action as it smashed into and through 3-4 foot thick ice into the middle of an ice pack where we were let out to walk around. The food was very good and the service excellent and friendly. The ship amenities feature an observation deck-with- library, a small gym and spa. The staff included a wellness-director who led daily morning exercises and ran the small spa. It was nice to get a massage. The large main lounge for the lectures and other gatherings also had a bar which was open during every talk. There was free tea, hot chocolate, and coffee 24/7 at the forward Chart Room. The beds were comfy (not that we spent much time in the cabin given the place and the long daylight hours).
There are no human habitations in the Antarctic other than research stations and getting ashore means using rigid inflatable boats (commonly called Zodiacs) for ship-to-shore transfers. We were the first trip of the season and there was still a lot of snow and ice on the ground. The crew had to scout ahead for safe landing zones before letting us get onto the Zodiacs. They even nixed a proposed landing on one of the first islands - Aitchoo islands - as being too difficult or dangerous; there was a Plan B, however. for an alternative landing.
We had a great time in 2-person kayaks paddling around icebergs, watching gentoo penguins and leopard seals swim around us. The scientists piloted a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) underwater that they used to view and film the sea floor; we were shown the videos later the same day during the daily recap. There was also a small team of divers/researchers aboard the ship that shared their findings with us. We got to explore several islands on foot and watch gentoo, chinstrap, and adelie penguins call out for mates and make their stone nests. Seal were everywhere as well. The whales literally started showing up on our last day in the Antarctic Peninsula before we departed.
I cannot speak as to other Antarctica expeditions but several passengers on my trip were repeat travelers to Antarctica with National Geographic/Lindblad. Look at the other companies offering trips, their ships and itineraries, although the latter are likely to be similar across the board. Also think about the timing of your trip; early summer (November) means fewer ships, more snow and ice, no mud and little guano, and perhaps fewer animals as many are just coming ashore at this time. Most lacking early in the season are the cute penguin chicks; the penguins are just starting their nests and laying eggs. Later in the summer (Feb-Mar) means more mud and guano, more ships sailing through the same waters and more trampled landing sites, but perhaps also more wildlife and young ones although the latter may no longer be so cute. We were fortunate with our crossings of the infamous Drake Passage in that it was smooth sailing both ways (the Drake "lake" and not the Drake "shake" in the words of the crew).
I apologize for this lengthy reply but I wholeheartedly recommend National Geographic-Lindblad for a trip to the Antarctic.
A big +1 for National Geographic-Lindblad. ImmerWandern pretty much covered everything. I went in January 2011 with family and we absolutely loved it! Someday I will do that trip again.
Is that we have to tip about US$10-15 per person perday on board?
Is true that we have to pay tips around US $10-15 per person per day on board as I get this from G advanture?
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Your trip sounds absolutely fantatstic!! Sounds like the kind of thing the we are looking to do!!!
I am just reading up on Antarctic Ships just now!!! Is this a 110 passenger Ship similar to the "NG Endeavour"?
THanks in advance
Our trip to Antarctica was unforgettable; it truly is the last untouched, unspoiled place in the world. We booked our trip through Quark directly, receiving a 25% discount for early booking. Below is a list of pluses and minuses of Quark’s performance– there are more minuses than pluses, however I still gave the overall trip 4 stars. The minuses are just a few items that I wish I was aware of in advance.
• The food was incredible, this was a wonderful surprise. Breakfast was hot and cold buffet plus made to order eggs. Lunch was buffet. Dinner was served, included choice of soup, salad, entrée and dessert. Every evening 3 choices available – fish, meant (usually red), and veggie option. Chef will also adjust for dietary needs, ie low sodium. Friend mentioned kitchen unsuccessfully tried to prepare gluten free meals, however this option needs evolving – if gluten sensitive just be careful.
• On board doctor (Dr. Chris) very good – gave us sea sick meds
• Sr staff very experienced, evident that client satisfaction is first priority. All staff really cares about Antarctic wildlife and sustainability. Special call out to bird guy Chris.
• Large and well priced wine list and bar. Allowed to bring adult drinks on board (room had 2 wine fridges!)
• Longer than advertised to cross Drake. Sold on trip with 8 excursions; only had 5 due to bad weather. Spent 2 weeks getting to/from Antarctica for only 2.5 days of activities. Weather not made a huge deal until we got to boat. Lots of “if the weather agres,” however I was told there’d be 8 excursions.
• Booked directly through Quark – Cara Nunnenmacher. Cara was unresponsive and unhelpful. All quark reps work 9-5 EST, so if you live in CA (like me) then the time diff is a big disadvantage. Complained about Cara’s responsiveness to her supervisor to no reply. Cara did not book one of our Ushuaia excursion in time and we missed out. Ended up working with Richard Angelidis who was much better, Avoid Cara at all costs.
• Jr staff (kayak guides, shop girls, etc) sit with you at dinner. I understand that Quark wants you to get to know staff, but making small talk with these 20-something hippies is really tiresome, especially after a long day of excursions. None of them were very interesting – in the end I got the impression it was my duty to keep conversation going and not the other way around. Plus, they all drank way too much which was uncomfortable for me as a guest. In the bar after dinner they would all blast Neil Young and sit at their own table. Seemed like they too were on vacation.
• Zodiac driver experience inconsistent. Had 4/5 excursions with Sr staff, which was wonderful. Had one excursion with Vladimir, who stopped to boat for 20 minutes to take pictures with his own camera despite all ppl in board bored. Later on, the gift shop advertised “signed CD” of orginal photos from Vlad. Annoyed that my vacay was delayed for his side business. Other zodiac drivers Rick and Alex were wonderful.
• Bought penguin corkscrew from gift shop – it broke on the 4th bottle we opened in our room. We threw it away before the trip was over.
• In room DVD player broke – took 24 hours to replace (after 3rd request). Did not have remote for new DVD player so nothing worked. Advertised “flat screen” TV is 13”. The IT guy is the captain’s asst.
Things they don’t tell you:
• I felt most people were unprepared for the cold – some ppl wore HIGH HEELS the first day on the ship, other wore denim in the boats and were freezing. The parka Quark provides is not enough, make sure to bring sufficient layers. As one boat-mate said – if you don’t own a “buff” you have not brought enough clothing.
• You need to be in good physical condition/have flexibility or agility. 2 of the 3 landings included uphill hiking, which I noticed was an issue for some older travelers. There’s a lot of bending and balance getting in/out of boats.
• You will most likely get sea-sick – I would say 70% of the boat was sick during the Drake passage. Perhaps not throwing up, but uncomfortable. Make sure to get something from your doctor, just in case,. Same goes for those who think because they have been on previous cruises without issue (like me).
Hope this helps – email me with any questions!
I had some great Aussie advice in this forum about my walking impaired husband going ashore. I appreciate so much the encouragement because Quark Expedition team leaders did an outstanding job. They made certain my 81 year old husband left his walker on the ship and went aboard the Zodiac to shore. The doctor participates in the shore activities as well so we were completely covered for medical aid if needed. Quark is so fantastic I have no words. The Head Waiter, Allan, made sure we had a reserved table inside the front door of the dining room so my husband didn't have far to walk. This was especially helpful when the sea was a little rough. And I say a little rough because it was smooth by most accounts. The Quark staff are so knowledgeable and capable and are great at interacting with guests and in giving lectures. Even without the dancing girls and a casino, there was never a dull moment and it was all exciting. Thanks, Australia for the encouragement. I love you! Quark gets a Hugh shout out, too.
I posted this on the forum re recommended tour companies, but after reading the above comment, I realized I had to add about difficulties of walking on land. I am in my late sixties and have a chronic illness and do not walk so well. I brought folding walking sticks (like ski poles) which I used some of the time. I did not go on any of the difficult "hikes" but did go on longer walks (some were a mile long), the most difficult were on the big rocks. Easier were on snow and sand. Although I do not work out at all, I was able to do all the excursions, even if I had to walk a little slower than others. I always got to where we were going and saw what there was to see. Actually, I would say that I was very proud of myself! But I would tell you that it was extremely do-able.
I just went on a 3-week cruise with Abercrombie & Kent to Antarctica in January 2013. We flew to Santiago and spent a night in the Grand Hyatt, then next morning a charter flight to Ushuaia, short tour and lunch, then boarded Le Boreal. Unlike the Tauck trip, A&K takes over the entire ship. I travel a lot all over the world and this was my best trip ever. The rooms are comfortable (I was on Level 5, regular room, not suite, but paid single supplement). Food was outstanding and all types of liquor, not just wine and beer, always available. Service could not have been better and ALL TIPPING WAS INCLUDED although I gave $20 each to several extra-nice dining staff. I was also told that if you have any Internet time left at the end of the trip, the dining room staff really appreciate that. The expedition staff was outstanding, so knowledgeable and helpful and interesting. We had numerous stops on the way to Antarctica, Falklands, Port Lockroy, Grytviken, St. Andrews Bay, and others. I learned to recognize several types of seals and many kinds of penguins and am now teaching them to my 2-year old granddaughter. You can read my blog at arcticjane.wordpress.com. Usually two expeditions a day. Everything was done with incredible class, no penny-pinching in any way. Forget about weight restrictions because flight to Ushuaia is charter. I hated all the clothes I bought from their travel store, bought everything from REI, almost all on 50% off sale. Wore Lululemon tights. Didn't need my ski underwear because it was 34 degrees in Antarctica. Bought my own Muck boots from Amazon for $100, bought Spenco inserts and wore with ski socks, making them very comfortable. Rental is $70 and you don't know if they will fit until it is too late to do anything about it. A&K gave everyone red fleece-lined parkas and day/backpacks. Used several zip-up sweaters, some with light tops underneath. Leggings everyday. Light fleece jacket. Waterproof pants are essential and a good wool hat that covers your ears. Take 2 smaller suitcase or duffels rather than one big one so they will fit under bed. Just bring slightly nicer top for 2 fancier dinners. Worth buying a really good point and shoot digital camera (I spent over $750 for mine) and take a lot of pictures. This trip was outstanding!
I thought the safari in Africa was the best, but this was even better!
I found klasf's review was helpful! Big thanks!!