If you are going to the Antarctic, options are limited. There are small boats and cruise ships, but the small boats are pricier, handle rough weather not as well, and have fewer dining and cabin choices. The Veendam or one of her sister ships is an alternative. Not too big at under 1,500 guests, it offers the benefits of cruising at a reasonable cost. Bear in mind that HAL cruises to this regions are long, you will be on the ship for a month. The good news: you only unpack once. The size of the ship does not diminsh the views that you will see. The biggest negative is that landing from zodiacs is not in the program from a cruise ship.
Great views were possible from a number of places on the ship as well as our stateroom's veranda. We never felt crowded when sightseeing from the ship.
At McMurdo station, everybody stays in dormitories. Typically you share a room with 1 or 2 more people, boys and girls separate. There are various levels of comfort for these dormitories, i.e. you get the best rooms when you are a "veteran", i.e. you have worked here several seasons. If you stay over the winter, however, you get your own room. When you are a newbie like me, you get the most basic which is fine really. I shared with one person on my way in, and with 2 on my way out (bunkbeds, yeah!). When it gets really crowded, they sometimes add a sleeping mattress on the floor and add a 4th person! That is only for a few days and exceptionally when flights to field parties get delayed by bad weather for example. The bathrooms are shared, we had 2 bathrooms on our floor (one for boys and one for girls again!) for about 20 rooms.
The bathrooms are very clean. The rooms, it depends, as you have to clean them yourself when you leave... and sometimes people do not do a great job so it can be dusty, even if they inspect the rooms! Upon your arrival they give you sheets and there is a pillow on each bed. Do not forget to bring your own towel because they do not provide that (or soap or shampoo). However, laundry is available and free with several rooms of wash machines in each dormitory, even the detergent is free. Also, sort your trash out because you have to empty the bin yourselves and then sort it into at least 5 different categories to maximize recycling.
Picture: Inside the tent in Antarctica showing propane heater used for heat & cooking, our 2 sleeping bags and the door
We are 2 per tent and each of us have one side as you can see in the first pict, with our sleeping bags. Camping in Antarctica is very comfortable as long as you have the heat on! The heat is given by the propane heater that serves both for heating and cooking (Pict 1). While it is on, there is a strong gradient of heat from the ground (we camp on ice, so close to freezing) to the top (almost burning). When we sleep, we turn off the burner of course and it gets very cold so we bury ourselves in our very thick sleeping bags and with several layers of clothes. The 2nd picture shows how we keep things warm and how we defrost things (food, clothes, boots...): by hanging them from the top of the tent. The tents are made of a double layer of thick cloth. You can see the double layer with the view of the door shown in the third picture. The cloth is yellow giving a yellow glow to everything in the tent (explains why my pictures have these weird colors).
When the wind howls the tent shakes and it can be very noisy. The wind also accumulates snow around the tent including in front of the door. So you always keep a shovel near the entrance to dig your way out just in case (happened many days of my 6 weeks there!). Given that the wind mostly comes from the South on the polar plateau, the door faces North but that still does not prevent snow accumulation!
Picture: Our second camp on the the polar plateau at the edge of Miller Range, Antarctica
The most common type of tent used in Antarctica is the "Scott tent", the conic type shown in picture which name comes from the British explorer Falcon Scott. Indeed, the overall shape of these tents has not changed since he went to Antarctica in 1905 and 1911. We set up camp on the ice, whether it was that of a glacier or that of the polar cap. Setting up a tent is very hard physically in windy conditions!. The tent has 2 thick yellow fabric layers, with a small round door.
You can also see on the picture our portable solar panel, very practical to recharge batteries of all sorts. Behind me, the row of boxes contain the food for 2 people (per tent) for 6 weeks. The bucket at the door is used to transport the ice you need to go and get to melt into water for food, drink and washing. Shovels are always ready nearby because Antarctic winds like to deposit mounds of snow on everything that makes obstacle to their path. Quite a few mornings did we have to dig our way out of our tent because the door was blocked by snow!
Camping in Antarctica is actually quite comfortable!
We only stayed one night here, but it is a new hotel just a block away from the main shopping street in Ushuaia and only a short walk down the hill to the ferry terminal - it couldn't have been easier. We didn't need to get a taxi to the port, we simply walked down the hill and were there!
The Hotel does not provide dinner, but that gave us a chance to explore some restaurants. Breakfast is continental on the fourth floor, which has nice views of the town and harbour.
The room was a little small, but nicely appointed and being new, the bathroom was nice. They keep the temperature of the hotel pretty warm - a little too much for us!
I travelled onboard the MV Lyubov Orlova, which is operated by the fantastic Quark Expeditions. It's a 110-person ship, which I found to be a good amount of people. Any larger it would've affected our landing plans since IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) requires that there is to be a maximum of 60 people on a landing site at any one point in time. It's just one of the measures IAATO takes to help minimize impact on the environment :)
For us, that meant rotating between zodiac cruises ad landings so that everyone got a chance to see and do everything in compliance to IAATO laws. On smaller ships of 80~ people, I heard that it was even possible to make 3 landings a day!
So my advice for you when you choose your ship is to make sure that it is not too large-- unless you don't mind having less landing time.
The one issue that I discovered (and other passengers also complained about) was that there was uneven heat circulation on the ship. So while some people would find their rooms very hot and stuffy, others would complain about a freezing cold cabin at the same time. I had the cold cabin and at one point it was so cold my cabinmate and I had to sleep with our wool hats on.
OK, I admit I should have known it better in advance : This is an old ship and we would have 6 berths in 1 cabin. Only 5 of them would normally be used for such trips like Antarctica, so we had at least some extra space, where we could store our luggage during the trip. beds were long enough, maybe 2 meters and about 80 cm wide, 80 cm high.
the wardrobe for each person was about 35x35 cm and 80 cm deep : that sounds a lot but there was never enough light to find anything that I had stored in the backpart of it, nor did I dare to fill it up to the front, because the fixture of my wardrobe was quite stange and opened easily by itself, especially in heavy seas.
I addition there was a drawer under the berths for each person, 15 cm high and 80x80cm deep, good enough for socks, gloves etc. All of the 5 persons in our cabin shared a single wardrobe for hanging clothes: 35 cm wide and 75 cm deep, that was really ridiculous !!! And above all there were only 5 such wardrobes + a single hanging compartment for 6 possible beds in a cabin, that is also quite strange.
The old sailors were travelling with sea-sacks and this might also be the best solution for passengers of this ship. Another possibility might be a soft bag that fits exactely into the wardrobe, and you take it out every time you need something, put it on the floor and search for your things and put back the whole bag again afterwards.
Everyone of us also had just 1 single hook to hang our wet clothings and that was never enough, because after a tour in the Zodiak you will always be totally wet from your socks to the pants and jackets.
There was a place in the engineroom to store the wet upperclothes as well, we had been 34 passengers on this trip and never had enough space so I wonder how it would be with the total capacity of 48 passengers onboard.
I stayed in an inner cabin without windows, the cheapest available. It was compact,well furnished, bed comfortable and bathroom and shower was fine. It would have been tight with two people sharing but managable.
There were no tea and coffee making facilities in the cabin but free tea,coffee,water and food(sandwiches at night,biscuits & cakes) was available on Deck 4 - 24 hours a day on the Shackleton's Antarctica Reversed voyage. Apparently this free service is not always available on other trips by this ship.
Very little time was spent in the cabin so not being able to see outside was not a problem, i was on deck 6 & could shoot out to the rear deck in a few seconds to see anything important.
The telephone in the cabin you could set so you could hear all the tannoy announcements(calls for landing groups,whale spotted etc) & it also provided one radio channel. You could buy a telephone card for approx £10 for 40 mins so you could ring home, very reasonable considering the distances involved, calls passed through Norway then on to the country you call. Mobile phones work fine, but extremely high cost so would not recommend, texts are a better idea.
Twin cabin. Good. Small but functional.
Clean with lots of storage space.
Has a port hole...but so do all cabins.
If you feel seasink, or just sick...or whatever your excuse for not gettig out of bed,
you can listen to all lectures live on #4
100 Passengers. Very intimate and friendly.
Staff will notify you by shipwide announcment every time they spot whales, seals, etc.... so you can run on the deck and enjoy.
They will aloso notify you about sunrises ...every morning.
(note, sunrise in Antarctica can be at 3h...4h...5h....)
I have just returned (Feb 12, 2007) after travelling on this ship in the Antarctic& it's a fantastic ship to travel on! Only 56 passengers maximum, so you get to know your fellow adventurers, so you all get to go ashore. I stayed in a triple share cabin, which was surprisingly roomy. It consisted on one single bed (stand alone) and a bunk bed. I scored the top bunk (I was the youngest & fittest to climb up & down!) and the bed was very comfortable. Desk & plenty of stowage space also in the rooms. The chefs cooked great, hearty, tasty meals, all day, everyday, we sat in very comfortable and well set up dining rooms and the meals & choices were great. Coffee, tea & biscuits always available. There is a fully stocked bar (which we kept open late each night) with plenty of seating and books, so you could just sit and relax at anytime, if you wanted to. Also had a 'cocktail of the day' to celebrate whatever that day's landings were! Lecture room for information sessions and movies, sauna to soothe our weary or cold bones, a hospital with qualified doctor on board (available all hours) and open access to the captain's bridge for all! Plenty of showers & toilets for those that have to share and I never had to wait! The Russian crew & housekeeping staff were fantastic. Not plush accomodations but I couldn't recommend a better ship to travel on!
This ship is an icebreaker, so we could cut through ice and access areas that others could not! We only saw one other ship, in the distance, on the return trip back to Ushuaia, so it was like we had the Antarctic to ourselves and on more than one occasion, we got really close to really large icebergs. Like I've already said, not plush accomodations, but with so much to see & do, we were barely in our rooms. So, to sum up it's unique quality, I'd have to say the access we had to the Antarctic and of course, the views!!
There are as I’ve said elsewhere both pros and cons to choosing a larger cruise ship for your Antarctic expedition, and one of the pros is the range of facilities on board. On the Marco Polo these include:
Ambassador Lounge – a showroom with stage, piano, dance floor, bar, tiered seating, projection screen. This seats 438 and was the venue for the various lectures and talks as well as the evening shows and the Captain’s receptions.
Polo Lounge – our favourite spot – a piano bar with comfortable chairs and leather seats, cafe tables and full bar – plus those stunning ocean views.
The Charleston Club - a lounge on the aft-deck, with dance floor, banquette seating, full bar – used for the disco each evening, but we never got round to going.
Palm Court – a smaller lounge with rattan furnishings, where afternoon tea was served (we never had room to sample this) and the bridge club met.
Raffles – the informal bistro-style restaurant, with meals served buffet style. Opens onto the aft-deck, where hot drinks were available all day (and ice cream at lunch time!)
Seven Seas Restaurant – the main formal dining room with tables for 4, 6 or 8 (though we had a table to ourselves) and with large picture windows for more great views.
Library – small but well-stocked with international best-sellers, classics and travel books. Staffed at certain times of day, as advertised in the “Daily Program”. This was the place to pick up your free newssheet.
Aerobics studio and gym – various exercise classes took place here, plus a table tennis tournament and other activities.
Casino – with 23 slot machines and an ATM with a hefty surcharge – this proved invaluable though when we arrived back in Ushuaia and needed some cash.
Various shops – souvenirs, medical and beauty necessities, photo shop (film and cameras), boutique.
Spa and beauty centre – I had a great facial, much needed after all that exposure to the elements!
When booking a cruise one of the big decisions is which type of cabin to choose. This has a huge bearing on the price you will pay. The difference between a standard inside and outside cabin can be as much as £500 per person, and when you start to look at more luxurious rooms and suites the price really soars. We knew we wouldn’t be spending a lot of time in our cabin so we chose a standard inside one. It was small but comfortable and had everything we needed, but I did miss having some sort of view of the outside world – it felt quite claustrophobic and if possible another time I would find the extra money for an outside cabin of some sort.
We hadn’t been on a cruise before (or since) and were impressed by the level of service and attention we got. The cabin steward was so friendly and helpful but we never felt overwhelmed by attention. And despite regularly returning to the cabin in damp outerwear and those smelly Wellington boots, the place was always kept clean and welcoming.
Communication to and from the Grigoriy Mikheev was pretty good. It was possible to send and receive e-mails at a rate of 1 to 2 Euro per e-mail (depending on the size). To receive e-mails, they have to be sent to the ship's general e-mail address. You will get this from the tour operator well in advance, so you can inform your friends and relatives. Sending e-mails also goes through the ship's general e-mail address. The service is not very suitable for attachements, as it takes a long time to send them through via a sattelite telephone.
Besides the e-mail service, it is possible to make phone calls at a rate of about 2 to 3 Euro per minute.
The computer and telephone are located on the highest deck in the captain's office, right behind the bridge. Privacy is limited.
The Grigoriy Mikheev, a Russian expedition vessel built in Finland in 1990, was our base for 11 days at Christmas 2005. It brought us from Ushuaia (southern Argentina) to Antarctica vice versa.
Grigoriy Mikheev is not a very luxurious ship, though definitely comfortable and very suitable for its purpose. Because of the small size, the atmosphere is great and you know all fellow passengers within one or two days. With 46 passengers, 6 staff and 20 crew, Grigoriy Mikheev is actually the smallest commercial ship travelling to Antarctica.
The small hut in the photo, with an aurora hovering overhead, was the Mawson living hut named "Balleny". All the living huts were named after Antarctic explorers, this was named after John Balleny, the first person to land south of the Antarctic Circle (on the islands now named after him) in 1839. Balleny happened to be the hut in which I lived at Mawson: it provided accommodation for six of us.
As you entered the door (think of a freezer door) you entered a 'cold porch' which was where jackets were hung, then a second freezer door led you into the central corridor. The personal bedroom cubicles (known in ANARE language as 'dongas') were off to either side and were about seven feet square. On the outer wall of each donga there were two small windows, one above the other, with the bed raised and near the top window. It was reached by a ladder. Below was a set of shelving for clothing and a desk near the lower window, with a small hanging closet alongside the bed at the end of the donga.
Balleny was different from the other living huts in two ways. It had the only bathtub on the station - never used, thankfully, it was there to enable the total immersion in hot water of anyone who was significantly affected by cold (either hypothermia or frostbite). Every living hut did however have a shower, working from a bucket which was filled with hot water from the tank above the heater, the water in turn being dug from snowdrifts by hand. The heater was the other way 'Balleny' differed: we still had a coal briquette burning pot-bellied heater - and were much warmer and more comfortable than any other hut, even if it was more labour intensive.
You may be able to see the star-trails in the photo. This was taken on old Kodachrome 25 ASA film, so the photo required about a 1 minute exposure!
Sort by: Most recent | Most helpful