As you know, if you've been reading my pages, WE traveled to Antarctica on the M/V Ushuaia. It was a wonderful ship and a great choice.
During our visit to the peninsula, we actually crossed paths with another expedition ship, The "Sea Spirit". I thought I'd post a couple of photos in case someone out there is considering this ship and would like another look.
From our decks, it looked like a nice ship.
The M/V Ushuaia is not a luxury vessel. She's comfortable, the staff is friendly and warm, and you'll be well taken care of. But if you are looking for "crystal glasses at dinner, six ballrooms, orchestras, duel steamship rounds being carved at dinner, a bar stocked with thousands of rare wines, etc", this is not your ship. BUT, if you want a solid and dependable ship with an experienced crew, an outfit that will insure that you have both an enjoyable and SAFE trip to and through what are dangerous waters, you can't do any better than the Ushuaia and its parent company, Antarpply.
The ship was originally built for the United States agency NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), and later refurbished to accommodate a maximum of 84 passengers in 41 comfortable twin cabins and suites. The ice-strengthened polar vessel USHUAIA is very well appointed and provides ample deck space and an open bridge policy. The full complement of inflatable landing craft (the zodiacs) ensure superb landings and wildlife viewing opportunities on the otherwise inaccessible coastline.
The cabins, especially the B and C cabins, have a generous amount of storage space. The public areas feature a large dining room (dinner is served during one sitting), an observation lounge and bar, a conference room with modern multimedia equipment, a well-stocked library, a changing room and a small infirmary. On a personal note, the ship's physician - Dr Konstantin Petrosyan - is top notch. He's a wonderful fellow, very caring and very well schooled. (do remember, Bonnie and I have spent our career in healthcare... we know a good physician when we meet one) We did have an unexpected medical situation on our trip, and Konstantin's presence and help was a Godsend.
The ships captain(s), officers and crew are highly experienced in Antarctic navigation and have a great love of nature. The ships expedition team include an international crew of expedition leaders and lecturers, all extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic, helpful and dedicated to the protection of the environment.
The ship's chefs prepare simple and tasty meals, with a lot of variety. I was impressed with the supply and quality of fresh fruit available during the entire voyage. The pastry/dessert chef is also a very artistic and creative guy. The service staff in the dining room was terrific. Couldn't have asked for better care, service and attention to detail.
Alvaro runs a pretty decent little bar. I hightly recommend the Argentine Quilmes beer. Good stuff indeed. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soups and such are available 24/7 in the observation bar, and the afternoon "snack" is always well-attended and enjoyable. Lots of sandwiches, cakes, cookies, etc.
We traveled to Antarctica with Antarpply Expeditions. We'd originally zeroed in on the M/V Ushuaia as a ship that we'd want to know more about. Additionally, the itineraries were what we were looking for. A number of travel companies sold space for this ship, and over the period that we were researching, I eventually learned that Antarpply actually OWNED the ship. So, I figured that we should work directly with the owners. Also about that time, I "met" Ute Hohn-Bowen, the president and CEO of Antarpply. Her caring attitude, her willingness to patiently answer all of our questions and basically to meet our needs for so large of a decision, well..... it told me we had the right company. BTW, if you'd like to know more about Antarpply, please contact Ute directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. BE SURE TO DROP MY NAME AS RECOMMENDING HER AND ANTARPPLY. She and I became friends and we really do see eye to eye on travel. You'll like her.
Another good contact person is Claudia Albornoz (email@example.com), the company's reservation manager. Claudia lives in Ushuaia year-round. (Ute is there during the Argentine summer months, and lives in Great Britain with her husband George during the other half of the year)
In general, Antarpply Expeditions is a leading operator of small ship expedition cruises to Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. The company is based in Ushuaia, Argentina and specializes in taking small groups and individual passengers to some of the most spectacular, remote and pristine parts of the world on board the M/V USHUAIA.
Gob. Paz 633 - 1st Floor
(9410) Ushuaia - Tierra del Fuego - Argentina
phone numbers +54 (2901) 433636 / 436747
fax number +54 (2901) 437728
TThe last class is the Luxury Expedition Ships
This is a supper soft posh cruise ships with hardened hulls for ice but still a luxury cruise vessel with all the goodies you know the has 5**** stuff like fresh flowers in Antarctica, gleaming brass, polished wood and works of original art.. These are the big one with almost 200 on board. The have 15 to 20 Zodiacs on board to get you to the shore of Antartica
The cheapest in this class is $7,095 for 12 days.
Every summer, the Coast Guard moves this breaker south to clear out the path to McMurdo.
It is critical to the winter operations at McMurdo. Only one cargo ship arrives here each year, keeping the station running during winter.
Getting to Antarctica is a challenging venture.
All Antarctica cruises originate in Ushuaia, Argentina, Terra del Fuego due to calmer waters. Since I live in Texas, I flew to Miami where I connected on the Brazilian airline TAM to Sao Paulo then to Buenos Aires where I connected on the Aerolinas Argentinas flight to Ushuaia, Argentina at the tip of the Tierra del Fuego. The Latin America airlines usually provide superior in flight service comared to the U.S. airlines and I feel safer on them from a terrorism standpoint. The return route is the same from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo to Miami to Houston. Most people add a stayover in Ushuaia or Buenos Aires or Patagonia.
We used Oceanwide Expeditions for the trip. They have specialized expedition staff that were expert in the history, geology and wildlife of Antarctica. When we were crossing Drake's Passage they organized 1 hour lecture sessions on various topics that were well presented, informative, engaging as well as entertaining. The company is clearly very safety and environmentally-conscious. Their attention to the safety of the passengers was paramount at all times and their concerns for the protection of Antarctica and its wildlife was evident through their actions, behaviours and lectures.
The ship was clean, the rooms were comfortable, the food was excellent - keep in mind it is an expedition and not a cruise! The crew was also very friendly and professional, allowing passengers to freely the visit the bridge at any time. With about 100 or so passengers, the ship is small enough to allow everyone to get out on zodiacs to land and/or cruise.
Overall, I would highly recommend Oceanwide Expeditions.
I travelled with Aerolineas when I went to Antartcica. At the time they were having strikes and not all flights were gettng out. My friend and I about a month before we left decided to move our flight from BA to Ushuaia back a day and have 2days in Ushuaia - it was a very good idea!!!!!!!. there were several passengers who missed to crusise to Antarctica because of cancelled flights - even though the boat waited til 2am the next morning to allow people to get there. I would move your flight back to give yourself an extra day breathing room. There is not a lot to do in Ushuaia but if I had missed the boat I would have cried.
We just came back from a trip to Antartica and I recommend you to book in advance via Internet but as a last minute fare. We did this with the travel agency Ushuaia Turismo in Ushuaia (Av. Gobernador Paz 865). They have a fantastic service, are very reliable and Daniela, one of the owner, is extremely helpful. She answered all our questions in perfect english via email instantly before we booked and also after before the travel started. They have connections to different ships and they can recommend you the best tours. Some ships can be booked as a last minute offer 10 days before the departure, some are even earlier (we booked last minute for approx. half of the regular fare in November 2009 for a trip in January 2010). We were on the ship Vavilov with the tour operator Peregrine and had the best journey in our lifetime.
When we arrived in Ushuaia we saw some last minute offers so you will probably get one there too but I don't want to have the uncertainty. And the prices in Ushuaia have been around USD3500 to USD4000 - I didn't see less than USD3500. But anyway, it's better to go on a good ship (not more than 100 passengers) and with a good company, so spend some money - it's worth to pay some dollars more and have e.g. a lot of zodiac cruises and landings.
I spent 8 days on the Fram, a Hurtigruten ship. Cabins were compact but comfortable, and shore excursions were very well organized. Although there were 260 passengers, we all got ashore on each landing, usually 2 sites per day. They use Polar Cirkel boats for landings--you sit inside them on a wooden bench instead of up on the rubber tube like the Zodiacs.
I booked with Vantage Travel, because it was the cheapest Antarctic cruise I had seen. A group tour like this is worth considering. I paid about $5300, which included airfare from the U.S. (Miami) and 3 days in Buenos Aires in addition to the cruise. (The trip could also be booked without airfare, for less money.) When I looked at the Hurtigruten website, the cruise alone cost more. Tour companies sometimes get very good deals.
Most cruise ships to the Big A leave from Ushuaia, Argentina, so this is for those who are arriving at that airport. It's a small enough town so the best form of transport from airport to hotel is by taxi. It takes all of 10 minutes. Unlike in Buenos Aires, I have yet to hear of bad taxi drivers who will rob you. So no need to look for "Radio Taxi" and all that.
I found it very difficult to discern differences between ships that travel to Antarctica via the web. I was presently surprised with how nice the Clipper Adventure was appointed. I learned that if it looks like a boxy icebreaker, it is likely to have boxy appointments with a "working ship" feel. If the ship is sleeker looking, it is not an icebreaker, but probably ice strengthened, and will have nicer and more comfortable surroundings. I am an ice-breaker type, but I enjoyed the stabilization system and the floating mattress on my bed for the rough Drake Passage.
I travelled with Hurtigruten to Antarctica Feb 2008 on Ms Nordnorge. No complaints at all only praise for a wonderful trip. Ms Fram is the fleet's newest ship so should be equivalent or better. Lots of information on my VT pages, hope you have a super trip. All the best LynCod
It is a long trip to Antarctica from wherever you are in the world. From the UK travelled from London to Madrid 2hrs+ then onto Buenos Aires 12hrs+ then after a 2 day break onto Ushuaia 3hrs at the southern tip of Argentina where we embarked on the ship.
Ms Nordnorge is a medium size ship, plus points more comfortable than a smaller ship, a smoother ride,and doctor and nurse on board.Smaller ships give you more time ashore,we had two shore landings daily in Antarctica lasting from 1hr to 2ish hours which were great fun. The largest ships of 1000 or more passengers are not allowed ashore at all, only 100 passengers are able to land at one time. Ms Nordnorge had 280 passengers on board and acquired a few more from remote research stations.
The next class of ship is about twice the size as the Research class and it is know in the Polar areas of the world as a Research Icebreaker they have more stuff like a sauna, workout room, pool. They carry about 100 passengers and because the ships are icebreakers they can go deeper into Antarctica’s waters. This is the class of vessel that can do a circumnavigation of Antarctica as a tour and they do. The most Basic tour is just under $5,000 on this class
Akademik Ioffe and the Kapitan Khlebnikov are in this class again both Russian with Russian crews and built in Finland. The Kapitan Khebnikov has the record of going the deepest south in the ice of any ship deep into the Ross sea. This Ship can take you to the dry valleys, and the cabins of Scott and Shackleton as well as the McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
The website below is to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators web-site which has a list of all the approved operators to Antarctica.