Antarctic cruises Antarctic Vessels & Reviews Reviews

Dorothy’s Antarctic Peninsula Cruise

Dorothy and her husband returned in February from an 11 day Cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip

Was the Plancius a good base for your expedition?

Yes definitely. We originally booked on the Ortelius but were asked to switch to Plancius (as Ortelius had been completely booked by a large group.)

While on the boat we were told by one of the Expedition Leaders that Plancius is generally a better boat as the dining room has large oblong windows while the dining room on Ortelius only has portholes. Also the lecture room on Ortelius is below deck with no windows.

Our lectures were alternated between the dining room and the Observation Lounge which was a clever move to keep you moving and change the environment.

How were your expedition team and leader?

Superb. Jim Mayer, the leader was amusing, gentle, pleasant, highly experienced. All the team interacted well with the clients.

They were real enthusiasts and specialists and we really enjoyed the variety of lectures. There was definitely something for everyone and we attended all but one each. I missed one on mammals and Pete missed one on Poetry and the Polar explorers.

The team came from a number of different nations so occasionally there can be a small barrier if someone has a very heavy accent. They worked so well together and were always extremely pleasant and polite to one another. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing and were able to turn their hand to whatever was required. Before we went we hadn’t really thought about that side of things and we were really impressed.

We were often reminded of safety procedures. We felt that everything was done with safety in mind and to give us a good time.

An example was that for every Zodiac landing the advance party took the safety equipment – eg tents just in case there was a sudden change in the weather conditions.

How was the Drake Passage crossing?

We were prepared with our Stugeron tablets. They make you drowsy but we did not experience nausea. On the way out a number of people were sick but we were not. The ship’s doctor was kept very busy! It was not rough on the way out but we were conscious of a rolling swell. The journey back though was a full on Force 9 gale. Dinner was absolutely mad with people sliding off bench seats, and chairs physically moving into other people/tables. Dishes were going flying. It was crazy. Once again though the staff are very experienced at dealing with such events and various moves are made to lessen the impact – ie no self service from a buffet at lunchtime, tumblers instead of wine glasses etc.

We went straight to bed after dinner as it seemed prudent to lie down. (We watched a film about Shackleton.) The night was dreadful and I felt as if I did battle with the ship all night. However other people we talked to were able to sleep so I guess that is a personal thing.

Did you see much wildlife?

Silly question! Loads and loads. Pete loves birds and his count for the whole time in Chile, Argentina and Antarctica was 64. Obviously most were land based but he added to his tally in Antarctica. We can both now identify three different types of penguins and three different types of seals. The whaling excursion was amazing and we were within feet of a whale which was between our Zodiac and another Zodiac. We saw a number of whales mainly hump back.

What was the highlight of your trip?

For me the snow and mountains, the icebergs, the night ice camping with the sunset there. Also a very moving time was at Paradise Bay which proved to be a paradise indeed. A snow shoe walk up a hill, sun lighting up the bay, the boat in the distance, a panoramic view – it just took my breath away and even now as I recall it, it brings tears to my eyes. I also loved anything to do with the history of the polar explorers.

For Pete, the birds, wild life, whales etc also the Gin and Tonics on the boat and he loved the ice camping too! Watching a discreetly filmed video of the dozen, mainly younger, people who did a Polar Plunge into the icy waters was another awe inspiring experience.

Do you have any tips for future visitors to the Antarctic Peninsula?

Good camera? But be careful not to only observe through a lens. It is good to just watch, feel and experience what is happening. Also I think I would spend longer sitting and watching the Penguins. Focus on a few and really notice their behaviour/character.