Declan

United Kingdom

Customer
Rating

10

Customer Rating On return from their adventure we ask customers: “On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?”

Declan's Trip Date:

12th Dec - 8th Jan 2017

Declan's Ship:

Plancius

Overall, how was your trip?

Highlights were just being there, being able to walk around on the continent and see the wildlife in its natural habitat - in terms of activities the highlight was camping out in a snow hole overnight on the summer solstice (truly magical). Our fellow travellers were also amazing, from the incredibly competent ship's crew, to the expedition staff (who were friendly, helpful, informative and approachable, as well as being experts in their field), to the wonderful people we met - all with adventurous souls and full of tales of travel. No matter how well travelled anyone was - we all had the same sense of child-like wonder in Antarctica.

In one sentence, what did you think of Antarctica? Did it live up to your expectations?

It exceeded all expectations - the scale, serenity and beauty of the continent is something that has to be experienced in person and makes an indelible mark on the soul

Would you visit again?

Yes

How was the service that Swoop provided?

Superb service from Swoop from starting the discussions over 2 years ago, all the way through to the expedition itself and beyond. The level of expertise and knowledge that Alex has is incredible and he helped us select the perfect trip for our needs and expectations. The ship was the perfect choice - small and intimate - and the room selection also perfect, we had the best (if not the biggest) room on the ship and booked early enough to get it. Alex was in touch in the 14 months up to our trip and I always felt well informed and engaged - a real personal touch, which we really appreciated - and a kindred spirit in terms of travel and exploration around the planet - he was even recommending reading materials and other trips and places to visit when I was on other journeys before the Antarctic trip. This is a very rare experience for me, I've never had such good service (and also, the other travellers on the ship who booked with Swoop said that they had also had great service - and this from Canadians who pride themselves on the best service in the world). I can't imagine a better service or what could be improved to be honest - superb in every way - thank you.

How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10 out of 10

How were your experiences on the zodiac excursions and shore landings?

Favourite activity was definitely the camping - being on the continent alone (with a small group), with a brilliant guide (Nacho) and on a still summer solstice night was something so special it is hard to put into words. Total peace and serenity, the majesty of the landscape and some curious penguins and seals as neighbours, it was idyllic. We were in a snow hole (grave) and it was the best nights sleep I have ever had camping in my life - and completely surreal to wake up in that hole and see the dawn in Antarctica - completely magical. I loved all the zodiac trips - from cruising round icebergs, getting a different perspective on areas we had snow-shoed up, to gliding up to snoozing seals...and always with information and interesting facts from the drivers and guides - a pleasure. Kayaking with instructor Louise was brilliant - as two novices in our kayak, she put us at ease and helped us have a great experience gently moving through the water, passing icebergs, watching calving and avalanches and having the most magical time. We also had good fun in the group and made the word 'Hi' so the mountaineers could see from above. A wonderful experience. We had many trips ashore snow-shoeing often and seeing points of interest - penguin rookeries, elephant seal colonies or sites of historic interest, such as at Damoy Hut and the wonderful Port Lockroy (where I could happily live and work and spend the rest of my days). These were always accompanied by brilliant expedition staff, full of useful and interesting information and always ready to answer questions. We always felt safe, we always felt privileged to be there and we absolutely had respect for the place, the wildlife and the environment. There were so many wonderful moments it is hard to capture (on film or in words). I have to give a special mention to Andrew Bishop, the Expedition Leader, who was softly spoken, passionate about Antarctica, very approachable, but in whom we had absolute faith as he was always on the ball, in control of every situation and helped us all to be as responsible and flexible as you need to be on such an expedition. The lectures and talks we had from the expedition staff, including Andrew, were great - and a wonderful way to pass the time on the long sailing days across the Drake Passage, which actually passed really quickly as there was so much interesting stuff to listen to and get involved in. I felt like I had an education on that ship - I know so much more than I did when I went and I have even more appreciation of just how special Antarctica is, thanks to the staff. In terms of wildlife, we were privileged to see a huge number of humpback whales 'bubble feeding' on Christmas Eve and spent hours watching them - such a special experience, it was awe inspiring. I have new respect for penguins having seen how they live and behave - incredible birds - we got to see Gentoo mainly, but also Chinstraps and Adelie penguins. It was a privilege to be able to observe them so closely and see how they live in this incredible place. We saw quite a lot of seals, Crabeaters and Weddell - which were amazing and on one special occasion, a slumbering Leopard Seal, the size of which was a shock - it looked up to see us in our zodiac from its floating ice bed and went back to sleep, luckily. The Elephant Seals we saw at Robert Point were also pretty special, watching two males battle it out was an experience and seeing a whole host of seals sleeping amongst a Gentoo rookery was interesting too - we saw more chicks here than anywhere and they were fascinating to watch. The Wandering Albatrosses and the amazing Petrels that followed the ship were also a treat to watch and having the lectures about the birds and wildlife from the expedition staff helped us really understand the incredible lives of the animals and birds of the region.

If Swoop arranged some of your travel before/after your voyage. How did we do?

All the logistics were perfect - excellent planning by Swoop and really good pre-trip information which came far enough in advance, so we were really well prepared and everything went to plan - from the early briefing guides which helped us prepare what to bring, to the detailed guidance around what was going to happen on the ship, how to get there etc. It was a very long trip from our home in the UK to Ushuaia, but once there the trip to the ship on embarkation day was really straight forward. I thought it as a very good idea to be able to drop the bags early on embarkation day in Ushuaia, which meant we could check out of the hotel and have another day exploring the town before boarding the ship at teatime. We arranged our own flights and accommodation as we had a complex onward journey (which we were helped with by Swoop Patagonia) - we stayed at a lovely place called Posada del Fin del Mundo with a really great hostess. I would just like to say thanks very much to the team at swoop, including Alex Stean on the finances which enabled me to pay in instalments. It all went really well.

​How would you describe {vessel.title} if talking to somebody potentially interested in going to Antarctica, and what tips would you pass​ on?

Plancius is a brilliant ship, perfect for people who like adventure and exploration and being active when they are on holiday. It is small enough (114 passengers max) to feel intimate and it means that you get to know lots of people during the trip. It also means you get plenty of excursions - we had 2 or 3 per day when in Antarctica and it all runs like clockwork, with the trips really well organised, the expedition staff and sailing crew all working well together and everyone up for the adventure. The actual 'hotel' side of operations was incredibly well run by the Hotel Manager (Jonny) and his staff and nothing was too much trouble - the service was outstanding. The rooms were much better than I expected they would be, comfy beds, good bathroom and were cleaned every day by really friendly staff. It was always warm inside the ship - which is good, as it is pretty cold outside. The food was excellent (and as a vegetarian, that is very unusual) - with buffet breakfast and 3 course meals for lunch and dinner - and a really special Christmas dinner when we were on board. They bent over backwards to make us feel welcome, the waiters/waitresses knew everyone's name by day 3 and all the vegetarians. Everyone was very helpful, no matter what the circumstance (someone had his coat stolen in Ushuaia and was lent one, someone's luggage didn't turn up and they kitted him out). I can't imagine how you could run anything better to be honest.

Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Antarctica?

If you are thinking of going to Antarctica, save up and go. It is not like any other travel experience you will ever have and no matter how well travelled you are, it will fill you with a sense of wonder that will last. If you like an active trip, rather than your typical cruise type holiday, pick an expedition ship like MV Plancius - you will never regret it - action packed, informative and exhilarating.

Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)

Just a huge thank you to all at Swoop Antarctica (especially Alex) and all at Swoop Patagonia (especially Luke) who made this trip so memorable and helped us to make the right (and well informed) choice about where to focus our time and efforts and the right trip for us. It was, quite literally, perfect. Thank you

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