After a very long journey from Cyprus (Europe) we arrived at BA EZE international airport. We may have been unlucky, but the queues for passport control were very long, one hour to get through (eye and fingerprint recognition).
We collected our luggage then waited one more hour to get through customs control, every bag is screened, not what you need after a long journey.
Thankfully once through we were greeted by our pre booked English speaking taxi guy. (can supply details if needed) We had booked a very nice Hotel near to the domestic airport where we fly from in the morning only 15 minutes from the airport, don't even think of staying near to EZE airport the traffic is so bad.
The hotel is called the Fierro Hotel in Palmero, very clean, comfortable, welcome glass of wine on arrival, safe area to stay, reasonably priced.
We have an early breakfast, taxi ordered, plane leave for Ushuaia 08.00hrs. Will report further.
After a pleasant evening in BA at a really nice steak house we retired to a warm and comfortable bed. Early start 05.30 with a continental style breakfast served in the room left the hotel for a 15 minute drive to AEP domestic airport in a pre booked local taxi, cost, 71 pesos, Â£9 or 15 US dollars.
On arrival, met by Silversea rep before check in who gave us our boarding passes with pre allocated seating, no upgrades allowed, no queues, simple check in procedure for luggage with LAN (Local airline) for our onward flight to Ushuaia, the baggage was not weighed, no restriction on hand luggage. A Silversea rep travels on the plane with you.
The airport has plenty of places to eat and drink, a few shops open to browse. The plane was a modern Airbus A320, departed 30 mins late at 08.55 hrs, seating was comfortable but economy (coach) is never that good for leg room, we were lucky and had three seats for two. Food on board is very odd!! After 50minutes they serve coffee/tea/soft drinks, no wine or spirits on board, there is beer. They offer a light snack comprising three packets of biscuits (cookies) 15 minutes later same again, except this time you are offered a packet of crisps/chips.
After 3hrs 10 mins we landed in Ushuaia not the 3hrs 50 as posted, nice surprise there. Nice modern airport, after collecting our bags from the carrousel we took them outside and left them with SS, we boarded a very nice coach. When the coach was almost full a tour guide announced that we were going to a restaurant for lunch 20 mins away, she gave a good history lesson on the way.
Stopped at a very nice place for lunch, three course meal, BB lamb for a main course, lasted about an hour. From there we drove into the town and had just less than 1 hour to walk around the shops before boarding the ship.
At last on board!!!
A warm welcome as usual from all the staff, nice parker coat awaits in our room. We are on deck 3 so will report later on that. First thing was the mandatory lifeboat drill, sailed away 18.30hrs, then 18.45 meet and greet from the crew.
Very rough seas and a large swell from 22.00hrs to last at least 12 hours!! Tablets on hand.
Our first evening on the explorer: The crew and experts introduced themselves 122, crew, including 12 experts, 118 passengers on this voyage. After a pleasant meal we retired early, the "storm" was just starting! Dress code was very casual indeed, some guys were in jeans, no tie or jacket ladies were also in casual attire.
At about 23.000hrs fierce winds began to rock the ship, it got worse through the night with up to 25-30 feet swell, it was as bad as predicted, not much sleep at all with the bed and other items in the room rolling around including us!! We have confined ourselves to the room for the day, it is rather difficult moving around the ship.
We are in suite 304 so maybe we feel it more, but at the time of writing this some 17hrs later it's still the same. A word of caution here, if you are not a good sailor this cruise may not be for you, not for the faint hearted so far, not many people around for the three expert lectures today.
At 1500hrs today they announced that if anyone wants to borrow rubber boots they are welcome, so they must have a good stock, they called guests by deck number, all were complete in 45 mins.
Just managed room service, let's hope it stays down!
Now 18.00hrs and we are staying in the room, good documentaries to watch on TV and movies.
As you know speaking about food and drink is very subjective. We are quite easy to please, so unless the food is dire I won't discuss on this forum. Six of us eat last evening one guy liked a fuller red wine, the sommelier was more than happy to change it.
In answer to a question on the forum: One of the senior crew members was asked about the damage to the ship? When the wave hit the ship enough water came on the bridge up to their knees! Of course the ship was temporarily disabled but at no time were the passengers or crew in any danger. The water seeped right through the ship causing damage, I guess we were lucky we sailed! There is a full account already posted on the thread.
So, after 32 hours we finally emerge from our suite like to Polar bears coming out of hibernation! We must have looked like two ghosts walking for breakfast. We have only sailed three times before in calmer waters so you seasoned sailors out there must take all this in your stride? As for me I am certainly not looking forward to the return journey across the Drake Passage. For your information the sailing time is approx 62hrs from leaving BA to docking in the Antarctic.
We have 24hrs before we set anchor we just spotted our first Iceberg (cool)
I have spoken with other guests who are accommodated on decks 4 and 5, they too are experiencing sickness, they can feel the "roll" of the ship and they are also uncomfortable, I have no doubt they are better off than deck three however.
At 10.00hrs we attended the mandatory Zodiac briefing which lasted 1 hour; it included how to behave while on land.
The weather has tempered somewhat, slightly better swell but still some roll. Just had a first sighting of fin whales, fantastic! The captain slowed down and changed course so we can all get a better view and a photo opportunity.
It s 0500hrs on Sunday 3rd February, we finally arrive in the Antarctic!! We are in the South Shetland Islands. This morning the team plan to stay in a well known area for whales, the sea is flat and calm, perfect conditions apparently.
The last job of last evening was to take any gear/clothing which had been previously used to be checked and cleaned using a hoover, if you have any new clothing you don't need to have it checked, each suite is allocated two spaces in the mud room to leave your boots on your return. The guests are already allocated a number for their Zodiac, there are 4 Zodiacs. No more than 100 people are allowed on shore at any one time.
The temperature is zero, snow flurries; it doesn't take long to spot hump back whales, killer whales and minke whales. The scenery is just stunning, icebergs sailing by, snow capped mountains.
One of the highlights was two hump back whales who came within 15feet of the ship, side by side, what a stunning sight to see! Already this trip has exceeded our expectations. Forget the long journey, the rocky passage through the Drake Passage, so far so good! Just off for a leisurely breakfast before the action continues.
It's now 10am we are travelling down Neumaya channel and the Peltia channel, very few ships travel down here because it is so narrow, only half a mile wide or less in parts. Again beautiful scenery as we go through small ice fields, snow covered glaciers either side, our first sight of penguins, lion seals, and plenty of wild birds.
The final viewing today was to travel through the lemair straits. This afternoon we have a Zodiac cruise at 14.00hrs, looking forward to that.
After a very pleasant lunch, here we are all the thermal gear on, waterproofs Etc for our Zodiac expedition. We boarded the Zodiac at 14.30hrs; the trip was to last 90 minutes. There are 30 guests per team (4 teams per ship) We were Zodiac 1, we then split into 4 groups of 8 per Zodiac, the four groups then went out together. Our first encounter were hump back whales, there were 4 within metres of the Zodiac. We then visited a small island where there were colonies of Adeli penguins; we stayed in the Zodiac and viewed from a distance we also saw fur and lion seals.
Overall a great experience, the warm weather gear we brought passed its test. Before we knew it we were back aboard the Explorer for a nice hot cup of tea.
At 18.15 we will attend a de brief and recap.
A very special day awaits us today.
I hope I am not spoiling this for future passengers? This forum has given me so much useful information it's about time I repaid the advice.
As part of this expedition we are here to celebrate my partner's birthday, I cannot say which birthday for fear of serious injury or worse!!! We also celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary today so all in all something to look forward to.
We set sail at 18.00hrs last evening for our current location Detaille Island, South of the Arctic Circle, we anchored at about 04.30hrs. The weather is still zero degrees, cloudy with some snow.
Our first actual landing on Terra firmer in the Antarctic!!!
In 1956 a British expedition team landed here to carry out research, they built a large hut for accommodation. In 1959 the weather was so bad that the supply ship could not reach the team. Without supplies it was impossible to stay, the team had a small window of opportunity to leave immediately with what they could carry; as such they left the base as it stands today complete with personal belongings, artefacts, everything. They walked/skied over 25 miles to reach the rescue ship.
We reached the base on the Zodiac where we met a UK Antarctic Heritage trust team of three who are currently spending 4/6 weeks maintaining the base, called Base W. Our passports have all been stamped with the Antarctica stamp how cool is that!! You can also send postcards from there. (You supply your own post cards, you buy the stamps there)
What an experience visiting a place that was abandoned in 1959. All the food is still there, clothing equipment, newspapers, books; it's like stepping back in time.
After 90 minutes we are now back on the Explorer about to enjoy lunch. What a lovely surprise in our room, the crew had decorated the room with balloons and decorations, a really nice touch, and of course a bottle of nice cool champagne.
Someone on the forum has asked for the Captains name, he is Captain Alexander Golubev, a very experienced captain in this neck of the woods with over 80 voyages in this region. Unfortunately there are no visits at all to the bridge because of the incident with the Costa Concordia, shame really!
After a fantastic morning (it just gets better) the Captain decided to take the ship further south than the vessel has ever gone before. We met with pack ice but, undeterred he sailed through no problem! Lots of lion seals basking on the ice, great photo opportunities.
It's a birthday celebration in the MDR this evening, the crew will sing happy birthday and that will be a fitting end to another great day on the Explorer.
We sailed overnight from Detaille Island to our current position Petermann Island. Here we hope to see Adelie and Gentoo penguins, Blue eyed-shags, and South Polar skewers.
After a short trip in the Zodiac we landed on the island we were met by as many penguins as the eye could see. You could however "smell" the Guano (penguin poop) well before we landed! We spent 90 minutes wandering the island at our leisure, once again fascinating history from the experts.
I have to say at this stage the crew and experts really make this expedition what it is, very friendly smiling faces whatever the conditions. Back on board before lunch, more eating and drinking.
This afternoon we sail to Port Lockroy & Dorian Bay. Port Lockroy is a natural harbour located on the Western side of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago, discovered in 1903 it was mainly used as a whaling station. In 1944 the British established a base on Goudier Island (we Brits get everywhere!). It is an early example of a scientific research station.
Another very interesting day, again lots to see, lots of nesting chicks, the highlight was a lion seal when it came so close to the Zodiac you could almost touch it! Called at Port Lockroy which is half museum and half souvenir shop, t shirts, polo shirts, key rings, anything with penguins on and the name of the base station. They take dollars, Euros, sterling or credit cards, your last chance to post cards to your loved ones. They may take between 2-10 weeks to arrive however.
This morning our expedition is to Cuverville Island where there is a large Gentoo Penguin rookery. On arrival at the beach you could see lots of whale bones scattered around, jaw bones, ribs Etc.
Before our departure, the expedition leader announced over the tannoy that if anyone was interested you could hike to the top of the dome on the Island some 280mtrs high, covered in thick snow and rocks.
Note: This climb takes 45-50 minutes and is certainly not for the infirm or those not used to exercise. It is a steep climb but mapped out all the way by the experts. Fifty brave souls made the climb, one behind the other we looked like Edmund Hilary climbing Everest! (Slight exaggeration there) Once we reached the peak the views as you can imagine were stunning. Half way up most people discarded their hats, gloves, and some outer clothing. Walking poles proved very useful for this climb.
The hike back down is much easier, in fact the highlight is when you get to a point about a quarter of the way from the bottom you have an option to Toboggan on your rear end all the way down, it takes about 10 seconds and is great fun.
We are now certainly in to the routine of Life jackets off, Jackets on, boots on boots off, hats on hats off. The temperature today is a balmy +2 degrees. Not sure you ever get used to the Guano smell; there is a lot of it around!
For those not partaking in the hike you can still visit the Island and wander at your leisure.
This afternoon the ship visits Neko harbour, good for beautiful glaciers, there are guided walks on offer. We decided to sit this one out in favour of a relaxing hot tub on the top deck drinking a nice glass of champagne!! We could see the intrepid explorers climbing to the top of the island and we drank a toast to them. Some people just don't know when to stop having fun!!
Yet another announcement of a hump back whale close to the ship.
This evening is a welcome get together for returning Venetian Guests, last evening the First timers to Silversea had their party.
This is our last day in the Antarctic aboard the Explorer before we set sail this evening back through the Drake Passage.
We landed this morning at Hannah Point on the South coast of Livingston Island. We hope to see Southern Elephant Seals, Macaroni penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, Southern giant Petrels and Antarctic fur seals.
For those who enjoy some brisk exercise, the team offered a walk to fossil beach on the other side of the bay. It is a moderate walk with a few slight inclines and slippery rocks; it is approx 4km return or a 1.5 to 2hr walk. The highlight of this tour was 40-50 male juvenile Elephant seals who basking on the beach, they come ashore to lose their coats. When fully grown they are called beach masters, they grow up to 5 metres in length, can weigh 5 tons, and live to 50yrs of age, they have no natural predators. When in the sea they can go to 1500 metres and stay under water for up to 2 hours.
Once again, we saw plenty of different penguin colonies and large sea birds, fantastic morning.
This afternoon the ship moved to Whalers Bay Deception Island, which you may have heard of? It is located in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. The most recent volcano eruptions were in 1967 and 1969 which caused serious damage to the scientific stations there. The only current research stations are run by the Argentinean Army and Spain.
It is a sad place given the history of the place due to whaling, all the old huts and equipment is still there I hope never to be used ever again.
This Island is where if you are foolish enough you can partake in the famous polar plunge, anyone brave enough to jump into the icy waters is allowed to do so. It would be a shame to come all this way and not do it, and yes we did it!!! Even after one minute you cannot feel your legs, great fun though.
Well that's it folks, now that I have bored the pants off you, our trip of a lifetime is almost over. We have the two day Drake Passage to look forward to (not) then a day in BA before our homeward trip.
I would like to place on record our thanks to the crew and experts of the Explorer. They really make it an adventure never to be forgotten.
I only have one small observation, Silversea still nickel and dime you for using the internet irrespective of how many times you sailed with them.
Please feel free to ask any questions about the ship or the trip, I will be more than pleased to try and answer them. We can honestly say it has been well worth the money, effort and time to get here, one of the world's great untouched places to visit.
Good luck to all who have booked for future cruises; you WILL have a fantastic time.
Mr and Mrs Fudge, aka Bev and Steve.....
We are 14 hrs into our crossing of the Drake Passage, still not for the passenger who suffers from motion sickness!! 12-16 ft swell, just about comfortable.
Someone asked if Claudia Holgate is on board (Climatologist and birder) yes she is, a wealth of knowledge as are all the Expedition team.
Another question was, how is the food and drink? As I said earlier, we are easily pleased. The breakfast is buffet style; plenty of choice, eggs cooked fresh how you like them.
For us lunch is the best meal. Again buffet style with lots of choice, at least two choices of fish, three choices of meat, plenty of fresh fruit and salad, great choice of desserts.
At 4pm, you can have fresh sandwiches, tea, coffee, and freshly baked scones with cream, yum yum!
Dinner is what it is, a la cart, a choice of 4 smaller portions, from appetizers to the main course.
As for the wines: Again, personal choice, if one is not to your palate the Sommelier changes it without question.
Entertainment: The experts give regular talks on their particular subject, otherwise it's a guy on a piano, and no dancing girls here I'm afraid.
If you are not an expert at taking photos fear not, the team put together a video of the trip plus a CD with 500 photos, you can purchase for 150 US dollars.
Tonight is a casual/elegant night, the third of the trip, a chance for Mrs Fudge to dress up; we are invited to the Captains table, should we really eat with the staff??? (Only joking there)
We enjoyed a very nice evening with the Captain; the difference between this cruise and other Silversea cruises is that you are encouraged to mix with other guests. You can of course choose to dine alone, but I must admit with such a small passenger list you soon get to know most of the guests.
The service has once again been outstanding; we were called by our names by most of the crew.
The rest of the crossing of the Drake Passage was thankfully uneventful, not smooth, but by no means as bad as our first crossing!! The journey back was only 48hrs as opposed to 62 hrs getting to the Antarctica. We generally relaxed on board attending several lectures and had an opportunity to watch the Video produced by the Expedition team, it was 1hr long, very informative and good quality.
For those who have never sailed with SS before your bags have to be packed and outside your room by 23.30hrs the night before embarkation. On the day of departure you enjoy a leisurely breakfast leaving the vessel at 08.45, after a very short bus ride to the end of the pier you have about 1hr 50 mins to explore the town, a good opportunity for last minute shopping!
At 10.50 am you board the bus to the airport, it's only a 10 minute ride. At the airport you go to the check in desk, again a simple check in procedure. By the way, after leaving your bags outside your room you don't see them until landing at BA. We were only in the airport 90 minutes before we took off 5 mins early heading for BA. Landed at the domestic airport, 8 mins early at 15.52 very simple getting out. Now in a very nice Hotel not far from EZE airport ready for the long flight home tomorrow.
We had a nice surprise on the flight back to BA, they served a larger snack, a cheese and ham sandwich, cheese biscuits, a cake, AND a choice of red or white wine. Be guarded at Ushuaia airport, like most airports food and drink is quite expensive, people were buying sandwiches thinking we only had cookies on the plane.