My husband and I were very pleased with our cruise to Antarctica aboard the Fram. The expedition staff is great and our suite (634) was spacious and comfortable.
I recommend you make your own arrangements for hotel and transportation in Buenos Aries. Hurtigruten wanted $500 per person for transportation between airports and to book a room at the Emperador Hotel for the first and last nights of our trip. I booked the hotel online myself for $125 plus taxes per night. Cabs are easy to get on your own. This saved us approximately $650. I do recommend you book at the Emperador because it's a very good hotel and Hurtigruten uses it for their hospitality base in Buenos Aries so you can talk to one of their representatives in person once you arrive.
We booked a day trip to Tierra del Fuego upon arrival to Ushuaia. I paid a bit more to book it through Hurtigruten because I didn't want to take a chance that another tour provider would not get us back in time for final boarding. The park tour was very good and well worth the time and money.
It turns out I didn't need to worry about the ship sailing without us. Our scheduled 6:00 p.m. departure was delayed until 1:00 a.m. because a customs issue between Hurtigruten and the Argentine government. I'm not sure who was at fault but another passenger told me the same thing happened to them on another cruise line in Ushuaia two years ago.
I recommend you bring something for sea sickness with you. The Drake passage can be very rough or very calm. Our southern crossing was pretty rough with 60+ knot winds and 20 foot seas. I used to live on a sailboat and had never been sea sick before but I would have had a miserable crossing without the patch. If you use a patch for sea sickness make sure you keep a bottle of water next to your bed. Most people experience significant dry mouth with the patch.
We thought the food and service in the dining hall was fine. Not gourmet but not bad at all. I wish they had offered more than one brand of beer and a few more vegetarian choices but I had plenty at every meal. My omnivore husband enjoyed almost everything he tried. My only complaint about this aspect of the cruise is that Hurtigruten charges for water at the table. We had a suite so it was included for us but most of the passengers were taken aback that something as basic as water was not complementary. It really doesn't make sense when you can get cookies, tea and coffee free all day near the lecture hall but have to pay for water at your meals.
The expedition staff was terrific. They provided a full schedule of interesting lectures between landings and did a fantastic job when we were ashore. The crew that gets passengers ready to go to shore and drives the Polarcirkles were very good and absolutely safety conscious. Speaking of the Polarcirkles, they are really nice with high sides to help keep passengers dry and have good, sturdy rails to hold on. The boots they provide for going ashore are very good. But, like the tap water, use of the boots should be included in the price of the cruise. I would rather they charge a little more up-front so it doesn't feel like I'm being nickled and dimed. Okay, I'm done complaining because those really are only two things I didn't like.
They have a small but well equipped gym that we used almost every day. Random magic moment: I was in the gym one morning listening to my iPod while using the treadmill. Just as "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" started playing we motored by an ice floe covered with penguins and then a humpback whale breached right in front of me. There are two heated jacuzzis and a sauna right outside the gym.
The planned itinerary had to be changed a couple of times during our cruise but the staff chose alternatives that had to be every bit as good as the original plans and I didn't hear any complaints. The first change was because our planned landing site was iced in but the back up site was fabulous. The second change was more substantial because of a health crisis aboard the ship. We had to abruptly head to the South Shetland Islands to get a crew member who had suffered a stroke to an island with an air strip so he could be evacuated to a hospital in Chile. Even then, our alternative landings at Half Moon Bay and Admiralty Bay in the South Shetlands were wonderful. In fact, if we hadn't gone to Half Moon we would not have gotten to see a Macaroni penguin at all.
One of the reviews here mentioned a charge for seeing the ship's doctor. I fell and needed to get patched up for a minor injury. The doctor and her assistant were very nice and took good care of me. The provided a brace, analgesic cream, and ibuprofen at no charge.
We have done expedition cruises in the Galapagos, the Amazon, and the Seychelles as well as safaris in Kenya and South Africa. This Antarctic cruise ranks close to the top for me. It is absolutely thrilling to see so many penguins, whales and seals up close. We also enjoyed getting to know our fellow passengers as most were incredibly well traveled and had great stories to tell.