1. The Trip: The trip to be described in this review was one that started on Feb 3, 2007 from Jacksonville, Fl and ended at the same location on Feb 18. The trip was advertised by Discovery World Cruises as a trip to Antarctica with 2 days at the start of the trip in Buenos Aires, the cruise portion from Ushuaia, Argentina, on MV Discovery, with one night in Buenos Aires. Reservations were originally made in April 2006.
2. Flight and Land Arrangements: The flights were booked through Discovery. Going to Buenos Aires the flights were on American Airlines; returning from BA they were on LAN Argentina and American Airlines. Although slightly better connections were possible, the flights chosen by Discovery were reasonable and cost effective with the add on airfare cost of $695/person. At the airport in BA we were met by a representative of Discovery (through Furlong Incoming Cruise Division) and brought directly to the Sofitel BA hotel. Although we arrived around 1030am our room was available at 11am which was much appreciated because of the overnight flight. In the afternoon we took the provided BA city tour. For the following day we signed up for two tours,a sightseeing tour outside of BA and dinner and tango show in the evening. The tour was good and the tango show was excellent. The cost for each tour had to be paid in US$ which was not told to us in advance. The charges could not be paid by credit card or on to our ship charge account. We felt that this information should have been made known to us in advance. On the third day in BA we were taken to the international airport for a charter flight (747/400) to Ushuaia. Our seats were in the upper deck of the plane with wide business class seats and a fine lunch. A similar seating arrangement took place on the return to BA from Ushuaia. After talking to some passengers in a similar situation we speculated that the seat assignments in the first/business sections of the plane could be related to the cabin class on the ship. After arrival in Ushuaia we were transferred by bus to the ship where registration took place and luggage delivered to the cabin. All of this process was handled efficiently. On our return to BA at the end of the cruise a similar process had us in the hotel for one night and then a transfer to the airport for the overnight flight back to the US. All arrangements for this were handled quite satisfactorily.
3. The Cabin: Our cabin was a category D cabin on the Promenade deck. This was a convenient location towards the front of the ship. The size of the cabin was 223 sq ft. The cabin had 2 single beds, a very nice bath area, TV, chairs, etc. The room was not spartan in any way and we felt it was nice. The shape of the room was slightly different from the original deck plan when we booked; however the discrepancy was corrected in later deck plans. Cabin service was very good with helpful attendants
4. The Food: The food on the ship was served through buffet lines (breakfast/lunch) in the Lido. Dinner was served in the Seven Continents Restaurant on a lower deck, and at the Yacht Club on the Lido deck. One could eat only twice at the Yacht club during the voyage; once when the menu was Italian and once when the menu was Oriental. No additional charge was made to eat in the special dining room. We only tried the Italian menu at the Yacht Club and it was good with excellent service. Wine selection was also quite good with a Discovery branded wine going for $16 but with numerous higher price wines on the wine list. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner could be ordered in the Seven Continents Restaurant. We did this once for breakfast, which was fine, and then ate most dinners there. Seating arrangements were made by Discovery with typically 4 persons at a table. We had the early seating (630) with a later (830) seating available. The food selection was fairly broad for dinner with a multiple course meal. Generally the presentation of the dinner was quite good. However the food portions and the food quality for dinner were generally considered by us (and others) to be average to poor. One would have thought that beef on the ship would be tender since we left from an Argentina port but this was not the case. Service from the waiters and the wine steward was quite good. The dining room was one level and not the elegant restaurants found on more modern ships. However it was quite satisfactory.
5. The Ship: MV Discovery was built in 1971. It has been refurbished in 2001-2002 and re-christened Discovery in May 2003.This ship has a maximum passenger capacity of 751 although we were told there were about 600 passengers on our trip. Although not up to the standards of newer ships we felt the facilities were good. The talks and shows at night were held in the Carousel Lounge. Cocktails and music were served in the Discovery Lounge at the back of the ship while movies were shown on a scheduled basis in the Discovery Theatre. A number of different shows and cabaret style reviews were put on during the cruise. The orchestra was quite good as were the dancers and the singers who also worked other jobs on the ship. Effectively there was no stage and the shows were put on in a dance area. The reception area was quite nice with videos of previous cruises' being shown as well as maps of the planned voyage. There was a shop to purchase some items but the shop was small. Items related to the Antarctica theme were place in a hallway outside of the store 3 or 4 days from the end of the voyage. The selection was somewhat limited and the conditions were crowded in the display area.
6. The Expedition Aspect: Discovery had an expedition leader and a group of 6 lecturers. All gave lectures during the cruise with 2 lectures a day generally being given in the Carousel Lounge. The lectures were quite interesting and on the last day of the trip a town meeting type of event was held with all lectures being present to answer questions from the passengers. In addition there were 6 zodiac drivers, an ice master, and a beach master. These staff as well as the staff and crew of the ship were quite friendly and helpful.
7. The Passengers: The passengers came from England, Australian, United States, Japan, and a few other countries. It appeared the largest contingent was from England, the US, and Japan. The age of the group appeared to be about 65-70 with some younger and some older. The group from Japan was said to number about 120.
8. The Cruise Itinerary. Our initial departure from Ushuaia was delayed several hours because of an electrical problem that occurred shortly after we left the dock. After repairs were complete we left to cross the Drake Passage which was a moderately rough crossing as we were warned was possible. The decks were closed for much of the crossing until we reached the Antarctic area the following day. Our plan was to do scenic cruising near Deception Island. This was canceled, partly I suspect because the ship was late leaving Ushuaia. We traveled to Hope Bay area in the Trinity Peninsula area of the Antarctica Peninsula. This trip was to have taken place with zodiac cruising which did not occur until another day. From Hope Bay we traveled to Arctowski Station on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands. Here the first landings were done with the zodiac boats. Since just 100 passengers were allowed at a time on shore the passengers were divided into 6 groups identified by color tags. The zodiac boats took about 12 people and each group of 100 were taken to the landing site for a stay of about 1 hour. This travel started around 2 pm on Feb 10 with the last group not returning to the ship until 8 or 9 pm. This timing was considered by some as too long and was driven, in part, by the 600 passengers on the ship and the 100 person at a time limitation. It would have been better if Discovery had taken 400 passengers on the cruise instead of the 600. From this location the ship cruised overnight to Elephant Island where Shackelton started his trip to the South Georgia Islands in 1916 to seek rescue for the crew that remained on the island. Unfortunately the island was shrouded in clouds and nothing could be seen although we were just 2 miles away. We then turned south cruising until we arrived on the morning of Feb 12 in the area of Brabant Island. The ship stopped in an area where there were a number of icebergs and short (20 minute) zodiac rides were given to the passengers following a new color coded sequence. Such rides were very interesting with great photo opportunities. We next headed for Paradise Harbor on the Antarctic Peninsula arriving on Tuesday morning Feb 13. Landings started about 700 am and continued through the morning. Upon landing one found a large colony of young gentoo penguins. Although the weather was cloudy with light rain it was exciting to be among the penguins. Great photo opportunities existed with the penguins and the rugged surroundings. At this location there was a Chilean research station where a small souvenir store enabled one to buy small items included a stamped certificate that certified that one had landed there. From this location we cruised through the Newmayer Strait, a narrow channel that separates Anvers Island from Wiencke Island. The scenery was spectacular with tall snow covered mountains and large glaciers ready to plunge into the water. From this location we were schedule to go to the Lemaire channel. Information from a passing ship indicated there was too much ice in this channel for Discovery to go through so this highly anticipated trip was canceled. We learned that Discovery had not gone through this channel this season. Information was not available if Discovery had ever gone through this channel. After leaving this area we headed to Half Moon Island in the South Shetland Islands for a scheduled landing. We arrived in the morning of Wednesday Feb 14 with sunny skies greeting us. Unfortunately the wind was such that the landing was canceled as it was considered hazardous. Another disappointment. We turned south passing a number of islands before turning northwest for the journey back to Ushuaia across the Drake Passage. This time the trip was much calmer than the initial crossing. Before heading to the Beagle Channel the ship was brought to the area of Cape Horn and the ship was turned so that passengers could say they had gone around the Horn as well as have good photo opportunities. The ship returned to Ushuaia early (3 am?) on the morning of February 16. During our journey we were very much impressed by the great scenery to be seen in the Antarctic area but disappointed by the changes made necessary by weather conditions in the area. We were often reminded by the Captain that our viewings and our landings were very dependent on the weather cooperating. At times it did not.
9. Our Conclusion. This trip was an excellent introduction to the beauty of visiting the Antarctica Peninsula and the nearby islands. The sharp snow covered peaks, the large icebergs, and the glaciers were great viewing opportunities. The sights of the many birds, penguins, and whales led continued excitement to the trip. One was disappointed by the cancellation of a number of planned adventures. The food was also a disappointment but the general running of the ship and the cruise was good. We are very glad that we went on this tour but would not see a need to repeat the trip.
Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner"