I spent 11 nights on an Antarctic trip below the Antarctic Circle on the Fram after booking with through Cruise Norway in NY. It was a replacement trip for a cruise canceled last year(2008)after she struck an iceberg in the Antarctic. Due to some issues with Hurtigruten in NY and reading some of the reviews, I had some doubts about the trip
However, the entire trip was beautifully handled from Miami to BA to Ushuaia, aboard the Fram and back again to Miami. I must admit, this was my first cruise of any kind, so I have little to compare it to, except what my friends and relatives have told and shown me about their trips on conventional cruise ships.
First, the cabin. Unless you had a suite, the cabins were very small. With the beds down in sleeping position, there was about 16 inches between the beds. When they were up, you had a couch and a fairly roomy space. The bath was small, but adequate, and about the size of other cruise ships, in photos that I've seen. We had 2 closets a small desk, refrigerator and a luggage storage area. The suites were much larger and appeared to be very comfortable. We had a large window on the port side with an excellent shade for darkening the room on the very bright nights.
The food was very good and highly varied. The only persons who might have a problem would be vegans, or very strict vegetarians, as much of the food included meat, cheese or fish. There were excellent varieties of salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, although the latter were usually served plain. The meals (except 3) were all buffet, so you made your own choices among many options. The three served meals were excellent and even gourmet, in style, quality and presentation. The desserts and baked goods were extremely varied and always excellent. If anything ran out, a simple request to any dining staff would result in a refill. If you dined late after a landing (or just a late riser), they would close each food line as you completed the course and wait for you to finish.
As January 26th was Australian Day, the chef prepared a special meal for the Australians at a special table set up for the event. My grandson and I were invited as "honorary Aussies." The kitchen prepared Aussie meat pies, rack of lamb, mashed potatoes and peas and even the dessert was made specially prepared with Lamingtons and Pavlovas
The common areas consisted of a large wall-to-wall ceiling-to-floor window lounge on Deck 7 along with a small fitness area and 2 hot tubs. There was a large sauna and locker and shower facilities on Deck 8. The restaurant was on Deck 4 which also included the reception desk, coffee shop, gift shop, Internet area and presentation rooms. Wireless was only available only in this area. The desk was staffed 24/7 and coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water and cookies & pastries were available 24/7 without charge. They had a fairly good selection of beers and wines at meals and in the lounge, although alcoholic beverages and soft drinks were an extra charge.
Each member of the Crew, Dining, Housekeeping & Expedition Staff was very enthusiastic and accommodated every request possible. The landings, as many as 3 per day, were conducted in Polar Cirkel boats which are stiffer than Zodiacs and never got us wet (we had very moderate seas). The ship has a water level loading platform on Deck 2, that allows you to enter the boats with a simple step-on & step-off procedure.
The Fram provided us with parkas, (really waterproof hooded shells) and boots (referred to by many as "Wellies") in all sizes. The boots were almost always dry and comfortable, once you selected the right size, though you had to be careful in your selection if you were in the last group of the day.
Lastly, there was a convenient laundry room on Deck 3, where you could get the sweat and penguin poo off of your long johns and outerwear. About a buck for a wash and dryers were free. There was also service laundry, but we never used or needed it.
So, despite my misgivings, I had the best trip of my entire life on a ship I was concerned about embarking upon. Perhaps my review may have been different if I were a more experienced cruiser, but I really doubt it as I spoke with more than half the passengers (very experienced travelers and cruisers) on a daily basis during and after the trip and everyone had the same opinion. Great Ship. No casino, no entertainment, 1 restaurant 249 passengers out of a possible 318, but never a dull moment. Never got more then 30 minutes in one of the three books I brought
Thanks for listening and take my advice to "Go south young man/woman, Go south, on the Fram!