In Antarctica, World Navigator puts together a program that places both exploration and education at the forefront. Expect educational lectures from the trained expedition staff, on topics such as whales, penguins and geology. Films in the auditorium on Antarctic explorers and wildlife supplement the lectures, and also provide some entertainment at night.
Everything from where you go to what you do on a daily basis in Antarctica is dependent on the weather. While there's a briefing every night to the next day's activities, these can change, if the weather conditions aren't favorable.
Strict rules regulate how many people can go onshore in Antarctica at any one time -- no more than 100. So World Navigator will divide the ships' passengers into different groups and alternate activities during the day, so everyone has a chance to participate. You will also receive safety briefings for how to get in and out of the Zodiac, as well as the kayaks.
Before you go out into the elements, you'll pass through the ship's mud room, where you'll put on all your gear -- a green parka that's given to you courtesy of the line; boots; life jackets; hats; gloves; sunglasses and other winter gear. You'll be almost unrecognizable once you get it all on (don't worry, the guides help).
Expect the days to be busy. World Navigator strives, if the conditions are right, to have at least one or two landings or activities a day. Given all the gear, it means that things can be hectic. It's ok to pace yourself and sit out a landing if you want, but we recommend you try to do as much as you can because you don't know when the weather will turn.
World Navigator also conducts a "polar plunge" while in Antarctica. You wear a safety harness and there's a rope to pull you in -- a necessity, as the waters are incredibly icy. Make sure you get clearance from a doctor before you participate -- there are certain health conditions that preclude plunging your body into such cold water so fast.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the World Navigator expedition team will try to get you to see and do as much as you can, as safely as you can. Every Antarctica experience is different, but the otherworldliness of your surroundings and the joy you'll feel at seeing and being somewhere so remote will endure.
Among the chief activities you'll experience on an Antarctica cruise are rides in Zodiacs -- sturdy inflatable motorized boats that are open to the elements. You use the Zodiac not only to make your landings on shore, but to go up close to icebergs and view the shoreline. There's really no escaping Zodiacs on an Antarctica cruise, so you'll want to make sure you're comfortable being so close to the water, and have the ability to get in and out of one.
World Navigator has 12 Zodiac Milpros, as well as six solo and six tandem sea kayaks, and 12 standup paddleboards (yes, you can paddleboard in Antarctica). The ship also carries two Zodiac pros for jetskiing and two Yamaha EX Sport Waverunners, although these are used in warmer climates. The Zodiacs are stored on Deck 7, high above the water, which means that getting them out can take longer than if they are stored inside the ship at a lower level.
When the ship isn't at the poles, it's based in the Mediterranean. In 2023, Atlas made the decision to turn these sailings into "Epicurean Expeditions," with a focus on learning about local food and drink with cooking demonstrations and meals prepared by guest chefs.
On our round-trip Nice sailing, we had two rounds of guest chefs. The first pair, Bobby Marcotte and Peter Campbell, have been frequent guests on Guy Fieri's show Guy's Grocery Games. On the second half of the trip, Top Chef Brazil winner Luciana Berry and runner up Cesar Scolari appeared.
We would have liked to see World Navigator better prepared for the cooking demonstrations, which were held once in the auditorium and once in the Atlas Lounge. Because neither space has a mirror above the table where the chefs were cooking, a lot of people couldn’t see what was going on. We also enjoyed the specialty items that both sets of chefs served in the main dining room; the offerings punched up the menu.
The Epicurean Expeditions also include at least one complimentary culinary excursion. On our trip, a demonstration called The Joy of Pesto wasn't executed very well, at all. Other Med cruises, though, had better luck with their excursions, however, so the experience could vary from sailing to sailing.
The Dom Henrique Auditorium is used heavily during Antarctica sailings, for lectures from the expedition staff, as well as movies. Because the Auditorium is at the front of the ship, people can feel queasy here during rough seas, so it's a good thing that all lectures and recaps are also broadcast into the rooms over the interactive TVs.
The Auditorium was not used much at all during our Epicurean Expedition, as people spent most of their time in port.
Whether you're in Antarctica or elsewhere in the world, the World Navigator staff is very focused on giving you as much time in the destination as possible. When you're at the poles, the time that you're not either on an expedition or getting ready for an expedition will likely be spent learning about your expedition -- unless you're exhausted and need a well deserved nap!
The calls in the Med are lengthy, which gives you plenty of time to arrange whatever tour you'd like on your own or simply enjoy a meal (or two) in the port city. We admit that we missed a daily trivia game, like you find on other cruise ships. But most of World Navigator's passengers liked having their time their own, without a lot of scheduled programming or activities. Tea is served everyday in the Dome at 4 p.m.
The free drinks onboard World Navigator definitely hasten camaraderie between passengers. Most passengers onboard seemed content with the included options, and while we're not exactly sure how many people actually used the 24-hour drinks delivery system, it must be in demand, otherwise the line wouldn't offer it.
Keep in mind that outdoor drinking venues are generally not open during the Antarctica season.
For that morning jolt: Paula's Pantry has limited seating but we found this was a great first stop before we did -- well, anything, really.
For a quiet pre-dinner drink: The Atlas Lounge has plenty of seating and is convenient to the main dining room.
For late-night socializing: It's the Dome Observation Lounge where anyone who still had energy after their long day in port (and long meal) would go to meet and mingle.
Unusual for a small expedition ship that goes to the poles, World Navigator has a fairly sizable outdoor pool. That's a lot of outdoor real estate to put into play and having that much unusable space does cut into the areas where people can go for outdoor viewing. That being said, we're sure it's welcome in Europe when the summer heats up and it does give the ship more options, in terms of itinerary.
World Navigator also has two hot tubs right next to the pool. The traditional layout of the ship means that these hot tubs are somewhat protected from the elements, so if you're the hardy sort, you might be able to use them in Antarctica. (We suggest the indoor sauna instead).
The Waters Edge on Deck 5 is the most interesting outdoor area for observing wildlife at the poles. At the front of the ship, the space boasts a heated bench, so you can sit not-so-ideal weather and stay warm while checking out whales, birds, icebergs and other scenery. (The space was not used at all during our Med cruise -- in fact, the door was locked and we had to ask someone to open it so we could take a look).
Another space that is likely very popular during Antarctica sailings is the outdoor area near the Dome Observation Lounge. It's not as large as you might expect, so space here could be at a premium (because if there's one thing we've learned on expedition ships, it's that people like to be close to warming liquids as they go in and out of the cold).
There is a very small observation deck at the back of the ship on Deck 6.
On our Med cruise, lounge chairs were set out around the pool and on the deck right above it, but the spring weather was a little chilly for all but the most avid sunseekers.
There's a guest services desk set up on Deck 4, just like a hotel. We heard varying degrees about the level of helpfulness that was provided, however; some guests reported a language barrier. The Shore Excursion desk is on the same floor but a room away, right next to Paula's Pantry.
World Navigator has a small shop, but because we were on a port-intensive trip, it was rarely open. The store did have some cold weather gear, as well as souvenirs, which could come in handy in Antarctica.
WiFi on the ship was hit and miss. World Navigator had recently installed Starlink, so the speed of the internet vastly improved over the course of our trip. The line gives you a limited amount of complimentary internet, just for one device, and if you don't turn off almost all of your notifications and get religious about logging in and out for brief periods of time, you will blow through it quickly. All packages are sold by how much bandwidth you use, which is harder to predict than the standard "email/social only" or "stream" choices that you might purchase on a mainstream cruise ship. Atlas might want to look into simplifying this.
Atlas Ocean Voyages does not have an app -- and in fact, you couldn’t book your shore excursions online ahead of time. Hopefully this is something that the line will fix, as we heard frustrations from fellow passengers who didn't know that certain excursions were available.
There is a Medical Center on Deck 4, which comes in handy during rough Drake Passage sessions (but if you're going to Antarctica, it's better to bring your own seasickness solutions). Atlas does include emergency medical evacuation insurance in its fares, and the ship has a helipad.
The lovely Seaspa by L'Occitane was a nice surprise on a ship this size. First, everyone knows L'Occitane products and it's nice to see some favorites onboard. Second, the prices for the limited number of massages, facials and wraps were comparable or even a little less than you might find on land. And third, the practitioners refrained from giving any sort of sales spiel after the treatment. We wish all spas at sea were this relaxing.
We also loved the small relaxation area adjacent to the spa. Our only quibble is that the spa didn't have a real locker or changing room. If you don't come down in your robe, you need to change in the small restroom (and the spa bathrobes are made for very small people, it seems).
Likewise, the sauna on World Navigator was a joy, with large windows and plenty of seating. We didn't see all that many people using it on our port-intensive cruise, but I was certainly able to imagine how fabulous it would be to soak in the heat while watching the icebergs float by in Antarctica. The sauna is complimentary.
You have to search to find the gym on World Navigator -- but when you do open the door, tucked on Deck 4 across from Paula's Pantry, you'll find that it's actually quite spacious and inviting for a ship this size. The ship has Technogym cardio equipment (bikes, treadmills and ellipticals) and there's a wall with free weights, mats and balance balls.
There's a walking/jogging track above the pool on Deck 8. One mile is 12 laps.
The age limit for guests in Antarctica is 8 years old. The line stresses that children must always be accompanied by an adult; there is no babysitting or kids clubs onboard, meaning that if your child doesn't want to go out on the Zodiac, you won't either, unless another parent watches them.
The age limit for Epicurean Expeditions is 12 months. Children 2 years and under are able to participate in shore excursions for free.
That being said, World Navigator is a small ship, with an adult atmosphere (and all that free booze). Without any programming during the day or shows in the evening for distraction, children are likely to get bored easily.