SH Vega has an experienced and highly knowledgeable expedition team onboard. They operate the Zodiacs, accompany passengers on landings, hold talks and lectures in the Observation Lounge, and even moonlight as dinner guests at times, which is a great way to get to know them and their vast experience.
On Antarctica sailings, you will be put into one of two groups (red or blue group), taking it in turns to board the Zodiacs first. Landings are determined by the weather, but you can expect at least two and sometimes three landings a day.
Landings include walks, hikes and wildlife spotting; some of the hikes are fairly challenging. At other times you’ll head out in a Zodiac for a scenic cruise. There is also a polar plunge for brave guests.
Each cabin has a locker in Basecamp on Deck 3 where you will get changed for landings. You’ll be provided with a polar parka and backpack (which are yours to keep); you will also loan muck boots for the duration of the cruises.
Along with lockers, in Basecamp you’ll also find a water dispenser and plenty of seating. There are stairs down to the platform where you embark the Zodiacs. When you disembark the Zodiacs, you’ll be invited to brush, wash and disinfect your boots before embarking the ship.
SH Vega has 12 military-grade, motorized Zodiac rafts which can break through ice. These expedition cruising essentials will get you up close to wildlife, make landings on shore and provide great iceberg viewing opportunities. You’ll need to have some mobility and coordination to get in and out of the Zodiacs, but staff help all passengers with the aid of a ‘sailors grip.’
Zodiacs seat 10 passengers, meaning there are enough Zodiacs to ensure all guests can land at once. You’ll be going out in groups at least twice a day so you’ll need to wrap up, as it can get very cold. You’ll also want to wear sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays bouncing off the ice.
SH Vega has a fleet of kayaks for excursions; these cost $250 extra. The kayaks are two person.
Before you go out on the Zodiacs or kayaks, you’ll be asked to attend a safety briefing. In the case of kayaking, you must have some prior experience before signing up. It’s best to be honest with yourself and the expedition staff about your ability, rather than risk an accident in a remote location. If you can afford the splurge, it’s worth it, with whale spots even more likely.
There is only one lecture venue on SH Vega, the Observation Lounge. This multi-functional venue also serves as a bar and fairly relaxed (at times) music and dancing venue, but there’s always something going on here, from daily lectures and enrichment talks, to the engaging evening daily briefings covering off what has happened that day.
The balance seems just right on sea days. Talks might be on the subject of birds of Antarctica and climate change. You may also catch unscheduled guest speakers like one of the workers at the penguin post office in Port Lockroy off the Antarctic Peninsula. There are also chances to hear the expedition team talk about local birds out on deck, while using your binoculars to spot the various species.
On sea days there is plenty to do, from early morning yoga to talks, briefings and lectures. There is also a library, though no trivia classes are on the schedule.
As the ship is striving to be paperless where possible, the daily program can be found on your in-room TV and is available the evening before. If you prefer a hard copy, reception can provide this. There is also an app in the pipeline.
If you're looking for casinos, Broadway-style performances and clubs, expedition ships broadly do not provide this kind of entertainment.
With SH Vega attracting a wide range of ages, some people like to stay up for a cocktail or two and a dance to the in-house DJ who spins most nights and can go on past midnight, or till whenever the last guest leaves.
There is also a resident pianist who plays early evenings following the daily briefing.
Drinks are included on SH Vega voyages -- this includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with the exception of premium wines and spirits. The drinks menu is comprehensive, and cocktails include classics, specials, refreshers, modernists and options for the sweet tooth. Bar service is very efficient, too.
For excellent cocktails any time of day: The Observation Lounge is the place to go if you fancy a tipple and convivial conversation. Order a ‘Hellenic,’ with Sambuca, peach nectar and Prosecco, and settle down on one of the comfy sofas in preparation for a lecture or the daily briefing.
For coffee and cookies with a view: Grab a coffee and a cookie at the Club Lounge where you can help yourself to hot drinks from morning till night. Then grab a booth or table by the floor-to-ceiling windows and watch out for marine life.
There is one heated outdoor infinity pool at the aft of the ship. This was not that popular on our Antarctica sailing; however, on other sailings with warmer weather this may not be the case.
There is also one larger-than-usual hot tub in front of the sauna on Deck 8; this was very popular during our sailing, especially late afternoon before the daily briefing took place.
The pool and jacuzzi may sometimes be closed depending on the weather conditions.
SH Vega offers a good amount of open deck space, along with the unique Swan’s Nest viewing platform at the bow (front) of Deck 6, affording panoramic 180-degree views and cannot be beaten for whale or bird spotting, drinking in the extraordinary scenery or snapping a picture or two.
Other popular spots include the aft of the ship adjacent to the infinity pool and the Stargazing Deck on 9. Inside, most people head for the Observation Lounge or the Club Lounge, both of which have large windows and plenty of seating. In addition, the Bridges’ open-door policy allows guests to view wildlife alongside the crew and Captain.
There is a small retail area located within the Observation Lounge; this mainly sells clothing and branded merchandize such as water bottles, clothing and backpacks. However, there is no shop selling toiletries or pharmacy items.
The onboard Wi-Fi is free for all guests; while it was not super-fast it was more than adequate considering the remote location, plus unlike some other ships, you can have it on more than one device. There are no enhanced Wi-Fi packages available. There is an app in the pipeline.
Unwind after a day ashore in the small spa which uses La Mer and Lajatica products. Treatments cost extra, though daily spa offers are promoted on the in-room TVs.
The panoramic sauna on Deck 8, with its view outwards over the jacuzzi, is also a popular unwinding spot and available for all guests to use.
There is a small gym on Deck 8 with cardio equipment, weights, stretch bands and a small amount of floor space. Large windows overlooking the ocean ensure you don’t miss a thing while you work out.
Changing facilities, water and towels are also provided.
SH Vega allows children over the age of eight to sail, however, there are no kids facilities onboard, no babysitting service and most of the activities are geared towards adults.
That said, nature loving kids will enjoy the on-deck bird and wildlife spotting and wildlife talks, movies on the in-room TVs, and of course the landings.
Kids are allowed in the pool and jacuzzi under parental supervision.