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23 Hurtigruten Expedition Cruise Reviews

The main reason for taking this cruise was to see exotic Greenland and Iceland at the same time. This cruise only offered 1 stop in Iceland after leaving Reykjavik but I spent a full week in Iceland on my own using a rented car to ... Read More
The main reason for taking this cruise was to see exotic Greenland and Iceland at the same time. This cruise only offered 1 stop in Iceland after leaving Reykjavik but I spent a full week in Iceland on my own using a rented car to appreciate that wonderful and scenic island. We were lucky to have smooth sailing the whole trip, slightly bumpier going across to Greenland but still pretty smooth considering. Weather was also in our favour 90% of the time, with fog lifting when appropriate. All of the stops on this itinerary where worthwhile and Hurtigruten does a great job of getting everyone off and back on with their small tender boats (max. 8 people). Generally, the stops were interesting enough on their own but most stops had excursion options if you wished, like escorted hikes, glacial boat rides, kayaking, etc. Two stops included a guided hike without charge. The first stop in Greenland included a natural warm water spa which was fun to partake with a small changing hut nearby. The regular cabins are done well while the suites (which I had) are that much better in the bedding, amenities, wine & beer at lunch/dinner, espresso/cappuccino at breakfast, 2 bottles of water and chocolate each evening and housecoats to keep. The vast majority of the crew and staff are friendly and helpful. The front desk staff stood out for me. Most of the expedition team are interesting, friendly and approachable. Among 14 expedition team members, there were only 2 natural English speakers and the rest were mostly from Germany originally (although 1 was from Netherlands, another from Poland, 2 from Greenland and 1 other from Iceland). All lectures, information sessions and excursions were in 2 languages: English and German. I am sure the Germans had it easy with so many German native speakers in the team, but the lectures in English were often difficult to follow or at least awkward to listen and understand, except when the very interesting and knowledgeable Canadian guy lead a session or a group/excursion ashore. Of the 12 European expedition team members, I would say 2 of them had great English (as a second language) and 2 more were pretty good, while the rest ranged from OK to terrible English. Food was EXCELLENT overall with a good variety and different menus such as Norwegian (of course), Greenlandic, Filipino, sea food and lots of great lamb. All of the service staff (restaurant, bar and stewards) were from Philippines. They worked very hard and most were super friendly. The Fram ship is fantastic and well dressed for sailing polar waters in great comfort. The decorations around the ship are interesting and well done, relating to polar expedition history and the original Fram vessel from the 1890s. There is a wonderful lounge and bar on the top level, 2 hot tubs, good size gym, 2 lecture rooms, a bistro and games room and a spacious and well appointed restaurant at the stern on deck 4 (of 8). There are also great outdoor viewing spots on decks 5, 7 and 8. One day, we could not get to our planned port of call because of too many icebergs blocking the entrance. To make up for this, the captain stopped in a strategic spot in a large fjord with several stationary icebergs around and we spent a few hours exploring these bergs close-up with the small tender boats (either 7 or 10 pax at a time, depending on the boat size). This was an unexpected great surprise which really added a wonderful experience to all to feel the wonder and awe of these creations of nature. The last 3 days on this trip were perhaps the most memorable starting with viewing the ice berg factory at Ilulissat, then stopping at a small hamlet where we got to visit inside a Greenland home for coffee and sweets, participated or watched a football match between the Fram crew/guests and the village (they won easily), enjoying some Greenland music in a sing-along with villagers, and on the final day a well orchestrated day of visiting the Greenland ice cap, looking for animals (Musk Ox was spotted) and a wonderful outdoor meal before being flown overnight to Copenhagen on a chartered Airbus 330 Greenland Air flight ... which was also excellent with open bar, full hot breakfast served, headphones and in-seat personal entertainment system. This was a super experience with an excellent and appropriate ship which is well thought out and executed by Hurtigruten. Highly recommended. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black ... Read More
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black cocktail dresses then book another sort of trip. This is a professional operation with an excellent boat and expedition crew. Personally, I pay good money to avoid dancing girls with feather but YMMV. We saw penguins unnumbered, humpback whales bubble netting, whales surfacing next to the ship (!!!), seals hunting penguins returning to the rookery, Rock Hopper penguins kamikazimg off the cliffs to avoid seals, fantastic hospitality of the Falkland Island residents, Hour Glass dolphins viewed from the observation deck, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Falkland Island Steamer Ducks doing what they do naturally, visits to British 1950s Antarctic Stations and a fascinating impromptu talk by a Norwegian ex-whaler (and I am a card carrying anti-whaler!). The only problem is should we be travelling to this delicate and fragile eco-system? We would be back again (for the third time) but for wrestling with our conscience about whether we should be travelling here at all. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships ... Read More
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships but none that are more seaworthy. A very good value. The cruise officially began in Buenos Aires. We spent a week there on our own so had not purchased an airport transfer from Hurtigruten for the charter flight to Ushuaia. This became the source of some stress when we belatedly learned that our flight was to depart at 4:40 AM, meaning finding a cab on our own at 2:00 AM. If we had known about the ridiculously early flight in advance, we would have spent the last night in Buenos Aires with the Fram group. We were met at the airport in Ushuaia by Fram personnel. No problem with check-in on the ship, and our luggage was already in our cabin when we arrived. As been mentioned before, the standard cabin on the Fram is astonishingly tiny. There are two berths with very little space between them. During the day one berth is turned up and the other becomes a couch, to allow for more floor space. There is adequate storage space, but it is mostly in open cubbyholes. Travelers used to large cruise ships will be shocked. The "superior outside stateroom" is much larger and nicer, with a queen-sized bed and large bathroom, but is of course more expensive. We have cruised on the Fram before, and to save money had paid for an "unspecified inside cabin." After all, we never spend any time in the cabin on an expedition cruise. As it turned out, we were upgraded to a "superior" cabin, our good fortune this time. The Fram is a lovely ship, especially built for polar conditions. For this cruise it was completely booked with 224 passengers. Public rooms are very attractive. There is a large observation lounge on Deck 7 forward, a wonderful place to watch the scenery in a hostile climate. Deck 4 is the nerve center of the vessel, with the dining room with windows on three sides; two lecture halls; a cafe with drinks and snacks; a shop offering cold-weather gear and a few souvenirs and essentials; and the administrative center. There are large windows on both sides. The ship also has an outdoor hot tub and a fitness room with a sauna. Outside on Decks 5 and 8 are large observation areas. Of course, in the Antarctic these were used primarily when something especially exciting was going on, such as whale watching or threading our way through gigantic icebergs. We were generally fortunate with weather. The notorious Drake Passage was glassy smooth on the two-day cruise south, and we were able to make two landings a day in Antarctica. (On the return trip over the Drake, it blew a full gale, force 8 on the Beaufort Scale.) The temperature on the Antarctic peninsula hovered around freezing twenty-four hours a day. There is no real darkness this time of year. For shore excursions we wore layers and shed them if there was no wind and the sun was out. Then it seemed surprisingly warm. When it was windy, or when we were in the 8-passenger "Polar Zirkel" boats, we needed all our cold-weather gear, including waterproof parkas (a gift from Hurtigruten) and pants. We also wore study rubber boots for all excursions. These were available for rent from the ship at a reasonable cost. It's hard to describe the eight days we actually spent in the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is not a place, it's an experience. Twice-daily excursions brought us into close contact with three species of nesting penguins, who have no fear of humans and will walk right up to you. We also had close encounters with seals on land and on icebergs. The scenery is beyond spectacular. We've all seen pictures and videos of glaciers and icebergs, but no pictures can capture the reality of being there. We visited a couple of inhabited islands and got a change to understand what it's like to live there. Some historic sites were included, such as a former whalers' processing station, and Elephant Island, where Shackleton's crew managed to survive for 4 1/2 months awaiting rescue. Lectures on the wildlife, geology, and history of the region by members of the outstanding Expedition Team put things in context. In addition to the included daily shore excursions, there were optional kayaking trips and "boat cruising" in the small boats. There was also one long guided hike, and the chance to spend a night ashore in a tent. These optional excursions cost extra but provided an even more intimate experience with this unique environment. There was no evening entertainment per se: a "Crew's Show," a Tango demonstration, some relevant movies, etc. We were too tired after the busy days to have any interest in evening activities, and I never heard anyone complain about the lack of entertainment. Breakfast and lunch were always buffets; there were two official dinner seatings, but because of the extensive shore excursions, all but three dinners were buffets. Service was excellent throughout. I have read complaints elsewhere about food aboard the Fram. It certainly does not measure up to the standards of a traditional cruise ship. However, we found that there were plenty of options, including lactose-free and gluten-free. The beef was not great, and vegetables tended to be overcooked, but the fish, cheeses, salads, breads, and desserts were outstanding. And does anyone expect meals on an expedition cruise to play the important role that they do on, say, a Mediterranean cruise? We were quite satisfied. Passengers were a diverse group. Probably more than half were American, but there were large contingents from Germany and France, and we also met South Africans, Australians, Japanese, and Indians, to name a few. This was a very well-traveled assortment of lively, adventurous people, as you would expect on a cruise to the Antarctic. We've been on many cruises, including some to rather exotic places (Greenland, Svalbard, Galapagos, Amazon), but Antarctica will always stand out in my mind. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity of experiencing it. It is totally unlike anywhere else on earth, absolutely indescribable. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 ... Read More
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 p.m. and on day 19 you are going to be leaving the ship at about 7.30 a.m. So, effectively it is a 17 day cruise. The Fram is an excellent ship for the job, being large enough to be comfortable but small enough to get into places that bigger liners would never get to or be allowed to go to, South Georgia for instance has a limit of 100 people ashore at any one time at most of the places we stopped at. Try that on a 2 - 3000 passenger liner. We were blessed with good weather and we landed at almost all of the places intended, however, Hurtigriten do like to make the most of a 'captive audience'. They offered us organised trips at Ushuaia and on the Falklands. All of them seemed quite expensive for what they were so we only pre-booked one which was at Port Stanley. It was fairly interesting, a visit to a penguin colony, but given that we visited numerous others for no extra cost on South Georgia and the Antarctic Islands subsequently this trip was a waste of money, and time as you don't get long in Stanley. Other extras were offered once on board: snowshoeing, kayaking, trips in the Polarcircle RIBs and several hikes. All of these were quite expensive for what they were for instance about £75 for a 2 hour cruise in the RIBs just to see the sights along the shore, almost £100 each for two and a half hours kayaking which, with 5 two-man kayaks earned the line about £1000 for the use of the boats plus two guides. Even the hikes which usually have over 50 people on them will cost you around £25 per person when you might think that they could throw in a guided walk of a few miles free of extra cost especially when you consider that the 'trainee' members of the Expedition Crew are not even being paid by the Line but are doing their jobs unsalaried just to gain experience. They rely, of course on the "well, I'll only be here once" thought that goes through our minds and makes us pay these silly extra costs. Then there's the bar prices. I didn't want a 'booze cruise' but it would have been nice to have a beer at the end of an active day or a bottle of wine with dinner but with Carlsberg lager (the only beer they had and one that I don't like) costing almost £7 per pint and Chilean 'plonk' that sells in Buenos Aires supermarkets for about £5 a bottle being priced at around £25 per bottle on the ship I had a very 'dry' holiday. Obviously it is not that people who can afford the cruise can't afford the drinks but I object to being 'milked' in this way especially when the Line presumably buys the stuff as 'Bonded Stores', that is to say, without having to pay duty on it. They also x-ray your cases when you come aboard, including hand-luggage. This is not as you might think to protect you from guns and bombs. It is to protect their bar profits by spotting and removing any alcohol you may have brought with you. To add insult to injury they also charge for water to drink in the restaurant but they offer a 'deal' whereby you can pay about £20 per head for the privilege of having a carafe of 'mineral' water on your table every evening. This deal is supposed to be per person whereas, of course, it should be per couple but having had a very early start (up at 01.45 a.m.) to catch the flight to Ushuaia I allowed myself to be bounced into agreeing to it for each of us so we paid almost £40 in total. It is a real shame that Hurtugruten feel the need to rip-off their clients in these petty ways as the cruise itself was everything we could have hoped for but the constant feeling that you are being 'milked' leaves a nasty taste that even their very expensive water cannot wash away. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We travelled on Richard With and had a wonderful time Hunting the Light. We had five nights of sightings and have some super photographs that we are well satisfied with. The passage to Kirkenes and back is not a cruise - it is a journey ... Read More
We travelled on Richard With and had a wonderful time Hunting the Light. We had five nights of sightings and have some super photographs that we are well satisfied with. The passage to Kirkenes and back is not a cruise - it is a journey on a well appointed ferry and must not be confused by those booking the trip. There is no cruise style entertainment at all - coffee is served in a bar up on Deck 7 where a pianist plays - that is all that happens, the rest is up to you and your fellow passengers. it is a wonderful visual experience but you must know what your are booking if you wish to avoid disappointment. Stops at ports are short and sweet - some as short as 20 minutes, some extend to 6 hours at the most. The food is wonderful if you like open Scandinavian type buffets - we do so it is great - but if you do not eat fish or are a vegetarian, your choice is limited. Dinner is served with no choice expect if you pre-warn and book a veggie type meal. Here comes the warning! Now the line are not serving tap water in flasks as they have done for years but are now asking you to buy mineral water to drink in the Dining Room. You get free mineral water if you have bought a wine package at Norwegian prices but not if you do not. Buying a minimal amount of water can add up to £60 to your on board account. This is not shown in the brochure nor is it told to you on booking. 'Be Warned' and expect to pay to have a glass of water with your meals. The staff are very pleasant and helpful. Their main role has been for many years running a state supported ferry service for the Norwegian traveller - they are not cruise passenger orientated, they are efficient and dedicated to make everything run to time. It is a superb experience both in winter and summer - but I urge anyone booking to know what it is they are booking and not complain if it turns out to be different to what they expext. Do your research and ask all the questions. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
My partner and I went on a Northern Lights Cruise with Hurtigruten along the coast of Norway. We had been planning this for some time and were really looking forward to it. Norway is a beautiful country but the 'cruise' was very ... Read More
My partner and I went on a Northern Lights Cruise with Hurtigruten along the coast of Norway. We had been planning this for some time and were really looking forward to it. Norway is a beautiful country but the 'cruise' was very disappointing. If you are planning to go with Hurtigruten to Norway make sure you know what you are booking. There were so few passengers on our trip that the majority of the excursions were cancelled. It is the trips that make the holiday special so it was nowhere near as special as we thought it would be. It was very frustrating to be in such a beautiful country but not able to get off the ship and spend any time exploring. The cruise was more of an expensive ferry hop between ports - many of which were arrived at during the night or for very short - half hour stop offs in ports a significant away from the towns. The crew on the ship were great and the food was good but I would never travel with this company again. We did write to Hurtigruten with feedback but they were not interested. Instead of recommending Hurtigruten we are telling all our family and friends to be very careful if they are thinking of travelling anywhere with this company. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice ... Read More
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice observation lounge/bar on Deck 5, good space around the lecture rooms and coffee bar on Deck 4, and good outside space for observation when weather permits. There are very nice saunas for men and women and two outdoor hottubs. There is a small but adequate fitness area with treadmills and and weight equipment. It is usually not crowded and easy to access but there is no drinking water and towels are on a different floor. We purchased return air from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia embarkation point and airport transfers in Ushuaia. The flight down and embarkation was without incident but the dis-embarkation and return flight were poorly handled. We were told to board a bus at 7:45 am for a two hour city tour and transfer to the airport. We got on the bus, it drove to a parking lot at the end of the pier, parked, and we were told we had 2 hours free time for whatever we wanted to do. The ship told us nothing about walking around the town and few were prepared for a walking tour. We were fortunate that the weather turned out well or it would have been two hours sitting on the bus. The return flight was scheduled for 12:30 pm and was delayed an hour. It is 3 1/2 hours. Hurtigruten made no provision for lunch and told us nothing about the lack of lunch. Communications from Hurtigruten before the cruise were limited and terse. Our final cruise documents had to be emailed because we still had not received them a week before our flight departed. We received a notice that a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, which was included in the package that we purchased, would no longer be included and we would have to pay an extra $105 pp to take it. We got this straightened out but the messages from Hurtigruten were flip to terse and showed little respect for us. This lack of communication continued throughout the trip. Ships officers dined in the dining room but seldom said hello or engaged with passengers. The expedition leader was not visible on the ship at all. Expedition team members seldom interacted with passengers on board outside of their lectures. Daily programs were fragmentary and not very descriptive of what shore excursions would be. The shore excursions are included in the price and there were about a dozen in different places. Most were short walks, some difficult, with good views of penguin colonies and landscape. Safety during landings in the Polarcircle boats were a priority for the expedition team and were conducted safely under sometimes difficult conditions. We had suite 638, one of the highest category suites on the ship. There was a spacious balcony. The suite itself was very spacious but not as conveniently appointed as we have seen on other lines. There was not much storage for this size cabin and the bathroom was very small and without the finishes and amenities that we have seen in suites on other lines. This is an expedition ship and you are constantly changing into and out of shore landing gear but there was no accommodation in the room for the gear or for drying wet landing apparel. Amenities were better than other cabins on board but much less than we have seen in lower category suites on other lines. The restaurant and hotel staff were friendly and helpful but there did not seem to be enough staff to meet needs in a timely fashion. The waiters started clearing tables well before people were finished and once they started clearing it was difficult to get service. Eight of our 12 evening meals were buffet. The served dinners were fixed menu with one option for the entree. Lunch and dinner buffets were heavy on starches and pasta. Salads were available but vegetables were limited. We found the food quality to be mediocre and often less than well prepared. Wine and beer are available for meals but expensive. Our cabin rate included wine and beer with meals and the servers were trained to recognize this without issues about charges. There is coffee, tea, and some pastries available at no charge during the day but no other food available between meals. The crew did two evening talent shows that were fun. Movies were available some nights but no other entertainment. There are limited itineraries that sail below the Antarctic Circle and MV Fram will have to be considered if you want that itinerary but be aware of the shortcomings of this company and vessel. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We were on the Hurtigruten Polar Expedition leaving Ushuaia on 1st February 2013, having been inspired to go on it by a group tour of the Fram when she was docked in Portsmouth in 2011. Our favourable impressions of the boat and its cruise ... Read More
We were on the Hurtigruten Polar Expedition leaving Ushuaia on 1st February 2013, having been inspired to go on it by a group tour of the Fram when she was docked in Portsmouth in 2011. Our favourable impressions of the boat and its cruise programme were fully borne out by our experience on this vacation. Good intentions to write a review upon return were finally spurred into action upon reading the largely negative Cruise Critic review for the same cruise. Our review offers a more positive perspective which was shared by all the other English-speaking passengers with whom we socialised. The ethos and purpose of this Hurtigruten Expedition are rewardingly different from the 5-star luxury and pampering to which the writer of the previous review is perhaps more accustomed. The pre-trip information provided was comprehensive; we did need to phone about certain details which were unclear, and our queries were dealt with efficiently albeit somewhat brusquely. Our flight from Heathrow was smooth and reception at Buenos Aires welcoming but somewhat chaotic. From the comfortable Emperador Hotel we had a whistle-stop coach tour of BA which gave a good overview of the city. The transfer to Ushuaia was well-managed and smooth (notwithstanding the rather shockingly early 3.30am start from the hotel to the domestic airport). Upon arrival in Ushuaia, the coach trip/visits within the Tierra del Fuego National Park were informative and interesting. Embarkation was smoothly handled. Over the next 48 hours of navigation down the Beagle Channel and across the Drake Passage one became aware of the enormity of the task of registering, preparing, orienting and briefing 240 passengers with regard to the on-board regime, the landings which we would be experiencing, the potentially dangerous polar environment, and the international 'code of conduct' for Antarctica. It was also a chance to relax after the tiring travel to embarkation, and to become acquainted with the ship. The Fram is modern, spotlessly clean, comfortable, and well-appointed with some lovely decorative touches and artwork throughout. The panoramic observation lounge with bar offers fantastic vistas of the awesome scenery and wildlife. Other seating areas also provide places to relax, read or chat. Most of the meals were buffet-style, with set-menu table service on a few special occasions. The food was generally of good quality, with lots of fish and seafood, and the most superb desserts. The salads did get a bit samey; but any criticism of on-board cuisine must take into account the fact that there is no opportunity for re-provisioning on an Antarctic cruise!!! The cost of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is high (in Norwegian waters, Norwegian taxes will apply; but surely the Antarctic is a duty-free area?!). The largely Philippine restaurant staff were charming, courteous, helpful and for the most part efficient, although frequently too rushed off their feet to respond as quickly to requests as one would hope. The iceberg shaped Plexiglas dividers between joined tables were an unfortunate touch which impeded conversation and in our view should be done away with. Our cabin (307) was compact but comfortable with fold-away twin beds (one to give a sofa), plenty of storage space, tv screen, desk (but the chairs which block access to the cabin and ensuite shower-room need replacing with less bulky ones!), and a large porthole. Brilliant showers, shelves for toiletries; our loo did block a couple of times but was rapidly and effectively fixed. The Bridge visit and explanations from the Captain on the construction, technology and operation of the Fram gave insight into the state-of-the-art design of the vessel for polar navigation. Many cruise boats ply to and from Ushuaia and the northern reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula, but very few venture as far as Latitude 68o14'S (our southernmost destination), or are equipped to offer such an extensive opportunity for landings (of which we had 13, over 8 days). Impressively coordinated teamwork is required to launch the 8-person RIBS, land a recce party, organise groups for disembarkation, manage safe movement of passengers ashore plus enabling them to have an enjoyable and informed experience, and then to bring everyone back to the mother ship. We saw an amazing range of wildlife at close quarters, and had many fascinating visits to historical bases both manned and deserted. The expedition team comprises an international group of 9 all of whom are experts in their fields (geology, exploration, biology, photography, flora, ornithology), and they were frequently available to answer questions and give guidance (and, I have a photograph of the Team Leader chatting on-board with a passenger.) Any criticism of their unavailability at certain times should be viewed in light of the fact that there can be no fixed itinerary, and in the context of the need for quick and flexible planning responses to prevailing weather and landing conditions. Their on-board lectures / slideshows were well presented and interesting; there were also some films. 'Entertainment' is NOT the focus of this cruise, and does not purport to be. With only one notable exception (regarding the aborted Lemaire Channel RIB expedition), the announcements were clear and provided necessary information. Given how many were necessary, it would have been inappropriate and confusing for them to be more 'chatty.' Each evening, there were group briefings (in German and in English) for the next day's planned itinerary and landings. As for the criticism that "ships officers dined in the dining room but seldom said hello or engaged with passengers:" their responsibility lay in navigating and operating the ship, which was underway for 18-24 hours every day, and with maintaining the safety of passengers rather than socialising with them. Passenger were aged 40's upwards, most being well-travelled people of retirement age. Germans constituted the largest proportion, then many English-speaking nationalities, with smaller numbers of Europeans of other nationalities. The atmosphere on board was a relaxed, convivial, and informal. Upon return to Ushuaia, disembarkation was efficient. A coach transported us to the starting point for a trek through the scenic Tierra del Fuego National Park, with well-informed guides who provided information about its history, ecology, flora and fauna. The flight to Buenos Aires was delayed by an hour and Ushuaia airport was crowded and chaotic, but this was not Hurtigruten's fault. The evening of our return to Buenos Aires, we learned by chance from companions with wifi connection of the anticipated several-hour delay for our next day's flight (due to technical fault with a BA plane). However the Hurtigruten rep failed to systematically contact all affected clients, and at least one couple were unaware of the delay until they appeared next morning at the originally planned time for the coach. We were booked for an excursion on this last day which clashed with the original departure time; Hurtigruten should have spotted this anomaly and cancelled the booking earlier. A refund was forthcoming only after we wrote to Hurtigruten requesting it after our return. In summary: any criticisms centre mainly on administrative shortcomings and poor communication around the 'fringes' of the cruise, but overall our feedback on this once-in-a-lifetime experience is overwhelmingly positive, and compliments are due to the ship's crew as a whole for their excellent teamwork, professionalism, and cheerful friendliness. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We had always wanted to visit Antarctica and we are so glad we chose the Fram. Everything was exceptionally well organised - we were most impressed by the attention to detail and safety. The ship was very comfortable -even in a force ... Read More
We had always wanted to visit Antarctica and we are so glad we chose the Fram. Everything was exceptionally well organised - we were most impressed by the attention to detail and safety. The ship was very comfortable -even in a force 11 storm we didn't feel ill!!. All the cabins were well apponted, clean and tidy. The food was excellent. Although there was not always a hugh choice, there was always a meat, fish and vegetarian option. On one occasion we didn't like any of the options so the chef did us steak instead. The crew were fantastic - very friendly and couldn't do enough to help you. This was ALL the crew - from the Captian downwards! The visits ashore were made using the Polarcirkel boats - great fun. We were lucky to make 5 landings in Antarctica itself. When chosing an Antrctic voyage - be aware that a lot of the cruises don't actually allow you to land - you just sail the Antrctic waters. If you are looking for a cruise with lots of entertainment, then this s not for you. ther were talks about the wildlife and what we would see but this is very mush an 'Expedition/Explorer' cruise so there is no entertainment as you would get on a large cruise ship. Howver, you are with people who are all really keen to experience the Antarctic. Throughtly recommended - we are looking to go on the Fram again!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We are on the Richard With now and we are stopped in Bodon for 24 hours. This stop is for Christmas but it is a bit boring. There are some good points and bad points about this cruise. We have cruised a lot and this ship is quite a ... Read More
We are on the Richard With now and we are stopped in Bodon for 24 hours. This stop is for Christmas but it is a bit boring. There are some good points and bad points about this cruise. We have cruised a lot and this ship is quite a bit different but from my research I knew what to expect. Overall it exceeded my expectations (which were low). The cabin is adequate with a heated bathroom floor.Eating is a bit different both due to the type of food and service. Much of the food is not labelled )salads etc) so you have to guess. Breakfast and Lunch are buffets which is good but dinner is a fixed menu, for example tonite we are having reindeer stew which I am not crazy about. The wifi does not work but they do have 4 desktops which work. There is a small coffee bar where you can buy food if you want extra...that is mainly for peopkle who are just using this ship to go from port to port. The dining room is quite nice. If this does get posted, I will return with more info. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We recently returned from a cruise on the Nordkapp, going both north and then south on the ship, beginning and ending in Bergen, Norway. It was a wonderful trip with lots of beautiful scenery. My thoughts on the cruise: next time I will ... Read More
We recently returned from a cruise on the Nordkapp, going both north and then south on the ship, beginning and ending in Bergen, Norway. It was a wonderful trip with lots of beautiful scenery. My thoughts on the cruise: next time I will book a room on deck 3 or 4 in the middle of the ship. We were in a front cabin on deck 5. The outside deck was on deck 5 so there were people walking in front of the stateroom window. When we hit rough seas that cabin had much more movement than other areas of the ship. The rooms are small but clean and adequate. It was fun to stop in all of the little towns but some of the stops were only 15-30 minutes so there was no time to get off the ship. If you want nightlife, shows, casinos then this is NOT the cruise for you. The average age of the people on board was at least 70. The food was good. Buffet breakfast and lunch. Lots of different kinds of fish and lunchmeats and cheeses. Always hard and soft boiled eggs for breakfast. If you like fish and pickled herring then you will love the buffets. Dinner was sit-down....fish one night, meat the next night. We were with a tour group,and the chef was very open to accommodating food restrictions or preferences. Be prepared for very high prices...$10 for a glass of beer or wine with lunch or dinner. Buy the coffee mug for $40 but you get unlimited coffee or tea throughout the day. Otherwise you have to pay for each cup you might want during the day. The prices for the cruises the ship offers seem a little pricey. We went to the midnight concert (well worth the cost $70pp) and took the ATV ride to the Russian Border(lots of fun!). The best part was going through the Troll Fjord. Breathtaking!!!! I would recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to see beautiful,scenery and who does not care for large cruise ships with lots of people. Bring along books to read. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Since this was our first cruise ever, our experience may be different from some seasoned cruise travelers who may have different expectations of what a cruise is. As travelers we are fairly independent, like making arrangements for ... Read More
Since this was our first cruise ever, our experience may be different from some seasoned cruise travelers who may have different expectations of what a cruise is. As travelers we are fairly independent, like making arrangements for ourselves, and tend not to do bus-tours or group travel. We selected this cruise because we wanted to see the Northern Lights and this cruise provided the benefit of seeing gorgeous scenery in case the Lights didn't happen. We weren't in it for the ship, so a gussied-up ferry suited us well. For those of you who are deciding if a Hurtigruten cruise is for you, let me start by saying what it is NOT: uber-luxurious. There is no casino. The main entertainment was one guy playing an electric piano singing songs of the 50s - 90s in a mix of English and Norwegian each evening in the bar. There are two hot tubs on deck, a sauna and a very small workout room. There's reliable wifi near the internet cafe and they had 4 slow-ish computers for free usage. The Midnatsol holds 'only' 1000 people. I'd say 90% of the people on board (as cruisers, those not just using the boat as local transportation) were retired. It was mainly a mix of people from Germany, Norway, and the UK with a few North Americans. It's not cheap on board or on land in Norway - if you haven't been before, prepare for sticker shock. It's much more expensive than you think possible. A sandwich lunch for two with soft drink or bottled water is easily $50. All that being said, our cruise on the Midnatsol was absolutely wonderful. The staff were friendly and aimed to please. Even when disgruntled used-to-luxe cruisers complained ("the dinner portions are too small" was a gripe we heard from a couple of men) the staff smiled, apologized and brought a second plate of 1,000 calories for them. Breakfast and lunch are buffet and open seating, dinner is plated and served at your assigned table at either 6:30 or 8:30. The head waitress very pleasantly switched our seating time for the other one when we asked. Food at breakfast included eggs, potatoes, sliced meats, cheeses, smoked fish of at least 3 or more types, fruit, 3 juices, coffee, tea, homemade hot chocolate, rolls and several types of homemade breads, cinnamon rolls, and more I'm forgetting. Lunch included homemade soup, fresh green salads, pasta and bean salads, breads, sliced meats and cheeses, smoked fish, two or three hot entrees (some recycled from the night before but it worked), a hot vegetable or two, potatoes, fruit and at least 4 different types of homemade desserts. Our last evening was a seafood buffet banquet with shrimp, prawns, lobster, crayfish, mussels, crab, fish and more cooked several ways. Almost overwhelming and all delicious. Again, breakfast and lunch were buffet style so you could have as much or as little as you wanted. You won't go hungry and you won't be starved for choice. There was a reliance on cream sauces and dairy desserts at dinner, so the lactose-challenged should be aware, but vegetarians were well catered to and I overheard people asking for special requests at the reception desk that sounded like they wouldn't be a problem. Fish was served about every other evening. They had a decent wine menu (if you don't mind taking out a second mortgage on your house to pay for it). You could also buy a wine package for the trip. Our cabin was a mini-suite, and we were glad we spent the extra for it. Big marble bathroom, plenty of closet/storage space, mini-fridge, coffee & tea making facilities + two free all-you-can drink mugs, fruit+wine basket, television in the room, and a tour of the bridge. We were on deck 6, which was the promenade deck, meaning that people could see in the room, so be aware of that. We could control the temp in our cabin and the bathroom had underfloor heating. Bar soap, shampoo, lotion, shower cap, washcloth were all included, not sure they are included for smaller rooms. The shore excursions (we did 4) were all worth the money and very well organized. If you go in winter, don't miss the dog-sledding. It was a real highlight. The ship also provided fun diversions like the Arctic Circle contest and ceremony with King Neptune; fish chowder for the hardy souls up on deck at 11PM one night watching the Northern Lights dancing; a free lecture by an on-board astronomer for all passengers; and a local saxophonist playing up on deck. If you get seasick, bring something for it. The ship does have stabilizers but there are are times when you're out in the open sea and you will definitely feel it. We were lucky enough to see the Lights 5 nights of our 6 night trip. As amazing as they are, the scenery going by was just as spectacular. I wish we'd gone for the full round trip instead of just the north-bound journey, because you get to see all the sights during the day on the south-bound trip that you missed at night going northbound. Guess we'll have to go back! We'd definitely travel with Hurtigruten again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Food: no choice . Acceptable but not very inspiring. Very poor service from an argumentative waiter who told us we should eat what we were given. Couldn't cope with a request for "no fish" Wine at about £45 a bottle in ... Read More
Food: no choice . Acceptable but not very inspiring. Very poor service from an argumentative waiter who told us we should eat what we were given. Couldn't cope with a request for "no fish" Wine at about £45 a bottle in the "wine package" was rather pricey. The little cafe was lovely - but expensive. Safety : On at least 12 occasions we had to walk on treacherous surfaces - often carrying and wheeling luggage. Walking up to the midnight concert at Tromso was on snow and ice up a steep path. Some of the party were on sticks. Security: Very little - a suitcase was taken from a passemger and rifled. It would have been very easy to get on and off our ship. Lifeboat drill :A good talk- how sensible to have lifejackets at muster stations rather than in cabins. Radisson Blu Hotel Tromso : excellent - put the Midnatsol in the shade! Flights: We spent an extra three and a half hours getting to Tromso because of snow on the runway....... On the return we waited for over an hour to start checking in due to malfunctioning computers and lack of staff - appalling. Trips We got stuck in a coach behind one that had gone off the road and never made it to the North Cape. The cable car ride to the mountain restaurant for a meal cost £75 pp and didn't include a glass of wine with the uninspiring food and watery coffee. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Transfers & Flights included in our costs. a little disappointed that there was no rep to meet us all at Bergen airport but good coach transfer to ship. MS Nordnorge that was to be our home for the next 11 nights. At the terminal we ... Read More
Transfers & Flights included in our costs. a little disappointed that there was no rep to meet us all at Bergen airport but good coach transfer to ship. MS Nordnorge that was to be our home for the next 11 nights. At the terminal we only had to move our luggage from the bus to the terminal building where we put in onto the conveyor belt & it went straight to our cabins as our luggage tags specified that you put your cabin number onto the tag. We were given our security cards & walked to the ship. We were scanned in...this happened every time we left or returned to the ship for the whole voyage. We had booked a deck 6 cabin but as there were less passengers than expected we upgraded to a mini suite for about £20 per day between us. Excellent value!! Our cabin was cleaned every day, the facilities were good, unless you have long hair the hair dryer is adequate. Towels are provided & small shampoo & body lotion bottles. Body soap is there too but I found this very drying & so took my own. The ship's air con is on 24/7 which I found gave me dry eyes. Nothing too serious though..you can control your cabin temp but not the air con. The food was fantastic as long as you like Fish...but that's Norway! All meals were good & we had no complaints. Wine is expensive but do what I did buy a bottle & have a glass with your meal. Write your cabin number on the bottle & it will be kept for you until you ask for it !The lack of snow meant no excursions involving snow! But those we did go on were well organised, reasonable value & worth doing. Do not go on this cruise if you expecting to be entertained all the time or if you want to dress for dinner! This is a working ship, it stops at 34 ports up to Kirkenes & the same 34 ports on the return trip. Some you will see in the daylight northbound & some in the dark southbound! It transport people & their luggage, cars & freight all year round. We felt privileged to be part of it. Go on this cruise if you want an adventure, to do & see things out of the ordinary..get out on deck what ever the weather to see the ship dock. Its amazing as at night you never even wake up when the ship docks 3 or 4 times whilst you sleep....watch the amazing arctic sunsets & when you cross the arctic circle join in the fun & let Neptune pour ice cold water down your neck. I did! We called at Tromso southbound & went to a midnight concert at the cathedral which was breath taking & when we came out it was snowing. Magical! I cannot review other ports as they are not on the list provided but we went to the Russian border at Kirkenes...not much to see but very worthwhile! Hammerfest on our southbound journey again wonderful. Finally go on the bridge tour to see who is steering the ship...fascinating & the Captain always eats in the same dining room as the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was our first cruise and were impressed with the facilities. The Midnatsol looks to be one of the newer ships in the fleet and it had some nice touches like a top deck jacuzzi, sauna (with a view) and small gym (with a view). A ... Read More
This was our first cruise and were impressed with the facilities. The Midnatsol looks to be one of the newer ships in the fleet and it had some nice touches like a top deck jacuzzi, sauna (with a view) and small gym (with a view). A lot has been said already by others that I need not repeat but for us the positives were: 1) the room, though small (we had a basic inside cabin) was well equiped and had enough storage to put everything away. 2) the staff were friendly and polite (and hard working) 3) the atmosphere on board was good. The majority of passengers were German so as English speakers there were fewer other people to talk to 4) Excellent dinners in the restaurant. Fish biased as you would expect but great. And we found the portions just fine. We didn't spend time in Bergen as that was where we were flying from but that looked like a nice place to spend a day. Also would love to have spent an evening, or evening a few hours in the evening, at Trondheim as that looked like the most interesting town. What was not quite so good (and in some cases being picky here...) 1) Internet was free but sooooooo slow that it was almost unusable. 2) We docked at some places very quickly and there was no time to get off 3) We were running behind schedule for much of the time but would still depart a dock on time. This meant that if we had a 45/60 min stop, in theory, somewhere we often had only 20 mins to get off run around and get back on for the scheduled departure time. 4) breakfast was inconsitent and not very interesting at all. The choice of breads and pastries was poor and the hot selection was, on most days, a bit weird. so normally stuck to fruit and cereal (i.e. did not leave the dining room hungry!). A let down as dinner was so good. Overall the "most beautiful voyage" was not quite up to expectations which was in part due to the time of year and weather. We had a couple of days on board with nothing much to see ".... we are just passing the Seven Sisters which are seven peaks, x metres high etc.... but you cannot see it due to the weather!!" So a chance to kick back and relax! So now that I am home I am not raving about the trip based on what I saw and tell people to maybe check other months. Having said that we had a ball, really enjoyed ourselves - hanging out on the ship / exploring towns when we could and relaxing. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We booked under a special sale that provided a Guaranteed Suite in the Q or QJ Category. We got a good mini-suite in the QJ category; however, it was not a great suite. We were in Cabin 506 that had an obstructed view. If you sat in the ... Read More
We booked under a special sale that provided a Guaranteed Suite in the Q or QJ Category. We got a good mini-suite in the QJ category; however, it was not a great suite. We were in Cabin 506 that had an obstructed view. If you sat in the chair or stood by the window, you could enjoy the view, but head-on you could enjoy a view of a white wall. However, the main drawback of this cabin was being on the Promenade Deck where passengers were going by your window on a fairly regular basis. Ninety eight percent did not even glance into the cabin, but it was always a possibility. Due to the type of glass used, you had to be really close to the window to have a good view into the cabin, and having the lights on in the cabin also allowed for better vision. Unfortunately, the cigarette butt container was placed on that facing bulkhead, but it was not often used. Finally, we had a large column near the bed with about a ten-inch diameter. This pole actually became very handy in heavy seas. Being in a mini-suite gave us certain perks; such as, the first stocking of the mini-bar was complimentary. We also received free drinks with our meals, and we had lovely mint chocolates on our bed each evening. We had a comfortable queen-size bed with two individual duvets and three pillows. We asked for and received a fourth pillow. The bed was covered with an unusual terry cloth type sheet, which we decided was to help hold us on the bed during heavy seas versus a slippery cotton sheet. The bathroom was continually stocked with a small bar of soap, shampoo and lotion in tiny bottles and shower caps. However, there were also, dispensers with body wash/shampoo mounted next to the sink and in the shower. There were curved glass doors for the shower with a showerhead, which could be adjusted to different sprays. They used a bungee cord/lock system to hold the doors during heavy seas. Our TV system worked spasmodically due to several factors. However, Channel 2 under the Info setting was important for hearing announcements that kept you informed on your landing status. There was neither CD nor radio in our suite. The telephone was supposed to be able to set up wake-up calls, but every time we tried to set it, the system was busy. Luckily, we brought our own travel clock. The hair dryer was located under the TV in a drawer, and it would reach into the bathroom for styling. There was also a magnifying mirror attached next to the sink area which came in handy for various grooming needs. The bathroom floor had a heating element that worked nicely. We had procured our own airfare from and to the United States, but we did use the charter air to and from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. This flight was with LAN Argentina. Going it was first come first served on seating, so a few folks pushed to be at the front to get the first class seats. We were able to obtain the emergency door exit seats, which was nice also. On our return charter flight with LAN, we had assigned seats. The snack both coming and going consisted of two little sweets and a small bag of ham flavored crackers with a glass of soda or water. We chose not to book a shore excursion in Ushuaia because we had visited the city on a previous cruise, we had places we wanted to explore. The ship had arranged for buses to pick us up at the airport. It was supposed to be one bus for German speaking passengers and another bus for English speakers. However, the English speaking bus filled before we cleared the Agricultural Inspection, so several guests who spoke English had to pile onto the German bus. The guide did an admirable job of presenting her talk in both languages. We visited two overlooks, and then they let us off in the city for a few of hours. We chose to visit the old prison museum which was quite fascinating and well worth the small charge. They had lockers where we could leave our packages. About 5 p.m. we returned to the bus and were transported to the dock and the ship. Earlier our passports had been collected which were then delivered to the ship. Upon arrival at the ship, we had to be processed through several lines. The first line was to get photographed for your ship's I.D., and to take care of the credit card business. The second line was to turn in your Medical Forms to the Ship's Doctor. This had to be done in person, not by a spouse, other relative or friend. Finally, we were fitted and were able to pick up our coats. This coat is not a parka, but are water-resistant and has a nice hood and pockets. They are NOT waterproof nor are they fleece lined. Taking your fleece jacket to wear under this coat is necessary for warmth. Our luggage was waiting for us at the door of our suite when we finished the processing. We had open seating for a buffet dinner that night. In our cabin was a notice that assigned us a table for the sit down dinners. On those nights, we had Table 10, which was a great table next to the windows for four guests. However, there was another table butted up against our table for another four guests, which was not a problem. The buffets were interesting considering what an international mix of passengers they had to cater for each day. Usually, there would be fish and one other main meat on the buffet. The same for sit down dinners. Besides the fish, they served a variety of meat such as reindeer, pork, chicken and beef. There was always soup, salad and a cheese selection. The fresh baked breads and a wonderful variety of desserts were excellent. We don't eat most fish or reindeer, so when that was on the menu, we requested another alternate meat. This alternate had to be approved by the chef. Therefore, at lunch, we would look at the posted menu for the sit down dinner, and we would make our decision about dinner. We had fried chicken, steak and a hamburger as alternates. On the posted menu they offer the main meat and the other listed meat would be an alternate. If you did not want the main meat listed, then you had to go to the HeadWaiter and request the alternate meat listed. You were not supposed to wait until dinner to request an alternate. They gave you a laminated label that said alternate, which you brought to dinner that night and placed at your seat. If you were picky like us, you could request a special alternate, which was not on the menu or even on the buffet. They were always gracious when we requested something different. They offered tap water, special water with and without gas, teas, coffee, sodas and alcohol. You would sign for those drinks that were not complimentary, which was based on your cabin category. This procedure was not explained, but was discovered by asking questions. After dinner, one of the first orders of business was the LifeBoat Drill, which was a little different. We did not put on life jackets, but we did watch a crewmember put on an Emergency Survival Suit and a life jacket. Later that evening, they held a Welcome Meeting in the QILAK Observation Lounge on Deck 7 that was the usual introduction of the staff and how the expedition would be conducted. For landings, the passengers were divided into Boat Groups. There were eight groups with about 32 guests assigned to each boat. The first two groups appeared to be German speaking guests. Groups three through six were a mix of nationalities, and the final two groups appeared to be Chinese. We visited with passengers from Norway, Switzerland, France, England, Germany, China, Australia, Canada, India, and America. Announcements and lectures were usually offered in English, German and Chinese. The eight groups rotate through so that everyone gets to be the first group off the ship at least once. A daily programme is distributed to your cabin with meal times, lectures, landings and other items of interest. At the end of the voyage, you receive a complimentary Ship's Log (CD) with all of this information plus a wildlife list, maps, distances sailed and other memories of the voyage. They emphasized that due to the nature of the expedition and the necessity of a flexible itinerary that mealtimes and lectures could change from what had been posted in the daily programme. On day two, we had three lectures: "Eye of the Storm" with Christopher Gilbert on the Falkland's history; "Jewels of the South Atlantic" with Manuel Marin on the birds of the Falklands, South Georgia and South Orkneys'; "Sub Antarctic Islands" with Rudolf Thomann, which was on life at the entrance to the Antarctic. After dinner a film: "The Falkland Islands - a Natural Kingdom" in English was shown on a repeating basis for three hours in Polhogda Hall. Day three we landed at West Point Island in the Falklands in the morning. We visited the Napiers whose family settled the island in 1879. We walked about 1.5 miles to Devil's Nose to see several thousand Black-Browed Albatrosses and Rockhopper Penguins. Both bird groups had many babies. The family offered tea and cookies in their lovely home. Guests were requested to leave their rubber boots in the lovely garden. That afternoon we visited New Island which is run by the owners as a nature preserve. There were Black-Browed Albatrosses, Rockhopper Penguins, Imperial Cormorants, Striated Caracaras, and one lone Macaroni Penguin. That evening after the dinner buffet they showed the film: "The Falklands Play" which was the backroom story to the Thatcher's war. Day four was a visit to Port Stanley. We chose to take the Volunteer Point shore excursion that lasts about 7 hours and travels by 4 X 4 vehicles. This is a very rough, back jarring ride, but a great way to see the countryside and visit three different penguin rookeries. The vehicles got stuck frequently, and others in the caravan would pull them out of the bogs. One vehicle had a blow out, one lost one of its drive shafts and almost everyone got stuck in a creek or bog at least once. There is no road that goes all the way to Volunteer Point so you are riding across open fields, creeks and bogs. We saw Gentoo, Magellenic and King Penguins with lots and lots of baby penguins at the reserve. A very nice sack lunch was served. After returning to Stanley, we took advantage of the free shuttle bus to do some quick shopping in town. That evening after the dinner buffet they showed a film: "Wale - Tumbledown" about the Falkland War. Day five we had several lectures: "Tales of Whales I have Known Part I" with Andrew Wenzel, "Silent Men Who do Things" with Christopher Gilbert on Shackleton and the ship Endurance, "Penguins - Those from the Other Side" by Manuel Marin, "Polar Photography" with Dominic Barrington, and "Marine Mammal Research" with Julian Bastida on seal migration. After our dinner, there was a film: "South Georgia Briefing for Visitors", and guests had to sign the declaration on Biosecuity checks for South Georgia. Later that evening there was a fashion show utilizing the ship's officers as models. Also, Day five started the bridge tours, which was set up by the boat group numbers. Day six had lectures: "Tales of Whales I Have Known II" by Andrew Wenzel, "The Jewels of the South - South Georgia and South Orkneys" by Manuel Marin on birds, "Welcome to Africa - Geology of the Falkland Islands and Beyond" by Steffen Biersack. Also, the mandatory IAATO briefing was held today and more bridge tours. They also offered a vacuum service for backpacks and other things you would be bringing ashore from home. After dinner the film: "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" with original footage from Frank Hurley was shown. It was great! We passed the Shag Rocks in the early afternoon. They are six small islands about 150 miles west of South Georgia and jut up about 246 feet. Very jagged rocks. Day seven we landed at Fortuna Bay in the morning. Many of the passengers had signed up for the hike to trace part of Shakleton's journey over the mountains of South Georgia from Fortuna Bay to Stromness Bay. We chose not to take the hike. That morning as you waited to go on or to enjoy after your landing, they showed the film: "The Story of the King Penguin". At Fortuna Bay, we saw King Penguins, Fur and Elephant seals and many flighted birds. There were huge numbers of King Penguins and babies at Whistle Cove that also had a beautiful glacier in the background. That afternoon we landed at Stromness Bay which was home to three deserted whaling stations. You could not enter the station buildings for safety reasons. The weather was wet and misty with the ground being very muddy and slippery. There were hundreds of fur seals everywhere that made traveling around the whaling station a bit daunting. The big guys and their ladies did not appear to care that you were walking near them. However, the young male Fur Seals were very aggressive. My DH was charged five times by a young male who was not frightened off by two staff and us. We were instructed to NEVER run from the seals, but to stand your ground, lift your arms wide and then clap and make a lot of noise. All four of us were doing just that, but it took a lot of effort by all four of us to send this young male on his way. During our time in South Georgia, we had several encounters with seals. Even the babies would growl at you. The seals do not stay long on the beaches, so if you visited at a different time, you would not be dealing with territorial seals. Day eight we visited Grytviken, South Georgia. This is where Sir Ernest Shackleton and others are buried. We had Christmas Eve services at the Whaler's Church. The Captain read the Christmas story in Norwegian and another staff member read it in German. In addition, a retired Lutheran Minister read the story and gave a short talk in English. Catherine and Manuela from the ship, accompanied us as we sang Christmas hymns on the church's organ and violin. We also visited the excellent little museum and well stocked shop at Grytviken. On board the ship, the museum staff had set up a little post office. There were stamps, post cards and coins for sale. After dinner, everyone was invited to the QILAQ bar to await Santa. We decorated the Christmas tree with handicrafts made from offered supplies. We sang Christmas carols and walked around the Christmas Tree, and we were rewarded by Santa's arrival with gifts. Everyone received a ship's T-shirt from the company and Captain. Again, Catherine and Manuela provided the music for the evening. Day nine we passed through the Antarctic Convergence which is where the warmer waters of the north meet the colder, denser, less saline waters of the south. While in the area we were privileged to see thousands of birds feeding and flying all around the ship. We also enjoyed lectures: "Hell Served for Breakfast" with Christopher Gilbert on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, "Penguins: The Brushtailed Life and Death Part I" by Manuel Marin, "Antarctic Cycles" by Miguel Rubio Godoy. After dinner the film: "The March of the Penguins" was shown. Later they had a quiz on the lectures in the QILAQ bar with nice prizes. Teams were divided up by their boat groups. Day Ten we had more lectures: "Sitting with Seals" with Andrew Wenzel and "Geology and Geography of Antarctica" with Steffen Biersack. That evening we had the film: "Madagascar". The highlight of the day was a landing in the South Orkneys and a visit to the oldest continuous Antarctic Research Station: Orcadas. They have been collecting data since 1904. It was a lovely visit with penguins, seals and seeing the station. They were very friendly mailed postcards for those who bought them and the postage. Day Eleven we enjoyed lectures: "Staying Warm: Adaptation to the Life in the Freezer" with Miguel Rubio Godoy, ""Abandon Hope all Ye Who Enter Here with Christopher Gilbert, "Penguins the Brush Tailed Life and Death Part II" by Manuel Marin. The film for the evening was "With Norwegian Whalers to South Georgia" It included original footage from the Larsen expedition in 1928 and was a silent film. It was extremely interesting. Today, we sailed very close to Elephant Island which where 22 marooned members of Shackleton's expedition stayed for four and a half months till they were rescue. The weather was awful with heavy winds, sleet and snow while we tried to get an idea of the area where those men had to live. It was the worst weather of the trip. Day Twelve had two landings. The first was a rare landing at the Chinese Great Wall Station, which normally does not receive many visitors. It is located on King George Island and which is the largest of the South Shetland Islands. They had wonderful facilities and were very friendly. They had a small souvenir shop where many dollars and euros were spent. Our Captain and staff exchanged gifts and business cards with the Station Leader, Ting Xu. That afternoon we landed at Yankee Harbour on Greenwich Island. We saw Weddell Seals and about 4000 pairs of Gentoos. There were reports of seeing a Leopard Seal off shore. There was a lot of floating ice at the landing site, but our Polar Cirkel boats had no problems getting us ashore. Our crew carried back a fairly large chuck of clear ice, which the galley wanted to use for an ice carving show that evening. Day Thirteen saw us traveling through the Antarctic Sound into the Weddell Sea and trying to land at Brown Bluff. However, the winds kept that site iced in, so we visited Paulet Island where we were doing Polar Cirkel boat cruising to see a penguin rookery and the many icebergs floating around the ship. However, the weather turned bad and only a small number of passengers were able to take this cruise. Those who did were soaked and miserable before they could return to the ship. Then we visited a new site for the ship. It was on Joinville where we saw Adealie and Gentoo Penguins, and many seals. While sailing through the Sound, we saw Leopard, Crabeater, and Weddell Seals, and many penguins resting on the icebergs. We could not count the number of Tabular Icebergs we passed in the Sound. The sun came out for a while which made the icebergs dazzle in the sea. The film that night was "Climate Wars Episode 2" Day Fourteen had us arrive at the volcanic caldera of Deception Island. Our ship made it through Neptune's Bellows and anchored in the natural harbour. Some had signed up for a walk between Whalers Bay and Baily Head and back. We chose to explore the old whaler's village there. We had an amazing encounter with Chinstrap Penguins on the deserted beach, and visited the old aircraft hanger. Deception Island was the site where the first flight took off to fly over Antarctica. When you put your fingers into the sand near the water, it was very warm. Some folks took a "polar plunge" while there because of the warmer water. That afternoon we visited our last stop in Antarctica - Half Moon. There was a large Chinstrap Penguin rookery plus Gentoos, and one loan Macaroni penguin. We also saw many seals resting on the deep snow. Day Fifteen offered several lectures: "Cormorants the Untold Story" by Manuel Marin, "Ice-Portrait of a surprising Material" with Steffen Biersack, "living in Polar Seas" by Andrew Wenzel, and "Fossils of Antarctica" by Rudolf Thomann. After the special New Years dinner, the showed the 11 minute film "Dinner for One". There was a hat parade with prizes in the Observation Lounge to celebrate the New Year. Day Sixteen had more enjoyable lectures: "History of Whaling" by Christopher Gilbert, "Climate Change" with Miguel Rubio Godoy and "Comparison Arctic - Antarctic" with Tessa Van Drie. Later there was a Climate Discussion with Rudolf Thomann, Miguel Rubio Godoy and Stefan Stoll. Later Dominic our ship photographer presented a preview of the trip DVD that was great. That evening we had our Captain's Dinner, which was very special. Then we had to pack for disembarkation the next morning. Our luggage had to be placed next to the elevator before 11 p.m. Day Seventeen went well with quick exits off the ship. They did let us keep our cruise cards, but every passport had to be inspected because one guest's passport had gone missing. She was going to have to visit her country's consulate in Buenos Aires at the end of the Charter Flight. We had a little more time in Ushuaia before we were transferred to the airport for our Charter Flight back to Buenos Aires. This was truly "A Trip of a Lifetime", and we would highly recommend this ship, staff and our tour company "Expedition Trips". Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
TRIP JOURNAL USHUAIA TO BUENOS AIRES ANTARCTICA EXPEDITION ONBOARD THE MV FRAM FEBRUARY 22 - MARCH 12, 2010 Flew Continental to BA 3 days early, non-eventful flight. Used German Landau for guide in BA, excellent, $120 for the day, ... Read More
TRIP JOURNAL USHUAIA TO BUENOS AIRES ANTARCTICA EXPEDITION ONBOARD THE MV FRAM FEBRUARY 22 - MARCH 12, 2010 Flew Continental to BA 3 days early, non-eventful flight. Used German Landau for guide in BA, excellent, $120 for the day, germanele@gmail.com. If you come on a weekend don't miss the market at St. Telmo, and the excellent craft market alongside Recoleta cemetery. Joined up with Hurtigruten at Panamericano Hotel, hotel lobby very nice, but our room was a bit shabby. Arrogant receptionist at desk, even the Porter told me he was "a bad guy". We stayed at the Casasur for two days prior to Panamericano, EXCELLENT hotel, free city tour, CO breakfast, wifi in all rooms free. We would highly recommend if going early to BA, very close to the obelisk but half the price of the PA and great friendly staff. Feb 23 Awoke early to have CO breakfast at hotel, boarded the buses where they gave us our boarding passes. Short trip to airport, quick security, waited about 45 min to board, unassigned seating, there was 168 pax on plane, (full). There are +/- 210 passengers' total. Hurtigruten states to only check one bag each and give a red ribbon to tie around handles. We asked if we could check 3, they said to go ahead but not to mention it to anyone. We had a 3.5 hour flight to Ushuaia, very beautiful sight to see when landing over the water and across the Andes that stretch from east to west at this area. Had to reclaim luggage at the airport then outside to one of several tours, either pay to go to NP. or take the city orientation tour for free. You can't just go and board the ship. We took the city orientation tour, had lunch, and bought some items, returned to the bus that was close to the ship. Loaded onto the bus for the short drive to the ship, two lines formed to get our ID cards, then to deck 4 to get the cards validated with our CC, turn in the medical forms to the Dr., and pick up our blue jackets. Staff estimates your size and then just try one on to be sure fit is ok. Muster drill outside on deck at 2030, trained on how to put on a survival suit and a life jacket. We paid closer attention than on other cruises, remembering what happened to the "Little Red Boat" in AA waters. Remember to wear warm clothing from BA as it is cold and windy in Ushuaia. Seeing the lights of Ushuaia recede as we left and knowing not what we would encounter was thrilling to say the least. Feb 24 Drake, Rattle & Roll From the time we cleared the protected inland waters, the Fram has been in heavy rolling seas. The waves here are running from west to east, and our ship is sailing north to south in the trough. Anything not fastened down has been sliding back and forth. We had both put on our ear patches 4 hours before boarding and they seemed to work fine overnight and into the morning. However, about noon the seas really picked up and my wife was thrown out of her reading chair in our cabin. I came close to being tossed from my bunk but caught myself the last minute. I also became sick when the waves got so big. Our deck has been constantly sprayed with water from the force 12 and greater gales that is blowing the tops off of the huge waves. There have been a lot of sea birds in our wake and we have seen huge petrels up close and many other sea birds. Almost no one at breakfast this am, and only a few more at lunch. Later tonight at dinner one passenger was thrown out of his chair backwards, and a woman was thrown into a glass panel causing a big knot to appear on her head. We were in the dining room near a window when the ship suddenly drops and we look out to see that we are in the bottom of the trough and a wall of water considerably over our heads fast approaching. We all gaped in panic at seeing the water when the ship began to rise again and we crested the wave. We had to hold on to the edge of the table several times when the ship rolled so much that chairs, dinner ware and anything not fastened down was sliding back and forth. Some pax used their napkins to tie the legs of their chairs together to keep from being thrown around as the ship rocked back and forth so much. Seas are expected to worsen and waves now 12 meters or greater and wind speed of +/- 50m/sec' with the Beaufort scale greater than 12. Feb 25 Our IAATO meeting early this AM, we were told this crossing of the Drake was the 2d worse this year. Late yesterday evening and into the night the storm continued, at dinner a huge wave came up to deck 5 level. The morning came with fewer waves and wind but still a bit rough. We had our backpacks vacuumed this morning, picked up our life vests which we are to keep with us the entire voyage and briefed on our first landing hopefully tonight at Deception Island. Per ship's personnel we are behind time due to leaving Ushuaia late and slow going across the Drake. During our morning meeting the guide discussed our clothing for the excursions and believe it or not many folks claimed they knew nothing about bringing waterproof shell pants. Later some tried to buy some at the small store onboard but they had only smaller sizes. Excitement is building onboard as we get closer to the continent and into calmer water. Feb 26th. Touchdown Late last evening, we made it to Deception Island for our first landing. Seas were very smooth once we got out of the passage. We had our first close encounter with fur seals and penguins, although most of the penguins had already gone. There were a lot of great photo opportunities. The ship sailed all last night to make our landing at Port Lockroy. This morning, there were hundreds if not thousands of penguins all about. They are so familiar with humans they walk right past you without the smallest care. More large icebergs this morning up close, very beautiful to see at such close distances. We bought arm patches at the little store; there is not much here to buy, trinkets, T's, etc. They only allow 64 people ashore here versus the 96 on the other excursions due to the small size of the island. It is very rocky and a bit tricky to walk on with ice. A passenger fell on the slick, ice covered rocks but appeared to not be seriously injured. The ship was covered in ice and snow this morning when we awoke to take more photos of our entrance to Port Lockroy. Outside air temp. has been in the low 40.s, we have reduced the amount of gear we wear now when going out. The process to get on/off the Polarcirkle boats is extremely efficient and quick. We discovered the wind here on your face is a bit stingy so in hindsight we should have brought balaclavas instead of the wool beanies. We noticed the excursion staff all wear the balaclavas in addition to clothing wrapped completely around their faces and full goggles as well. Wraparound glasses or goggles would be best as snow and spray gets into our eyes when on the polarcirkle boats. This afternoon, we landed at Almirante Brown station, an unoccupied area with a few buildings but hundreds of Gentoo penguins. We had to be careful and watch every step as they are everywhere and honk loudly if annoyed. At the end of the land visit, we were taken for a ride in the polarcirkle boats to see Sea Terns', Weddell Seals and a huge leopard seal basking on a small patch of ice. He only cast a wary eye at us but did not leave and we had plenty of photos taken here. On the way to the PM landing, we went through Paradise Cove, an ABSOLUTELY beautiful place, lots of icebergs, minke whales, a few humpback whales, penguins and sea birds. This area is magnificent and there were a lot of photo ops. Tonight we sailed through the Lemaire Channel, which is a big disappointment as we go through at night and will miss "Kodak Alley". Feb 27th - Cuverville Islands After sailing all night we arrived at the islands early this morning and began the excursions at 0900. There are 1000's of Gentoo penguins, and the excursion guide had to chase off a fur seal that was getting a bit aggressive. The area around the island is very beautiful and we had sun most of the day. There were huge trapped icebergs here and extraordinary sights everywhere. We are heading now into Gerlache Strait and will pass Wilhelmnina Bay in the process. The captain has indicated we may see many whales during our voyage to Elephant Island so we are hopeful to spot a few. Gerlache strait proved to be what the Captain said, very beautiful, but paled in comparison to Wilhelmina Bay, which was absolutely gorgeous. The captain indicated we had some extra time so we pulled right up in the bay and he killed the engines for a while when we spotted several whales. We had mostly sunny weather, and we saw many humpback whales and seals on almost every small piece of floating ice. Many penguins were also swimming by. Near evening on our way out we saw 3 humpback whales in a pack right alongside the ship. They began feeding nearby and the lucky few who were out on deck got many great photos. The captain brought the ship to a stop for those on deck and the ship's photographers were getting some great shots for the DVD of our sailing. Tonight we are headed to Elephant Island, where we do not get to land but will do some scenic cruising. We are seeing a lot of whales as we make our journey towards tomorrow's destination. Feb 28th. - En route to the Elephant Islands and onto South Georgia. Back to heavy seas again, though not as bad as the Drake crossing. Ship announcement that the winds are expected to increase tonight or tomorrow and a request by the staff to secure all loose items in our cabins. Winds are now at 32m/sec per the bridge. Meetings held on shore excursion options for the Falklands and Buenos Aires. Not much to do today, saw another passenger with a sling around her arm so we expect there are several who have taken falls. We are seeing some spectacular icebergs as we approach Elephant Island. 1830 hours Feb 28th - over the loud speaker in the Dining Hall. "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. You can now tell your friends you are rounding Point Wild in hurricane strength winds. As we clear the Point we expect the winds to increase from their current strength of 34m/sec. Now is the time to take your seasick medicine if you prefer." Seas are very heavy now and strengthening. The Ship is rolling considerably. March 1st - At sea en route to South Georgia. The weather has not been cooperating and we are experiencing huge waves. Most seem to have their sea legs and it is a bit easier getting around even on this pitching, rolling deck. Lectures held today on a variety of subjects. March 2d - Continuing our journey to South Georgia. Seas are still very heavy, but the wind has died down some and is now at 20m/sec. Still the seas are very heavy and the Fram is being tossed about quite a bit. The Fram may be one of the larger ships that make landings in AA, but she is still very small when compared to the huge ships that do the "drive by" sailings of AA. This afternoon the observation lounge on deck 7 was full of passengers when a huge wave hit broadside, sending people, chairs and anything else not secured flying to port. One woman suffered a cut to her head that required 3 stitches, and a man had his hand crushed between two of the heavy chairs. March 3d - South Georgia in Sight The captain made an effort early this morning to cruise through some fjords as we approached SG, but weather did not cooperate. The clouds have opened enough to allow some well received sunshine, but winds are picking up again as we make our way for our first landing at Grytviken on SG. We are seeing more wildlife as we get closer to the island. There were many albatross in our wake and we had a great time getting shots as they flew close to the ship. Many other birds also seen but the Albatross had everyone's attention. We had a beautiful arrival into Grytviken this afternoon. The whole ship was allowed to disembark instead of just a few groups as before. We were put ashore at the spot of Shackletons' grave where we saw fur seals, elephant seals, and penguins. We then walked around the cove to be picked up at King Edward Point, and en route saw many seals, King penguins, ducks, all types of sea birds and much wildlife. It was a great sunny day, but windy even onshore surrounded by the high mountains. The remains of an old whaling station are here, as well as a nice museum and gift shop. March 4th - Fortuna Bay/Katabatic Winds We were scheduled to stop at Fortuna Bay but the wind picked up as we entered the bay so unable to land. The ship waited a while to see if the winds would subside, but instead they increased. Suddenly a Katabatic wind came down from the surrounding mountains so hard it blew a wall of mist & water as high as the ship across the bay and onto the ship itself. We had been warned this could happen and now saw for ourselves how powerful this wind can be. There were shouts from those on the bow who experienced this wind full force. We sailed out of Fortuna to try a landing at Stromness Bay but this proved fruitless as the winds were just as bad. We sailed around awhile before sailing back to Fortuna Bay where we were able to land in the afternoon. We saw hundreds if not thousands of King Penguins, all size chicks', Fur & Elephant seals and many other seabirds. So far this is the largest amount of wildlife that we have seen in one place. March 5 & 6: Enroute to the Falkland Islands, the Captain warned of heavy seas tonight as we leave South Georgia. We did indeed have a very rough night sailing and on into the next day. The next two days we are sailing for the Falklands, temps are getting warmer and the seas have settled down a lot since that first night. March 7th - Port Stanley Arrived at PS this AM, weather is very nice. Many opted to take one of the tours arranged by the ship, we did not. There is not a lot to see at the port itself, so in hindsight, a tour would be a better choice. Tomorrow the ship has two landings on the Islands, where we are expected to see much wildlife, and which includes a short hike across part of the island to see Rock hopper penguins. March 8th - New Island & Westpoint Island We had a very nice sunny day and our first landing at New Island. A short hike of one mile brought us to a colony of Rockhopper penguins. There were many hundreds along with cormorants, albatross and many other birds. We later repositioned to Westpoint Island for our second landing. This was a much longer hike this time of 1.5 miles each way, but well worth the exercise to see hundreds of fledging albatross, Rockhopper penguins and sea lions at a rookery on the other side of the island. The owners of the island welcomed us and gave many free rides to the rookery. As we set sail for Buenos Aires, there are many kinds of albatross in our wake and many whale sightings. March 9th, 10th & 11th - At Sea More presentations by the ship's excursion team on Antarctica, and time to reflect on our recent experiences. Weather became warmer and seas much smoother. Glad to be heading home but also sad to be leaving such a mystical place. March 12th - Buenos Aires We picked up a local pilot early last night, and docked right on time at our berth. Hurtigruten did a great job of getting everyone off the ship and to the hotel. NOTE: We were warned by the attendant on the bus not to leave any smaller bags in the lobby of the hotel, only the larger suitcases, as they are roped off by the hotel staff until room assignments are made. One pax left her small backpack that held her cameras and gear, and someone made off with it unknown to hotel staff. She lost all of her camera gear and all of the photos she had taken of the trip. March 13th - Homeward Bound Hurtigruten schedules busses to the airport depending on the time of your flight, which is about every hour. Our flight was not until 2150, our scheduled bus was set to leave the hotel at 1800. We decided to take the 1700 bus and were glad we did so. Security at EZE is rather lack compared to the screening we are used to in the U.S. We checked bags, waited in long lines to get through security, but then even longer lines to go through customs. By the time we got to our gate we did not have that much time left, and as required by US law, everyone was re-screened again with pat downs and opening of all hand baggage prior to boarding. We were not charged the $18 exit fee that we expected to be charged at the airport; however, upon our initial arrival to Argentina, we did have to pay $131.00 each to enter the country. Notes on ship & gear. The food is lacking somewhat, and the chefs recycle much of it. If there are left over scrambled eggs one day, the next day they are used in a different recipe. Same is true for beef, vegetables and other items. There is not a lot of variety, the beef that we have eaten is fairly poor, although one dinner of ribs was excellent, and the chicken is generally okay. I must admit after being on the ship this long it is becoming a chore to go to dinner. I will hand it to the chef though, the soups are usually very good but do contain leftovers from the day before. Breakfast is the same every day and fried eggs that should be hot are stone cold. We did not expect much in the way of food when we signed on so our expectations were met. The ship is very clean; the staff does a great job in the cabins. Laundry has to be done by the staff. Dining room has fixed hours, there is no continuous buffet like on larger cruise ships. No grill for burgers, pizza, etc., there is coffee/drinks available on deck 7 in the lounge. Dining hours are 0730 - 0930, 1200 - 1430, 1800 - 2200. Only a few meals are assigned seating, most are open seating. On assigned seating nights, you can request the alternate meal if you ask the headwaiter before 1430 that day. Menus are posted at the entrance to the dining room. You can also order breakfast from a menu if you prefer, but don't expect a lot of options. The only shop onboard is very small, plan on bringing everything you may need. Prices for any items they sell are on the expensive side. They do have some clothing and some very nice picture books. There is a very small internet cafe, you have to buy minutes. They are not exactly cheap and signal availability is hit/miss. It took me over 10 minutes just to check my email, hopefully this will get better with clear skies or when we get to port. We did not bring hiking shoes but should have as they are recommended for the Falklands. What worked for us: Keep in mind when you are going - the average temperature for us not counting the wind factor was 35 to 40F. The wind on deck and when in the zodiacs can be fierce. Most of the time with the chill factor, temps were below freezing, and the wind did not let up on land. We each brought a lightweight thermal underwear set, a nylon pant over that, and a water resistant lined shell pant over that. We later dropped the nylon pant and just wore our jeans over the thermals and under the shell. A spare set of waterproof pants in case of damage to our first pair. We each had two pair of gloves, a waterproof pair and a lightweight woolen pair. We each had a woven beanie; however a balaclava would be much better. The wind on the face is the worst and the air down here is so dry it really dries your skin. A good lotion and sun screen is advised, at least 45 spf on the SS. Wraparound sunglasses or goggles over your eyes, highly recommend to shield your face and eyes, as we experienced sleet, snow and rain and it gets in your eyes, especially when on the zodiacs. We each brought two pair of thick fleece socks that we wore over a thin nylon sock. (One fleece pair and one nylon at a time), they worked great. We each brought a thick fleece jacket that we wore over the thermal but under the shell jacket that the ship gave us. A thick sweater would work just as well. We got hot several times while on the excursions and depending on the weather would tweak our layers. Clothing on the ship is purely at your discretion, most wore jeans/slacks and pullovers. No one dressed up for dinner, (exception was the Captain's dinner at the end, as dress was a bit more upscale) There is no entertainment other than a small show put on by the crew members. There were many lectures on wildlife, Antarctica, whales, etc. The ship provides the boots; they are numbered in European sizes so go by that or just try on until you get one that fits. Don't worry about leaving your everyday shoes in the boot room; just put them on the same pegs that hold the boots you choose. No one to my knowledge had missing shoes when they returned from the landings. We brought Crocs for our deck shoes as they are non-skid, and allow us to have on the heavier socks needed when going ashore. We brought a few of our favorite snacks, as everything on board is expensive. Ship's coffee is pretty bad, the instant in the cabins is better; we brought our own brand and a small coffee pot. (Just our choice as we like coffee) We brought 4 cameras, along with chargers, cables, extra memory cards, etc. (Note: at least one person's camera that I know about could not take the cold and malfunctioned) Wipes to clean our cameras with, a few times they had salt spray from the zodiacs, and also rain/snow when on land. A backpack with a waterproof liner, or get a waterproof backpack, some landings were when it was raining/snowing so cameras could really get soaked if not protected. A portable hard drive A card reader A netbook Spare AA batteries where needed Two pair of binoculars, we highly recommend at least one pair A personal DVD player A Kindle Journal A hiking stick (some landings are on rough terrain and there are some options to hike up ice covered trails where a stick may prove useful. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We had wanted to take an expedition style cruise to Antarctica for a while now. Having traveled previously on Hurtigruten along the Norwegian coast a number of years ago, when they started cruising to Antarctica last year at reasonable ... Read More
We had wanted to take an expedition style cruise to Antarctica for a while now. Having traveled previously on Hurtigruten along the Norwegian coast a number of years ago, when they started cruising to Antarctica last year at reasonable prices we were definitely interested. Antarctica promised to be a remote and unusual adventure with unique scenery and wildlife. The Fram is a new ship (went into service in 2007) and is very comfortable with attractive Scandinavian modern style, and excellent public spaces, especially the observation deck on the 7th deck with comfortable chairs and floor to ceiling windows, and the 4th deck dining room, also with extensive windows and views. Cabins: We signed up for QJ mini suite with limited view. (Cabins below suite category are very SMALL--be aware of this before you book one). Initially we got less than we had expected or paid for: suite 503 instead of being a limited view suite was a NO view suite, with superstructure almost completely blocking the window and any views except at an extreme angle. After complaining to the Hotel Director, who confirmed that this should have been booked only as a no-view suite (as should the comparable one on the port side of the ship) and then, vehemently, to the Chief Purser, we were switched to suite 516, which was perfectly fine. Moderately roomy, with a comfortable queen bed, adequate floor space, good bathroom with shower, this suite had a decent outside view with only minor obstruction. Note: all the deck 5 QJ cabins have an accessible deck directly outside, so there is limited privacy unless the drapes are drawn. Perks of having a suite on this cruise: 2 free shore excursions (Tierra del Fuego National Park and a tango show in Buenos Aires for us); a bottle of French Champagne in the suite, and free beverages with lunch and dinner (soft drinks, beer, mediocre wine). Service: The dining room and cabin crew seemed to be almost exclusively Filipino. The staff were uniformly pleasant, courteous, and helpful, a real plus. We thought overall service levels were equivalent to the highly rated and expensive cruise lines like Regent and Silversea. Shore excursions: Two a day while in Antarctica, and we didn't miss any because of bad weather which sometimes happening. These were the highlight of the cruise. Only 100 passengers are allowed ashore at one time, due to Antarctic regulations. So excursions were limited to 1 hour shore time. The Polar Cerkel boats which took us ashore are nicer than Zodiacs, with better protection from wind and spray. During the excursions, we could walk around on the snow and ice, climb small hills, walk past penguin rookeries (Gentoo, Adellie and Chinstrap Penguins) and past elephant seals and Antarctic birds. Vistas were spectacular, vast fields of white snow, white and blue snow and ice, icebergs, distant and mostly hidden mountains. It was foggy the entire trip, so we could never see the mountain peaks, which remained partially hidden and mysterious. Food: This was usually good, never great. Most meals were buffet style, and we always were able to find something palatable. My vegetarian brother-in-law did fine. Best were the salads, fresh fruits, meat dishes. Not as much herring as I would have expected in a Norwegian line. (On the Norwegian coastal cruise there was abundant delicious herring preparations, salmon...) On the few set meals there was an alternate main dish offered (which had to be requested in advance, though). Lectures: disappointing. We stopped going after the first few, as the lecturers weren't that interesting, mostly around Antarctic history. Not nearly enough about wildlife, our primary interest. Too anecdotal. Entertainment: none that we went to, so I can't comment. Not much expected by us or offered. Fitness: There is an adequately equipped fitness room which my wife used regularly. On decks 7 and 8 there are limited walking areas with excellent views. Two outdoor jacuzzis which we never had the opportunity to use. Passengers: younger than we had expected,many people in their 40's and 50's and a few even younger. At least half seemed to be from the US, then about a third or more German, with some Asian, French and UK passengers as well. Announcements and lectures were offered in English and German. Overall, we were all very pleased. The ship offered an extremely comfortable way to see this remote part of the world. Views from the ship were often spectacular, especially going (twice, once each way) through the Lemaire Channel. The shore excursions met all our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
It had been my dream for many years to visit Antarctica but hubby was never too keen until he read 'Shackleton's Centenary Expedition'. This would be perfect for both of us. We read some previous reviews which were quite ... Read More
It had been my dream for many years to visit Antarctica but hubby was never too keen until he read 'Shackleton's Centenary Expedition'. This would be perfect for both of us. We read some previous reviews which were quite damming and we were not impressed but were prepared to accept 'expedition ship' cruise style. We needn't have been concerned. Everything about the ship was perfect. Yes the cabins were small but quite ample for our needs. The shower was the best we'd had and the beds were comfy and spotlessly clean. The expedition team were truly professional and most helpful for the whole trip. The lectures were interesting and prepared us well for our landings of which there were many. Each landing was different and the wildlife unbelievable. At sea the scenery was almost indescribeable, you had to see it to believe it. Our most favourite day was at Deception Island where we took part in the 4 mile hike across the island to the breeding colony of chin strap penguins. Having said that every day we went ashore was amazing. When at sea for whole days there was plenty of board games to play, books to read and lectures to attend and even the gym or jacuzzi. At the end of the trip our flight was delayed and we were invited to go back on board for lunch (which was still of the same standard as our first meal - excellent). This was in spite of the fact that Fram was being prepared for her next voyage. I have only one thing left to say, 'Thank you for an amazing trip to the end of the world'. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We joined the Hurtigruten tour in Buenos Aires with an overnight stay. The Hurtigruten staff were there to meet and assist all passengers. One American lady had actually had her handbag stolen and the staff excorted her to the Embassy ... Read More
We joined the Hurtigruten tour in Buenos Aires with an overnight stay. The Hurtigruten staff were there to meet and assist all passengers. One American lady had actually had her handbag stolen and the staff excorted her to the Embassy where she was able to get a replacement passport. We went by bus to the port and the booking in procedure for the FRAM was very efficient. All staff were very friendly and helpful - from the house staff through to the Captain. We had 11 landings in all. Three landings in the Falklands where we encountered penguins in the thousands. Mainly Rock Hoppers. It was nesting season and it was fascinating to watch the love making and the gathering of stones etc for their nests. Living in harmony with the penguins were the albatross also nesting. Port Stanley was an interesting village to visit. Our next three landings were in South Georgia. Incredible scenery which certainly lived up to everything that I had ever read about it. Once again there were thousands of penguins. Here we encountered the King Penguins accompanied by their furry brown chicks. It is quite incredible the way the Mums are able to recognize their young by their call. This was certainly worth the trip to our 7th continent. We had five landings in Antarctica and saw five different types of penguins. The three other type not yet mentioned were the Chinstrap, this species has a white face. This is separated from the white belly by a thin dark line running under the lower part of the chin - therefore the name. The Gentoo are characterised by a white patch around and behind the eye that joins on the crown and the orange-red lower mandible is also a distinct feature, and the Adelie which is all black and white and is recognised by its white eye-ring. We had been divided into seven groups and the landings were made using Polar Cirkel boats. The groups were rotated which meant that each group had their turn to be the first to land. This was so well organised and a real credit to the expedition team who worked tirelessly to ensure that we all had an unforgetable experience. Three of the landings were to research stations and we were able to speak with the local researchers and buy souvenirs. We were amazed that we were able to have fresh fruit throughout the cruise. The food was delicious and we ate too much. The cruise was excellent value and we would highly recommend the Hurtigruten company and the FRAM. It is certainly worth the extra money to be able to go by a smaller ship and do the landings. As the larger cruise ships are limited as to how close they can sail to the shoreline and the rookerys are usually located away from the shoreline the penguin sightings would be mainly by binoculars and could not possibly compare with being within a few metres of them. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Antarctica is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is amazing, beautiful, breathtaking. Hurtigruten represents unprofessionalism and poor service. This is very frustrating for such an expensive undertaking ($15,000 plus) Example #1 --- ... Read More
Antarctica is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is amazing, beautiful, breathtaking. Hurtigruten represents unprofessionalism and poor service. This is very frustrating for such an expensive undertaking ($15,000 plus) Example #1 --- Hurtigruten books airline ticket for the wrong day for my father. It is bizarre that Hurtigruten can not follow their own agenda that they created. Example #2 --- Hurtigruten provides a single bed for my father and I. i love my Dad, but really would like two beds. Example #3 --- I write Rolf Logan, Director of sales a letter sharing with him my experience. He never responds. This is an example of the apple not falling far from the tree. If the executives do not care about their customers, you shouldn't be surprised that lower leverl employees to not excel at service. Example #4 --- Despite all this, I was attempting to book a cruise with Hurtigruten to Norway for June. After two weeks of emailing the staff, I decided to sign up with Celebrity for another location. Hurtigruten's staff would take sometime 5 days to respond to emails, provide incorrect information, or simply ignore questions. Antartica is a must see. The variable is the serivice provided by the cruise line. Please do not depend on Hurtigruten. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
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 ... Read More
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! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Our holiday began by flying from Stansted airport in Essex, England and arriving at our starting departure point of Tromso in Norway's Arctic Circle. The flight was around 3.5 hours. The date is June 3rd, 2008. And the weather looks ... Read More
Our holiday began by flying from Stansted airport in Essex, England and arriving at our starting departure point of Tromso in Norway's Arctic Circle. The flight was around 3.5 hours. The date is June 3rd, 2008. And the weather looks surprisingly good! We had a choice of beginning our tour from the most Northerly point, close to the Russian Border at Kirkenes, however, we began in the City of Tromso. Remember, this is Summer and above the Arctic Circle, you have the best of the sunshine, - that is 24 hours a day, the sun isn't going to set! (Don't forget, Winter tours mean the opposite, 24 hour darkness!). It's an odd feeling waiting for sunset that never happens and having the difficulty in telling yourself why you should retire to bed, after all, it is approaching 1.30am! Luckily the windows on board have shutters and the port holes have 'black-outs' but for the first night at least, this is not going to be easy! The Cruise Liner ( in this case, the MS Finnmarken) also serves as a lifeline to those people who live in such remote areas and this becomes their post-ship, their ferry and a means of moving essential provisions along the inlets and fjords. For the first night it is additionally difficult to sleep as you feel that every couple of hours, the boat is about to dock, - and it does, sometimes for no more than 15 minutes, - not completely without noise especially if you have a cabin close to the thrusters or the rope lines. But you will get used to it, I assure you. The cruise makes it's way South through inlet and passageway, fjord and achapeligos, bordered by snow peaked mountains, sapphire blue Arctic seas and persistent sunshine. The sea has a very strange calm, rippleless effect as though it's made of syrup, - I'm told, it's cold - really cold and that's how the sea is up in the Arctic. Very unusual and the majority of the passengers found it equally bizarre yet somehow weirdly hypnotic!!. As the Cruise meets different ports of call, various interesting excursions are on offer, being sold on board or you can pre-book before you go. I'd wait and purchase on board, as you really need to see where you are, as some areas may not be what you imagine and some excursions could be ruined by bad weather. No matter where you are, however, this country is beautiful from start to finish, sometimes very mountainous, sometimes extremely remote, many times - amazing, you're spoilt for choice. If you love sea and mountains then this is a cruise for you, we had some magnificently good weather with continuous blue skies. But, I was told that this wasn't the norm and the high temperatures are not to be expected. Take a couple of warm and dry waterproof garments - and please, please take your sun tan lotion. It's not easy to get hold of it and it's hell expensive. Don't be caught out, when the sun shines, it's hot!!! The cruise travels further south and passes the Arctic Circle between Ornes and Nesna. This area is very remote! Surprisingly there are some large and well established communities above the Arctic Circle, which at first seems to beg the question, why would anyone want to live here? - but they do and on reflection, I would love to as well. But I would have difficulties in 24 hour darkness I think :-). As we travel more south and reach Trondheim, the sun lies gently upon the horizon but still does not set. A permanent sunset of gold and tangerine seas for 90 minutes - what a feast for the eyes! Trondheim was a lovely city yet I do prefer the smaller towns and settlements and it seems that every place no matter how small or large, has it's own magnificent display of suspension bridges crossing the fjords, dotted beneath by canary yellow, sky blue and rust red weatherboard housing .. this is Norway! Of all the towns and villages we visited on our cruise I must highlight a few of my favorites. Tromso with it's magnificent Arctic Cathedral and Mountain backdrop, Sandnessjoen - a lovely town of weatherboard houses and a quaint typical Scandinavian 'flavor' high street. Kristiansund, just south of Trondheim is a most beautifully positioned and colorful town perched on several islands upon a deep inlet and Molde, one of the most stunning places on out tour, in my opinion anyway. This resembles Geneva or maybe Montreaux by a fjord backdrop with a Ski resort in winter and a Jazz festival during the warm summer months. A must to visit and I would always return to Molde - a five star resort. We finally after 4 days at sea, arrive in our destination town of Bergen. I truly believe that we were all shocked as the ship came up the fjord and approached Bergen in the distance. Imagine, the temperature was close to 28 Celsius, high 80's fahrenheit and the sea was shimmering with an array of colored yachts and power boats circling the ship. Along the coastline, hundreds of people sun bathing on the beaches - yeh, beaches, and the high tree lined slopes are dotted with hotels, multi colored housing, villas and a glorious mountain backdrop. You would honestly think that you were in Monte Carlo or Ventimiglia, not Bergen in Norway. They call it the 'Rainy City' and we were ever so fortunate - you won't be disappointed however, come rain or shine - or blizzard - this is a wonderful place. Full of history, full of interest and bars and restaurants galore, - this would be my true home from home for sure. Bergen - What a surprise finale... One must do, if nothing else in Bergen, take a funicular rail trip on the Floibanen, 320 meters above the town, a great trip, and you can walk back down if you wish. Of course there's the area of Bryggen, UNESCO world heritage listed, by the Wharf front and the famous and interesting Fishmarket area. Some much to do. The Cruise is operated by the Norwegian company, Hurtigruten, who know how to look after you. The staff are friendly and our thanks and compliments are made to everyone of the staff who worked so hard to ensure that our holiday was perfect. In fact, this was my Honeymoon, and I couldn't have wished for a more romantic setting. Good points: Excellent Cruise and Company, Great food and very comfortable. Most beautiful country and highly recommended to all, YOUNG AND OLD!! Negatives: Highly expensive country with a high cost of living. Examples of cost as at June 2008, on board or off the ship, very little difference... Cup of Coffee: 26 NOK (Norwegian Kronner), = £2.50, apx. US$5 A standard 40ml glass of Beer: 59 NOK, = £5.80, apx. US$11.50 A Bottle of Cote du Rhone Wine: 320 NOK = £29, apx. US$55. Take-Away Margaritta Pizza for 2: 240 NOK = £22, apx. US$42 Hotel Standard Breakfast for 1: 160 NOK = £15, apx. US$28 Two course 3 Tapas meal & Beer for 1: 350NOK = £33/ US$64 But despite this, a very worth while, once in a lifetime opportunity to see a very unspoilt part of the natural world in which we live. Before it's too late, may be?! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
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