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22 Hurtigruten South America Cruise Reviews

We started our expedition by flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia where we picked up Hurtigruten’s boat MS Fram. The boat is lovely, lots of pine and a fantastic observation lounge with floor to ceiling windows. Our suite was great, a ... Read More
We started our expedition by flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia where we picked up Hurtigruten’s boat MS Fram. The boat is lovely, lots of pine and a fantastic observation lounge with floor to ceiling windows. Our suite was great, a good size, but beware, some of the inside cabins are very small. We had an amazing holiday, we saw five different types of penguins (Gentoos, Chin-strap, Magenellic, Rockhopper and King) and lots of seals (Fur, Elephant and Leopard). We saw whales and dolphins and many different birds including albatross and caracars. The scenery is stunning, words cannot describe the sheer beauty of the magnificent icebergs against the cobalt blue skies as the sun’s rays warmed everyone and everything. We endured Force 10s crossing Drake’s Passage, about half the passengers were ill; we couldn’t put into Deception Island because of the Force 11 gale. We had fabulous days when the sun shone and the sky was blue – dips in the on-deck Jacuzzi were a must even though it was -1 C and snowing at times. We had days when the fog obstinately stuck around all day. The best bits were undoubtedly seeing this amazing continent and getting to walk on the Antarctic, South Georgia and the Falklands. It was a real privilege to be there and see the animals and birds and to walk in the footsteps of Shackleton. The staff were really good; the lectures were exceptionally good generally and helped to set the scene perfectly. Safety was paramount, especially important when the transfers to the remote islands were made by Polar Circle boats in lumpy seas. There were many long days at sea filled by lectures and film shows. You might want to take your knitting and a good supply of reading material/puzzle books. There is a supply of jig-saw puzzles on board, but there is also a limit to how many you might want to do. You might also want to take a pack of cards and/or other travel games. The food was OK, the set dinners were better than the buffets, which were the norm at other times. The food was a bit repetitive, the fish and meat often over-cooked. We were expecting something a bit better given the cost of the holiday. We were also disappointed by the penny pinching/money grabbing approach. This was an expensive holiday – the Antarctic is an expensive place to visit. We did receive ‘free’ anoraks, but had to pay to hire boots for the shore excursions – there is a big focus on ensuring that cross contamination of flora and fauna is minimised. The boot hire was only about £15 per person for the whole trip, but this was on a holiday costing £25,000. Excursions were also expensive: kayaking for less than two hours cost £100 per person; a trip in the Polar Circle boat was exciting but another £90 each. There was a queue to camp on the Antarctic, even though it cost £250 for a bottle of water and a night in a tent. Don’t even think about going on the Buenos Aires city tour, it’s only about £30 each but a complete waste of money, you can wander around BA by yourself - just be careful someone tried to rob us by claiming that we had bird mess on our backs that they would help us clean off. In truth our good Samaritan had squirted the ‘bird mess’ onto our backs hoping that the diversion would enable him to pick our pockets. It does seem that Hurtigruten take advantage of the ‘I will only do this once’ sentiment. We also don’t understand why only passengers who have booked suites are offered a glass of fizz on arrival, we stood in the same queues as passengers who hadn’t booked a suite, we were offered a drink and they were quite clearly told that it wasn’t for them – an embarrassing start to the trip. Similarly, we were given ‘free’ water, wine and beer at lunch and dinner because we were part of the ‘Suite Concept’. Everyone else was charged for water at approx £2 per person per day; you could buy a package for the whole trip that reduced the cost to about £1.50 per day. Similarly only those passengers in suites were provided with ‘smellies’ and tea/coffee making facilities in their cabins. Internet access is chargeable but rarely available; so just don’t assume that you will have access. Bar prices are also high, £4+ for a small beer, £5+ for a gin & tonic, £25 for a bottle of wine. We also had a multi-national group of about 200 passengers (the boat can hold about 300) who were interesting to meet – a special sort of person is attracted to this special holiday. We did have a large contingent of about fifty Chinese passengers on our boat – they made up about 25% of the passengers. The experience was not very positive; they frequently took over the lounge/bar area and were very noisy in the dining room. Landings were also marred by their refusal to abide by the rules. Passengers were split into six teams for landings; the first landing started with team 1 going first, followed by teams 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. The teams were expected to return in the same order. On the second landing team 2 went first followed by teams 3, 4, 5, 6 & 1. This rotation continued so that each team was given the chance to be first on the islands or last off. However, the Chinese passengers would often refuse to leave the islands at their allotted time forcing other passengers to return early. This was the most wonderful holiday; I will long remember standing in the sea with baby seals nudging my legs in curiosity, the sight of ‘baby’ albatross as big as their rockhopper penguin neighbours and the absolutely stunningly beautiful iceberg alley. A wow holiday, it could have been perfect with a little less penny pinching and better behaviour from the Chinese passengers.   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
Going to Antartcica is expensive. Hurtigruten is a good lower budget alternative Main complaint: Land services. We, and others in the ship, had bad experiences with the flights from BA to Ushuaia and their associated ... Read More
Going to Antartcica is expensive. Hurtigruten is a good lower budget alternative Main complaint: Land services. We, and others in the ship, had bad experiences with the flights from BA to Ushuaia and their associated 'excursions'. Getting information out of Hurtigruten and their local land operator was virtually impossible. We found out our Ushuaia departure flight time less than 10 hours before we left - at 2:30 in the morning! Wouldn't have been a problem if we had been prepared and not booked a tango show for that night. Just be decent and give people the information and then then can be prepared or make alternative arrangements themselves. My advice is to get to Ushuaia on your own and don't book with the cruise. Also, the Escondido Lake 'excursion' was an absolute rip off. The bus drove out to a roadside outlook of a lake and returned. That was it. Avoid any land segments- badly organized and no value for money. There are also plenty of nice hotels in BA and there is no need to stay at the Emperador. Cabin: It was small but ok. We had a large window to look out to on deck 6 which made watching the scenery easy. The bathroom is quite small and there is limited storage. The good news is that you don't need any fancy clothing. Jeans and fleeces are fine at any time. Take quick dry fabrics because they will get wet during landing and there is much space to dry clothes. Thankfully items dried very quickly. Food: It was fine, nothing special. Don't expect fancy cruise food. Service was OK but there are a lot of rules which the staff will remind you of readily. We had to pay for drinks including water. We did buy a water package which meant that we got a carafe of the same water that came out of the tap. It was conveniently if you are a big water drinker but totally unnecessary. I eat mostly vegitarian and didn't have trouble finding things to eat. Remember that you will be in the middle of nowhere and expecting fresh fruits and veggies is not that realistic Entertainment: It was mostly lectures which were good. The big problem was that they were so well attended it was difficult to find a seat. This is really and educational style trip and so don't expect a lot of entertainment. Cruise Excursions: Amazing and made the trip worth while. We felt completely safe with the expedition staff. We also paid a number of extras including kayaking, which was so worth while. This is where to spend a little extra money, rather than on drinks! Getting geared up to go on the excursion can be a little frenzied because people are anxious to get on land. Definitely rent boots, they were comfortable and good quality. As a tip, leave your life jacket with your boots on the drying rack, that way you don't have to adjust a new life vest each trip. It was a great trip - just keep your expectations of the ship low, make your own travel arrangements to Ushuaia, and let the scenery, wildlife and history make the trip fantastic !   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We sailed from Ushuaia on the 13th January not knowing what to expect!!!! Various cruise reviews had described very different experiences of cruising with Hurtigruten and we sailed very much hoping for the best!!! The Fram left port later ... Read More
We sailed from Ushuaia on the 13th January not knowing what to expect!!!! Various cruise reviews had described very different experiences of cruising with Hurtigruten and we sailed very much hoping for the best!!! The Fram left port later than expected and we thought ...here we go....is this a sign that the cruise will not go well!!!! However our concerns were ill founded and the cruise delivered an experience we shall never forget. The scenery, wildlife and the wonder of nature that unfolded before our eyes was awesome!!!! Magnificent icebergs ,stunning glaciers , vast wilderness, fascinating penguins,frolicking whales and sleek , sleepy seals were some of the sights that we were privileged to experience. The Fram certainly delivered all we could have wished for. I feel though that I should point out that this is an expedition voyage , catering for passengers who are keen to learn about the Antarctic environment and who are flexible , adaptable travellers. We quickly learnt that the Antarctic is unpredictable and on several occasions our itinerary was adapted, changing by the day!!! The expedition team on board were very professional. Their in depth knowledge of Antarctica was amazing . They presented as a very dedicated team, keen to share their knowledge and their experiences. Our expeditions from the ship were well prepared and they went that extra mile in making sure that we made the most of every minute spent in Antarctica. Life on board was informal . Sea days went quickly, relaxing, listening to briefings from the expedition team about penguins, seals, history of Antartica and it's origins, or simply watching the scenery from the many large viewing windows on board. Mealtimes were informal with 3 set dining evenings . There was no dress code and people wore anything from casual wear to smart casual . There were many different nationalities which led to many an interesting conversation at mealtimes or when relaxing with a drink in the bar. The food as you would expect had a distinctly Norwegian flavour. The buffet menus had plenty of choice with some interesting fish dishes !!! The staff on board were polite and helpful. They always had a smile to share with you and gave an excellent variety show towards the end of the cruise. Clothes wise we did bring too much!!! The ship,is very warm and one layer of thermal wear , plus waterproofs is fine for outdoors!! You are given a waterproof jacket on board and you can take this home with you. The ship also hires rubber boots for wearing on shore excursions and these were excellent, gripping the ice/snow .there is also a small shop on board so if you do forget anything it's not a problem!! There is 24 hour tea& coffee and very yummy home made cookies available . Bring a thermal mug with a lid or buy one onboard.......very useful when the ship is lurching through Drakes passage!!! Photo opportunities abound and the ships photographer led some very useful sessions. At the end of the voyage we were given a CD which included the daily programme, blog and a map showing where our ship had travelled. This plus our photographs &memories will be treasured by us for years to come. Journey to Antarctica with Hurtigruten aboard the Fram if you want to set foot &experience Antarctica's wilderness . Journey on board a large cruise ship should you wish to gaze from afar. The choice is yours. I know which I would choose ........   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
My husband and I were very pleased with our cruise to Antarctica aboard the Fram. The expedition staff is great and our suite (634) was spacious and comfortable. I recommend you make your own arrangements for hotel and transportation in ... Read More
My husband and I were very pleased with our cruise to Antarctica aboard the Fram. The expedition staff is great and our suite (634) was spacious and comfortable. I recommend you make your own arrangements for hotel and transportation in Buenos Aries. Hurtigruten wanted $500 per person for transportation between airports and to book a room at the Emperador Hotel for the first and last nights of our trip. I booked the hotel online myself for $125 plus taxes per night. Cabs are easy to get on your own. This saved us approximately $650. I do recommend you book at the Emperador because it's a very good hotel and Hurtigruten uses it for their hospitality base in Buenos Aries so you can talk to one of their representatives in person once you arrive. We booked a day trip to Tierra del Fuego upon arrival to Ushuaia. I paid a bit more to book it through Hurtigruten because I didn't want to take a chance that another tour provider would not get us back in time for final boarding. The park tour was very good and well worth the time and money. It turns out I didn't need to worry about the ship sailing without us. Our scheduled 6:00 p.m. departure was delayed until 1:00 a.m. because a customs issue between Hurtigruten and the Argentine government. I'm not sure who was at fault but another passenger told me the same thing happened to them on another cruise line in Ushuaia two years ago. I recommend you bring something for sea sickness with you. The Drake passage can be very rough or very calm. Our southern crossing was pretty rough with 60+ knot winds and 20 foot seas. I used to live on a sailboat and had never been sea sick before but I would have had a miserable crossing without the patch. If you use a patch for sea sickness make sure you keep a bottle of water next to your bed. Most people experience significant dry mouth with the patch. We thought the food and service in the dining hall was fine. Not gourmet but not bad at all. I wish they had offered more than one brand of beer and a few more vegetarian choices but I had plenty at every meal. My omnivore husband enjoyed almost everything he tried. My only complaint about this aspect of the cruise is that Hurtigruten charges for water at the table. We had a suite so it was included for us but most of the passengers were taken aback that something as basic as water was not complementary. It really doesn't make sense when you can get cookies, tea and coffee free all day near the lecture hall but have to pay for water at your meals. The expedition staff was terrific. They provided a full schedule of interesting lectures between landings and did a fantastic job when we were ashore. The crew that gets passengers ready to go to shore and drives the Polarcirkles were very good and absolutely safety conscious. Speaking of the Polarcirkles, they are really nice with high sides to help keep passengers dry and have good, sturdy rails to hold on. The boots they provide for going ashore are very good. But, like the tap water, use of the boots should be included in the price of the cruise. I would rather they charge a little more up-front so it doesn't feel like I'm being nickled and dimed. Okay, I'm done complaining because those really are only two things I didn't like. They have a small but well equipped gym that we used almost every day. Random magic moment: I was in the gym one morning listening to my iPod while using the treadmill. Just as "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" started playing we motored by an ice floe covered with penguins and then a humpback whale breached right in front of me. There are two heated jacuzzis and a sauna right outside the gym. The planned itinerary had to be changed a couple of times during our cruise but the staff chose alternatives that had to be every bit as good as the original plans and I didn't hear any complaints. The first change was because our planned landing site was iced in but the back up site was fabulous. The second change was more substantial because of a health crisis aboard the ship. We had to abruptly head to the South Shetland Islands to get a crew member who had suffered a stroke to an island with an air strip so he could be evacuated to a hospital in Chile. Even then, our alternative landings at Half Moon Bay and Admiralty Bay in the South Shetlands were wonderful. In fact, if we hadn't gone to Half Moon we would not have gotten to see a Macaroni penguin at all. One of the reviews here mentioned a charge for seeing the ship's doctor. I fell and needed to get patched up for a minor injury. The doctor and her assistant were very nice and took good care of me. The provided a brace, analgesic cream, and ibuprofen at no charge. We have done expedition cruises in the Galapagos, the Amazon, and the Seychelles as well as safaris in Kenya and South Africa. This Antarctic cruise ranks close to the top for me. It is absolutely thrilling to see so many penguins, whales and seals up close. We also enjoyed getting to know our fellow passengers as most were incredibly well traveled and had great stories to tell. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
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
Hurtigruten's Classic Antarctica Voyage on the MS Fram (January 11-20, 2013) exceeded my expectations in all regards. I had read most of the reviews I could find online in the process of researching our planned Antarctica trip. ... Read More
Hurtigruten's Classic Antarctica Voyage on the MS Fram (January 11-20, 2013) exceeded my expectations in all regards. I had read most of the reviews I could find online in the process of researching our planned Antarctica trip. Because there were so many choices and I had never heard of Hurtigruten, I was unsure about whether or not the Fram was the right choice. I made the booking through a travel agency, after a number of phone conversations. Their agent was most helpful; however, we got off to a bit of a rocky start when a Hurtigruten USA agent promised an accommodation that it turned out after we had paid our deposit they could not promise. Instead of a guaranteed small suite for the price we were paying, we were offered an onboard credit, and so agreed to finalize our payment. In the end, the Cruise Norway staff and the Hurtigruten USA management did intervene on our behalf, and we were given the small suite we had initially been promised. Our private room and the overall space on the Fram were wonderful... clean, comfortable, spacious indoor and outdoor areas with fabulous views from most of the public areas on the boat. The atmosphere was generally very informal and relaxed. One of the things I personally liked about the overall experience was that out of two hundred guests onboard, approximately one hundred were Americans, about 50 were from Germany, and the other 50 represented a large number of other countries. Likewise, the ten expedition staff represented eight countries. The entire ship's staff were great: cheerful,professional, helpful, efficient, and the whole experience was well managed and executed from start to finish. The Fram is bright and shiny and relatively new, with lots of floor to ceiling windows, and it was kept spotless. For my taste, the food offerings were perfect.... almost all buffet-style, with only four dinners in nine days served with set menus and pre-assigned tables. There was always a great variety of fresh salads and vegetables, along with seafood offerings most days, in addition to a variety of meats, appetizers, great breads and desserts. I can't imagine that you could not find something to please nearly everyone's tastes at every meal. All food, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate and very good tap water were included in the trip price; all other drinks were charged to your credit card account for settlement at the end of the trip. Drinks were relatively expensive (about US$5.50 for a beer, US$7.00 for a glass of house wine, mixed drinks US$8-12). Of the nine days onboard, four were spent crossing the Drake Passage, and five were in the islands and Antarctic Peninsula area, where we made two landings nearly every day. We were blessed with near-perfect weather while in Antarctica... sunny and calm most days, with temperatures in the 40's (F). Penguins were in their rookeries with babies of various sizes at most of the landings, and there was almost always some kind of a hike to a viewpoint or other point of interest. There were lots of seals, and we had plenty of whale sightings. Expedition staff who managed the landing experiences were knowledgeable and helpful in all cases. On the way home, the Captain made a detour so that we had a chance to see Cape Horn, which was not a part of the scheduled itinerary. Most other people I talked with onboard were more than pleased with the overall experience. By choice, I have not been on other cruise ships, so I can't offer comparisons. This is not a big flashy entertainment boat... we had a staff show one night, and there were movies and lectures, but mostly it was a quiet, pleasant, relaxing experience. Antarctic expeditions are all expensive, but for my taste, Hurtigruten offered great value for money, and I cannot imagine having a better overall experience than we did on the Fram. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
The cruise was from Ushuaia to Antarctica and back. Charter flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back with LAN Airlines and two nights hotel in Buenos Aires were included in the package. We paid EUR 6000 for it based on two persons in ... Read More
The cruise was from Ushuaia to Antarctica and back. Charter flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back with LAN Airlines and two nights hotel in Buenos Aires were included in the package. We paid EUR 6000 for it based on two persons in a cabin. Everything on board is included except for the drinks. Antarctic cruises are pretty expensive, so I was lucky that one of my friends wanted to join, so we could share the cost of the cabin. Based on one person in a cabin the cruise would have been almost twice as expensive. The two person cabin was pretty small. We had two beds with about 40 cm in between. The cabin was about 2 by 4 m, including a little shower/toilet. It was just enough but not more then that. For the rest, the ship was very comfortable and everything was arranged very well. Food on board was excellent. Amusement on board were just lectures, but they we very interesting. On deck 7 there was a very nice viewing lounche with a bar. The ship was fully booked carrying around 230 passengers, 10 expedition staff and 70 crew. The languages spoken on board were German, English and Scandinavian. The capacity of the ship is actually less then the advertised 318 passengers because the expedition staff used passenger cabins as well and 4 person cabins are often used by couples. Landings in Antactica were done in two shifts to comply with international rules that not more then 100 passengers would be ashore at any single time. But at each landing point everybody could get ashore. Time ashore was typically 1.5 hour. Usually this was enough to see what there was to see. The landings were done using polar circle boars that could carry 8 passengers. During the landings these boats were continuously shuttling between the ship and the shore. We left Ushuaia at 18:00 on Friday. The next one and a half day we were in the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica. We were entertained with lectures. On Sunday afternoon we arrived in Antarctica, where we made our first landing at Half Moon Island. We did see our first penguins. On Monday we had bad luck. We had to evacuate an ill passenger so we sailed North instead of South to the not so interesting King George Island which has an air strip. We visited the Chilean Frei Base and the Russian Bellingshausen Station next to it. For the rest there was not to much to see here. In the afternoon we made a landing on Ardley Island where we did see more penguins. On Tuesday we sailed South again and made two landings at Deception Island. On Wednesday morning we visited Neko Harbour. This was our first Antarctic mainland landing. The scenery here is much more spectacular then at the places we visited earlier. And again lots of penguins. In the afternoon we landed Cuverville Island, which was very spectacular as well. On Thursday we finally headed for the polar circle. We sailed across it and immediately turned North again. Ice conditions where not allowing any landings South of the polar circle. So it was just for the feeling to have crossed the polar circle. In the afternoon we made a landing at Fish Islands just North of the polar circle. Again lots of penguins and very spectacular scenery with lots of ice. On Friday we landed at Petermann Island and sailed through the Lemaire Channel which has very spectacular scenery. Instead of an afternoon landing sailed with the polar circle boats through the Lemaire channel giving us an opportunity to see the iceberg at close range. On Saturday we visited Port Lockroy, a small British museum. On Sunday morning we visited Brown Bluff, our second mainland landing. In the afternoon we sailed through the Antarctic Sound into the Weddell Sea where there are huge tabular icebergs. On Monday and Tuesday we were in the Drake Passage sailing North again. We arrived on Wednesday morning back in Ushuaia where we had to disembark at 8:00 in the morning. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
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
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
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
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
I selected Fram because she was a new ship. Actually, she is very well engineered, but the interior is terrible, old fashioned and cheap. The cabins are the worst I have ever seen on any cruise ship. Small and poorly decorated, worse than ... Read More
I selected Fram because she was a new ship. Actually, she is very well engineered, but the interior is terrible, old fashioned and cheap. The cabins are the worst I have ever seen on any cruise ship. Small and poorly decorated, worse than your average overnight Ferry. There is nothing else to do on this ship entertainmentwise. It is very boring! The bar prices are outrageous and the drinks are rather poor (they use cheap wine and poor ingredients, but the bar prices are the highest you can imagine). The worst thing was the disgusting Norwegian-style cuisine. They seemed never to have heard of finesse, taste, spices and choice. It was basically the same boring selection every day. Soups were generally avoid of taste, there was no vegetarian choice on the buffet, pasta and vegetables were generally overcooked and prepared without any spices nor finesse. I have never experienced such bad food anywhere in the world. Did you ever wonder why there is no Norwegian restaurant in your neighborhood? Well, here´s why: their cuisine is uneatable for our taste buds. You just wonder why they force their crappy Norwegian food on international guests going to Antarctica? Do they want you to experience how poorly the early explorers had to live down there? Come on board Fram and experience yourself! Well, having said all the bad things about this ship (and I would never go on Fram or any other Hurtigruten ship again) there were some good points. Lectures were excellent, given by a great team of experienced staff. The landings in Antarctica were great and so was the scenery. Next time I chose a different ship, though. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
GET IN: the New York office of Hurtigrut has kinks; questions weren't answered, forms were sent late, promised fare adjustments have not been received. Our local travel agent ran great interference but stories of overbooking and bad ... Read More
GET IN: the New York office of Hurtigrut has kinks; questions weren't answered, forms were sent late, promised fare adjustments have not been received. Our local travel agent ran great interference but stories of overbooking and bad info were commonplace. We were bumped from our preferred Jan 8 tour; were told that the sailing had been cancelled which was not true, more likely, we were a victim of an accidental iceberg contact and overbooking. Land services were good in Santiago, not so good in Ushuaia. Hurtigrut needs to not dump passengers at the dock with no place to go in either city; a dayroom for transferring passengers would be useful and was much needed. SIT DOWN: LAN Airlines did a good job of getting us to Ushuaia. Our LAX connection was late so we were provided with dayrooms and meal vouchers. Ushuaia was interesting and Chile and Patagonia itself were worth a return trip. Embarkation was smooth; Fram was beautiful and the service was Norwegian/impeccable as always. The ship layout is much like other Hurtigrut ships, comfortable, efficient. The food served was hearty, Euro-style befitting our international passenger manifest. From the beginning address of Captain Andreasson thru the landings on the Peninsula we felt we had the safest boat and crew we saw anywhere in that amazing wilderness. The multilingual Expedition Staff was thoughtful, knowledgeable and approachable. The folks who got the most out of the landings were spry and fit, regardless of age. SHUT UP: Hurtigrut sends extensive reading lists and info about what to bring and what to expect. READ THIS. Folks who had not provided themselves with good gear were cold and miserable. Wool DOES work better than polyprop or fleece. You WILL need seasickness remedies.We received great tips from some fascinating fellow passengers. A LOT of the experience was simply observing the last great wilderness--we spent lots of time with our jaws on the deck in wonder of the brutal magnificence of the White Continent. HANG ON: We experienced Drake's Lake southbound; not so much northbound. Pack efficiently and bring good locks, your baggage is inaccessible for the transfers. Make sure you have "one hand for the ship." Leave your glitz behind and prepare to be awed by the experience. IT was truly the "trip of a lifetime." Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
My husband and I went on the MS Fram to the Antarctic and it was an experience. First let me say that this cruise is not for everyone. There is alot of down time while you are on the ship and there is not much to do except visit the ... Read More
My husband and I went on the MS Fram to the Antarctic and it was an experience. First let me say that this cruise is not for everyone. There is alot of down time while you are on the ship and there is not much to do except visit the observation lounge on the 7th floor and read or watch the beautiful views. This is something that I thought should be improved. They did have lectures but if that is not your thing then you could get a little stir crazy as we both did. The ship itself was beautiful as it is new.. believe just around a year old. The room that we were in --cabin 330-- had an outside window but was much too small for two people. In my opinion you should upgrade if possible. We were told that the room was a good size but that was not the case... I had to have my husband leave in order to get dressed if that give you a clue... Since there is so much down time and only one other place on the boat to go to this was disappointing but we made the best of it. Also based on the price of the cruise I did expect a bit more. Be warned. They do have a hair dryer but it's a hose so if your not use to it ..well, let's just say if you have alot of hair it will take a while to get you dry. The crew was wonderful!! Very kind and always willing to give you a hand. Especially the staff at the dining room. They were so pleasant and seemed to really enjoy their job. Food was not my taste and I felt they had very limited options if you do not eat meat. We told them in advance of our restrictions and we were assured that there would always be a veggie option available but that was not the case.. in fact they put meat in everything including the vegetables. You could ask for a veggie option but that often took a long time to get from the kitchen. I also found the food to be very heavy --not very healthy.. they needed a lighter menu -- especially since you are not that active on the boat. The excursions were great but I wished there were more. It was well organized but you only get one hour on land... and if your lucky you get two landings in one day. Since the weather was a bit challenging we missed one complete day of landings and then the captain decided that there was an opportunity to go the Arctic Circle so they cancelled a compete day of landings.. Some people were very excited.. I would have rather done more landings. I came for the wildlife. I also wished that you could cruise the glaciers more up close on the Arctic boats they used. We are younger than most of the people on the boat (average age seemed to be around 65-70 years old..) we are in our early 40's-- so again for us..we would have liked to have been more active. Bring water proof pants.. and pack accordingly.... The boat is kept warm so you do not need as much warm weather gear as you might think. There is a laundry room on the boat that you can use for free and it was quick and painless. It was a good cruise for the money... they should offer more entertainment on the boat instead of having the crew sing to us but if you know up front you can bring things along to keep you busy. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
OUr cabin was described as "cozy". Try tiny. The separate bunks are small and the mattresses are not much more comfortable than an army cot. The dinners were boring and very poorly organized. In some cases, if you ordered an ... Read More
OUr cabin was described as "cozy". Try tiny. The separate bunks are small and the mattresses are not much more comfortable than an army cot. The dinners were boring and very poorly organized. In some cases, if you ordered an alternate to the featured meal, you might wait for 20 minutes and by that time the other diners had finished their entrees. The bathrooms were not supplied with washcloths and the quality of the towels were not worthy of a cruise that was so costly. The price of the drinks in the bar was too high. I ordered a Martini that cost the equivalent of over eight USD and it was a poor excuse for a martini. The excursions were overpriced. We went on an express bus from Cork to Waterford at a cost of about 20 Euros (around $29.00 USD) The ship's excursion, that covered exactly the same route, cost more than 4 times what we paid. A provision for indoor smoking was not provided. The hot tubs were tepid and even a small pool would have been nice.The servers, cabin attendants and many of the engineering crew were from the Philippines and were most delightful and friendly. Fram is a well-engineered vessel and we found her quite sea-kindly and rode well in moderate seas of up to 20 feet. Her stabilizer system provided excellent roll control with the seas coming from any direction. The noise level from the propulsion system was pleasantly subdued. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
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