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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice ... Read More
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice observation lounge/bar on Deck 5, good space around the lecture rooms and coffee bar on Deck 4, and good outside space for observation when weather permits. There are very nice saunas for men and women and two outdoor hottubs. There is a small but adequate fitness area with treadmills and and weight equipment. It is usually not crowded and easy to access but there is no drinking water and towels are on a different floor. We purchased return air from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia embarkation point and airport transfers in Ushuaia. The flight down and embarkation was without incident but the dis-embarkation and return flight were poorly handled. We were told to board a bus at 7:45 am for a two hour city tour and transfer to the airport. We got on the bus, it drove to a parking lot at the end of the pier, parked, and we were told we had 2 hours free time for whatever we wanted to do. The ship told us nothing about walking around the town and few were prepared for a walking tour. We were fortunate that the weather turned out well or it would have been two hours sitting on the bus. The return flight was scheduled for 12:30 pm and was delayed an hour. It is 3 1/2 hours. Hurtigruten made no provision for lunch and told us nothing about the lack of lunch. Communications from Hurtigruten before the cruise were limited and terse. Our final cruise documents had to be emailed because we still had not received them a week before our flight departed. We received a notice that a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, which was included in the package that we purchased, would no longer be included and we would have to pay an extra $105 pp to take it. We got this straightened out but the messages from Hurtigruten were flip to terse and showed little respect for us. This lack of communication continued throughout the trip. Ships officers dined in the dining room but seldom said hello or engaged with passengers. The expedition leader was not visible on the ship at all. Expedition team members seldom interacted with passengers on board outside of their lectures. Daily programs were fragmentary and not very descriptive of what shore excursions would be. The shore excursions are included in the price and there were about a dozen in different places. Most were short walks, some difficult, with good views of penguin colonies and landscape. Safety during landings in the Polarcircle boats were a priority for the expedition team and were conducted safely under sometimes difficult conditions. We had suite 638, one of the highest category suites on the ship. There was a spacious balcony. The suite itself was very spacious but not as conveniently appointed as we have seen on other lines. There was not much storage for this size cabin and the bathroom was very small and without the finishes and amenities that we have seen in suites on other lines. This is an expedition ship and you are constantly changing into and out of shore landing gear but there was no accommodation in the room for the gear or for drying wet landing apparel. Amenities were better than other cabins on board but much less than we have seen in lower category suites on other lines. The restaurant and hotel staff were friendly and helpful but there did not seem to be enough staff to meet needs in a timely fashion. The waiters started clearing tables well before people were finished and once they started clearing it was difficult to get service. Eight of our 12 evening meals were buffet. The served dinners were fixed menu with one option for the entree. Lunch and dinner buffets were heavy on starches and pasta. Salads were available but vegetables were limited. We found the food quality to be mediocre and often less than well prepared. Wine and beer are available for meals but expensive. Our cabin rate included wine and beer with meals and the servers were trained to recognize this without issues about charges. There is coffee, tea, and some pastries available at no charge during the day but no other food available between meals. The crew did two evening talent shows that were fun. Movies were available some nights but no other entertainment. There are limited itineraries that sail below the Antarctic Circle and MV Fram will have to be considered if you want that itinerary but be aware of the shortcomings of this company and vessel. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
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: January 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: July 2012
1) It's a good choice to cruise North passed 80 degree. North Pole is 90 degree and the trip is still very far from that--realistically speaking. 2) Agreed with previous review(s) that luggage check on board of Fram is at least ... Read More
1) It's a good choice to cruise North passed 80 degree. North Pole is 90 degree and the trip is still very far from that--realistically speaking. 2) Agreed with previous review(s) that luggage check on board of Fram is at least chaotic, even with our flight luggage tags the cabin crew said they could not find our names and could not deliver them!? 3) Any passenger who don't understand English, Norwegian is the other choice of language offered at the introduction. Activity leaders later tried German and French for shore landings^^ Public Announcement System used English, German, Norwegian and in that order. 4) Our duty-free purchase of liquor at Longyearbyen was confiscated upon embarkment in order to sell alcohol during the cruise. 5) Everyone is provided with a wind-breaker which is very helpful. Nearly all the shore landings are wet-landing, and water-proof or rubber boots are essential. 6) Canteen staff are mainly Filipino or Southeast Asians, who also provided one night of entertainment. 7) On board, 45NOK for a liter of bottled water or a single whiskey in the bar. Recommendation: Clear ice can be picked up from the Glacier melting to mix with whisky and other drinks. Activity staff helped with that. 8) Special Cabin guests have free drinks at meals and regular guests need to pay even cold water. 9) Gratuity has been increased to 70NOK per person at our July-August 2012 cruise around Svalbard. 10) Blue whales, Polar bear and Glacier calving can be sighted if lucky. There is no snow-sledge for cruise expectation. 11) Except three served dinners, all breakfast, lunch and dinner are buffet inside a nice restaurant. One ending meal of BBQ on the deck provided the toughest meat ever. 12) Compared with Antarctica, the arctic cruise is much calmer and very little or nearly no sea-sick discomfort for oldies. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2011
Before we began the cruise, we spent three days in an apartment in Reykjavik. I would recommend a stay in Iceland to anyone cruising in that part of the world. Iceland is beautiful in a wild and unique way. MV Fram, built by ... Read More
Before we began the cruise, we spent three days in an apartment in Reykjavik. I would recommend a stay in Iceland to anyone cruising in that part of the world. Iceland is beautiful in a wild and unique way. MV Fram, built by Hurtigruten in 2007 especially for cruising the polar regions, is a wonderful ship. According to Hurtigruten, it carries 318 passengers, but we were told the ship was full on this voyage with 227. The average age of passengers was typical for an expedition-type cruise, i.e., younger than on large ships. There were two or three people with physical handicaps (one in a wheelchair) and a number of children. Eighty to ninety percent of the passengers were Scandinavians (93 Norwegians) and Germans. There were only four Americans aboard, along with a handful of people from other English-speaking countries. The official language of the voyage was English. Check-in on the ship in Reykjavik was chaotic. Help with luggage was available upon request; otherwise everyone managed their own bags. As on more traditional cruises, a cruise card was used for all purchases aboard. There was a small gift shop with clothing appropriate for the voyage, along with some souvenir items and toiletries. Alcohol, soft drinks, and premium coffees could be purchased. Shore excursions were included in the cruise price, and all passengers were given windbreakers as a memento of the voyage. There were two dinner seatings with assigned tables, but due to the nature of the trip, all but two nights were buffets with open seating. The food was Scandinavian, meaning good fresh fish (such as salmon) at dinner, and smoked or marinated fish as a choice at every buffet. Besides the fish and excellent desserts, the food was uninspired, to say the least. Vegetarians, diabetics, and people with gluten intolerance were provided for. A snack bar with complimentary coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cookies, and small sandwiches was open 24/7. There was no room service. The cruise itself was an unforgettable experience. After one sea day we reached Jan Mayen Island, a tiny Norwegian outpost 370 miles NE of Iceland. It is inhabited only by fourteen hardy souls who run the weather station there. There is no harbor, no regular air service, and no tourist facilities. The only visitors are the occasional yachts that anchor there. The Fram was the first cruise ship to call there. Our landing was made on a rocky beach from "Polarcirkel" boats (similar to Zodiacs), and required waterproof boots. Jan Mayen is a wild, desolate place with essentially no vegetation. The perfectly shaped volcano last erupted in the 1970's, and the whole island consists of lava rock. The weather was relatively mild, with calm seas and temperatures in the forties. While we were ashore the volcano was obscured by clouds, but later that night the midnight sun appeared and illuminated the snow-covered peak with its glaciers. As if on cue, three Minke whales also appeared. After another sea day we arrived at Spitsbergen, where our first stop was to be Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in the Svalbard archipelago. As luck would have it, an ice-field totally filled the Isfjorden. The Fram is designed to break through such ice floes, but progress was so slow that after two hours the captain made the decision to cancel that stop and head north. Standing on the bow (fully covered with wind-proof pants, jacket, hood, boots, and heavy long-johns) watching our laborious progress through the ice, I felt a long, long way from home. We saw many birds taking advantage of the shifting ice floes: puffins, guillemots, auks, fulmars, gulls, and arctic terns. Our trip north along the west coast of Spitsbergen took us past an incredible landscape of mountains, glaciers and blue skies. The next morning we stopped for a guided tour of Ny Alesund, a small settlement made up of scientists from different countries doing various polar research projects. Cruise ships and yachts do stop there, but there are no facilities except a small gift shop and a museum. Ny Alesund used to be a mining town, and most of the buildings are remodeled houses from that era. Later that day we made a landing at the beach in beautiful Magdalena Fjord, where blubber ovens were still visible from the days when whaling ships used this natural harbor (ice-free year round due to the Gulf Stream) as headquarters for their activities in this part of the world. While leaving Magdalena Fjord we saw our only polar bears of the trip, unfortunately far in the distance. It was a mother and cub. After midnight that night (still bright sunlight) we reached Moffin Island off the north coast of Spitsbergen. It's a walrus preserve, so we were not allowed to go ashore but could see the walrus colony quite clearly. There were other wonderful experiences sailing through the many fjords and past the countless glaciers and bird nesting cliffs of Spitsbergen. Days and nights were spent watching the scenery and profiting from the excellent lectures and slide shows of the scientists aboard the ship. Among them were five Ph.D.s in such fields as Geology, Glaciology, and Ornithology. All were experts on the polar regions and also gave talks on the history of polar expeditions, animals of the Arctic, and the like. There was no nightly entertainment per se, just a pianist in the lounge, and a couple of events such as a crew talent show. In addition, all passengers were taken on a tour of the Bridge. The voyage ended on a dramatic note with another passage through the ice-field in the Isfjorden to get to our final destination, Longyearbyen. It took all of the last day, so the scheduled landing had to be cancelled. But the ship's breaking through the ice was such an exhilarating experience that it was worth it. We had a few hours in Longyearbyen before our flight to Oslo (included in the cruise fare). The settlement has a history of coal mining and other attempts at making a profitable permanent town here, including many international disputes over sovereignty, especially between Norway and Russia. The Fram is a beautiful small ship, nicely appointed with a large observation lounge, lecture rooms, attractive public areas, a fitness room, two on-deck hot tubs, and interesting art work. Our cabin was tiny but acceptable. The service was impeccable and friendly, although with mostly open seating we didn't have much personal interaction with the dining room staff. The Expedition Team was fantastic, comprised of exceedingly competent and knowledgeable men and women. All in all, this was an incredible cruise for someone who wants to get way off the beaten path. A memorable experience all around. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2010
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: April 2010
My husband and I did the 10-Day Norwegian Fjord Cruise on the Hurtigruten MS FRAM, and had a wonderful time! The ship, with a passenger capacity of 315 had just 166 passengers, so there were never any crowds or lines to do anything. I use ... Read More
My husband and I did the 10-Day Norwegian Fjord Cruise on the Hurtigruten MS FRAM, and had a wonderful time! The ship, with a passenger capacity of 315 had just 166 passengers, so there were never any crowds or lines to do anything. I use a wheelchair for mobility. The FRAM handicap cabins are very well suited for someone in a wheelchair, with grab bars over the beds (two single beds), plenty of room in the bathroom with plenty of grab bars, a shower seat, and an automatic door in and out of the cabin. The rest of the ship, with the exception of the uppermost outside deck, is accessible, and there is a toilet on deck four -- the main deck where the main dining room, coffee shop, customer service desk, and meeting rooms are located. Other reviews of Hurtigruten cruises complained about the food. We found the food to be of exceptional quality. Yes, it is Norwegian -- meaning there are lots of fish dishes, fish served in a variety of ways, for every meal. And potatoes, usually plain boiled, but also prepared in other creative ways. There are lots of vegetables, salads, fruits, cheeses, and lovely whole-grain breads and rolls,soups, and desserts. Most of the meals were buffet style -- think "smorgasbord" and maybe you'll appreciate more the way they're served. Norwegians seem to really like the buffet style, and we heard no complaints about the food at all. During the course of 10 days we had lamb, beef, reindeer, fowl, fish, shrimp (and prawns), and all sorts of side accompanying dishes and never felt "bored", or unhappy with our selections. Most sit-down served meals were dinners, including a lovely Captain's Dinner with filet mignon as the centerpiece. If you need to be entertained 24/7, then this cruise is not for you. There are no formal "shows", or movies, or activities. In the evening there was a pianist, and some passengers did sing-alongs and a bit of dancing, but that was about it. There was one night when the crew entertained, as well. Otherwise, the entertainment is the spectacular scenery on every side of the ship, the fjords of western Norway. If you need "shopping guides" then this cruise is not for you. There are shore lectures -- which actually talk about the history and geography of the ports you'll visit, and describe some of the sites you might see, whether you take ship tours or go off on your own. But no "hard sells" for anything. If you need food 24/7, then this cruise is not for you. They have 3 meals a day, and there is plenty of food to be had at each meal (and we did take away some fruit and desserts to snack on later in our cabin), but otherwise there is no other food service. If you need alcohol 24/7, then this cruise is not for you. There is a full-service bar, which starts serving alcohol at 3 p.m. Otherwise there is free coffee and tea available all the time, and soft drinks and bottled water for sale. You CAN bring alcohol on board, but only for consumption in your cabin. There is no "hard sell" for drinks, either. The server circulates, but usually we had to call her to the table, rather than having her at our elbow, wanting to know if we wanted something. If you have children, then this cruise is not for you. There are no special children's programs, babysitters, or services for children. I did see a couple of high chairs...but there were no children on this cruise at all. One a couple of port days (I stayed on the ship for the entire cruise) there were some families allowed on board -- families of crew members who lived at those ports, but they left the ship when the ship moved to the next port. The passengers were mainly folks ages 45 and older, quiet, sedate, refined. Mostly British, some Norwegian, some French, a few of us Americans, and a smattering of other nationalities. The language on board is English, and since there was a large contingent of French, everything "formal" was also announced in French. Because there were so few of us, everyone seemed to find a few folks with whom they were compatible, and spent lots of time together, chatting, and sometimes going off on excursions together. All the crew were pleasant, eager to be helpful, friendly, and went out of their way to help with whatever anyone seemed to need. While on the cruise the volcano erupted, closing airports. Many of the people on the ship were "stranded", but the cruise line worked feverishly for those passengers who had booked air travel with them, to be sure they were somehow accommodated. We had booked our own air, and even we were asked if we needed assistance (we didn't). We LOVED our cruise, and hope to cruise again with Hurtigruten, soon! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 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, 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
Fram Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 2.0 0.0
Public Rooms 3.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 2.0 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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