We just got back from the 2019 “Christmas in the Antarctic with Penguins” on Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol. This is a review meant mostly to give upcoming travelers some tips you may not get elsewhere, but I’ll start by saying it was ... Read More
We just got back from the 2019 “Christmas in the Antarctic with Penguins” on Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol. This is a review meant mostly to give upcoming travelers some tips you may not get elsewhere, but I’ll start by saying it was absolutely fantastic. Great staff all around, very friendly and knowledgeable. Top ratings for food too, which I’d classify as a European menu with lots of variety. Very good fish, tasty meats, fresh breads and cakes every day and more fresh vegetables and fruit than we expected on a 15-day Antarctica itinerary. The coffee was NOT good, though. We brought Starbucks Via packets, which we used as a flavor booster. For $3, you can get a good espresso at the bar, but not in the dining room. There were only two days with fixed time seatings on the entire voyage. All the rest of the meals were buffet style with flexible timings.
When you get to the ship, they will give you a Hurtigruten water bottle, so you don’t have to bring one. Their bottle is fine, but we used the ones we brought with us when going on shore. When we got to our rooms, we noticed there were no robes and no bath mat. The bathrobe rental fee is $11 for the whole trip, plus a $90 refundable deposit. You have to make the effort turn in the robe on the day of departure to get the deposit refunded to your account before you leave the ship. As for the bath mat, we found out that they’re “not hygienic,” but we did get an extra towel we could use for the purpose. Just don’t leave it on the floor when you leave the room, since everything on the floor gets collected and sent to the laundry. Speaking about the bathroom floor, it’s heated (use the Vermekabel switch to turn it on; it gets really warm, around 85 degrees f after 45 minutes or so). There is body soap/shampoo and hair conditioner in the shower. The shower head is adjustable in height, maybe two feet up/down. We found the small bathroom was well-designed and worked out fine.
The small cabins are fine too, since you’re only in them to sleep and shower. Hurtigruten keeps you busy with hikes and zodiac cruises, usually two per day in our case (one shore drop-off and one zodiac cruise). During the voyage to Antarctica, you’ll have to vacuum any clothing and backpacks you’ll be taking on shore. That’s just done once. The boots they provide are sized using the European system (mine were 42, similar to a men’s size 9 in the US). They give you plenty of time to try on the boots and the waterproof hooded jackets (you keep the jacket at the end of the trip). If you don’t like the first size you picked, no problem, they’ll exchange it for another. The boots were surprisingly comfortable and you’re instructed to wear your waterproof pants over the boots (not tucked inside). They sell the pants and other high quality clothing items in the onboard shop, but the prices are pretty high and sizes somewhat limited, so it’s best to bring what you think you’ll need. If you want to buy some stuffed penguins to bring home, we found the ones in the ship’s shop were very nice and only slightly more expensive than what they sell in Ushuaia. Some other reviewers have commented on how warm the ship is. Definitely bring several short sleeve shirts and a light sweater; you won’t need warm clothing in the ship.
Whether or not you’re prone to seasickness, the Drake Passage is some nasty water! We actually passed through a hurricane on the way back and got certificates for the achievement. So bring and use pills or a patch — or at least the things you wear on your wrists (Sea-bands). If you need the pills, you can buy them at the ship’s reception counter. Meclazine pills (same as Bonine) are one dollar. Well worth it! Be sure to take a pill before you start feeling sick. A slight headache is usually the first sign something’s up. Just a few more tips: all the outlets, except one in the bathroom built into the front of the hairdryer, are 220v Euro style plugs, so bring adapters for your phones, etc. Cell phone data service was OK, but spotty. We didn’t buy Wi-Fi so didn’t get the price, but most people who were using it thought is was on the slow side, especially at peak hours. The singer/piano player was great: Gil Silverbird, a really good entertainer who was on his first Antarctica voyage (he usually works the Hurtigruten Norway circuit). The crew really went out of their way to give us a good Christmas celebration, both American and European style. We learned a lot about how to celebrate Christmas in Norway! Oh, and laundry is very expensive (priced per piece) except as you get close to the end, when they have a one day only all-you-can-stuff in one bag special for $16. The self-serve laundromat on the ship is closed on long voyages, so their laundry service is the only one you can use in Antarctica.
Re the included flights, the weight limit for carry on baggage is 17 lbs, which was only checked and enforced on the return leg at the Ushuaia airport (checked bag limit is 50 lbs). Note that the Ushuaia flights depart and arrive at the local Buenos Aires airport, not EZE international.
To sum up, all-in-all it was a fantastic experience. One last point: It turns out the Midnatsol will be extensively updated in dry dock sometime in 2020-21 and will be rechristened with a new name. So, farewell, it was good to know ya! Read Less