My wife and I recently returned from a cruise of a lifetime aboard the Explorer. My wife and I have during our 41 years of marriage have traveled a large percentage of the world, from Africa to Asia, the Arctic and beyond. The 20 days we spent aboard the Explorer cruising to the Falklands, South Georgia islands and the Antarctica continent itself has to be the most enjoyable and memorable trip yet. We arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and were met at the airport by Linblad employees who made certain we encountered no problems making our way through the airport and eventually on to our first nights hotel stay in the city. After a couple of days in Buenos Aires, relaxing and taking part in the exploration of the city, we boarded a charter flight to Ushuaia.
Our stowed luggage aboard the plane was allowed to weigh up to 57 pounds, with a weight restriction on carry on baggage of 17 pounds. As a professional photographer, the carry on weight restriction caused me to be a bit apprehensive as my camera with varied lenses was well over the weight limit and I will not ship camera equipment through checked luggage. This was the only moment of stress I experienced on the entire trip, but the problem was solved by wearing my photographer's vest which has LOTS of pockets. My advise is, if you carry a camera just to take vacation photos, take a smaller camera with a fixed zoom lens. Some guests carried nothing more than iPhones and were disappointed because they were unable to capture whales and Orcas that were seen at a distance. The majority of wildlife upon the shore excursions are relatively close, so these types of cameras are fine usually. But if you want quality images at a distance you will need a camera that has a lens with good reach. I brought two cameras in case one failed I would have a back up. I also carried two different lenses, a 100-400 mm and a wide angle 16-35mm. They proved to be exactly what was needed as I could capture images at a distance as well as close up.
Upon arrival at Ushuaia we were bused to the port to board the National Geographic Ship Explorer and our adventure began. Our cabin was exceptionally clean and well laid out. Two new expedition parkas still in their wrapping were laying on our bed waiting for us. The Parkas were ours to keep and were commemorative 100 year anniversary collectables of the Earnest Shackleton expedition.
Over the course of the next few weeks we enjoyed a family type of atmosphere between the guest themselves and the ships officers and crew. The Linblad staff were accommodating, friendly and helpful at every turn. The ships hotel staff were exceptional, as within a day or two every waiter knew our names and greeted us each and every day and made certain we were well taken care of during meal time. One waiter on board, Maynard, went above and beyond with his care of us, even to the point of having our coffee and juice waiting for us at each meal at our favorite table. The meals were out of this world and prepared by a master chef in the galley. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet with Dinners being served at the table. Although I am not a fan of Gourmet style food and prefer more home cooked type meals for dinner, there is an alternative selection on the menu for those who enjoy more casual style cooking. Dress for meals and dinner was casual.
Shore excursions were generally by Zodiac, with usually 8 guests per boat. Boarding could be rather interesting if the sea was heaving but the crew and pilot of the zodiac made certain each guest was able to board safely, and their camera equipment was safe. Remember to bring a small dry bag for your equipment as most landings are wet and sea spray will come over the bows. Also, prior to going ashore, remember to dress in layers as you will be shedding clothes if the temperature warms up.
When not making a shore excursions each day was filled with a variety of informative scientific "on board" programs presented in the ship's lounge by experienced Naturalists as well as photography professionals within a relaxed atmosphere.
When whales, Orcas or Leopard seals were spotted our captain slowed and at times stopped the ship at advantage points that were close enough for good photographs, yet at a safe distance from the animal so not to cause it any undue stress. When on deck remember your parka and gloves as the winds in the Antarctic are strong and exceptionally cold. Also make certain your camera strap is over your neck as the ship rocks and if you drop your camera, its gone, and so are all those treasured photos you took over the previous days.
In conclusion, be prepared to have a once in a life time experience. Whether you do the Polar plunge in to the 27 degree Antarctic waters or just enjoy the huge variety of sea mammals and birds, its a trip you will always remember.
As one naturalist put it so well, " At first you come to the Antarctic for the penguins, then you come back for the Ice". How true, as we can not wait to return. Thank you Linblad Expeditions for a dream come true.
Very enjoyable and worth experiencing