We always wanted to cruise the Antarctic. Traveling below the Antarctic Circle is on my wife's "bucket list". Very few cruises advertised as "Antarctic", even attempt to get close to the Antarctic circle. Ships with a low ice rating never do. It would not be safe. So based on our research and our good experience on the Silver Galapagos in 2016 we booked a Silver Seas Expedition cruise. We were originally scheduled to travel in January 2018 on the Silver Cloud, but I became ill and was hospitalized just before our scheduled departure and had to cancel. (Fortunately we had full insurance coverage.) We rebooked for this January 2019, which turned out for the best. This was BY FAR the best cruise experience ever.
Thanks to the Explorer's 1A ice rating, the skill of the captain, and the unusually good weather we were able to travel further south than any other commercial ship in the last couple of years. (Only one crew member had ever been that far south.) We made multiple wet landings, explored old, abandoned research stations and one active station, got some great wildlife photos and videos on shore and from the Zodiacs. The Expedition leaders, who also piloted the Zodiacs, were very knowledgable and greatly enhanced the experience. We even got to slide down a hill on Antarctic snow and my wife took the "polar plunge" into ocean water very slightly warmed by geo-thermally heated fresh water coming up through the ground and flowing down the beach into the bay. The views, sunsets, and the wild life (penguins, whales, seals, sea lions, and birds) were spectacular.
A final note on the expedition leaders. It is hard to imagine a more educated and experienced group. Most had several years of experience and included a PhD in geology, professional ornithologist (PhD), and a Harvard educated marine biologist who was also the first women to ever SCUBA dive below the Antarctic ice pack. All-in-all it was the experience of a life time.
WARNING - WARNING - WARNING - as with all expedition cruises to the Antarctic - and the Arctic for that matter - activities and landings are ALWAYS dependent on the weather and ice conditions. We were told the long stretch of great weather we encountered is rare. If your goal is to cross the Antarctic circle read the itinerary VERY carefully to make sure that crossing will be attempted. Again, never guaranteed the ship will make it to the circle because of weather. Also, you will be crossing the Drake passage. Even if you are not susceptible to motion sickness, get the "patch" AND put it on 24 hours before embarkation!
On an absolute bases for this class cabin I have rated it 4 stars. However, considering that the Explorer is only 6,100 tons and this was an expedition cruise, on a relative scale its rates a 5. Also, one VERY important feature is the extra large, room darkening curtains. This time of year at 66 deg latitude and below, the sun was up 20 hours per day and it never really got dark.