Antarctica ‘beyond expectations’

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I departed Ushuaia, Argentina, on Dec. 20, ’05, for a 10-day expedition cruise on the MV Polar Star. I had always wanted to experience Antarctica, and in August ’05 I received a 70th birthday gift from my wife and mother-in-law in the form of a check to cover the cost of the trip.

The real challenge started when I discovered that there were dozens of websites offering expedition cruises to Antarctica. The website www.polarcruises.com, of Expeditions, Inc. (20525 Dorchester West, Bend, OR 97702; 888/484-2244), listed almost every ship offering expedition cruises and then some. Based on my budget and time, I was pointed toward the M/V Polar Star of Polar Star Expeditions (of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) by the very knowledgeable team at Expeditions, Inc., and Sarah Zook, who handled my details personally.

The flight from Los Angeles to Ushuaia via Atlanta, Santiago and Buenos Aires was filled with anticipation. I was scheduled to arrive in Ushuaia a full day ahead of the ship’s departure, just in case there were any flight delays or problems.

I can highly recommend Hotel Lennox in Ushuaia. It may be ranked as a 3-star hotel, but the rooms are cheerful and the bathrooms have Jacuzzi tubs. The staff at the Lennox were warm and helpful. The breakfast room and lounge are on the fourth floor overlooking the harbor.

There was a misty rain coming down as I took my bags out to the Polar Star at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 20. I boarded and was directed to cabin 426, which I was to share with another single traveler. The cabin was bright and well equipped. It had two single bunks and a typical compact bathroom. The big plus was there were two big windows that allowed me to look out at the sea and ice as they slid by. My roomate was compatible and friendly.

By the end of the first evening at sea, I knew I had been guided to the correct ship. The Polar Star was built as an icebreaker. By the beginning of the third day at sea, I understood the value of the ice-breaking capability of the ship. We pushed through pack ice for nearly eight hours to reach our first landing location at the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station at 65 degrees, 15 minutes south. The trip only got better from that point.

Our expedition was led by Jorn Henriksen, ably assisted by Hanna Lawson. In addition, the team was made up of Simon Cook (ornithologist), John Craddock (geologist), Pierre Malan (historian), Dick Hill (marine biologist), Yan Verhueren (naturalist/Zodiacs) and Diane King (M.D.). Every member of the expedition team was knowledgeable and fun to be with. The shipmaster, Adam Boczek, and his highly professional crew gave everyone quiet confidence. The bridge was always open and available.

With only 98 passengers and nine available Zodiacs, the Polar Star was able to make each landing a truly memorable experience, with no delays or problems. The landing at Vernadsky Station and the other nine landings we made over the next five days were breathtaking and spectacular. Walking on the Antarctic continent and on the adjacent islands far exceeded any expectations I had.

The ship’s staff put on a wonderful Christmas Eve barbecue feast and, making for a truly memorable celebration, it was followed by the spectacle of a medium-sized iceberg breaking up and turning over immediately adjacent to our ship.

Over the days at sea and on our excursions ashore, I had an opportunity to meet and get to know all of my 97 fellow passengers. I thought I had traveled widely until I met them! They were a joy to be with.

Our passage across the dreaded Drake Passage was calm and quiet both outbound and on the return trip. The sun was smiling as we returned to the pier in Ushuaia — a glorious salute to an expedition cruise that was well beyond expectation.

I am now working on assembling over 650 digital still pictures and 2½ hours of video that I shot into a story of my experiences in Antarctica. The lessons learned were it is never too early to plan and select your Antarctic expedition cruise and take the advice of a qualified professional.

DAVID COLLINS
Newbury Park, CA

In 2006, a 10-day Antarctica cruise through Expeditions, Inc., costs about $6,000-$10,000, depending on cabin type.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

I departed Ushuaia, Argentina, on Dec. 20, ’05, for a 10-day expedition cruise on the MV Polar Star. I had always wanted to experience Antarctica, and in August ’05 I received a 70th birthday gift from my wife and mother-in-law in the form of a check to cover the cost of the trip.

The real challenge started when I discovered that there were dozens of websites offering expedition cruises to Antarctica. The website www.polarcruises.com, of Expeditions, Inc. (20525 Dorchester West, Bend, OR 97702; 888/484-2244), listed almost every ship offering expedition cruises and then some. Based on my budget and time, I was pointed toward the M/V Polar Star of Polar Star Expeditions (of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) by the very knowledgeable team at Expeditions, Inc., and Sarah Zook, who handled my details personally.

The flight from Los Angeles to Ushuaia via Atlanta, Santiago and Buenos Aires was filled with anticipation. I was scheduled to arrive in Ushuaia a full day ahead of the ship’s departure, just in case there were any flight delays or problems.

I can highly recommend Hotel Lennox in Ushuaia. It may be ranked as a 3-star hotel, but the rooms are cheerful and the bathrooms have Jacuzzi tubs. The staff at the Lennox were warm and helpful. The breakfast room and lounge are on the fourth floor overlooking the harbor.

There was a misty rain coming down as I took my bags out to the Polar Star at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 20. I boarded and was directed to cabin 426, which I was to share with another single traveler. The cabin was bright and well equipped. It had two single bunks and a typical compact bathroom. The big plus was there were two big windows that allowed me to look out at the sea and ice as they slid by. My roomate was compatible and friendly.

By the end of the first evening at sea, I knew I had been guided to the correct ship. The Polar Star was built as an icebreaker. By the beginning of the third day at sea, I understood the value of the ice-breaking capability of the ship. We pushed through pack ice for nearly eight hours to reach our first landing location at the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station at 65 degrees, 15 minutes south. The trip only got better from that point.

Our expedition was led by Jorn Henriksen, ably assisted by Hanna Lawson. In addition, the team was made up of Simon Cook (ornithologist), John Craddock (geologist), Pierre Malan (historian), Dick Hill (marine biologist), Yan Verhueren (naturalist/Zodiacs) and Diane King (M.D.). Every member of the expedition team was knowledgeable and fun to be with. The shipmaster, Adam Boczek, and his highly professional crew gave everyone quiet confidence. The bridge was always open and available.

With only 98 passengers and nine available Zodiacs, the Polar Star was able to make each landing a truly memorable experience, with no delays or problems. The landing at Vernadsky Station and the other nine landings we made over the next five days were breathtaking and spectacular. Walking on the Antarctic continent and on the adjacent islands far exceeded any expectations I had.

The ship’s staff put on a wonderful Christmas Eve barbecue feast and, making for a truly memorable celebration, it was followed by the spectacle of a medium-sized iceberg breaking up and turning over immediately adjacent to our ship.

Over the days at sea and on our excursions ashore, I had an opportunity to meet and get to know all of my 97 fellow passengers. I thought I had traveled widely until I met them! They were a joy to be with.

Our passage across the dreaded Drake Passage was calm and quiet both outbound and on the return trip. The sun was smiling as we returned to the pier in Ushuaia — a glorious salute to an expedition cruise that was well beyond expectation.

I am now working on assembling over 650 digital still pictures and 2½ hours of video that I shot into a story of my experiences in Antarctica. The lessons learned were it is never too early to plan and select your Antarctic expedition cruise and take the advice of a qualified professional.

DAVID COLLINS
Newbury Park, CA

In 2006, a 10-day Antarctica cruise through Expeditions, Inc., costs about $6,000-$10,000, depending on cabin type.