National Geographic Explorer Cruise Review
Itinerary: Antarctica - The White Continent - January 2014
Overall, our entire group had a good time. The scenery was majestic and it was amazing to experience how vast and uninhabited the continent is. The captain and expedition leader were wonderful. They really made an effort to get us into interesting places and everyone enjoyed the time spent on the bridge. Nobody had any problem with the cold, in fact it was colder in San Antonio when we returned than it was during the daytime in Antarctica. We took what they told us to and were quite comfortable. There were many times when we didn't use all our gear. We did rent the required boots (you do need those).
The ship itself was not luxurious, but comfortable. It was pretty simple in comparison to the expensive cruises some of our group had been on. We thought it was just right for us. We were in a Category 3 on the Main Deck We enjoy the casual nature of the Nat Geo trips. They were good about making it safe to get around on the ship on rough water days. Our friends who were in a suite with a balcony loved that.
We enjoyed having a young scientist on board. It was fun to hear what he was working on and get a feeling for the research that is taking place in Antarctica. Michael enjoyed talking with him. That seems to be something unique to the Nat Geo trips. We also had a very interesting guest speaker that everyone enjoyed.
The crew and their service were wonderful. One of our group was sick for the first couple of days and the crew was very solicitous. They went out of their way to make her comfortable. The medical program wasn't up to the standard we expected but it was ok.
The food was varied and good. It was nice to always have the option of a grilled steak or chicken at dinner. Some of our less adventurous eaters enjoyed that often. The salads included some unusual combinations (lots of cucumbers) due to the lack of fresh greens, I guess.
We really enjoyed the naturalist talks and the guest speaker. Other than that, there was no entertainment to speak of. We had one evening of music which was pretty bad. It was a crew band and they were enthusiastic, but not ready for prime time.
We had a bit of a rocky first night and much of the ship stayed in their rooms but things settled down and the second day was fine. Dan took one bonine and didn't have problems so it was very individual. The captain rated it as an average crossing. On the way back it was smooth and easy.
We saw lots of birds and had several good humpback whale sightings. We saw fewer seals than I expected. LOTS of penguins and chicks in various stages of development. We also saw a big iceberg rollover and several of the zodiacs had a minke that circled around their boat. Everyone who saw those things considered them a highlight. We kayaked once but mostly walked. Several of our group did the polar plunge and the crew handled that in a very safe, fun way. Everyone survived. One day we tried to go south to the Arctic circle and were stopped by the sea ice. We just parked in the sea ice and got out to walk around. It was interesting to be able to do that.
I would not recommend the trip to anyone who wasn't fascinated by the amazing scenery (lots of mountains, glaciers and blue ice) and lots of penguins. You could easily be bored if that wasn't your idea of fun although there was also an attractive library/reading room at the top of the ship. We considered it a great adventure and a chance to see a place like no other so, for us, it was well worth it.
— Ms. C.O.