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Smokeyham

Sebourn Quest V. National Geographic Explorer for Antartica?

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I'm wondering if I could get your thoughts on whether it would be better to go to Antarctica on the Seabourn Quest or the National Geographic Explorer?

 

Here some thoughts I have, and some questions.

 

Seabourn Quest holds up to 450 passengers, V. NG Explorer's 148 passengers. All other things being equal, does the smaller NG ship mean that more motion is likely to be felt? My friend is very concerned about motion sickness and crossing Drakes Passage.

 

Is there likely to be a difference in the age and activity level of passengers? For instance, is there likely to be an older, less active, crowd on the Quest given that the emphasis is on luxury cruising v "expedition" cruising? We are active people in our mid-50s.

 

My friend's interest is more in the wildlife, while I am more into the history. I see that Seabourn stops at the Falklands or South Georgia, while NG stops at both. Any thoughts on those stops?

 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or advice.

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Most, if not all, landings in Antarctica are restricted to 100 people or less so you want a smaller ship.

 

There are many other ships and companies besides these two which are at the upper end in terms of price.

 

There is good information on the Trip Advisor site Antarctica Adventures: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowForum-g1-i12337-Antarctic_Adventures.html

 

To the right of the main page are links to much more information. This site in particular can help you sort out your options: http://www.traveltothepoles.com/

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We were on the Fram, a ship with a capacity of about 250. The 100 passenger rule meant that there was a constant shuttle of passengers to land in Antarctica. I would go with the smaller ship although it could be rough sailing regardless of the size of the ship. The South Georgia Islands were an unexpected highlight of our trip. While our landings in Antarctica were incredible, the landings in South Georgia were almost as great. I had wanted to see the Falklands, and they were also great. My recommendation is to try to find a tour that does all three, landings in Antarctica, South Georgia and Falklands.

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Maryann,

 

Thanks so much for the information! I especially appreciate the link to the www.traveltothepoles.com website. What a great comparison of the different ships!

 

 

Most, if not all, landings in Antarctica are restricted to 100 people or less so you want a smaller ship.

 

There are many other ships and companies besides these two which are at the upper end in terms of price.

 

There is good information on the Trip Advisor site Antarctica Adventures: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowForum-g1-i12337-Antarctic_Adventures.html

 

To the right of the main page are links to much more information. This site in particular can help you sort out your options: http://www.traveltothepoles.com/

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We were on the Fram, a ship with a capacity of about 250. The 100 passenger rule meant that there was a constant shuttle of passengers to land in Antarctica. I would go with the smaller ship although it could be rough sailing regardless of the size of the ship. The South Georgia Islands were an unexpected highlight of our trip. While our landings in Antarctica were incredible, the landings in South Georgia were almost as great. I had wanted to see the Falklands, and they were also great. My recommendation is to try to find a tour that does all three, landings in Antarctica, South Georgia and Falklands.

 

WisRiver,

 

Thanks so much. I am leaning towards an itinerary which includes all three.

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450 on board is far too many!

 

We have travelled on Hurtigruten's Fram four times to date (a fifth to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica later this year) and, though her capacity may be 250, there has always been far fewer on board than that.

 

We find her to be an excellent compromise on cost, comfort and size and, most importantly, she offers some itineraries that suit our needs.

 

If you have the time and cash available, go for Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands.

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Smokeyham

I faced the same dilemma. We have done many wonderful expedition trips with Lindblad (who run the the NG Explorer trips) and we are likewise long time Seabourn devotees. So the issue of whom to use for Antarctica was a tough one to resolve. In the end, much as we were almost swayed by the idea of multiple daily landings, we finally booked the Seabourn Antarctica cruise for this coming December. I have personally spoken with many SB passengers who did this trip and they all said that much to their surprise their favorite part of the trip was South Georgia Island. Would I love to see the Falklands as well -- you bet. Maybe in the future. The scale tilted in Seabourn's favor for one reason -- with all of the sea days on this cruise I decided I would be a lot more comfortable on the Quest on those sea days (this is not to say the NG Explorer is a terrible ship)

 

Because Patagonia is also a big draw for us ( we are avid hikers and nature lovers) and their is insufficient time on land on any cruise we are flying into Chile 11 days before the cruise so we can fly down south and spend a week hiking in the Torres Del Paine and then fly to Easter Island for two days before starting the cruise. By then I will really be in need of some that special Seabourn pampering.

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OP: I doubt most folks will have been to Antarctica on both ships, so will not be able to make a direct comparison. Because of the limited number of people who can go ashore in Antarctica at one time, I think that a smaller ship is better. (My personal opinion of course.) We chose to go with Lindblad on the Nat Geo Explorer, and it was absolutely fantastic. I published a detailed photo journal about our trip and the preparations leading up to it; here's the link, in case you find it useful:

 

https://antarcticjourney.wordpress.com/

 

For us at least, this trip was not about pampering or luxury, it was about the journey and the destination, about having great naturalists, Nat Geo photographers, zodiacs, kayaks, and an amazing adventure.

 

OP: in terms of motion sickness, your friend should discuss a scopolamine patch with his/her dr. My wife and about 2/3 of the folks on board were wearing one; it worked really well for her. (She only wore it in the Drake.)

 

I don't get seasick; I loved crossing the Drake. :)

 

Whatever you decide, have an amazing trip!

 

DrakeSplash1024x678_zps9c13906c.jpg

 

(Crossing the Drake Passage, photo by turtles06)

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For those of a nervous disposition, and who are concerned about the image above, every time we have crossed the Drake it has been flat calm...

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For those of a nervous disposition, and who are concerned about the image above, every time we have crossed the Drake it has been flat calm...

 

I would have been very disappointed if we'd had the Drake Lake. :p (My wife, patch and all, agrees. :))

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I would have been very disappointed if we'd had the Drake Lake. :p (My wife, patch and all, agrees. :))

 

You may have been disappointed, but for a significant number of potential travellers to Antarctica, a rough Drake is quite off-putting. The reassurance that it is not always rough is important.

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[YOUTUBE][/YOUTUBE]

You may have been disappointed, but for a significant number of potential travellers to Antarctica, a rough Drake is quite off-putting. The reassurance that it is not always rough is important.

 

The prospect of a rough Drake may be "off-putting" to some, but it is common enough that people need to be prepared for it.

 

The Drake Passage is "a relatively narrow and shallow bottleneck" where

 

the otherwise unimpeded waves of the vast Southern Ocean squeeze through ... and in the process, generate complicated, unpredictable and often brutal weather.

 

http://www.theweekenderblog.com/2011/02/the-drake-passage-its-not-so-bad-until-it-is/

 

 

Yes, sometimes the Drake isn't rough, but no one should plan on that, there are no guarantees. My photo is hardly aberrational.

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I certainly didn't describe your photo as 'aberrational', but wanted to offer some reassurance for the concerned/worried that the Drake is not always rough. Just adding some balance...

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I am planning on it being rough and then if it isn't I can be pleasantly surprised. Besides, with enough champagne I might not even notice if it is rocking and rolling .

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I am planning on it being rough and then if it isn't I can be pleasantly surprised. Besides, with enough champagne I might not even notice if it is rocking and rolling .

 

That's the way we have treated it each time we have crossed, and have always been pleasantly surprised.

 

Except for the champagne! The camera would be unsteady enough without alcohol increasing the sway. Nice idea though!

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As you are looking at the higher end cruises, you may also want to consider a sailing that Ponant LeSoleal has departing on January 23, 2018. We booked because of the interesting itinerary that includes Antarctica, Falklands, S Georgia, and crossing the polar circle. It is a French luxury line, that has a well regarded expedition curriculum. The ship holds 230 passengers, but limits to 198 passengers for Antarctica voyages.

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We did Antarctica on Seabourn during their inaugural season. Few things to keep in mind:

 

The itinerary was Valparaiso to Buenos Aires - 24 days. Our ship stopped at Falklands, often the Falklands must be skipped because the seas are too rough to tender. OTOH, South Georgia is much richer in wild life, and is a must-do for our next trip far south.

 

If you want to focus on Antarctica without the other ports in Chile and Argentina, a dedicated Antarctica expedition would better suit your needs.

 

The expedition staff was outstanding.

We did manage two landings per day.

On the last day in Antarctic waters, there was a deck party with caviar, champagne, fresh salmon, and more.

A few people did not use the zodiacs, but preferred to observe from the ship.

 

Previously, we did Antarctica on an expedition ship - much different experience and just as rewarding. Our next trip to Antarctica (it's called "ice fever") will be in 2017 with Oceanwide Expeditions. We learned about Oceanwide because about half the expedition staff on Seabourn also worked for Oceanwide. We're also using them for a trip around Svalbard to see the polar bears.

 

My dream trip is the Northwest Passage on the Kapitan Khlebnikov. Maybe some day :)

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About reaching the Falklands: a small expedition ship will be able to dock in Stanley rather than have to tender in. This makes it much more likely you will step ashore.

 

I don't know about Seabourne, but the expedition ships will also visit some of the smaller Falkland islands, but these do need tendering. On Fram we landed on three additional islands to see some amazing wildlife and lovely landscapes.

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About reaching the Falklands: a small expedition ship will be able to dock in Stanley rather than have to tender in. This makes it much more likely you will step ashore.

 

I don't know about Seabourne, but the expedition ships will also visit some of the smaller Falkland islands, but these do need tendering. On Fram we landed on three additional islands to see some amazing wildlife and lovely landscapes.

 

Very true. Seabourn can only tender into Stanley just like every other large cruise ship. Our expedition ship used zodiacs to land on West Point Island. We trooped across the farmland to the most amazing cliff side filled with rockhopper penguins and albatross. Someone else posted these pictures on a blog of their experience on West Point.

 

The expedition ships give you a much more intimate experience with nature.

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It is all about the wildlife. But a little luxury and good food makes it an extraordinary experience. You should consider Silversea Explorer. They have been doing this awhile and have a great expedition team (so much so that Seabourne has poached a few).

 

Check my video -- we did Falklands, South Georgia and the Peninsula.

 

 

As far as size of ship and the Drake crossing -- it really does not matter. If it is rough you will feel it either way. We did it both ways -- Silver Explorer quiet and Oceania Insignia rough. We don't really feel it -- but Oceania crew did.

Edited by PaulMCO

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For those who do not wish to cruise the Drake, there are companies that "fly the Drake." This is but one, Adventure Smith Explorations, there are others. We've done the cruise-by on Crystal, returned to do the landings on an expedition ship and on Seabourn, and we think it would be a great adventure to do another expedition, maybe on a converted Russian ice breaker.

 

However you get there, just get there. It's glorious.

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If I get this right, Adventure Smith Explorations is a travel agency that sells the cruise/fly trips from Quark (not that it makes a lot of difference).

For those wishing to fly the Drake, be very aware that they can be delays due to weather condition. If there is delay when you fly to Antarctica, then your actual cruise can be reduced in time. It there is delay when you fly from Antarctica, then you can miss your connecting flight home so it is advised to plan for a few contigency days at the end of the trip. And be aware also that these trips can be cancelled completely if the plane cannot fly out for more than 3 days, and in the case of Quark/Adventure Smith Explorations, no refund will be given by the company, so a good travel insurance is highly recommended (check the "contigency plan" text in the link given by Shorex).

These constraints (in time and risks) should be carefully balanced with the possible unpleasantness of a Drake crossing. You can also choose to cruise one way and fly the other, and in this case I would advise cruising to Antarctica and flying back, not the other way round, as there are less chances of your trip being cancelled altogether, but still allow for a lot of contigency time before the flight home at the end of the trip.

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The Adventure Smith website is advertising a Quark Fly Cruise - Adventure Smith is not an operator.

 

and we think it would be a great adventure to do another expedition, maybe on a converted Russian ice breaker.

 

The only Russian icebreaker that operated down there was the Khlebnikov - which as you can see from my signature block I travelled on twice - including its final ever voyage in the south in 2011.

 

The only ships operating for tourists now are ice strengthened ships - not breakers.

 

Agree re SarniaLo. While I appreciate that the fly-cruise options exist for those short of time and those who believe they cannot handle a bit of decent ocean (;)) - there are far too many risks with timing and weather and potential cancellations for my personal liking. Plus I love the ocean and all it has to offer me - no matter what its mood.

 

We have a current example on Trip Advisors Antarctica forum where a passenger failed to read their terms and conditions of a fly-cruise and also failed to take out appropriate and adequate insurance and now they feel they have a right to denigrate the company they booked with.

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Just another opinion... I went with Nat Geo/Explorer last February and would definitely recommend them to anyone. I was a solo passenger ( one of about 20) and the age and nationality mix on our voyage was all over the map. There were 148 passengers, and you never felt rushed while onshore- they did a great job of rotating people between shore, kayaks and zodiac tours of the icebergs. The staff made the trip. They were each an expert in some area of interest to Antarctica, and were eager to share their research and knowledge. We had two Nat Geo photographers and they were helpful with everything from a professional camera to an iPhone. We had two divers who would dive while we were anchored then show the video later that day. We were also fortunate to have Peter Hilary as the guest lecturer and his talks were a highlight. The food and accommodations were great. Being with a smaller group allowed for much more shore time. I rented their boots which were the warmest most non-skid boots I have ever worn. Everything with Nat Geo was so organized. From the time you step off the plane in Buenos Aires to the time you arrive back in Ushuaia, there was someone there to point you in the right direction and help you in any way. It is expensive, but I felt that I got my money's worth. I can't imagine spending all that money and going all that way and only thinking that the trip was ok. It is such an amazing and unique destination.

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On 7/22/2016 at 5:29 PM, Turtles06 said:

 

I would have been very disappointed if we'd had the Drake Lake. 😛 (My wife, patch and all, agrees. :))

Agree!

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