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Live from the Venture - headed back to Antarctica


markandjie
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We're getting lucky with incredible weather and visibility. Here's this morning's landing area:

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And the views to the mouth of the harbor. When we were here in 2015 it was all socked in with low cloud cover and you couldn't see these peaks.

 

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Shortly before meeting up with the Pursuit yesterday we did have a whale sighting. Two humpbacks dove just off the bow of the ship and later surfaced far to the stern. I was fortunate to be on the way to the Bow Lounge with my camera when they announced the spotting and so was in prime position to grab a photo:

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After the close encounter with the Pursuit yesterday we cruised into Paradise Bay and did a zodiac cruise. Once again we were treated to amazing scenery:

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One of our guides spotted a dark spot on a far off iceberg and so we went deep into the Bay to check it out, and what did we find but our first spotting of a crabeater seal (a misnomer, as they don't eat crabs). It was chilling next to a skua and was clearly bored by our presence, evidenced by the repeated yawns... 😉 

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Now we're headed far to the south, originally to attempt to get below the Antarctic Circle, but we had to change plans due to sea ice conditions. Apparently as an alternative we're now headed to an adelie penguin colony where we'll do a zodiac cruise but not a landing.

 

Regardless, we're pretty far removed from any other cruise ship. Not sure if this use of time and fuel is worth it...I guess we'll see.

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Edited by markandjie
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17 hours ago, markandjie said:

 

No reason to worry. Last night there were guys in track pants and T-shirts.

I was in a hoodie and jeans lol. Sorry in advance! I have also noticed they don’t have enough service staff to support the bars and dining areas. Very different from SS or Crystal in that regard and something we find we have missed. I did ask the assistant maître D who you noted was covering, along with the hostess, and he said they are under staffed and looking to add a waiter the next time they are in port. We have spoken with several staff and it’s surprising how unhappy or almost melancholy they seem. Overall I was surprised as the lack of support structure. We often found people who didn’t know what was going on and there were not people around to direct them. We have enjoyed this trip, food is good and the views are amazing, but I am surprised about the level of service compared to comparable lines. 

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2 hours ago, moofster85 said:

I was in a hoodie and jeans lol. Sorry in advance! I have also noticed they don’t have enough service staff to support the bars and dining areas. Very different from SS or Crystal in that regard and something we find we have missed. I did ask the assistant maître D who you noted was covering, along with the hostess, and he said they are under staffed and looking to add a waiter the next time they are in port. We have spoken with several staff and it’s surprising how unhappy or almost melancholy they seem. Overall I was surprised as the lack of support structure. We often found people who didn’t know what was going on and there were not people around to direct them. We have enjoyed this trip, food is good and the views are amazing, but I am surprised about the level of service compared to comparable lines. 

That makes me nervous, I’m due on next week and hoping for the best. 

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O

1 hour ago, j_anandu said:

That makes me nervous, I’m due on next week and hoping for the best. 

Oh don’t be. It’s super fun and everyone is friendly. Just my observations and it is really about the destination. Our last SS cruise the food was bad but the service and people were great so it is often a mixed bag just like in life. 

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On 11/19/2023 at 5:27 PM, markandjie said:

Learned today that we have 240 passengers on board, of whom a whopping 199 are first time Seabourn cruisers.

 

Hi @markandjieI'm curious how Venture feels with 240 pax.  Our Greenland trip this past summer had just 118 pax and we thought that was ideal.  No issues with seating in any lounge or in getting a coveted window table in the Restaurant, even at peak times.  No line-ups in the Colonnade or SB Square.  No problem grabbing an unobstructed seat for recap in the Discovery Centre.  Double the pax seems like there could be various pressure points.  What has been your experience?  Thanks for your reports!

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6 hours ago, moofster85 said:

Oh don’t be. It’s super fun and everyone is friendly. Just my observations and it is really about the destination

 

Agree with this and will also say that by and large everything has been up to standard and it's been great. Just isolated issues here and there. One thing we talked about with an officer at a hosted dinner tonight is that they are trying to return to Ushuaia the evening before the end of the cruise to give staff a little extra time ashore. The turnaround on these trips is so tight and there are fewer chances for crew to get off the ship given capacity constraints onshore. All these back to backs are tough on crew morale. 

 

Also learned that recruiting staff continues to be a problem, and that from what the officers have heard from former colleagues in the industry it's universal. Also heard Eclipse is having a very hard time filling ships from a passenger perspective. There's gonna be a shakeout in the industry for sure. 

 

4 hours ago, MightyQuinn said:

curious how Venture feels with 240 pax.  Our Greenland trip this past summer had just 118 pax and we thought that was ideal.  No issues with seating in any lounge or in getting a coveted window table in the Restaurant, even at peak times.  No line-ups in the Colonnade or SB Square. 

 

This is our second trip on Venture and both times it's been at a similar capacity. It hasn't bothered us much at all. We've always been seated in the dining room right away, though rarely at a window table. A few times the colonnade has been busting at the seams but it's usually brief. I can see how half the pax count would definitely feel more spacious, but then again you would also miss the vibe you get when 77 people opt in for the polar plunge!

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The ice was too thick for us to get below the Antarctic circle, but we got very close! What's a third of a degree of latitude among friends???

 

Instead, we went to an area called the Fish Islands and got a nice zodiac cruise to an Adelie penguin colony. Fun to see the penguins collecting rocks to build their nests:

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We then did the polar plunge, getting fantastic participation with almost a third of guests joining in! Was great energy and vibe waiting for the plunge and I had fun doing it again with the boys.

 

Tonight after dinner we were treated to a light snowfall and the tiny snowman one of the bartenders made and was proudly showing off. Apparently he'd never seen snow until two weeks ago and this is just his second snowman! I think he did a great job!

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@markandjie thank you for the great photos and write up. Glad you're enjoying Antarctica again and Venture. The bartender should be proud of their snowman.

 

48 minutes ago, markandjie said:

Also learned that recruiting staff continues to be a problem, and that from what the officers have heard from former colleagues in the industry it's universal.

 

When we were on Sojourn in September a senior officer said that people like himself often get recruitment texts and emails with extra incentives from other cruise lines. It doesn't surprise me with all the new ships coming online that recruitment is a big issue.

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On 11/20/2023 at 1:17 PM, markandjie said:

We woke this morning to MUCH calmer seas as we approached the South Shetland Islands and our first real sighting of icebergs and Antarctica! 

 

 

One our way in to Half Moon Island we came close enough to the Pursuit to get a photo as she navigated away from us on her way to her next stop.

 

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We then unloaded zodiacs and the expedition team got to work setting up. If you look closely at the below you can see them walking along and setting up the flags to mark the path from the landing to the chinstrap penguin colony (on the left out of the frame).

 

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Unfortunately, as they were doing so the winds shifted and picked up considerably, exceeding 40 knots. The zodiacs struggled to make forward progress and it rapidly became clear we would have to scrub the landing, which was confirmed a short while later by the cruise director, Olivia.

 

 

Fortunately, the ship is equipped with a crazy powerful GSS Cineflex mast camera, capable of something like a 1000x zoom. Thus we all decamped to the Discovery Center where Mr. Penguins himself, Brent Houston, narrated the footage coming in from the camera, complete with imitation penguin calls and all.

 

 

We're now headed to Mikkelson Harbor where we'll hopefully make a landing tomorrow morning. It's apparently also a great spot for seeing whales, so keeping fingers crossed for whales and good weather!

 

In the meantime, the views are spectacular and the dinner menu looks divine. 

 

 

 

 

 

Glad to know Brent is still with Seabourn.  He made our Antarctica and Alaska cruises special.  

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2 hours ago, markandjie said:

 

Agree with this and will also say that by and large everything has been up to standard and it's been great. Just isolated issues here and there. One thing we talked about with an officer at a hosted dinner tonight is that they are trying to return to Ushuaia the evening before the end of the cruise to give staff a little extra time ashore. The turnaround on these trips is so tight and there are fewer chances for crew to get off the ship given capacity constraints onshore. All these back to backs are tough on crew morale. 

 

Also learned that recruiting staff continues to be a problem, and that from what the officers have heard from former colleagues in the industry it's universal. Also heard Eclipse is having a very hard time filling ships from a passenger perspective. There's gonna be a shakeout in the industry for sure. 

 

 

This is our second trip on Venture and both times it's been at a similar capacity. It hasn't bothered us much at all. We've always been seated in the dining room right away, though rarely at a window table. A few times the colonnade has been busting at the seams but it's usually brief. I can see how half the pax count would definitely feel more spacious, but then again you would also miss the vibe you get when 77 people opt in for the polar plunge!

"Also heard Eclipse is having a very hard time filling ships from a passenger perspective. There's gonna be a shakeout in the industry for sure. "

 

I can speak to this.  We have sailed on Eclipse I and II (3 times in total and over 40 days) and they can't fill the ships with paying pax, they give free or severely discounted rates to travel agents in the hope they will sell the product.  (Supposedly they do sell out the Antarctica cruises) So far it has not worked and the last cruise we were on 7 weeks ago the owner came on in Miami and kissed a** of the TA's but never once came within 50 feet of us paying pax.   BUT here is the thing: it is a GREAT product, multiple (depending on how one counts 5 or 6 for dinner) restaurants for 230 potential pax.  Included spirits better than Seabourn, comp wines about equal but what make it great is they have some of the BEST ex-Seabourn crew (Brenden, Alex, Damir, Milos, etc... just to name a few).  And more joining all the time (I recently found out my favorite Seabourn waiter is now part of Scenic)   I think Scenic officers are more visible and interacting especially the Captain (love Rado and Erwan they are special people and always around) and Staff Captain.  

 

IMO there are too many ships competing in this space (Atlas with their legit BOGO fares) all the same PC6 class.  So can only go to the same places.  Only Le Commandant Charcot can do something special (North Pole?  Yeah it was great.)   

Edited by 2SailingNomads
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My fears of going so far south were well founded. Not only did it limit us to one off-ship activity yesterday, difficulty in getting back north through the sea ice has resulted in cancelling our landing this morning. We are still on track for our afternoon activity but it is not a landing. Today is our 4th day in Antarctica and only 2 landings. Disappointing. The Pursuit did not go so far south and appears to have had no issue making their first stop of the day.

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21 minutes ago, markandjie said:

My fears of going so far south were well founded. Not only did it limit us to one off-ship activity yesterday, difficulty in getting back north through the sea ice has resulted in cancelling our landing this morning. We are still on track for our afternoon activity but it is not a landing. Today is our 4th day in Antarctica and only 2 landings. Disappointing. The Pursuit did not go so far south and appears to have had no issue making their first stop of the day.

Totally agree and even asked that early on as I’m not sure why try this early in the season. Foggy wasted morning 😞. I’m not thrilled with the afternoon being a gift shop sell us things mission either though I’m sure they are nice people.
 

Hopefully we have better luck on our last day tomorrow!

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Ran into an expedition team member earlier and learned that we were trying to do an ice landing around Detaille Island, which is why we tried for so far south. Still seems like questionable decision making but would've been a very cool experience if it had worked. 

 

They are well aware of the desire for more time ashore and are figuring out options for tomorrow. 

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Another silly question from my spouse: Are there any stuffed/soft toys like penguins and seals in the gift shop? She's thinking of Christmas gifts for grandchildren. We have a lot of non-refundable OBC, and the standard wine is likely good enough for us.  We're not interested in the submarine or kayaking, and there are only so many spa treatments one can have!

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8 minutes ago, JMB56 said:

Another silly question from my spouse: Are there any stuffed/soft toys like penguins and seals in the gift shop? She's thinking of Christmas gifts for grandchildren. We have a lot of non-refundable OBC, and the standard wine is likely good enough for us.  We're not interested in the submarine or kayaking, and there are only so many spa treatments one can have!

Yes! We are getting them for our sons. Smaller chicks are 17.00 and larger ones are 40.00. They also have some whales. 

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2 hours ago, moofster85 said:

I’m not thrilled with the afternoon being a gift shop sell us things mission either though I’m sure they are nice people.

 

It is so disappointing to hear that they could've chosen to take us to the penguin colony today but instead are prioritizing a Port Lockroy zodiac cruise and the gift shop nonsense. Believe it or not, I didn't come to Antarctica for the shopping.

 

And our stop tomorrow at Deception Island is apparently not near a penguin colony either. AND, we don't even arrive until noon, so another morning wasted.

 

This is two expedition trips in a row where I have to question the decision making and prioritization of the expedition team. We previously booked the Kimberly in June on Pursuit and we're now thinking of cancelling it.

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