The entire experience was amazing and I would highly recommend traveling through them. Primarily because of the expedition staff.
The cruise director was the “baby” on board having been traveling to Antarctica for only 12 years. Each member of the team was an expert in his field and their expertise ranged from birds to geology to marine mammals to the history of Antarctica. Lectures were arranged almost every day and the days ended with an expedition recap and briefing.
My personal favorite was Jason, the geologist. He managed to make topics like Gondwana interesting and his take on global warming was very insightful. Although he didn’t have a chance to talk about what the world would look like in 150 million years (which in unfortunate because he gave us the teaser that it does turn out well for Italy and now I want to know why) due to our unexpected stop at Cape Horn.
Several other member had their own stories to tell – such as Chris who was on the Explorer when it sank in Antarctica in 2007. And our resident bird expert who spent 5 years in Antarctica studying the same pair of birds for her dissertation. Some of my fellow cruisers had seen some of these experts on previous trips to the poles (sh – sometimes with other agencies).
The expedition staff was the highlight of the trip (other than, of course, the scenery and wildlife).
However, Abercrombie could work on some of the logistics of a tour group of this size. The trip started with a cocktail party Sunday evening for the guests to meet and mingle (my favorite person on this entire trip was the lady who tried to introduce me to her young daughter because she thought we were the same age! Such a compliment!). Then the next morning, we were off to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires for our flight to Ushuaia.
We had to put our luggage out the night before we left which was alright, I guess, but it led to large amounts of carry on luggage that really delayed the boarding process. And to add insult to injury, the luggage was stacked at the ticket counter when we walked past. Just stacked. It easily could have gone on the bus with us and then we could have watched over it instead of leaving it just stacked in a pile.
Once we cleared security, it was like a cattle roundup. We stood in line. Then stood in another line. No announcements in English. Eventually, we sat down. The waited some more. And finally, we started the boarding process. Really late. I don’t think I will ever willingly travel as part of a large, organized tour group again. To much like a cattle call for my tastes. But it was still worth it for this trip. So in summary, we left for the airport at 7 AM, cleared security at 7:45 and then waited for a flight that didn’t begin boarding until around 10! It was really late by the time we were actually in the air – remember all of the carry on luggage I mentioned earlier!
Once we landed in Ushuaia, we were taken to a ski resort for lunch (delish! by the way) and then to the boat.
The way back was a little better. We were able to keep our luggage until the morning of our departure (great for last minute packing!) then we boarded tour buses for a quick trip to the national park and then the airport. Where we once again, had to wait in a long line! At least on the way out, abercrombie was able to provide us with our tickets before our arrival at the airport. This time, we had to wait in line based on the first letter of our last name. And trust me, they did not divide the group equally. So after standing in line, again, we cleared security and boarded our flight within a reasonable amount of time.
Other things I wished we had known:
You can upgrade your hotel from the Caesar Park in Buenos Aires to the Four Seasons that is one block away. The Caesar Park is fine. It’s like a basic Sheraton. But it wasn’t luxurious and several other Antarctica tour groups stay there so the elevator can be inaccessible during certain busy periods.
And you can arrange your own transportation to and from Ushuaia – which I would recommend (even if they don’t).