22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
Hurtigruten’s North East Greenland National Park Expedition. 10th to 24th September 2015. This voyage on the Fram to the North East Greenland National Park was so seriously flawed that we will not be travelling with Hurtigruten ... Read More
Hurtigruten’s North East Greenland National Park Expedition. 10th to 24th September 2015. This voyage on the Fram to the North East Greenland National Park was so seriously flawed that we will not be travelling with Hurtigruten again. We had rated previous voyages as excellent, including one on the Fram, and the comment that Hurtigruten is Norway’s national treasure was, in the past well deserved. The voyage was booked two years ago and chosen because of the focus on Greenland’s National Park. As soon as we set foot on board it became evident that something had changed. The embarkation process was chaotic with people milling around all over the place. Later the mandatory safety drill was so badly organised that it would be surprising if anyone knew what to do in an emergency. The drill was also disrupted by a large party who talked noisily amongst themselves throughout. During the evening introduction of the crew and the Expedition team we were dismayed to find that there were hardly any mature Arctic experts, or experts of any kind on the team. These observations were widely discussed by the returnee English and German passengers, many of whom had travelled on the Fram many times before. Three factors ruined this holiday, two of which were known in advance by Hurtigruten and thus were avoidable and the third was complete incompetence by Hurtigruten staff on board. 1. The bad ice conditions were well known to Hurtigruten before we left Iceland because they had been experienced on the Southbound journey of this voyage one week earlier but also because of the Danish Meteorological Office Ice Charts and Satellite pictures. Early in the voyage we were told we would NOT be going into the National Park due to the danger presented by ice conditions and that it was unlikely that we would be able to land anywhere. A few days later this decision was reversed with no satisfactory explanation and this resulted in us spending nearly three days at sea trapped in the ice. 2. We became aware from talking to the crew that Hurtigruten are actively pursuing the Chinese market. The presence of a group of 34 passengers considerably diminished the enjoyment of this holiday from the outset. None of this group spoke any European language and regrettably their behaviour left much to be desired. They did not understand or seem to want to observe mandatory hygiene rules in the restaurant, queue outside the restaurant when asked, keep quiet when observing wild life, respect the AECO rules about leaving the Arctic unspoilt. They pushed and shoved when others were trying to take photographs of wild life. None of the Hurtigruten staff were Chinese speaking and very little action was taken to ameliorate their behaviour or observe on board etiquette. Regrettably this was not a comfortable or positive experience. 3. We were told by the Expedition Team Leader that Hurtigruten somehow managed to contaminate the stock of fuel for the fleet of landing boats such that diesel and petroleum containers got mixed up. As a result some boats loaded with passengers had to be towed back to the ship as their engines failed. The three days spent cruising in Scoresby Sund where two landings took place was not on the itinerary. This was either a diversion due to the ice conditions or delaying tactics whilst waiting for clean fuel to be obtained for the landing boats – neither excuse was properly explained. As a result of these key issues and poor decision making this holiday was a fiasco. We only spent two days in the National Park instead of seven and only half a day in Spitsbergen. There were periods when no update information was given during which time passengers wondered what was going. The sighting of two adult polar bears, one with a cub, on the ice in Greenland, or the beautiful afternoon spent on the ship surrounded by whales in Iceland did not make up for this very disappointing holiday. There were very few birds due to the time of year. We were told that there were musk oxen and arctic foxes but they were so far away as to be virtually invisible. Our previous experiences on the Fram have been very positive, and even allowing for difficulties of weather and ice conditions the Expedition team have come up with alternative itineraries which have been perfectly acceptable. Not so on this voyage - it was evident something went very badly wrong early on. We got the impression that the Expedition team had basically given up. Possibly the reasons might be due to the change of ownership in late 2014 when Hurtigruten was taken over by a group of British investors. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
Notes on Hurtigruten National Park Expedition, 10 September to 24 September 2015 We had been looking forward to our third Explorer Voyage, to Iceland, North East Greenland and Spitzbergen National Park for some time but, unfortunately, ... Read More
Notes on Hurtigruten National Park Expedition, 10 September to 24 September 2015 We had been looking forward to our third Explorer Voyage, to Iceland, North East Greenland and Spitzbergen National Park for some time but, unfortunately, this last voyage was such a massive disappointment that, instead of us now planning our next trip with Hurtigruten, it is most unlikely that we will travel on the Fram or with them again. Signs of what was to come started with the mandatory safety drill. Compared with those on our 2012 and 2013 voyages when the drills went like clockwork the contrast could not have been greater: it was disorganised chaos made worse by the fact that many of the large Chinese contingent on board talked loudly and incessantly over the instructions when they were being given in English or German. Instead of standing in relatively small groups, a large number of passengers had to just mill about trying to catch a glimpse of the crew member demonstrating procedures. Now, it is most important to recognise and acknowledge that cultural and behavioural differences exist and one needs to be tolerant. However, it is a sad fact that the behaviour of many, a majority, of the large number of Chinese passengers left much to be desired. They seem to have no concept of personal space and constantly elbowed their way in wherever, be it on deck or in the lifts or in the dining room. In general, they took little notice of the timings of excursions, demanding to be carried even when their group had not been called, and then refusing to return to the boats at allotted times. It was also an unpleasant experience to follow some of them in the queues for the buffets watching them handle food before returning it to the counters. As for the trip itself well something went wrong early on. It appears that the wrong fuel had been delivered and put into some of the boats and so we hung about for a couple of days, in the, admittedly, beautiful scenery of the Scoresbysund waiting until the Fram could take on-board the correct fuel during a second stop at Ittoqqortoormiit. I am still not sure what actually went wrong as communication with passengers left a great deal to be desired. Whatever the reason, the delay put us two days behind schedule from then on. Now, it is obvious and right that the safety of the ship and of her passengers is paramount and that important decisions must be left to the captain. Nevertheless, when still in Iceland we had been told that the earlier trip from Spitzbergen had been unable to get into some of the planned landing places because of extensive sea-ice. The sea conditions we would meet were known, therefore, before we left Scoresbysund. Slowly, we made our way through sea mist and lots of ice to Myggbukta and then to ‘Dead Man’s Bay’ which was to be our last landing in Greenland as it was decided that the ice would not permit further progress north. Not a surprise really as that, as I have said, was already known. The Fram took a day extricating itself from the ice and then only after having tried all sorts of directions including reverse. The way that it eventually succeeded was to sail south again giving rise to rumours that we were heading back to Iceland. That was not to be so but the Fram, instead of just taking one day to cross to Spitzbergen, actually took two and a half days which severely curtailed the time that we had to see Spitzbergen. A visit to Ny Ålesund was cancelled as it was said that there was to be an oil clean-up drill there. The question then asked was whether Ny Ålesund did not know of the visit by the Fram or whether the Fram did not know of the oil clean-up drill? The Spitzbergen element of the holiday was severely curtailed. Luckily, we had previously circumnavigated the archipelago and had seen it but a number of our fellow passengers was very disappointed. There were good points, however, it was not all negative. The Filipino staff was as welcoming, friendly and courteous as ever, we were very fortunate to have had excellent company at set meals and then there was the wildlife.The high point of the trip was the seeing Humpback, Minke and Orca whales, polar bears, musk oxen, reindeer and Arctic fox. None of the above, however, was sufficient to make up for the serious problems we encountered on this voyage. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
“We had been looking forward to our third Explorer Voyage, to Iceland, North East Greenland and Spitzbergen National Park for some time but, unfortunately, this last voyage was such a massive disappointment that, instead of us now ... Read More
“We had been looking forward to our third Explorer Voyage, to Iceland, North East Greenland and Spitzbergen National Park for some time but, unfortunately, this last voyage was such a massive disappointment that, instead of us now planning our next trip with Hurtigruten, it is most unlikely that we will travel on the Fram, or with them again. Signs of what was to come started with the mandatory safety drill. Compared with those on our 2012 and 2013 voyages when the drills went like clockwork the contrast could not have been greater: it was disorganised chaos made worse by the fact that many of the large Chinese contingent on board talked loudly and incessantly over the instructions when they were being given in English or German. Instead of standing in relatively small groups, a large number of passengers had to mill about trying to catch a glimpse of the crew member demonstrating procedures. Now, it is most important to recognise and acknowledge that cultural and behavioural differences exist and one needs to be tolerant. As for the trip itself well something went wrong early on. It appears that the wrong fuel had been delivered and put into some of the boats and so we hung about for a couple of days, in the, admittedly, beautiful scenery of the Scoresbysund waiting until the Fram could take on-board the correct fuel during a second stop at Ittoqqortoormiit. I am still not sure what actually went wrong as communication with passengers left a great deal to be desired. Whatever the reason, the delay put us two days behind schedule from then on. Now, it is obvious and right that the safety of the ship and of her passengers is paramount and that important decisions must be left to the captain. Nevertheless, when still in Iceland we had been told that the earlier trip from Spitzbergen had been unable to get into some of the planned landing places because of extensive sea-ice. The sea conditions we would meet were known, therefore, before we left Scoresbysund. Slowly, we made our way through sea mist and lots of ice to Myggbukta and then to ‘Dead Man’s Bay’ which was to be our last landing in Greenland as it was decided that the ice would not permit further progress north. Not a surprise really as that, as I have said, was already known. The Fram took a day extricating itself from the ice and then only after having tried all sorts of directions including reverse. The way that it eventually succeeded was to sail south again giving rise to rumours that we were heading back to Iceland. That was not to be so but the Fram, instead of just taking one day to cross to Spitzbergen, actually took two and a half days, which severely curtailed the time that we had to see Spitzbergen. A visit to Ny Ålesund was cancelled as it was said that there was to be an oil clean-up drill there. The question then asked was whether Ny Ålesund did not know of the visit by the Fram or whether the Fram did not know of the oil clean-up drill? The Spitzbergen element of the holiday was severely curtailed. Luckily, we had previously circumnavigated the archipelago and had seen it but a number of our fellow passengers was very disappointed. There were good points, however, it was not all negative. The Filipino staff was as welcoming, friendly and courteous as ever, we were very fortunate to have had excellent company at set meals and then there was the wildlife. The high point of the trip was seeing Humpback, Minke and Orca whales, polar bears, musk oxen, reindeer and Arctic fox. None of the above, however, was sufficient to make up for the serious problems we encountered on this voyage.” Read Less
34 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
We have done some pretty special cruises including Inside Passage, Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera and Tahitian Islands. My wife particularly wanted to see some Polar Bears. We told the Hurtigruten cruise consultant this and wanted advice as ... Read More
We have done some pretty special cruises including Inside Passage, Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera and Tahitian Islands. My wife particularly wanted to see some Polar Bears. We told the Hurtigruten cruise consultant this and wanted advice as to a Stitzbergen cruise or the Greenland cruise. I think we were upsold to a more expensive cruise. Boarding was a nightmare, the computers were down. Champagne was set out for suite guests, not a thing for the rest of us, not even a glass of water while we waited. The lifesaving demo was a complete farce. After 45 minutes waiting most of us had lost interest. I was pleasantly surprised by the dinner as I had read the food was average. Things went downhill from there. In 14 days you could count 3-4 memorable meals. On my feedback form I wrote, you are serving $5 meals with $40 bottles of wine. The cook (you couldn't use the word chef) killed the food. Mostly it was cooked to the point of burnt. The battered calamari was like rubber tyres both times it was served. The steaks were charred. The meal on the last night was so salty, no-one at out table could eat it. As previous critics have said, there were a lot of fish dishes. Most were quite bland and the fish tough or full of bones. One traditional fish soup tasted good but the fish could not be chewed. Service at the table was very friendly, but the staff were poorly trained. Drinks were slow and plates remained when you returned with another course. I finished the red meat dish before my bottle of red wine arrived. BTW you have to pay extra for filtered water, the tap water is not so good. No filtered water at breakfast, no cappuccino until 10am in the bar. Ice-cream, 6 flavours for 14 days, no imagination, vanilla, chocolate, orange, pistachio, strawberry and coconut. Bar staff in the observation deck were friendly and efficient, well above the dining room staff, drink prices not too bad. Shore excursions were somewhat of a joke. Early sea-ice forced the ship into a fjord they hadn't been in before. Park restrictions meant no more than 100 people could go ashore at any one time. We rotated through 8 groups. If you were last, the chances of seeing wildlife was zero. An unexplored fjord meant we sailed km's off the shore again seeing nothing. We saw more wildlife on the Inside Passage cruise. A passenger we met from a different cruise-line from Stitzbergen saw 22 polar bears, we saw 3 and virtually nothing else. All the birds had left for the winter. This cruise is the very end of the season and only runs to top up the company coffers before heading to the Antarctic. We also went on the Cirkle Boat tour at extra cost 270NOK ea. The free shore excursion saw more wildlife. While dinner was served the ship traced the same route as we had just paid extra for, RIPPED OFF. Did I mention that the captain had never been to Greenland and we spent a long time poking along in heavy sea ice without ice charts (it was the weekend). We lost so much time (more than 24 hours), shore excursions in Spitzbergen were cancelled. They also took on drums of diesel instead of petrol, causing chaos with the tenders and a further 6 hours delay stopping for the right fuel. The internet was so slow they refunded me the first 60NOK for one hour and gave me 2 hours for 60NOK the next time. I managed to sent two text only emails and gave up. The lectures were very average. The photographer was good and very helpful. The expedition team were enthusiastic but young and in the main inexperienced. Eric, the SAS guy was leaving after the cruise. His experiences in Greenland on patrol were interesting. Cabin was tight but clean and functional. Movie selection was basic but ok. Laundry expensive but on the last day you could get a whole bag done for 160NOK. We washed socks and undies and took line, pegs and some laundry liquid and had clean dry clothes in 36 hours, big saving. Others told us they had great experiences in the past with Hurtigruten but rate FRAM 2/10 for this cruise. We think 2 was generous. I was so glad I didn't try to convince any friends to cruise with us. I recorded the best part of the trip as "getting off". This is a very expensive cruise and could easily have been one to rave about. I wouldn't recommend it to any one. My wife and I felt cheated out of what should have been the trip of a lifetime. Every other cruise we have been on has been memorable for all the right reasons, this one for all the wrong ones. I firstly shared my concerns with the company and as they didn't even acknowledge my feedback, I though I'd share with other cruisers. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
My travel buddy and I flew to Spitsbergen from Oslo. Before our cruise we stayed overyight at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Nothing fancy, just a place to wait for the ship. The staff was helpful and friendly. I'll start with my only real ... Read More
My travel buddy and I flew to Spitsbergen from Oslo. Before our cruise we stayed overyight at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Nothing fancy, just a place to wait for the ship. The staff was helpful and friendly. I'll start with my only real complaint about my Fram experience: the check in procedure. We all seemed to arrive by bus from our hotels at roughly the same time...then we proceeded to our assigned deck, where I stood in line for one hour to be checked in - really, to provide them with my credit card information. The check-in process needs to be streamlined and improved. Other than that, the crew, the ship, almost everything and everyone met or exceeded my expectations. If we didn't want to purchase a drink package we were able to have water with each meal, and the food was VERY good. Our cabin was small but acceptable for the week we were on board. One of our excursions - a hike - was really more of a forced march. The terrain was so rough I couldn't enjoy the scenery because of the necessity to look where every step was taking me. The pace was far too fast for the conditions. Before we began our cruise I hoped for just one decent polar bear sighting. Of course, with wildlife there are never any guarantees.From the ship we saw a total of seven polar bear! I was thrilled to come home with five VERY nice photos of them. We also spent an hour on land watching a large group of walrus. Gliding through the heavy ice was a thrilling experience. Because of ice conditions our route was changed and a couple of landings were not possible but we knew we were at the mercy of the weather and ice. In the end, because of the ice, we didn't just circle Spitsbergen - we went around Svalbard! Of course everyone should investigate any company and specific ship and itinerary before purchasing a cruise, but I will heartily recommend Hurtigruten and the Fram to experience Spitsbergen. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
We loved every bit of the Climate cruise on the Fram...we chose a balcony suite which was great lots of room and even on cold days we could sit outside with a drink and watch the ice slide past! We were blessed with really good weather ... Read More
We loved every bit of the Climate cruise on the Fram...we chose a balcony suite which was great lots of room and even on cold days we could sit outside with a drink and watch the ice slide past! We were blessed with really good weather so were able to see and do loads of expeditions including Jan Mayan volcano and kayaking past Glaciers... We also saw Polar bears,Reindeer ,Walrus,Seals,and Whales. The on board talks were on the whole pretty good. There is no real entertainment ..apart from one night of mini cabaret by the crew and an on deck BBQ but that was fine with us as we just wanted to soak up the peace,quiet and beauty of the area. We had the best of times and will remember this trip for a very long time Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black ... Read More
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black cocktail dresses then book another sort of trip. This is a professional operation with an excellent boat and expedition crew. Personally, I pay good money to avoid dancing girls with feather but YMMV. We saw penguins unnumbered, humpback whales bubble netting, whales surfacing next to the ship (!!!), seals hunting penguins returning to the rookery, Rock Hopper penguins kamikazimg off the cliffs to avoid seals, fantastic hospitality of the Falkland Island residents, Hour Glass dolphins viewed from the observation deck, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Falkland Island Steamer Ducks doing what they do naturally, visits to British 1950s Antarctic Stations and a fascinating impromptu talk by a Norwegian ex-whaler (and I am a card carrying anti-whaler!). The only problem is should we be travelling to this delicate and fragile eco-system? We would be back again (for the third time) but for wrestling with our conscience about whether we should be travelling here at all. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
First let me say it should tell you something that I'm posting this 3 years later. That's how disappointing this cruise was. Second, Antarctica is incredible, this cruise line does get you there, and it's worth going - despite the ... Read More
First let me say it should tell you something that I'm posting this 3 years later. That's how disappointing this cruise was. Second, Antarctica is incredible, this cruise line does get you there, and it's worth going - despite the incredible disappointment of the cruise company to deliver a quality safe experience in my opinion. And it is all about the hospitality in this case. If you want to just go on an expedition cruise and not care about food, towels, coffee, comfort... then sure. This is fine. But for the price and with just a little effort they could do so much better. People save their whole livest to get to Antarctica. Why not make an effort. The basics: The ship is fine. I am more concerned with seaworthy and safety in this case. However, the common area is pathetically sad. It's like a small bad lounge in a drab little Euro-hotel. Bad coffee. Stale cookies. It all feels like an uninviting afterthought. Just one aspect of failed hospitality effort that never really brought the cruise together nor made one feel welcomed. The food was terrible. Which at first I figured we were at the end of the world and supplies were limited. But when we explored Ushuaia we found plenty of fresh produce, good coffee, pastries... at reasonable prices. Clearly Hurtigruten could have sourced better. There were literally fights in the dining area. Over what I can't even imagine. All the food tasted like hospital food. Really sad. There is nothing that says luxury at all. The towels were small, worn, scratchy and scarce. Yes we went to an amazing place and got to go on an incredible adventure. I'll always cherish that. But they could have done so much better with the slightest awareness of hospitality. At one point, wanting to create an experience for myself and friends we made on the trip, I paid our guide to pluck a piece of calved glacier ice from the water. I created a moment in the bar where we chiseled-off a piece of that prehistoric ice that contained compressed air bubbles from millennia ago. When you poured a liquor over it you could hear those bubble effervesce. Simple. Magical. Special. Not vaguely in the awareness of our host. Lastly, be warned that if there's a medical emergency, your cruise is ruined. Too much to explain here, but research it. We were told that the cruise before ours lost 4 days for and emergency evacuation. One is supposed to have a doctor's note to go on this adventure. On several occasions we saw people put into very precarious positions by the crew. (Many of which kind of came off as junior-college level awkward dolts. The geologist was frankly weird and rude). These situations could have easily resulted in a crisis. For just one example: a clearly overweight, out of shape, knee brace person with cane teetering on the edge of a portable aluminum stair case while trying to get out of a heavily rocking raft in rubber boots onto a very slippery rocky shore with crashing waves. We actually did have a medical emergency that could have ruined our journey. A man that had several prior hip / knee surgeries fell on the boat. But thankfully there happened to be an anesthesiologist and a surgeon on board. And we were told his wife, having been through so many surgeries, provided critical assistance. Without all of that good fortune we would have ad to go to South Shetlands (if I recall) and wait for good weather and airlift. The ship is required to sit in port until weather clears enough for the plane to leave. Overall, we're thrilled we got to go. We loved it. It was worth the risk. But we make the most or any experience. The places we got to see were truly once in a lifetime. And the austere beauty of this other worldly place is unrivaled. It's just too bad that this company doesn't interested in making a sincere effort to make it special. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015

We started our expedition by flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia where we picked up Hurtigruten’s boat MS Fram. The boat is lovely, lots of pine and a fantastic observation lounge with floor to ceiling windows. Our suite was ... Read More

We started our expedition by flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia where we picked up Hurtigruten’s boat MS Fram. The boat is lovely, lots of pine and a fantastic observation lounge with floor to ceiling windows. Our suite was great, a good size, but beware, some of the inside cabins are very small.

We had an amazing holiday, we saw five different types of penguins (Gentoos, Chin-strap, Magenellic, Rockhopper and King) and lots of seals (Fur, Elephant and Leopard). We saw whales and dolphins and many different birds including albatross and caracars. The scenery is stunning, words cannot describe the sheer beauty of the magnificent icebergs against the cobalt blue skies as the sun’s rays warmed everyone and everything.

We endured Force 10s crossing Drake’s Passage, about half the passengers were ill; we couldn’t put into Deception Island because of the Force 11 gale. We had fabulous days when the sun shone and the sky was blue – dips in the on-deck Jacuzzi were a must even though it was -1 C and snowing at times. We had days when the fog obstinately stuck around all day.

The best bits were undoubtedly seeing this amazing continent and getting to walk on the Antarctic, South Georgia and the Falklands. It was a real privilege to be there and see the animals and birds and to walk in the footsteps of Shackleton. The staff were really good; the lectures were exceptionally good generally and helped to set the scene perfectly. Safety was paramount, especially important when the transfers to the remote islands were made by Polar Circle boats in lumpy seas.

There were many long days at sea filled by lectures and film shows. You might want to take your knitting and a good supply of reading material/puzzle books. There is a supply of jig-saw puzzles on board, but there is also a limit to how many you might want to do. You might also want to take a pack of cards and/or other travel games.

The food was OK, the set dinners were better than the buffets, which were the norm at other times. The food was a bit repetitive, the fish and meat often over-cooked. We were expecting something a bit better given the cost of the holiday.

We were also disappointed by the penny pinching/money grabbing approach. This was an expensive holiday – the Antarctic is an expensive place to visit. We did receive ‘free’ anoraks, but had to pay to hire boots for the shore excursions – there is a big focus on ensuring that cross contamination of flora and fauna is minimised. The boot hire was only about £15 per person for the whole trip, but this was on a holiday costing £25,000.

Excursions were also expensive: kayaking for less than two hours cost £100 per person; a trip in the Polar Circle boat was exciting but another £90 each. There was a queue to camp on the Antarctic, even though it cost £250 for a bottle of water and a night in a tent. Don’t even think about going on the Buenos Aires city tour, it’s only about £30 each but a complete waste of money, you can wander around BA by yourself - just be careful someone tried to rob us by claiming that we had bird mess on our backs that they would help us clean off. In truth our good Samaritan had squirted the ‘bird mess’ onto our backs hoping that the diversion would enable him to pick our pockets. It does seem that Hurtigruten take advantage of the ‘I will only do this once’ sentiment. We also don’t understand why only passengers who have booked suites are offered a glass of fizz on arrival, we stood in the same queues as passengers who hadn’t booked a suite, we were offered a drink and they were quite clearly told that it wasn’t for them – an embarrassing start to the trip. Similarly, we were given ‘free’ water, wine and beer at lunch and dinner because we were part of the ‘Suite Concept’. Everyone else was charged for water at approx £2 per person per day; you could buy a package for the whole trip that reduced the cost to about £1.50 per day. Similarly only those passengers in suites were provided with ‘smellies’ and tea/coffee making facilities in their cabins.

Internet access is chargeable but rarely available; so just don’t assume that you will have access. Bar prices are also high, £4+ for a small beer, £5+ for a gin & tonic, £25 for a bottle of wine.

We also had a multi-national group of about 200 passengers (the boat can hold about 300) who were interesting to meet – a special sort of person is attracted to this special holiday. We did have a large contingent of about fifty Chinese passengers on our boat – they made up about 25% of the passengers. The experience was not very positive; they frequently took over the lounge/bar area and were very noisy in the dining room. Landings were also marred by their refusal to abide by the rules. Passengers were split into six teams for landings; the first landing started with team 1 going first, followed by teams 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. The teams were expected to return in the same order. On the second landing team 2 went first followed by teams 3, 4, 5, 6 & 1. This rotation continued so that each team was given the chance to be first on the islands or last off. However, the Chinese passengers would often refuse to leave the islands at their allotted time forcing other passengers to return early.

This was the most wonderful holiday; I will long remember standing in the sea with baby seals nudging my legs in curiosity, the sight of ‘baby’ albatross as big as their rockhopper penguin neighbours and the absolutely stunningly beautiful iceberg alley. A wow holiday, it could have been perfect with a little less penny pinching and better behaviour from the Chinese passengers.

 

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14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015

First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships ... Read More

First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships but none that are more seaworthy. A very good value.

The cruise officially began in Buenos Aires. We spent a week there on our own so had not purchased an airport transfer from Hurtigruten for the charter flight to Ushuaia. This became the source of some stress when we belatedly learned that our flight was to depart at 4:40 AM, meaning finding a cab on our own at 2:00 AM. If we had known about the ridiculously early flight in advance, we would have spent the last night in Buenos Aires with the Fram group.

We were met at the airport in Ushuaia by Fram personnel. No problem with check-in on the ship, and our luggage was already in our cabin when we arrived.

As been mentioned before, the standard cabin on the Fram is astonishingly tiny. There are two berths with very little space between them. During the day one berth is turned up and the other becomes a couch, to allow for more floor space. There is adequate storage space, but it is mostly in open cubbyholes. Travelers used to large cruise ships will be shocked. The "superior outside stateroom" is much larger and nicer, with a queen-sized bed and large bathroom, but is of course more expensive. We have cruised on the Fram before, and to save money had paid for an "unspecified inside cabin." After all, we never spend any time in the cabin on an expedition cruise. As it turned out, we were upgraded to a "superior" cabin, our good fortune this time.

The Fram is a lovely ship, especially built for polar conditions. For this cruise it was completely booked with 224 passengers. Public rooms are very attractive. There is a large observation lounge on Deck 7 forward, a wonderful place to watch the scenery in a hostile climate. Deck 4 is the nerve center of the vessel, with the dining room with windows on three sides; two lecture halls; a cafe with drinks and snacks; a shop offering cold-weather gear and a few souvenirs and essentials; and the administrative center. There are large windows on both sides. The ship also has an outdoor hot tub and a fitness room with a sauna.

Outside on Decks 5 and 8 are large observation areas. Of course, in the Antarctic these were used primarily when something especially exciting was going on, such as whale watching or threading our way through gigantic icebergs.

We were generally fortunate with weather. The notorious Drake Passage was glassy smooth on the two-day cruise south, and we were able to make two landings a day in Antarctica. (On the return trip over the Drake, it blew a full gale, force 8 on the Beaufort Scale.) The temperature on the Antarctic peninsula hovered around freezing twenty-four hours a day. There is no real darkness this time of year. For shore excursions we wore layers and shed them if there was no wind and the sun was out. Then it seemed surprisingly warm. When it was windy, or when we were in the 8-passenger "Polar Zirkel" boats, we needed all our cold-weather gear, including waterproof parkas (a gift from Hurtigruten) and pants. We also wore study rubber boots for all excursions. These were available for rent from the ship at a reasonable cost.

It's hard to describe the eight days we actually spent in the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is not a place, it's an experience. Twice-daily excursions brought us into close contact with three species of nesting penguins, who have no fear of humans and will walk right up to you. We also had close encounters with seals on land and on icebergs. The scenery is beyond spectacular. We've all seen pictures and videos of glaciers and icebergs, but no pictures can capture the reality of being there.

We visited a couple of inhabited islands and got a change to understand what it's like to live there. Some historic sites were included, such as a former whalers' processing station, and Elephant Island, where Shackleton's crew managed to survive for 4 1/2 months awaiting rescue. Lectures on the wildlife, geology, and history of the region by members of the outstanding Expedition Team put things in context.

In addition to the included daily shore excursions, there were optional kayaking trips and "boat cruising" in the small boats. There was also one long guided hike, and the chance to spend a night ashore in a tent. These optional excursions cost extra but provided an even more intimate experience with this unique environment.

There was no evening entertainment per se: a "Crew's Show," a Tango demonstration, some relevant movies, etc. We were too tired after the busy days to have any interest in evening activities, and I never heard anyone complain about the lack of entertainment.

Breakfast and lunch were always buffets; there were two official dinner seatings, but because of the extensive shore excursions, all but three dinners were buffets. Service was excellent throughout.

I have read complaints elsewhere about food aboard the Fram. It certainly does not measure up to the standards of a traditional cruise ship. However, we found that there were plenty of options, including lactose-free and gluten-free. The beef was not great, and vegetables tended to be overcooked, but the fish, cheeses, salads, breads, and desserts were outstanding. And does anyone expect meals on an expedition cruise to play the important role that they do on, say, a Mediterranean cruise? We were quite satisfied.

Passengers were a diverse group. Probably more than half were American, but there were large contingents from Germany and France, and we also met South Africans, Australians, Japanese, and Indians, to name a few. This was a very well-traveled assortment of lively, adventurous people, as you would expect on a cruise to the Antarctic.

We've been on many cruises, including some to rather exotic places (Greenland, Svalbard, Galapagos, Amazon), but Antarctica will always stand out in my mind. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity of experiencing it. It is totally unlike anywhere else on earth, absolutely indescribable.

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Fram Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.9
Dining 3.0 3.4
Entertainment 2.0 2.8
Public Rooms 3.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 2.0 3.5
Family 1.0 3.5
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.0
Enrichment 4.0 3.8
Service 4.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.5
Rates 4.0 3.8

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