Luxury is not a priority of the Polar Pioneer. Accommodation is compact, plain and fairly typical of an expedition ship that's almost 40 years old. There's a lot of varnished timber, blue curtains and dark carpets. Some cabins have ensuite bathrooms, while others have shared bathrooms down the corridor. Toilets operate on a vacuum system and block easily, so toilet paper (and all other waste) must be placed in a bin.
All cabins have porthole windows, a heater and a ceiling vent to allow air to circulate. A hairdryer, soap, hand cream and towels are provided. Bed linen is changed once on a cruise of 10 to 12 days, twice for 14 days or longer. Cabins have either a desk or a sofa, which come in handy for dumping equipment and clothing. Storage is adequate with under-bed drawers, a small wall unit and a wardrobe, but the six clothes hangers are not enough for two people.
There is no drying room on the ship so wet gumboots, coats and lifejackets must be kept inside your cabin. However, most people were happy to have easy access to all their gear, which dries in a few hours on this well-heated ship.
Aurora Expeditions can match solo travellers of the same gender to share a twin or triple cabin in order to avoid paying a single supplement. In these shared cabins, curtains can be drawn around each bed for privacy. On our voyage, 10 out of 50 passengers were solo.
Triple Public: Two cabins, next to the dining room at the front of Deck 3, have three bunk beds (two lower, one upper), which may be shared by three solo travellers or booked by a group of three. At 10.2 square metres, it's a squeeze but a more affordable option for adventurers on a budget. There is no ensuite bathroom; a shared shower and toilet is located on the same deck.
Twin Public: Also on Deck 3 are 12 cabins for two people with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. A sofa takes up one corner of the 9.8 square-metre room.
Twin Private: Decks 4 and 5 have 12 two-person cabins with ensuite bathrooms. Two single beds are on diagonally opposite sides of the room, about one metre apart, while others have bunks. Both types are 12 square metres.
Mini-suite: Deck 5 has two larger suites measuring a much more spacious 16.8 square metres. The bathroom is roughly the same size as found in other cabins but there is a separate living area with two desks, a sofa, bar fridge, TV and DVD player. Another distinct advantage is a double bed in the separate bedroom, making it ideal for couples.
Captain's Suite: The largest accommodation, at 22.5 square metres, is positioned Deck 5 forward. Like the mini suites, it also has a double bed, separate living area, desk and chair, TV, DVD player and mini-fridge. There is only one Captain's Suite, so be sure to book at least a year in advance.