Heritage Expeditions' Spirit of Enderby is one of the original ex-Soviet ships that opened up the world to commercial polar cruising more than 20 years ago. Launched and registered as Professor Khromov, it is one of 10 Akademik Shuleykin-class vessels built in Finland in the mid-1980s for Soviet oceanographic research, which some like to imagine as naval espionage.
About half of these vessels ended up as tourist ships on charter, the better known of them being Akademik Shuleykin (sailing as Polar Pioneer) and Akademik Shokalskiy.
It must be remembered that Spirit of Enderby was never designed as a cruise ship, hence many of the features expected by cruise regulars are not found aboard this type of vessel. Instead, it is a purpose-built, polar-ice-rated vessel that performs at the top of its class.
Small, even as far as modern expedition ships are concerned, the 72-metre, 1,800 GRT vessels are configured for 50 passengers in six classes of cabin.
The beauty of Spirit of Enderby is not in its luxury appointments, as there are none, but rather its tough, utilitarian construction, which includes a high (1A) ice rating and hardy Russian crew who operate the vessel with an efficient, no-nonsense discipline.
Rudimentary compared to the new wave of 'Champagne' adventure ships, Spirit of Enderby instead focuses on exceptional itineraries and enrichment.
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Most excursions are by Zodiac rigid inflatable tenders. These are powered by lively 60hp 4-stroke outboard motors giving good speed and manoeuvrability -- an important consideration when long transfers in choppy seas are required.
Spirit of Enderby spends a lot of time in the open ocean and her 'sea keeping' is good for a small vessel with an active ballast stabiliser system engaged for the worst conditions.
Passengers aboard Spirit of Enderby are united in their desire to visit the destinations featured in the itinerary and can be an eclectic make-up of different nationalities and socio-economic groups. Regardless of individual background, the mood is very egalitarian and all passengers tend to mix freely and equally. When considering this, it is best to assume that you will meet folks from all over with educational backgrounds varying from keen amateur to professors.
Make-up is generally (but not exclusively) older English-speaking couples with solos common, too. Younger passengers also frequently travel on this ship, but are driven by a desire to see and experience the destinations visited rather than kick back on a 'holiday'.
Nationalities are likely to be predominantly Australians and New Zealanders but, depending on the itinerary offered, the ship may also attract Americans, Canadians and Brits.
The dress code onboard is dictated more by practicality than fashion, although if you are a stylish adventurer you may want to make sure your North Face or Columbia wardrobe is up to date. The cruise line will issue a recommended packing list based on your intended destination -- eg, tropical or polar -- that will include things such as wet weather gear, gumboots, spray jackets and thermal underwear. For polar journeys, loan parkas are issued at no extra cost.
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