Aurora Expedition's Greg Mortimer is, by all definitions, a game-changer. The ship, which replaces the line's Polar Pioneer (a converted ferry), maintains the authentic feel of expedition voyages that the company has become renowned for -- but in much more salubrious surroundings. This is adventure cruising for the modern age.
Named after the company's founder, Greg Mortimer is the first ship to offer the revolutionary X-Bow, a pointed hull that cuts through rough seas and ice. This innovation gives passengers a smoother ride over rough bodies of water like the Drake Passage and thus helps with seasickness. Not only that, but the ship is able to maintain a higher speed when swells are high, meaning that those who do suffer will do so for less time.
Other new features on Greg Mortimer include hydraulic viewing platforms that come out from the ship's sides (just beyond the lecture theatre) where passengers can stand and watch during particularly dramatic moments, such as when the ship is slicing through sea ice.
The expedition team are enthusiastic and experienced, with many travelling to the polar regions for more than 20 years. Aurora contracts its expedition staff for just two months at a time, which stops them burning out so they can maintain their levels of enthusiasm throughout the season.
In short, this is a remarkable vessel that combines the typical luxuries of a modern cruise ship – delicious food, beautiful decor and well-appointed cabins – with the rich history of a pioneering polar company. It makes for a grand adventure.
Passengers are a real mix: couples, groups of friends, solos and families can all be found onboard. The age range is broad, partly because the adventurous cruises attract a lot of first-timers.
As an Australian company, Aurora Expeditions attracts people from that part of the world (usually around two thirds of passengers). The remainder is made up of North Americans and Brits. Announcements are made in English.
There is no dress code on Greg Mortimer. Evenings are casual affairs where passengers enjoy dinners and a few go on for a drink in the bar. Some passengers change clothes, but the majority don't and there is no pressure to do so.
Muck boots and expedition jackets are provided. Apart from thermal layers, gloves and hats, the most crucial item of clothing to pack is a pair of waterproof trousers. There is also a sunscreen dispenser before you enter the mudroom.
Before booking, passengers will choose whether they want to take part in any of the shore excursions (such as kayaking, snowshoeing or climbing), which all cost extra. Those who haven't booked these activities will be shuttled ashore in Zodiac boats and then be free to roam around the landing site. The expedition team are dotted around to offer advice and answer any questions passengers might have. In regions such as Antarctica -- where landings are restricted to 100 people -- at least 20 passengers are likely to be kayaking or taking part in activities on other sites, meaning everyone else will get onshore together. This is a massive bonus compared to larger expedition ships where landings are rotated and you have to wait your turn.
Gratuities are charged at $15 per person per day and are shared by the ship staff (minus the expedition team). Drinks are included with dinner. The currency onboard is US dollars.