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I know I want a ship with small passenger numbers so we can maximise our zodiac landings.I looked at, for example, Polar Pioneer or Ocean Nova, but am concerned that the facilities on board are just too cramped. Is the all-in-one dining room/lecture room/bar/general meeting area just too small? Would people recommend the slightly larger ships - Plancius, Valivov, Orlova etc, and sacrifice numbers for facilities? I'm not after luxury, but a nice communal area would enhance the evenings! Any one done both ships and have an opinion?
You'll get different responses I'm sure; here's my two cents ... we were on an even smaller ship - Prof Molchanov - 48 pax. Was the space cramped? Perhaps, a little; but we spent so little time inside (be it the public spaces or our cabin) that it didn't matter to us. (In fact, the smaller cabin was an advantage when the seas were rough as there were enough handholds to get around the cabins safely.)
The lecture room/lounge was filled to capacity for the duration of the lectures, but most people left to go outside, up to the bridge, or back to the cabin when it was over, leaving plenty of space for anyone who wanted to remain in the lounge. (The lectures were not non-stop, but spaced out nicely and were only on sea days.) As for the evenings, with near constant daylight, we didn't spend much time in the lounge or the dining room (separate on the Molchanov) -- again, we were either outside enjoying the experience of sailing in Antarctica or in our cabin, resting up from a busy day of landings and getting ready for another early wake up call the next morning.
Admittedly, we had great weather that was very conducive to being outside as much as possible. Had that not been the case, I might have felt differently ... but I doubt it. For us, max passenger count was more important than space in this instance.
Whatever you decide, have a terrific time on your adventure.
Last edited by h2so4; February 2nd, 2010 at 08:12 AM.
We were on the Minerva which is capable holding 360, but they only carried 200 so they could land 100 at a time. This meant that sometimes one group had better weather than the other (wind, snow, rain). The amount of time (60 to 90 minutes) was not a problem. I liked having the xtra space and the fact that the ship had stabilizers. I was afraid of getting sea sick. We did not encounter rough seas express one night and even that was not severe. Serving 200 passengers also allows the operator more flexibility in terms of including more and higher quality speakers (just a guess on my part, since all were very good and highly qualified). Our price point was also quite affordable compared to the other options we had looked at.
On the Ocean Nova the dining room and the lecture area were two different places. The lectures took place in the Panorama Lounge, which is at the top of the ship. We spent quite a bit of our free time there as did other passengers. There is also a library area that was used by people during down time.
This ship looks ridiculously small next to the other ships in port, but it did not feel too small while on board.
If you are someone who likes the shopping malls, shows etc on the big ships, it might seem too small.
The Ocean Nova also did quite well in the rough seas, it did roll around though.
The size of the passenger contingent was great, we were not separated into groups. The expedition leaders would let us know what the plan was and people could either hurry up to be in line first or take their time getting ready. Even if you were not first in line it did not take that long to move 72 passengers with 7 zodiacs. They have the zodiac unloading down to a science, I think I heard them say they could get all the zodiacs off the boat and be ready to unload passengers in 20 minutes.
I did a fly cruise in which we flew from Punta Arenas to King George Island and boarded the Professor Multanovskiy which held 48 passengers but we only had 25. We had three Zodiacs each holding about 8 to 10 passengers so we did two stops daily. I enjoyed the Zodiac cruises looking to creep up on wildlife in their natural habitat.
We had a lounge and open bar, though not much time to drink with the two landings daily. I liked the open bridge policy. The ship was only about 250 feet long but very comfortable and the food was excellent.
We had a lecture room as well as a separate lounge and dining room.
It was more of an expedition than a cruise, but great fun.
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We were on Polar Pioneer February last year. Accommodations were small, but perfectly adequate. The ship had 2 dining rooms, a lecture hall - which could be used to watch videos, and a bar. The bar was a nice place to hang out. The food to us was 'just ok'. We had 53 passengers onboard, including the company's new CEO.
Our experience was similar to what the others mentioned here, although there were several days when we did 3 landings, as well as an evening zodiac cruise. Thus not a lot of time in the bar. But we don't regret the small ship decision for a second.
Our expedition leader was Howard Whelan, one of the founders of Australia's National Geographic.