Posted December 23rd, 2016, 10:09 AM
Last edited by kaisatsu; December 23rd, 2016 at 10:15 AM
We are currently in Buenos Aires on our return from 'another' Antarctic trip on Hurtigruten's Fram.
PP's reference to menus and then eating at McDonalds isn't quite right. On a drive by you would see the menu but you wouldn't eat anywhere!
National Geographic are not the only company down there (we saw them, and others, from time-to-time). All pretty much see the same penguins and the same landscapes. You need to do some research to check out the differences and see what suits you in terms of cos, time, landings and comfort. It's all very much a series of compromises.
I cannot stress the bolded enough. There is a huge array between a drive-by on a mainline like Holland and National Geographic!
NatGeo/Lindblad is often considered the crème de la crème of Antarctic expedition cruises, and as such, it's often among the most expensive. The different companies and offerings vary significantly in price as well as in comfort.
If you're looking for something close to a traditional cruise but with shore landings, Hurtigruten is a good place to look. The Fram feels pretty much like a small cruise ship, and the polarcirkel landing boats they use are a step up in convenience from the typical zodiacs.
The more expedition-style ships can still be quite nice, but don't expect the food and amenities you'd find on a cruise. Personally, I like the simpler ships better, because I would rather have the trip feel more like an expedition than a cruise. It's nice to relax in a big glass lounge with a drink, but part of me would rather bundle up and go out on deck to enjoy the view. Of course it's purely personal taste and travel style! And if mobility is a concern, it may not be an option, since not all ships have lifts.
The zodiac trips are rarely intense. First, most landings and zodiac cruises take place in protected bays, because that's where the wildlife lives and the history happened. Also, if the seas are too rough, many ships aren't able to operate the equipment to put the landing boats in the water in the first place. I'd say the ride is usually comparable to being in a ski boat, and the biggest bumps are usually on par with crossing someone else's wake. An unfortunate Drake Passage crossing should be a much bigger concern than the zodiacs!