I'm doing research now for a trip - possibly January 2012. If money was no object I'd choose Lindblad/National Geographic and second choice would be Quark. However, budget is a concern. The pricing on the Fram trip I'm looking at is a good deal less.

I know that the number of passengers on the Fram versus a smaller ship means we won't get to spend as much time on shore at landings. I'm willing to compromise because of the reality of our budget. But what I'd like to get a better feel for is whether that is the main compromise or if there are other things I need to consider.

The ship itself sounds very nice and I definitely like the idea of having private bathroom facilities which, on some of the other ships, would increase the price a lot. The larger ship size sounds like it might help with the amount of motion felt through Drake's Passage. The food sounds good from other reviewers here on cc and the trips, in general, sound well-run.

But, because this would be not quite the expedition level of some of the other ships do you miss out on the level of lectures and expedition staff? Are the landings lacking in comparison? These are the things I'm trying to determine and unless someone has done more than one trip with different companies it would be impossible to know. But just from trying to read between the lines of different trip reports I'm trying to reach these conclusions and am struggling.

So I don't know if my question even makes sense but I guess the bottom line is: is the 12 day trip on the Fram going to be "serious" enough or will I end up wishing I'd done a more rigorous trip if this is a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Is the Fram too much like a bigger cruise ship that only does drive-bys except with a few landings thrown in but on a very 'soft' level?

If anyone sees what I'm getting at and has an opinion I'd really appreciate hearing it. Thanks!