National Geographic worth it? Going ashore?

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#1
Baltimore
19 Posts
Joined Sep 2016
Is NG worth the candle? Very pricy, but I guess I could talk myself into it. This may be a stupid question, but how big a deal is going ashore? Holland Lines would be a lot cheaper....
#2
9,747 Posts
Joined May 2009
Originally posted by der110
Is NG worth the candle? Very pricy, but I guess I could talk myself into it. This may be a stupid question, but how big a deal is going ashore? Holland Lines would be a lot cheaper....
As someone who has "gone ashore" (with Lindblad on the Nat Geo Explorer), I think it was a very "big deal," and I'm pretty certain anyone else who has done so will agree.

There's a huge difference between a "drive by" and actually landing on the continent, walking around with the penguins, watching chicks being fed in the rookeries, etc. Zodica cruising alone was simply awesome, getting up close and personal with icebergs at sea level, leopard seals on ice floes, etc. Having minke whales swim under your zodiac. Being on the bridge while crossing the Drake Passage and watching the water splash up to the bridge. The list goes on and on. It's an incomparable adventure.

Only you can decide if you can afford it and whether the cost is worth it to you, but yes, it is a very big deal. To say "trip of a lifetime" sounds like a cliché, but it really is all that.

My detailed photo journal of our Antartica expedition is here, in case it's of help to you:

https://antarcticjourney.wordpress.com/



(photo by turtles06)
#3
ExPerth, Now Melb Aus
657 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Turtle has pretty much covered it.

To me a drive by cruise would be like standing outside the finest restaurant in the world and reading the menu while watching diners inside at their tables - then walking on past and going to McDonalds.

I would make a start with reading some of the many trip reports we have on Trip Advisor by those of us who have done one or multiple expeditions to various parts of Antarctica on the icebreakers or small expedition ships.

The reports are cross referenced by year, expedition company, and ship name - so easily searchable.
http://antarcticafaqs.boards.net/#category-4

At the end of the day its a choice only you and your budget you can make.

But to me - money is the least important factor when I want to achieve my life goals. And yes - every single solitary second that I have spent on shore on the polar continent during 4 trips of 116 days - was well and truly worth it.
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Antarctica
Kapitan Khlebnikov Nov 2010 (West Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Riser Laarsen Coast, Sth Sandwhich & Sth Georgia Islands)
Kapitan Khlebnikov Dec 2011 (Final voyage - East Antarctica & Heard Island)
Sea Adventurer: Feb 2014 (East side of Antarctica Peninsular, South Georgia Is, Falkland Is).

Ortelius: Feb 2014 Bluff NZ, Ross Sea, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Peter 1st Island, Ushuaia
Other regions: too many to list so just the highlights:
P&O Oriana 1984 (Indian Ocean) and 1986 (Pacific Ocean), Superstar Virgo 2003 (Indian Ocean),
Radiance of the Seas: Nov 2014 Bravo Theatre Opera cruise - Noumea.

#4
France
764 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
I have been to Antarctica twice, not with National Geographic but with Hurtigruten and on a similar "expedition type" trip with landings and zodiac cruising. Having done that, I cannot imagine doing just a drive-by cruise in this area. The landings were a very big deal. Penguins rookery, icebergs up-close, visits of scientific bases (abandoned or not) and so on, it was a very big deal indeed. I also kayaked in the middle of ice. It was unforgettable.
I paid a hefty price for those trips and I don't regret a single euro.
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My travelblog : http://voyageterremer.blogspot.com Hurtigruten, Antarctica, Svalbard, Norway (and other places...).
#5
Baltimore
19 Posts
Joined Sep 2016
Thanks for the feedback. I think I was imagining AA to be a big block of ice. NG may be a little adventurous for my girlfriend. I don't think she gets seasick, but she has rarely been on a boat, and never in rough waters. I, on the other hand, have been in 25 ft seas on a 40' sailboat. How long, typically, are the Zodiac rides? Is the charter flight all coach?
#6
Nova Scotia Canada
4,733 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
The zodiac rides can be as little a a few minutes to get from the boat to shore, or they could be full zodiac cruises of an hour or more.

When you go to the Trip Advisor Antarctic Adventures FAQ site referenced above by PerfectlyPerth, be sure to check out the Trip Research site which compares various operators, seasons, destinations and so on. There are many more choices for trips with landings than National Geographic.
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Eden (Navimag) four nights on ferry up inner west coast of Chile, March 2016
Expedition (GAdventures) Antarctica, Feb/March 2016
Dragon's Pearl Halong Bay, Vietnam 2014
Azamara Quest Far East, March 5, 2011
Victoria Empress, Yangtze River, March 25, 2011
Azamara Quest Ancient Empires, Nov. 14, 2009

Independent land tours:
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Argentina and Chile - cities and Patagonia, 2016
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numerous in US and Canada
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#7
ExPerth, Now Melb Aus
657 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Yes there are different zodiac rides. There are ones where its simply a "taxi" getting you to a shore landing. Others where is nice and slow 3 or 4 hours cruising around the icebergs and checking out the seals and penguins resting on top. Or others where you might spend several hours with whales surfacing just inches away from you.

Given that people aged 13 to 100 have been able to manage the zodiacs I am pretty sure your girlfriend could cope. I have travelled in Antarctica with quite a few adventurous types in the mid 90s and they managed just fine.

I think I was imagining AA to be a big block of ice.
Definitely do some more research. Antarctica is a giant land based continent - with ice on top. It is one of the most volcanic regions in the world with more active volcanos than anywhere else in the world. It has many many millions of penguins of many breeds, seals galore, whale sanctuaries and more. Then there is the amazing history of the grand explorers from 100 years ago (or further if you stretch back to Captain Cook in the 1770s), and the scientific bases where environment research is done - where you might be lucky to actually visit.

When on board during at sea days you are getting all your familiarisation and safety talks and instructions on how to ensure you do not contaminate landing sites etc. Then you are attending fascinating lectures from your expedition team who are experts in biology, glaciology, volcanology, mammals, birds, whales, penguins, geology and history and more. You come away with a brain full of new facts that enable you to respect the region even more.

As you will see from the Trip Advisor FAQs there are many expedition companies and ships that are based down there for the summer season. So it does take a bit of research to choose the ship that suits you. My suggestion is to get on the mailing lists for as many as possible to ensure you are being advised of their new itineraries and sales.

Pricewise you will generally find there are early bird sales around September for the itineraries for the following season (so Sept 2016 for the voyages in Oct 2017 to March 2018). They can be around 25 - 35% off full price.
In the US there is generally a November (Black friday or whatever it is over there) sale as well.

Just before a season starts there are also all the last minute deals where ships are selling off their remaining berths or re-advertising where they have had some cancellations. So if you are flexible you can get good deals for trips that a just a few weeks away. So through Oct/Nov you see sales for the next months itineraries.
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Antarctica
Kapitan Khlebnikov Nov 2010 (West Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Riser Laarsen Coast, Sth Sandwhich & Sth Georgia Islands)
Kapitan Khlebnikov Dec 2011 (Final voyage - East Antarctica & Heard Island)
Sea Adventurer: Feb 2014 (East side of Antarctica Peninsular, South Georgia Is, Falkland Is).

Ortelius: Feb 2014 Bluff NZ, Ross Sea, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Peter 1st Island, Ushuaia
Other regions: too many to list so just the highlights:
P&O Oriana 1984 (Indian Ocean) and 1986 (Pacific Ocean), Superstar Virgo 2003 (Indian Ocean),
Radiance of the Seas: Nov 2014 Bravo Theatre Opera cruise - Noumea.

#9
ExPerth, Now Melb Aus
657 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Agree Turtles

where else do you get this happening right in front of you



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Antarctica
Kapitan Khlebnikov Nov 2010 (West Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Riser Laarsen Coast, Sth Sandwhich & Sth Georgia Islands)
Kapitan Khlebnikov Dec 2011 (Final voyage - East Antarctica & Heard Island)
Sea Adventurer: Feb 2014 (East side of Antarctica Peninsular, South Georgia Is, Falkland Is).

Ortelius: Feb 2014 Bluff NZ, Ross Sea, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Peter 1st Island, Ushuaia
Other regions: too many to list so just the highlights:
P&O Oriana 1984 (Indian Ocean) and 1986 (Pacific Ocean), Superstar Virgo 2003 (Indian Ocean),
Radiance of the Seas: Nov 2014 Bravo Theatre Opera cruise - Noumea.

#10
UK
1,551 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
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.

Good luck!
#11
ExPerth, Now Melb Aus
657 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Originally posted by digitl
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!
LOL true - you would just starve through the delicious garlic aromas.
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Antarctica
Kapitan Khlebnikov Nov 2010 (West Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Riser Laarsen Coast, Sth Sandwhich & Sth Georgia Islands)
Kapitan Khlebnikov Dec 2011 (Final voyage - East Antarctica & Heard Island)
Sea Adventurer: Feb 2014 (East side of Antarctica Peninsular, South Georgia Is, Falkland Is).

Ortelius: Feb 2014 Bluff NZ, Ross Sea, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Peter 1st Island, Ushuaia
Other regions: too many to list so just the highlights:
P&O Oriana 1984 (Indian Ocean) and 1986 (Pacific Ocean), Superstar Virgo 2003 (Indian Ocean),
Radiance of the Seas: Nov 2014 Bravo Theatre Opera cruise - Noumea.

#12
Oslo, Norway
1,596 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by digitl
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.

Good luck!
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!
#13
UK
1,551 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
I wouldn't describe Fram as 'something close to a traditional cruise but with shore landings' or feeling 'pretty much like a small cruise ship'. She may not be spartan, but there's very little that's 'cruise-like' about her. And it's certainly possible to 'bundle up and go out on deck to enjoy the view': it's what I do.

It's true that 'NatGeo/Lindblad is often considered the crème de la crème of Antarctic expedition cruises, and as such, it's often among the most expensive' but the savings we have made on our Fram cruises have made a significant contribution to further cruises without diluting the expedition experience too much: on our most recent trip we landed on Point Wild. That doesn't happen very often on any of the ships!
#14
Oslo, Norway
1,596 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
In what ways would you say that the Fram is not a cruise-like ship? I'm genuinely curious, since I'm mulling over options for our next trip. I've sailed on the Expedition in the past, and from what I know of the Ortelius and the Ushuaia, they're much closer to the Expedition than to the Fram.

There's nothing wrong with choosing a more cruise-like ship over a converted research vessel or basic expedition ship if that's what you're after. I just think that it's worth trying to explain the differences, so that people can choose the trip they're more comfortable with. And I found the Fram atmosphere to be significantly different from that of the Expedition. For example, on the Expedition cabins were left unlocked, and passengers roamed the ship between landings in long underwear with stocking feet. The bridge was open most of the time, and the ship was very much a working vessel, where passengers and crew shared much of the space. On the Fram, there's a much clearer distinction between passenger areas and crew areas, and the ship was designed from the ground up as a modern cruise vessel, right down to the mall-style gift shop with automatic sliding glass door.

I think both ships are great, but it's a pretty big contrast. I've known people who hated the simpler ships because they missed the extra amenities, and I know people who were uncomfortable on the nicer ships because they were looking for a more adventure-oriented experience.

As for Point Wild, you can't really credit the Fram for the weather conditions. Unless the ship has some kind of special equipment to control the weather! I didn't sign up for the bridge tour, so I might have missed it!
#15
UK
1,551 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
We have travelled on a whole variety of ships including huge, luxury cruise ships and to describe Fram as a cruise ship is to misrepresent her and mislead. she is an expedition ship towards the more 'comfortable' end of the range. Anyone boarding her and expecting a 'cruise ship' experience is going to be very disappointed and upset.

The cruise ship tag implies, for example, shows on a stage, large comfortable cabins, waiter service at meals and multiple lounges. The only shows on Fram are the (excellent) one evening crew show in the bar and the 24/7 show outside.

As for my reference to Point Wild, you know perfectly well that I was not suggesting that Fram could control the weather. My point was that Fram was able to provide the same kind of experience as National Geographic and Lindblad: same ice, same wildlife, same surprise landings, but at a cost that provides a significant contribution towards later trips.
#16
Oslo, Norway
1,596 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
I see what you're saying, and I completely agree that anyone expecting the service and entertainment level of a traditional cruise experience is bound to be disappointed. While it may seem lavish compared to the more basic expedition ships, your description of a comfort-oriented expedition ship is much better for setting the right level of expectations.
#17
Las Vegas
11,244 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by der110
Is NG worth the candle? Very pricy, but I guess I could talk myself into it. This may be a stupid question, but how big a deal is going ashore? Holland Lines would be a lot cheaper....
Let me slightly reword your question. I am think of doing a cruise to England. I have 2 choices.

One cruise will stop at all the significant tourist ports in England and give me time to walk around and see stuff. This cruise will cost me $5000 including all land excursions.

The second cruise doesn't stop anywhere. You go up and down the Thames so you can see but not stop at any of the sights that can be seen from the river. You do not get to see anything that is not right on the river. You do the same thing at all the other "stops" in England. This cruise costs only $2000 including all excursions but remember that there are no excursions as you do not stop anywhere.

Which one would you take. Could you honestly say that you have been to England if you took cruise #2.

DON
#18
4 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
We recently returned from a New Year's trip on the Explorer. I was also torn about whether spending the extra money on National Geographic / Lindblad would be worth it.

I can't speak for other providers, but I KNEW we were on the right ship the first time we stopped to watch a pod of whales. After watching the whales for a while, I started watching the people on board. Every person had a front row seat to the action - no elbowing people so you could get to the front to see. And most noteworthy, every group of passengers had a ship's naturalist or photographer with them - identifying species, pointing out behaviors, giving camera tips, etc.

The 10 days on board only got better from there. Besides the shore trips and nightly talks, these same professionals spent every meal eating with the passengers. If you had a question, they were always interested and if they didn't know the answer they would find another crew member that did. And I'm not just talking about "normal" Antarctic wildlife questions. If you had a question about lichen, they had an expert on board. If you had navigation questions, you could go to the bridge and get a detailed explanation. A friend & I spent hours on New Year's Eve watching tabular icebergs with the National Geographic photographer on board. I'm no expert, yet he was cheerful and more than patient with our composition and camera setting questions... at midnight... when he was certainly off the clock and could have ignored us.

I could go on and on but you get the idea. I'm a fan and every penny spent was worth it. It's a once in a lifetime trip* so don't cheap out, spend the money, go ashore, and do it right.

*It's only once in a lifetime until you get there. I can't wait to go back!
#19
Nova Scotia Canada
4,733 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
My experience on G Adventure's Expedition was the same. I think you would find what you describe to be the case on most of the expedition ships.
#20
Oslo, Norway
1,596 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by maryann ns
My experience on G Adventure's Expedition was the same. I think you would find what you describe to be the case on most of the expedition ships.
I had a similar experience on the Expedition. I loved getting to talk to the expedition staff over meals, since it was an informal setting to talk about anything from nature to their experiences on the ship.

I did find the Fram to be slightly different, since the expedition staff only eat with the passengers during pre-arranged events, and (I believe) the bridge is open to passengers by tour only. While the staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable, aside from shore landings most of our interactions happened only when we happened to be out on deck at the same time.