Who: Me, 57 yo solo female traveler with lots of cruise experience, 4th time on Hurtigruten
When: December 29, 2019 to January 20, 2020
Where: MS Fram beginning in Buenos Aires before flying to Ushuaia. Sailed to Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica
Hi gang! I'm in a unique position having sailed MS Midnatsol to Antartica only in November 2018 and now sailing a smaller ship, MS Fram, on the Ultimate Expedition. I've been able to compare the two experiences. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed BOTH cruises. Yes, on Fram we did two landings per day when weather allowed but I still feel I did not feel like I missed out on Midnatsol having done one landing per day. I wouldn't hesitate to go on a bigger ship again.
That being said, after Antarctica the year prior, I knew I wanted to go to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island. And Fram is the only ship in Hurtigruten's fleet that sails to both. I sailed Fram to Greenland in September 2019 and fell in love with her. I was so happy to be able to sail her only a few months later.
In a word this Ultimate Voyage was EPIC! We had perfect weather the entire cruise for our landings. We only missed a couple landings, one due to swell at South Georgia and one in Antarctica due to ice conditions. Our return on the Drake was a little Drake Shake but not so bad.
I started in BA, with a night at the Emperador Hotel being included in our package. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous and it was nice beginning to meet fellow travelers.
Very early flight to Ushuaia, we had a couple hours free time before we had to meet up with the bus to be driven 5 minutes onto the pier and the entrance to the ship. Checkin was quickly done and I went around basically hugging and laughing everyone from the crew and expedition team who had also been working onboard during my Greenland voyage in September. My best surprise was I had been upgraded from an inside cabin gty to a Deck 5 premium room with a large window, sitting area, bigger bathroom. I had a robe and slippers too!!! I was in heaven! I know that Fram will be refurbished in April when she finishes this Antarctic season but I so love her charming decor and am so glad I got to experience it.
Ports of Call
The Falkland Islands
Day 1: Morning: Grave Cove
Afternoon: West Point Island
Morning: Saunders Island
Afternoon: Carcass Island
DAy 3: Stanley all day
The Falkland Islands exceeded my expectations. I did not expect such warm, 50-55 F, sunny weather and long gorgeous sandy beaches filled with penguins! The hospitality shown at Carcass Island and West Point Island is legendary, with tables laden with cakes and cookies and tea/coffee served. I saw so many species of birds, weaners (baby elephant seals), Gentoo, King and Magellanic penguins. Just amazing nature!
Days 4 and 5 at sea as we made our way to South Georgia Island. At one point, hear Shag Rocks we were surrounded by hundreds of humpback whales. The expedition team and even the Captain said this was truly special. We practically stopped and just experienced the sites, sounds and smells of this magnificent creatures.
South Georgia Island Days 6 through 9
We visited Salisbury Plain, Fortuna Bay. Stromness Harbor. St Andrew's Bay, Grytviken, Moltke Harbor and Drygalski Fjord. Two landings cancelled due to swell.
I was most looking forward to visiting South Georgia Island. And it did not disappoint! I'd been watching videos and documenarties about this magical place for the last couple years. Both Salisbury Plain and St Andrew's Bay had literally thousands of penguins carpeting the landscape. And the beaches had so many fur seals and a few female or weaner (baby) elephant seals. It was just breathtaking and I absolutely loved it. Really mind blowing nature.
Two more days at sea on the way to Antarctica.
Antarctica 5 days total including Elephant Island (no landing just observing), Brown Bluff, Paulet Island, Deception Island )Telefon Bay), Cuverville Island, Neko Harbor, Almirante Brown. Port Lockroy, the Lemaire Channel, ice cruising in Hidden Bay
Having been to Antarctica in November of last year I saw it under lots of snow. I was curious to compare it to now, their summer without as much snow. The only repeat destinations were Cuverville Island and Almirante Brown station. I did go to Deception Island last year but to Whaler's Bay so it was a different landing site this year. I really loved seeing penguin chicks this trip! I saw chicks on the Falklands and South Georgia as well. They were bigger. On Cuverville island some of the chicks were still quite tiny and adorable.
Antarctica is always so beautiful and I was so lucky to see her twice in my lifetime.
For me the people on a trip really make or break a voyage. I was spectacularly lucky and we had a wonderful group of guests, 190 something. A small group of us began hanging out and called ourselves The Colony. 😄 We're all still in touch and it made for so many laughs. The crew and expedition team I adore so much. They work so hard and are such interesting and nice people. I have made friends for life both on this voyage and all my other Hurtigruten voyages.
I'm not sure what else to say here except no matter WHAT ship you sail, big or small, you will have an amazing adventure of a lifetime! Any questions I'd be happy to answer!