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mcpepe

My thoughts on Midnatsol Antarctica Nov 7-18, 2018

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Hi Gang!

It's been a few  months and alot of travels since I disembarked Midnatsol on my EPIC voyage to Antarctica. I've started this review so many times but it's just kinda overwhelming. 

In a nutshell, this was the MOST AMAZING voyage/vacation I've ever taken. I absolutely fell in love with the wild beauty that is Antarctica. And Midnatsol is a such a beautiful ship to undertake this epic voyage.

 

About me: 55 years old at time of sailing, traveling solo as I often do. I've been on many traditional cruises. They were all listed in my signature until we had to shorten them all. But I also sailed Hurtigruten's Nordnorge in late September 2016 and there is a very long trip report I posted here about that wonderful voyage as well.

 

I opted to not have Hurtigruten arrange my RT flight to Ushuaia. I was arriving to Ushuaia a day ahead and was staying an extra week afterward. I like controlling my own air. Ushuia was fantastic by the way! It deserves more of your time that just a half day here and there. I'd go back in a second, having done so many cool things: hiking, horseback riding, 4x4 adventures, Beagle Channel cruise, etc...

 

I was lucky to find a solo traveler offer in late June of 2018. I had already blocked off time at work for an Antartica vacation and was in fact booked on another line who places you with a roommate to avoid a supplement. But I REALLY wanted to do Hurtigruten! I was very lucky that the other company simply puts your deposit into perpetual account to be used on another trip. So I wasn't really out any money. In fact I already booked and took a trip with that company. Midnatsol's November 7 departure fit in perfectly within my time off. I had not booked my BA to USH flights yet so I only had to rearrange one flight which I had booked on points for a fee of $75. So this was meant to be for sure!!

 

The Ship

 

I booked my first ever inside cabin. And you know what? It didn't matter one bit. I didn't miss a window or a balcony whatsoever. I did learn a couple days in to turn on the TV to the bow camera to get a sense of time of day. But even then I rarely had it on. My inside cabin was on Deck 4, close to reception and midship. Low and center is best for feeling less motion. I never understood why the higher up you pay more and most suites are at the front and  back of the ship where you feel ALOT of movement!!! I love the fact that the floors of the bathrooms are heated. You flip a switch and it not only warms the floor but the bathroom too. I used that often to dry things as well! :D

 

The ship itself is beautiful. My only complaint about the ship is the level of HEAT!!! It was so warm in many common areas I was wearing tshirts. Sometimes I'd actually go outside to cool off. In my cabin I had the heat turned down as low as it can go. And yes it's very casual as was Nordnorge on my coastal Norway cruise. I wore my same clothes day/afternoon/evening...hiking pants and boots, tshirt. And everyone else pretty much did too. Some folks packed some nicer things. But I really wasn't paying attention. My favorite spot to hang out was outside on the back of Deck 6. There is a little wooden bench built into the area and I frequently sat there with wool blankets reading or sometimes even napping! It was a cozy spot for sure. There are plenty of nooks for quiet reading. The ship never felt crowded except occasionally in the dining room at lunch when you were on a schedule and had to eat quickly before your landing or cruising time.

 

Dining Room

 

The food is excellent!  Most meals were open seating buffet in Antartica due to the landing and cruising schedules. In fact ALL breakfasts and lunches were buffet. With dinner we had assigned tables and 2 seatings. But these were only utitized I think 3 nights whereas the remaining nights were openseating buffets.  Where we had the assigned seating/table I was in the late seating, 8pm. I loved the 2 ladies from Australia I sat with. The menus were very good with good options and I loved all the food from the fixed dining. The buffets were all amazing!! There were so many choices that you often didn't realize what was there. Oftentimes I'd see something on someone's plate and ask, "Oh where is THAT?!" LOL And same would happen to me, someone asking where I got an item on my plate.

 

There is such a variety of food, from Norwegian specialties to various ethnic foods. I always looked forward to the soup offered. There was always lots of veggies and salads. A vegetarian would eat quite well if they aren't picky about what veggies they want to eat! LOL My favorite item I discovered was cured halibut. Made like Gravlax is made with salmon and dill, but using Halibut, I ate this each morning with breakfast!  And be sure to look for my favorite cloudberry jam in the section where there are say 6 or so jams.  The breads are all fresh and delicious. I also enjoyed the assortment of cheeses they had.

 

The Expedition Staff, Officers and Crew

 

For me the people really make the experience what it is. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the crew who work tirelessly away from home for months at a time. The crew were predominantly Filipino and I adored all of them!!! They work so hard and I sincerely appreciate it. The service was always very good. Every now and then something might take a bit if asked for but it wasn't a big deal. 

 

The Captain and all the Officers were visible and approachable. I really enjoyed that you could ask any question when you saw them.

 

The Expedition Team. My favorite people on the planet! On my Norwegian coastal cruise there were only 4 and they really made my trip. For Antarctica we had no less than 21 members!!! Each was AWESOME! From two ornithologists to two professional photographers to biologists and lecturers who specialised in so many areas! They truly are amazing! I attended as many lectures as I could on various topics. All were so interesting. I loved learning about Antarctica, penguins, whales, the famous Antarctic explorers, the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego. Bird watching every day at the back of the ship with the two ornithologists was amazing. And the ship's photographers were so kind. I ended up getting a master class one on one with a world reknowned photographer! Amazing!

The expedition team also are the ones coordinating all the landings. This is hard, physical work. I don't know how they did it day after day. 

 

Crossing the Drake Passage wasn't that bad...for me. I say *for me* only because I never get seasick. Others got sick. On the return only one night did I really feel movement and that's when everything went flying off my desk and table onto the floor and couch, including my camera! Luckily my camera hit the couch but not before hitting a surface which cracked the screen. So my camera works well, but I have a cracked screen like so many cell phones have.

 

And finally, ANTARCTICA!!!!!! This place just blew me away! Hands down the most fantastic place I've been. Everything is just bigger. Seeing my first huge iceberg I was literally jumping up and down screaming! LOL I video'd it and my gf does a good parody imitation of me. :D So many times I was in tears of overwhelming awe. I just couldn't believe I was so lucky to be in this beautiful place. And the PENGUINS!!! My God the penguins are everywhere! We were lucky we hit a landing each day we were supposed to and cruised each time we were supposed to. We had great weather with sun and an occasional snowstorm but it's Antarctica!!

 

The landings and polar circle boat cruising are all included in your fare. Once on land, it's very physical work. Poles are there and we all used them. Walking in snow is tricky and sometimes all of a sudden it's deep and you're in up to your knee! I felt bad because in some spots a few folks just couldn't walk because they had mobility issues only in the deep snow. There was also the fact that on each landing, there was an uphill 'climb.'  On some landings there was relatively flat areas to walk but the climbs were....a climb. And the packed down snow and steps carved into it by the team got slick. It was challenging coming down from the top of the hills. But nevertheless I did it all, climbed every 'mountain.'  

 

The whales were amazing! There were several times we'd see several and one evening several KINDS all together. I'd never heard the deep gutteral whale voices but they were magnificent and made you feel very small. We were all in AWE of the wildlife we saw.

 

I also took part in every optional activity. I snowshoed, which is quite challenging if you're not used to doing it! LOL But great fun as well. I also kayaked. I was looking forward to this from the time I thought of Antarctica. I took kayak lessons last summer and did kayak tours, in preparation of kayaking in Antarctica. I wanted to know what I was doing. And when I finally sat in the kayak in Antarctica I burst into tears. I was so emotional, wanting this for so long and here I was doing it! And it was amazing! I also won the lottery and got to camp in a tent overnight on the continent!!!!!!! This was the most EPIC adventure!!! I can't begin to describe how serene it was as we all put up our tents and then just wandered on this tiny little islet. The light, the silence, the beauty.....all incredible! To paraphrase a fellow camper, "I may not have gotten the best night's sleep but I don't think I'll ever find a better campsite."  On Deception Island I did the polar plunge too!!! Yup, I had my bathing suit on under my clothes and was given a towel. I handed my camera off to a fellow guest and walked calmly into the water, ducked down up to my chin, and walked calmly out. :D My fellow guest who had my camera was an angel and helped me get out of my wet suit and back into my clothes! It was a great experience doing a polar plunge and I'd do it again in a second!

 

We did landings at Half Moon Island,  Whalers Bay at Deception Island, Orne Harbor, Cuverville Island,  Base Brown, Damoy Point/Dorian Bay. They were all varied, amazing and we saw LOTS of penguins. It was all so incredible.

 

In closing this voyage was certainly a trip of a lifetime and I am so happy and grateful I go to experience it. Most of my fellow travelers felt the same way and we'd often be next to each other getting emotional about what we were experiencing. 

 

Any questions, I'd be so happy to help!

 

Maria

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Maria,

 

What a fabulous experience and your description and pictures are great!  I can see the joy on your face.

 

Thanks for sharing,

~Nancy

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Excellent review and amazing pictures. I do have that cruise on my list. Thank you for sharing.

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Thanks for sharing. We’re on this cruise in February 2020. Counting down the days!

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mcpepe

 

Outrageously terrific photos - congratulations!  oakridger is right - it's wonderful to see the joy on your face!

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We are considering Antarctica for 2020.

(We did the MS Spitsbergen Norwegian Coastal South, so we are familiar with Hurtigruten.)

The MS Midnatsol holds 970 passengers - landings on Antarctica are about 100 people.  Was the ship full or did they limit guests?

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1 hour ago, Heartfelttraveler said:

We are considering Antarctica for 2020.

(We did the MS Spitsbergen Norwegian Coastal South, so we are familiar with Hurtigruten.)

The MS Midnatsol holds 970 passengers - landings on Antarctica are about 100 people.  Was the ship full or did they limit guests?

 

Cruises with landings in Antarctica are limited by international agreement to 500 passengers, so they will limit the number of passengers to 500.

 

You should be able to find a good deal on single supplement for Antarctica, since they cannot fill all of the beds anyway.

 

I will warn you about one thing if you are looking to book now for 2020. I am currently booked for a December 2019 Antarctica cruise on MS Midnatsol, and I booked the cruise a long time ago on what they called then a "sale". However the cruise is currently selling for a couple of thousand less than what I paid, and Hurtigruten will not adjust prices - even though it is well before final payment. I could cancel and rebook, but I would lose my large deposit which would be more than the cost savings. Based on the large nonrefundable deposit required and the policy against refaring, I would not recommend booking this far in advance.

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NavyVeteran - We are actually two couples, so no single supplement required.

We are currently booked on a South America cruise ending in Buenos Aires on February 29, 2020.  There is a Midnatsol 13 night departing BA on March 3.  If we did both cruises it would save us flight costs from the USA.  Also, we are looking at booking a suite and would probably book at the six month mark.

 

Hurtigruten's non-refundable deposit is a *****.  (When we did our Norwegian Coast this had not gone into effect and we booked a year out.)

 

My husband wants to do this trip on one of the new ships but it is twice the price and we would have to wait another year and we are not young.  (63 & 71 now.)  We are still very active and I want to di this sooner than later.

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Wonderful! My husband and I are currently figuring out what works best for us to do a similar trip. When would you say the best time to book is in light of dropping prices?  For us, this is an expensive trip. Not going to cut corners but we want to make sure we get a good value. 

 

We are also considering an Antarctica trip with OATtravel, whom we have traveled with before and enjoyed. Their ships are either 55 or 98 people aboard. I feel like it may be an entirely different experience with 1/4 of the people, but we’ve always wanted to do a Hurtigruten voyage. 

 

Your pictures are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

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On 3/11/2019 at 10:25 AM, LinnieRed said:

Wonderful! My husband and I are currently figuring out what works best for us to do a similar trip. When would you say the best time to book is in light of dropping prices?  For us, this is an expensive trip. Not going to cut corners but we want to make sure we get a good value. 

 

our pictures are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

 

 

Thank you! What I do is just look and see what other companies charge to get a sense for what IS a good price. You will see a range of prices for Antarctica based on who is selling it and how high end or basic the ship is. I have an idea of what the cruise should cost and I check every couple days for prices.When I see a price that is acceptable, I book it. And then I don't worry about it again.

 

One thing I did for my Dec 2019 cruise to Antarctica/S. Georgia/Falkland islands is check the Norwegian site. I use a VPN to get onto that site and found prices thousands cheaper than the US site. I use Google Chrome and my sites are always translated to English. So I booked easily on the Norwegian site and then emailed them to add my repeat guest discount.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I have some friends that did the Antarctica trip with National Geographic expedition cruises in Jan. 2019, and they raved about the trip. You might want to compare that with the Hurtigruten pricing and itinerary.

Edited by Splinter

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2 hours ago, Splinter said:

I have some friends that did the Antarctica trip with National Geographic expedition cruises in Jan. 2019, and they raved about the trip. You might want to compare that with the Hurtigruten pricing and itinerary.

 

Nat Geo trips are always much more expensive across the board no matter where they go. Most Antarctica itineraries are the same, based on ice conditions. However, some are shorter, allowing only a few days actually near Antarctica. Those would be cheaper and shorter of course. I researched exhaustively pricing and ships. I found trip advisor the most helpful actually in deciding which ship to sail. Being this is a Hurtigruten board, I clearly love Hurtigruten, both for Norway and Antarctica. 

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On 1/27/2019 at 3:08 PM, mcpepe said:

In closing this voyage was certainly a trip of a lifetime and I am so happy and grateful I go to experience it. Most of my fellow travelers felt the same way and we'd often be next to each other getting emotional about what we were experiencing.

Hi Maria

I loved your review of your cruise to Antarctica! My husband and I are going in December over Christmas and are very excited. It has been a life long dream of mine to see Antarctica.

Thanks

Cathy

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On 1/27/2019 at 3:08 PM, mcpepe said:

I also won the lottery and got to camp in a tent overnight on the continent!!!!!!! This was the most EPIC adventure!!!

I would love to get the chance to camp on Antarctica. Do they have limits on the number of people that can book that excursion?

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2 minutes ago, Ruskinlife said:

I would love to get the chance to camp on Antarctica. Do they have limits on the number of people that can book that excursion?

 

Yes only 30 people. Chosen by lottery. I was lucky. It's also very pricey. And you have to go in a potty outdoors and down a hill away from the tents. You're also putting up your own tents. It's not glamping by any means. LOL :)

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2 minutes ago, mcpepe said:

 

Yes only 30 people. Chosen by lottery. I was lucky. It's also very pricey. And you have to go in a potty outdoors and down a hill away from the tents. You're also putting up your own tents. It's not glamping by any means. LOL :)

Thanks, I will definitely try for that.. once in a lifetime!  I love your pictures, especially the penguins!

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Just now, Ruskinlife said:

 

Thanks, I will definitely try for that.. once in a lifetime!  I love your pictures, especially the penguins!

 

The penguins are EVERYWHERE! It's awesome! I can't wait to go back. I'll be on Fram and will be in the Drake Passage over New Year's!

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Maria,

Cloudberry jam and Filipino crew, you almost made me book the trip. 😉 Love your enthusiasm and enjoyed your report very much.

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I haven't been on CC for some years as our travel generally isn't cruise-oriented.  But we did this trip in January 2018 and it was a wonderful as you described.  Our might have been even better 🙂 because we started in Buenos Aires and then did a Patagonia trip through a tour operator.  That added to the glory!

 

Aren't their soups simply incredible.  And really all the food was exceptionally good.  And my husband, the bread lover, raved over their bread.

 

I never thought I would have a favorite iceberg or whale but here ya go!

 

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