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Bella0714

Midnatsol vs. Fridtjof Nansen for Antarctica

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My wife and I are planning to travel with Hurtigruten to Antartica on the "Highlights of the Frozen Continent" itinerary. In January, February and March 2020, the itineraries are 13 days, with 6 days scheduled for Antarctica, on the Midnatsol. In January, February and March 2021, the itineraries are 12 days, with 5 days scheduled in Antarctica, on the new Fridjtof Nansen. Both will have maximum capacities of 500 passengers, so I understand that will limit the length of time we spend ashore. Currently, the voyages on the Fridjtof Nansen are about 6000 NOK/$650 more pp. I'm leaning toward going with Midnatsol this winter because of the extra planned day in Antarctica (I know itineraries in Antarctica are never set in stone). My question: Is there any reason the sailings on the Fridjtof Nansen might be better, even though there's less time in Antartica? Everything else seems to be the same.

 

As always, thank you for your help,

Dave

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With all the problems encountered recently by MS Roald Amudsen, I seriously wouldn't book a trip on the Nansen before she's had a few sailings and all the teething problems are sorted out. We can hope that the Amundsen experience will help making the Nansen better at the start, but I still would be cautious.

In addition, if you have a longer trip for a lesser price on MS Midnatsol I wouldn't hesitate. More time in Antarctica is always better, especially if you are comparing ships of similar capacity. Landing routines will be the same.

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SarniaLo: Thanks for your response. I do recall reading about the problems with Roald Amudsen. That's a very good point. The new ship looks like it's going to be beautiful, but my first instinct was that an extra day in Antarctica is more important. By the way, i hope you enjoyed your recent trip to Norway. Your pictures on your blog are very nice. We were there three weeks before you and lucked into seeing the lights several times.

 

My wife and I feel as if we need to act quickly on Antarctica for a number of reasons: Hurtigruten, when booked through .no, is about what we can afford, the "Highlights of the Frozen Continent" voyage is being reduced by one day starting next fall, and I suspect that the budget option–sail-by cruise on a large ship–might stop being an option after next winter when the polar code is fully in effect. One thing I am surprised by is the large number of cabins available on the February 21 and March 3, 2020 Midnatsol sailings.

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If you are happy with the ship, the length of the trip and the price, go for it. MS Midnatsol (and Nansen) are big ships and I still think the market for this type of trips is not that large (and hard-core Antarctica afficionados will not go on a ship so big). If the ship is not full, all the better.

I'm still in Norway on a trip in Lofoten (the islands) after a sailing on MS Lofoten (the ship). We've had incredible weather for the sailing but this was not a great NL trip for me (you can't have everything). Thank you for your kind words.

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I can't compare the ships as we sailed on Midnatsol to Antarctica 1/18 (hard to believe).  We love every minute of it.  When/if you're not going ashore you can go out on "zodiacs" and get up close and personal with whales/seals/etc.  And the food was fantastic (and I'm REALLY into food!)  We love the entire experience so much that we sailed the Lofoten in March for their Norwegian coastal cruise.  Whatever you decide, I'm betting you'll love it.  Here are a couple of my faves 🙂

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On 10/22/2019 at 3:13 PM, Bella0714 said:

One thing I am surprised by is the large number of cabins available on the February 21 and March 3, 2020 Midnatsol sailings.

There will be a large number of cabins available until it sells out.

 

MS Midnatsol has 640 beds available for passengers (mostly two per cabin). However, they can only take 500 passengers in Antarctica. That means they will have 140 empty beds when they are sold out. That could be as many as 70 empty cabins - less depending on the number of passengers booking single cabins. So they will show a lot of cabins available until the 500th passenger books - and then they will be sold out.

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On 10/22/2019 at 12:05 PM, Bella0714 said:

My wife and I are planning to travel with Hurtigruten to Antartica on the "Highlights of the Frozen Continent" itinerary. In January, February and March 2020, the itineraries are 13 days, with 6 days scheduled for Antarctica, on the Midnatsol. In January, February and March 2021, the itineraries are 12 days, with 5 days scheduled in Antarctica, on the new Fridjtof Nansen. Both will have maximum capacities of 500 passengers, so I understand that will limit the length of time we spend ashore. Currently, the voyages on the Fridjtof Nansen are about 6000 NOK/$650 more pp. I'm leaning toward going with Midnatsol this winter because of the extra planned day in Antarctica (I know itineraries in Antarctica are never set in stone). My question: Is there any reason the sailings on the Fridjtof Nansen might be better, even though there's less time in Antartica? Everything else seems to be the same.

 

As always, thank you for your help,

Dave

I decided on MS Midnatsol because of the extra days in Antarctica. Have you looked at the Christmas on the White Continent cruise in December 2019 - 17 days with 10 days in Antarctica. When I saw that one, I thought it would give me the most time there, since I have to spend so much time and money to get there (flight to Buenos Aires, flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, two days crossing the Drake Passage to get there, two days crossing the Drake Passage to get back to Ushuaia, flight from Ushuaia back to Buenos Aires, and flight from Buenos Aires back home.

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5 hours ago, NavyVeteran said:

I decided on MS Midnatsol because of the extra days in Antarctica. Have you looked at the Christmas on the White Continent cruise in December 2019 - 17 days with 10 days in Antarctica. When I saw that one, I thought it would give me the most time there, since I have to spend so much time and money to get there (flight to Buenos Aires, flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, two days crossing the Drake Passage to get there, two days crossing the Drake Passage to get back to Ushuaia, flight from Ushuaia back to Buenos Aires, and flight from Buenos Aires back home.

Yes, I did look at the Christmas cruises, but being away from family during Christmas is not even up for discussion. As for the 13-day trips, that extra day in Antarctica with Midnatsol–6 days in Antarctica vs. 5 with the new ship–tilts the discussion in its favor, especially considering the possible weather concerns with a cruise down there; what if we lose a day or two because of weather? And, as SarniaLo pointed out, Hurtigruten has had setbacks with recent launchings of new ships.

 

I think for us, Midnatsol this winter is the happy medium between big cruise ship (HAL, Princess) and the more-expensive offerings, which are out of our budget. I also suspect that I'm overthinking this.

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On 10/23/2019 at 10:22 PM, NavyVeteran said:

I decided on MS Midnatsol because of the extra days in Antarctica. Have you looked at the Christmas on the White Continent cruise in December 2019 - 17 days with 10 days in Antarctica. When I saw that one, I thought it would give me the most time there, since I have to spend so much time and money to get there (flight to Buenos Aires, flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, two days crossing the Drake Passage to get there, two days crossing the Drake Passage to get back to Ushuaia, flight from Ushuaia back to Buenos Aires, and flight from Buenos Aires back home.

We booked this through a tour operator and it was combined with about an equal amount of time on a land-based escorted tour of Patagonia.  Started in Buenos Aires and ended in Santiago, Chile. I'd be hard-pressed to say which part of the trip was best.  Can there be two "bests."  

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On 10/24/2019 at 12:55 PM, Bella0714 said:

 I also suspect that I'm overthinking this.

Quite possibly! 😉 Midnatsol has been tried and tested in Antarctica and people seem happy with the formula. It's a nice comfortable ship. What more do you think Nansen would offer that you won't get on Midnatsol? Midnatsol's trip is less  expensive and longer. The ships will be the same size. Are you interested by the prospect of a brand new ship? Or the "environmental-friendly" aspect? Help me understand your dilemma 😃

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2 hours ago, SarniaLo said:

Quite possibly! 😉 Midnatsol has been tried and tested in Antarctica and people seem happy with the formula. It's a nice comfortable ship. What more do you think Nansen would offer that you won't get on Midnatsol? Midnatsol's trip is less  expensive and longer. The ships will be the same size. Are you interested by the prospect of a brand new ship? Or the "environmental-friendly" aspect? Help me understand your dilemma 😃

I've decided on Midnatsol and the extra day as the better option on Hurtigruten; the extra planned day in Antartica and not having to worry about whether the new ship will be ready solved that dilemma.

 

My other dilemma has always been between a ship that can land in Antarctica and a sail-by. Even booking on Hurtigruten.no, the price difference is substantial: about $5,300 per person on Midnatsol booked through Hurtigruten.no vs. about $2,300 per person on Princess (three days in Antarctica plus Punta Arenas, Falkland Islands and Ushuaia for a day, so plenty of chances to see penguins on excursions). Although I never doubted that the expedition cruises are a lot better, I also wondered whether I'd be satisfied with a sail-by.

 

But then I remembered our two trips to Alaska and the difference between getting close to land, the glaciers and the wildlife on small day-cruise ships during our second visit and how far away we were from most things on Holland America the first time. Then a few days ago, my wife and I watched YouTube videos of actual travelers' Midnatsol Antarctica voyages and Holland America Antarctica voyages. I know some people have compared sail-bys to going to New York City and just sailing around it without stepping foot into the city. I never found that comparison apt. But after watching these videos, I realized that the difference between expedition journey/sail-by is the difference between watching a sporting event from the front row as opposed to watching it from the upper deck. It wasn't even the stepping-foot on land aspect that excited me most about these Midnatsol videos; it was how close they got to wildlife, icebergs, etc., especially when in the zodiacs. And then there's six days vs. three.

 

So my dilemma has been solved, and now the only question left to be answered is whether my wife, who suffers from dry eyes and some auto-immune issues, is okay wearing a scopolamine patch. That experiment will happen this weekend, and then we can book.

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1 hour ago, Bella0714 said:

My other dilemma has always been between a ship that can land in Antarctica and a sail-by.

This I can understand. I don't think you will regret your choice.

I hope the patch test goes well. Otherwise, talk to your doctor, there might be other options, it would be a pity to give up on the trip for this reason.

Looking forward to the trip report 😉

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8 hours ago, Bella0714 said:

it was how close they got to wildlife, icebergs, etc., especially when in the zodiacs.

I hate the word "awesome" but it was effing awesome 🙂  

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My husband and I are booked on the Feb. 21, 2020, cruise aboard Midnatsol. Can't wait!

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13 hours ago, ohhbother said:

My husband and I are booked on the Feb. 21, 2020, cruise aboard Midnatsol. Can't wait!

I can’t imagine how excited you must be. Has Hurtigruten said the time of departure from Ushuaia and when you’ll be flying back to Argentina on the last day? I’m sure you’ve given yourself some wiggle room in Buenos Aires, too.

 

That’s probably the departure we are looking at. It coincides with my 60th.

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5 hours ago, Bella0714 said:

I can’t imagine how excited you must be. Has Hurtigruten said the time of departure from Ushuaia and when you’ll be flying back to Argentina on the last day? I’m sure you’ve given yourself some wiggle room in Buenos Aires, too.

 

That’s probably the departure we are looking at. It coincides with my 60th.

Hurtigruten hasn't told me flight times yet, and I'm sailing the Christmas cruise on the Midnatsol this December. I'm flying out of Buenos the next evening after spending one night there, so I will have plenty of wiggle room.

 

I understand the flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia leave very early in the morning. That's one reason I'm not signing up for their excursion in Ushuaia - the people on the excursion are probably on the first flight out in the morning. I will be going to a tango show the night before, so I expect I will have a very short night.

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32 minutes ago, NavyVeteran said:

Hurtigruten hasn't told me flight times yet, and I'm sailing the Christmas cruise on the Midnatsol this December. I'm flying out of Buenos the next evening after spending one night there, so I will have plenty of wiggle room.

 

I understand the flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia leave very early in the morning. That's one reason I'm not signing up for their excursion in Ushuaia - the people on the excursion are probably on the first flight out in the morning. I will be going to a tango show the night before, so I expect I will have a very short night.

Has Hurtigruten told you the name of your hotel? I’m figuring we will want to add a night before and one after.

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2 hours ago, Bella0714 said:

Has Hurtigruten told you the name of your hotel? I’m figuring we will want to add a night before and one after.

You don't have to add a night before - it's already there: "Included in Your Expedition:" "One overnight hotel stay in Buenos Aires before the cruise, including breakfast." "Transfer from the hotel to the airport in Buenos Aires." The flights to Ushuaia are so early that everyone has to stay at their hotel (included) the night before in order to catch the transfer to the airport.

 

I also booked my post-cruise hotel through Hurtigruten. The hotel for both pre-cruise and post-cruise was listed on my itinerary that I received when I booked. In my itinerary, it is the Emperador Hotel Buenos Aires for both pre-cruise and post-cruise. Hurtigruten should be able to tell you the hotel for your specific dates before you book if you ask.

 

Note that the standard package does not include a post-cruise hotel in Buenos Aires, a transfer from the airport to the hotel in Buenos Aires, or a transfer from the hotel to the airport the next day when leaving Buenos Aires. All of these are available from Hurtigruten - I booked during a promotion that included them, so I don't know how much they would charge to add them.

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Now that I'm getting down to the nitty-gritty, just wondering if anyone can tell me who you used for trip insurance; it appears as if Hurtigruten requires it, and it seems to make sense to have at least medical evacuation/repatriation coverage. We never get trip insurance, figuring there's no need to insure small-ticket items, but medical evacuation coverage seems like a big-ticket item that is necessary; just not sure up to what amount. Some say $1,000,000. Others say $100,000 or $250,000. Also, can anyone tell me why they think trip cancellation/interruption/trip delay insurance might be more necessary on this trip than it would be on, say, a trip to Norway?

 

Thanks again.

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I can't help on the trip insurance as you would need advice from someone from your own country. Check with your credit card provider if they would insure the trip (if you pay with your card), in France I have some form of trip insurance with my Visa card. Hurtigruten may advise on which trip insurance to take, for my trips to Antarctica I took the trip insurance with them.

Medical evacuation insurance is mandatory, if you have a medical emergency in Antarctica evacuation is really not straightforward, and it will be expensive (you will need to be taken back to somewhere a private plane can pick you up). Trip cancellation/interruption for me was necessary because of the price of the trip, but that's up to everyone to feel if they are comfortable with losing that much money.

I had a third trip planned to Antarctica with Hurtigruten in Dec 2016, and in the fall of 2016 (a couple of month before departure) my partner passed away unexpectedly from a very quick illness. I didn't take the trip and the travel insurance refunded me of the whole amount. Otherwise I would have lost over $10K (I still had to pay the last installment). I thought it was worth the price of the insurance.

I actually have trip cancellation insurance for all my trips, no matter how small. For me even a trip with Hurtigruten to Norway is not a "small ticket item" and I'd rather not lose that money on top of any other problem that might cause the trip to be cancelled.

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39 minutes ago, SarniaLo said:

I actually have trip cancellation insurance for all my trips, no matter how small. For me even a trip with Hurtigruten to Norway is not a "small ticket item" and I'd rather not lose that money on top of any other problem that might cause the trip to be cancelled.

Thank you again. I'm very sorry about the loss of your partner. And I didn't mean to belittle the cost of these trips; they are expensive, and my wife and I continually balk at the cost. What I meant is that paying out-of-pocket for an evacuation from Antarctica can have a far more drastic effect on your wallet than losing the cost of a cruise; there's no doubt that we're going to get evacuation insurance. Just unsure as to how much.

 

I was just looking at your blog again. You would really love Alaska, especially Kenai Peninsula/Denali/Valdez/Katmai.

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4 hours ago, Bella0714 said:

it appears as if Hurtigruten requires it,

It wasn't required in Jan. '18.

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In my recollection, medical/evacuation insurance was required on my trip (but maybe there are different requirements depending on which country you book in?). I may be wrong, but I didn't feel that it was an option not to take it (not that I wouldn't have anyway, so I actually didn't look much into that). I had a look at my insurance and it seems that the evacuation cost were covered up to their real cost, not within a limit (again, that may change depending on where you are from). I think I have read someone on another board advising the limit of $500.000 . Not sure where that number comes from though. Have you asked Hurtigruten for advice?

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7 minutes ago, SarniaLo said:

Have you asked Hurtigruten for advice?

I haven't but I will when I call to book.

 

From what I've seen, U.S. insurance doesn't cover up to real cost, until up to a covered limit.

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