Norwegian cruise ship

MS Fram is the first of the Norwegian cruise ships that’s especially designed for cruising arctic waters. Ms Fram replaces the MS Nordnorge. Ms Fram’s interior offers you a warm wool and oak Nordic feeling: built in 2007 it is brandnew! It’s Antarctica expedition goes much more up close and personal compared to what people experienced on Nordnorge. Nordnodge was only designed for cruising the Norwegian fjords.

  • From June 2008 MS Nordnorge will be replaced by the MS Fram. You can still sail on the Nordnorge when cruising Norway’s narrow fjords and sometimes icy polar waters.
  • Norwegian Coastal Voyage has been renamed to Hurtigruten

Vacation to Antarctica on an Antarctica Cruise

antarctica cruiseAntarctica cruises : Once the province of only the wealthiest adventurers, Antarctica is becoming accessible to more and more travelers.

Nearly all of these South Pole travelers make the journey on a passenger vessel. The Antarctica cruise industry competition is clearly behind the boom that is bringing on line more and larger Antarctica ships.

This resulted in:

  • a doubling of visitors to Antarctica in less than 10 years
  • slicing the minimum cost of a voyage to the White Continent nearly in half

To cater to this booming industry, the Nordnorge designed for cruising the Norwegian fjords has joined the Antarctic waters.

Antarctica expeditions with an Antarctica Cruise

antarctica cruiseMore than 15,000 people joined expedition cruises to Antarctica onboard a record 25 motor vessels and four large charter yachts during the austral summer of 2003-2004.

Perhaps as many as 5,000 Antarctica visitors more passed along the fringes of the Antarctic Peninsula onboard larger Antarctica cruise ships such as Holland America Line’s Amsterdam, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess and even The World of ResidenSea – the privately owned residential cruise liner.

Although these Antarctica visits were sightseeing-only visits without actual landings, such voyages are likely to inspire some passengers to book more comprehensive Antarctica expedition voyages in the future.

Nordnorge Antarctica Cruises

antarctica-cruise-nordnorgeThe Norwegian vessel, Nordnorge, which made her Antarctica cruise debut during the 2002-2003 season, serves as a good example of this larger-vessel/lower-cost trend.

One of the more recent (1997-built) of the dozen ice rated vessels of the Norwegian cruise ships from the Norwegian Coastal Voyage fleet (replaced in 2008 by the MS Fram).

The 11,386-gross-register-ton/404-foot Nordnorge Antarctica Cruise has 464 berths but accepts a maximum of 350 passengers for her 19-day "Antarctica & Chilean Fjords" program with eight departures (Buenos Aires to Santiago and reverse) between mid-November and early February.

A ninth sailing has been added for 2004-2005. departing from Buenos Aires on February 23, and visiting the Falkland Islands. South Georgia, and Antarctica.

Antarctica Cruise Vacationers

antarctica-cruise.jpgCarrying a fairly even mix of European and North American passengers, the Nordnorge was booked almost to capacity during her second Antarctic season.

This comes as no surprise in view of NCV’s extremely attractive per-person fares, ranging for the 2004-2005 season from $4,445 to $7,445, including airfare from New York and pre- and post-cruise hotel stays.

Rates for the 21-day February 23 voyage that includes the Falklands and South Georgia range from $5,010 to $7,965.

How to get to Antarctica

Antarctica Cruises commencing in Argentina, as mine did, begin with a LAN-Chile flight from New York to Buenos Aires.

Here guests overnight at the Sheraton with the opportunity to join optional programs including a city tour, a tango show and dinner (highly recommended) at the elegant Esquina Carlos Gardel.

Norwegian Cruise ShipsPassengers to Antarctica are transferred by charter flights the following morning to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Here travelers get an orientation tour of the world’s southern most city and an optional visit to nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park before boarding the Nordnorge.

Antarctica Cruise – Drake Passage

antarctica cruise drake passage The thing you will most remember on board of your Antarctica cruise ship is the crossing of the notorious Drake Passage.

Consider it an initiation ceremony for all souls bound for Antarctica Cruises.

The size and heft of the Nordnorge is a distinct advantage, providing relative comfort in the roughest of seas, which we thankfully didn’t have to endure on our Drake Passage crossing.

Nordnorge vs other Antarctica cruises

There are actually several Antarctica ships larger than the Nordnorge operating expedition cruises to Antarctica. including the Discovery (ex Island Princess), Saga Rose, and Marco Polo.

But the Nordnorge is clearly the best suited for the task among the big cruise ships. Designed for year-round service in Norway’s narrow fjords and often-icy polar waters, she features powerful bow and stern thrusters for amazing mobility.

Plus there’s a cargo deck just above the waterline that adapts nicely for use as a changing area and loading ramp for the Antarctica ship’s fleet of Polar-Cirkel boats. There’s room on this deck as well for protected storage of these inflatable craft, which are similar to Zodiacs.

Inside the cruise ship

Interior decor and cabin layout is comparable to most modern mid-range Antarctica cruise liners, featuring lots of brass, glass, and rich veneers.

Lounges, bars, the cafeteria, dining room, and other public spaces are comfortable and spacious, obviously designed to accommodate the large number of day passengers who frequent the Norwegian coastal service.

Antarctica cruise cabins are a bit snug compared to most newer Antarctica cruise ships, but generous next to those of the typical expedition vessel.

There is a pair of master suites and a dozen junior suites that offer queen-size beds, TVs, and a fridge: not to mention the added space.

Breakfast and lunch are served smorgasbord-style from a bountiful buffet while dinner on this Antarctica cruise is a sit-down affair with two seatings. Food is tasty and plentiful, although a few passengers complained about the limited choice of entrees (two) at dinner.

The wine list is a good one with a number of agreeable selections under $20 a bottle. The cafeteria serves as a round-the-clock source of coffee, tea, and flight snacks.

Education during your cruise

In keeping with the tradition of Antarctica expedition cruising, lectures are center-stage in terms of entertainment.

In fact, the Nordnorge Antarctica Ship has no showroom, casino, or swimming pool. There’s a no-frills gym and sauna, a small library, and a shop stocked with Antarctica travel essentials and Antarctica souvenirs, but that’s about it for this Antarctica ships’ amenities. The vessel does receive satellite television, both in the suites and at wall-mounted sets in the cafeteria.

Passengers seemed keen on following world events, though we eventually lost the signal some where about 62 degrees south. Most likely no coincidence that beyond that point, we were surrounded by icebergs, whales, seals, and penguins, so nobody missed the TV. Once you are in Antarctica, you better enjoy the continent the fullest without any distractions!

Antarctica Cruise itinerary

Bransfield-Strait-antarctica-cruiseOur Antarctica cruise route followed the typical Antarctic Peninsula itinerary favoured by most expedition lines:

  • cruising south along Bransfield Strait
  • in and among the icebound South Shetland Islands
  • through Gerlache Strait
  • between Palmer Archipelago and the Antarctic Peninsula and then
  • along the incredibly scenic Neumayer and Lemaire channels to the mid-peninsula region.

Norwegian Captain Kjell Skjoldvaer had his sights set on commanding the first Norwegian-flagged passenger vessel to cross the Antarctic Circle.

This early-season (mid-December) attempt would be thwarted, however, by pack ice in the Grandidier Channel that simply made the going too slow to allow the Nordnorge to stay on schedule.

We did come within about 70 miles of the circle : a record achievement at the time for a Norwegian passenger ship.

Shore calls

Neko-Harbour-antarctica-cruise.jpgShore calls included:

  • a visit to the Ukrainian research station Vernadsky
  • up-close penguin encounters on Cuverville Island and at Neko Harbour (where our cruise made our official continental landing in Antarctica)
  • a nostalgic look back at one of the original digs of the British Antarctic Survey at Port Lockroy and finally
  • a visit to volcanic Deception Island where the more adventurous among us enjoyed a dip in the "warm waters" of the island’s caldera, which rims Pendulum Cove.

Polar cirkel boats

antarctica cruise polarcirkel boats Having done an Antarctica cruise previously on a much smaller Antarctica ship, I was concerned at first that the process of shuttling 265 Antarctica visitors ashore via the eight-passenger Polar Cirkel boats would be tedious and that time ashore would be too limited.

Such was not the case in this Antarctica cruise however, thanks to the well-organized efforts of Antarctica expedition leader Tomas Holik, an Argentine ecologist and veteran Antarctica expedition boss.

We always had a minimum of an hour ashore with this Antarctica cruise, and in frigid conditions this proved more than enough for the majority of the Antarctica passengers.

Base visits

antarctica cruise Henryk Arctowski StationThe Nordnorge Antarctica Cruise ship usually calls at the Henryk Arctowski Antarctica Station. This is an Antarctic visitor-friendly base operated by the Polish Academy of Sciences that features a particularly stylish and informative information center about Antarctica.

Ice and poor weather in Admiralty Bay resulted in a visit instead to Vernadsky, formerly Britain’s Faraday Station. Here scientists years ago began raising concern about the "Ozone Hole" above Antarctica.

Ukrainian researchers continue to monitor the ever-expanding ozone hole and happily share their up-to-the-minute findings with any visitors.

There’s a post office at Vernadsky that will frank your cards and letters for delivery in roughly six weeks and a bar that offers lady guests drinks in exchange for their brassieres, a number of which dangle proudly flora the ceiling. So much for scientific research…

Penguins and more… penguins

antarctica cruise Cuverville Island More than icebergs and research stations, it is penguins that people come to Antarctica cruises to see.

At Cuverville Island and Neko Harbour we were virtually overwhelmed by thousands of entertaining gentoo penguins.

Although not as large and colourful as emperors or kings, the gentoo is the largest of the brush-tail species. They are quite active and amusing as they interact in rookeries that number into the thousands of birds.

I had fun photographing them, especially as they popped out of the water onto the shore, strutting about all sparkling clean: all for tourists…

History during your cruise

port-lockroy-antarctica-cruisePort Lockroy provides a history lesson on an otherwise nature oriented Antarctica expedition cruise.

Built by the British in 1944 as "Base A" of Operation Tabarin, this was an Antarctica wartime intelligence post aimed at tracking German U-Boats in the Southern Ocean.

After the war it was put to use as an Antarctica research station and operated as such until 1962.

Rather than abandon the base and allow it to fall into disrepair (as too often happens in Antarctica), the British Heritage Trust rescued Port Lockroy and has restored the base as a museum. It is the most visited site on the continent

Deception Island

deception island antarctica cruiseRing-shaped Deception Island was our final shore call in our Antarctica cruise and was, perhaps, the most fascinating of all Antarctic scenes, as we sailed into the island’s huge internal crater, altered as recently as 1970 by volcanic eruptions.

A few hardy bathers took a dip in the frigid Antarctic waters and then wallowed in warm springs that line the beach of black volcanic sand.

Others investigated the ruins of 19th century whaling stations and a more recent British base where the remains of an aircraft hangar and the battered fuselage of an RAF de Haviland Otter testify to the destructive force of a mud flow caused by a 1969 eruption.


humpback antarctica cruiseFive full days went by like a flash but not without some last minute fanfare.

First came a visit by a pod of five humpback whales that courted the Nordnorge for more than 30 minutes, showing off for the cameras with such stunts as "flippering" and "spy-hopping"

It was quite a show and soon followed by the sighting of a gigantic tabular Antarctic iceberg. One would have thought it was an island : several kilometers square and taller than our Antarctic ship.

Captain Skjoldvaer manoeuvred us right up next to the berg then cruised around it to illustrate its size.

We came to learn from lecturer Alan Parker, an Aussie naturalist who has done Antarctica cruises some 55 times, that there are a number of much bigger bergs than the one we investigated. Some, in fact, are larger than the slate of Rhode Island, and their movements are tracked by satellite.

Longer South Pole cruises

falkland islands antarctica cruiseMost of the longer Antarctica cruises include stops in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island en route to or from the peninsula.

NCV has chosen to combine eight of its nine Antarctic cruises with a weeklong voyage through the islands and fjords of southeastern Chile.

On my voyage the Chilean odyssey began with the good fortune of being able to land at Cape Horn : this following another blessedly smooth crossing of the Drake Passage.

Although rather barren and wind-blown, Cape Horn was an awesome, almost mystical place.

Many of us hiked out to a memorial to lost seamen: a striking sculpture in the shape of a seabird, overlooking the dreaded Drake.

Port calls on the way back

antarctica cruise Puerto MonttAdditional port calls in Chile included:

  • Punta Arenas, where most passengers enjoyed optional visits to traditional Patagonian estancias or farms
  • the humble fishing village of Puerto Eden, where Nordnorge officers invited the children of the village (impoverished by an outbreak of red tide that spoiled shell fishing) onboard for a special lunch
  • Puerto Chacabuco for a rainy hike in a forest preserve
  • Chiloe Island, where we visited handmade wooden churches from the 18th century that are among the most beautiful in the world and finally
  • Puerto Montt, a busy port city that serves as a gateway to Chile’s spectacular Lake Country.

Many of the Antarctica cruise passengers joined an optional tour here, visiting the resort town of Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue and Vincente Perez Resales National Park.

There the cruise took in the scenic splendour of Petrohue Waterfalls and emerald green Lago Todos Los Santos (All Saints Lake), with snow-covered Orsono and Calbuco volcanoes in the background.

Returning home

A short flight from Puerto Montt to Chile’s capital city of Santiago positions NCV passengers for return flights home following a restful night at either the Marriott or Hyatt Regency hotels.

Alternate voyages that begin in Santiago follow a very similar reverse itinerary.

Norway Antarctica Cruise

antarctica cruise norwegian coastal voyageIt would appear that Norwegian Coastal Voyage Inc. has come up with a winner, matching one of its nifty Nordic Antarctica cruise liners to a new itinerary. These kind of cruises seems to suit her perfectly: a happy coincidence that has resulted in the best value available today on the WHite Continent, plus Chile to boot!

Contact Norway Antarctica Cruise

Based on Norwegian Coastal Voyage heads way down under to do White Continent right Cruise Travel, Nov-Dec, 2004 by Dave G. Houser.

For more information contact your travel agent or Norwegian Coastal Voyage Inc. (Cruise Travel Magazine), 405 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022; call 800-323-7436

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