I had the chance to cruise aboard the small and classy SH Vega for his or her 10-night Antarctic Discovery Expedition Cruise in November 2022. We have been one of many first expedition ships to go to through the Antarctic summer season season, and it was simply the second time the SH Vega cruised within the Antarctic area.
Late November is a perfect time to go to Antarctica by small ship, with seas iced-up from the cruel winter, glaciers, and mountains glistening with good white and shades of blue. Plus, the penguins return from the ocean to be reunited with their lifelong mating companions. You’ll probably get to see the penguin mating ritual – which is kind of fascinating, as you go to the assorted Gentoo penguin colonies.
Concerning the Swan Hellenic SH Vega
Swan Hellenic operates SH Minerva and SH Vega within the Antarctic, two similar 5-star Polar Code PC 5 expedition cruise ships with ice-strengthened hulls. Each accommodate 152 company in 76 suites and staterooms, the bulk with massive balconies. A barely bigger PC 6 ice-class vessel, SH Diana, accommodating 192 company with 96 staterooms and suites shall be launching in 2023. All their ships have extra-large stabilizers to make cruising as clean as doable.
Many of the 76 staterooms on the SH Vega are 302 sq. foot balcony staterooms, and there are 6 bigger suites and 16 ocean view staterooms, together with one that’s wheelchair accessible. Adjoining staterooms can be found for households. Kids over 8 years of age are welcome aboard, though no kids have been on our crusing.
Lodging – My Stateroom
Positioned mid-ship, my balcony stateroom #609, had 2 single beds configured facet by facet to create one king mattress, a snug lavatory with a bathe stall, a pair of enormous closets with sturdy wooden hangers, and a great deal of area to retailer footwear, clothes and expedition gear. I had not seen this a lot well-designed cupboard space in a ship stateroom earlier than.
One unusually sensible characteristic in our stateroom was a heavy curtain that could possibly be drawn between the bed room and the sitting space with a desk and small couch, providing some separation when two company share the cabin. The desk had a built-in make-up mirror compartment and an espresso machine. I used to be capable of get pleasure from an espresso on our personal balcony in a luxurious bathrobe with out disturbing my sleeping husband.
Exploring the SH Vega
Deck 3 is basecamp for all water-based actions, together with Zodiacs and kayaks, and is supplied with private lockers to retailer boots, parkas, and different gear. The wonder salon, science lab, and library are additionally on this deck.
The Swan Eating Room and reception space are on Deck 4 together with staterooms and the launderette, which is free for visitor use together with detergent.
Deck 7 is the place we spent most of our time whereas aboard. With the big, cozy Remark Lounge that includes panoramic home windows, entry to out of doors heated areas, and an outside viewing platform, this deck was perfect for displays, mingling, and stress-free. The Pool Grill and Cafe, additionally on Deck 7 served gentle snacks all through the day and tea service each afternoon from 4-6 pm.
The out of doors pool was heated and the seating space across the bar had overhead radiant warmth offering consolation whereas having fun with drinks or eating alfresco!
The wellness middle and sundeck are situated on Deck 8 and embrace an indoor health club with state-of-the-art health gear and weights. There’s additionally a sauna room with massive home windows and an outside sizzling tub. An out of doors sunbathing and stargazing space, with a helipad within the occasion of an emergency, might be accessed by stairs on Deck 9
What’s Expedition Cruising?
Expedition cruising is likely one of the fastest-growing kinds of cruises. The ships used on these cruises are way more refined than your common cruise ship, which permits them to navigate near shore in shallow waters. This permits passengers to journey by way of Zodiac to the shore and discover distant pure environments, and return again to their ship in time for lunch!
The chief of our expedition group, Sam was from Quebec Metropolis, Canada, and the 12 members of his worldwide group hailed from the UK, USA, Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, and South Africa. Skilled photographers, polar meteorologists, ornithologists, naturalists, and polar area specialists accompanied us on the Zodiacs and through our landings, and in addition enriched our cruise with fascinating displays.
No two expedition cruises are the identical
Expedition cruises have a level of spontaneity to them, as a consequence of altering climate and water circumstances. We listened intently at every night briefing for the expedition chief to inform us our plans for the subsequent day. Whereas an itinerary is marketed and a every day program was delivered to our staterooms, we had little question there can be adjustments and a few disappointments.
For instance, we couldn’t depart the ship for a day and a half as a consequence of unsafe climate circumstances. Whereas disappointing, we understood that we have been crusing within the Antarctic and that the precedence of the captain and the expedition group was security. The actual-time changes primarily based on climate, wildlife, snow, and ice be certain that no two voyages are ever the identical.
Pack your sense of journey and be ready for surprises alongside the way in which.
Our Every day Routine
A breakfast buffet began our day, adopted by dressing in our expedition gear for a morning tour. We left the ship by Zodiac to both do a touchdown the place walkers stayed largely on the rocky seashores, and hikers climbed up the neatly cleared paths to achieve the snow-covered peaks. Some days when a touchdown was deemed too difficult and unsafe, we stayed on the Zodiacs for an tour on the water to see glaciers and wildlife, and the kayakers glided alongside the frigid icy waters beside us.
Watching penguins going about their every day routine of mating, bowing to their companions, and carrying stones to construct nests for his or her eggs was a spotlight. Recognizing elusive styles of seals lazing on bergy bits and ice flows have been tougher than discovering 1000’s of penguins of their pungent-smelling colonies.
We might keep on shore for a couple of hours, nevertheless, Zodiacs shuttled passengers again to the ship at common intervals in the event that they felt chilly or acquired moist.
Lunch was all the time served on board both within the Swan Eating Room or on sunny days exterior on the aft on the pool grill. I selected eating al fresco, even with snow falling round us on the deck. Overhead heaters stored us fairly comfy at our tables.
The afternoons have been usually a repeat of our morning routine, returning to the SH Vega between 4-5 pm. A debrief of the day and a preview of the subsequent day’s plans was attended by most company at 6:30 pm within the Remark Lounge, adopted by cocktails and dinner at 7 pm.
A singer/pianist entertained within the lounge with loud dance events nightly. There was even a pajama get together on the dance flooring with company in bathtub robes and slippers partying late into the evening, one thing not typical for an expedition cruise. The demographic on our crusing ranged from 17 to virtually 80 years of age, and at the very least half of the company onboard have been underneath the age of 40!
With three eating venues, the Swan Restaurant, Membership Lounge, and Pool Bar & Grill, there’s one thing for everybody. For early risers, a lightweight breakfast choice was additionally obtainable within the Membership Lounge. At 7:30 am within the Swan Restaurant, a full breakfast could possibly be ordered a la carte on the desk, or from a big buffet that included fruit, yogurt, bread, pastries, and eggs.
We loved lunch al fresco on the Pool Bar and Grill when the climate cooperated.
Dinner was served within the Swan Restaurant from a menu that included every day specials.
A alternative of two pink and two white complementary wines was provided by the wait workers – nevertheless, for wine aficionados, a cellar of classic wines, premium spirits, and craft beers was additionally obtainable, at a further cost.
You may also select to get pleasure from your meals with the 24-hour room service.
From Ushuaia, it took us two full days to cross the notorious Drake Passage. Many passengers, together with my husband, have been seasick, preserving the ship’s physician very busy attending to their wants and offering remedy. This is likely one of the downsides of Antarctic journey, nevertheless, this was our third time and we can’t wait to return.
Our itinerary known as for us to go to the South Shetland Islands as soon as throughout the Drake Passage, nevertheless, as a result of climate forecast, our Captain modified our itinerary to go to the South Shetland Islands on the finish of the cruise as a substitute. It is best to count on to have your itinerary modified – particularly so in case you are touring between November and December.
On the morning of our third day, we crossed the 60th parallel and have been formally in Antarctica to make our first-morning touchdown at Mikkelsen Harbor with penguins greeting us of their small colonies. Some passengers kayaked across the space and have been additionally capable of do a touchdown. Throughout lunch, the ship repositioned to Curtiss Bay the place we have been solely capable of do a zodiac cruise to see seals and penguins on ice flows.
The next day we arrived in Neko Harbor, the place solely Zodiac cruising was provided within the morning. From our zodiacs on our two-hour cruise, we noticed large sleeping humpback whales in a bay that was surrounded by jagged icy mountains.
Over lunch, the ship repositioned to Paradise Harbor, one of the well-known locations in Antarctica, for a continental touchdown. We had 3 continental landings deliberate on this itinerary (Neko Harbor, Paradise Harbor, and Portal Level) nevertheless Paradise Harbor was the one one we have been capable of full as a result of climate. We hiked round Paradise Bay with teams of Gentoo penguins throughout us. Some company tried to achieve the hilltop which was fairly a climb!
The subsequent day we loved a touchdown at Damoy Level. We visited the outdated Damoy Hut utilized by earlier explorers and scientists after which did a delicate hike to observe the penguin shenanigans and admire the breathtaking snow-covered surroundings surrounding us. Some used climbing poles have been supplied by Swan Hellenic.
Throughout lunch, the ship repositioned to Port Lockroy to go to the Penguin Put up Workplace and the British Museum. I bought and mailed postcards to my grandchildren there. As soon as once more, we have been surrounded by gentoo penguins, all the time yielding the precise of option to penguins working up and down their “penguin highways”.
Reaching Enterprise Island for our final operation, we did a Zodiac cruise within the morning to see an outdated coal shipwreck with a small sailboat tethered to it. We additionally visited Foyn Harbor, higher often known as the Iceberg Graveyard, with essentially the most spectacular blue-colored icebergs throughout us. By the afternoon we have been in Portal Level nevertheless it was unsafe for any excursions.
We cruised close to Half Moon Bay and Deception Island, nevertheless as soon as once more the climate didn’t cooperate and the swells have been too excessive to enterprise off the ship. We waited for two hours however the precarious climate circumstances have been altering quickly and the captain lastly determined to proceed into the Drake Passage for our return to Ushuaia.
Cruising the Drake Passage, the captain routed us by Cape Horn, Chile. Some company attended displays within the lounge whereas others, like us, watched on the TV screens in our staterooms.
The SH Vega was an excellent expedition ship for this Antarctic journey. It felt intimate and private always, and every little thing was top notch, with attentive housekeeping and restaurant workers, together with educated and skilled expedition group members.
If you’re excited about an expedition cruise to see what others don’t within the polar areas or different off-the-beaten-path locations, and you’ve got the need to do it in luxurious and luxury, selecting one among Swan Hellenic’s expedition ships can be a wonderful choice.
All photographs credit score Judi Cohen until in any other case famous. Cowl photograph SH Vega ready patiently as passengers are climbing with penguins.
About Swan Hellenic
Swan Hellenic was relaunched in July 2020 to proudly proceed the spirit of cultural expedition cruising the corporate pioneered within the Nineteen Fifties. Constructing on its British roots, the brand new firm has a world cultural cruising outlook devoted to offering company with the chance to ‘see what others don’t’.
Swan Hellenic’s purpose-built ships characteristic elegant Scandi-design interiors, in depth out of doors areas, and devoted expedition services. SH Minerva and SH Vega, two new 5-star Polar Code PC 5 expedition cruise ships with ice-strengthened hulls, respectively launched in December 2021 and July 2022, every accommodates 152 company in 76 spacious suites and staterooms, the bulk with massive balconies. A barely bigger PC 6 ice-class vessel, SH Diana, accommodating 192 company in the identical distinctive consolation and elegance in 96 staterooms and suites shall be arriving in early 2023.
All three ships characteristic 3 eating venues – the Swan Restaurant, Membership Lounge, and Pool Bar & Grill – and are being inbuilt full compliance with SOLAS Protected Return to Port necessities. Devoted to company with a ardour for journey and cultural exploration, the corporate’s meticulously deliberate itineraries discover the wild landscapes, wildlife, peoples, and distinctive cultures of the world’s much less traveled areas.
The crews every embrace a group of 12 seasoned expedition guides, professional audio system, and lecturers, for a complete complement of 120 and 140 individuals respectively, providing excellent staff-to-guest ratios to ship the best requirements of attentive private service.
Headquartered in Cyprus with places of work in London, Dusseldorf, Monaco, Fort Lauderdale (serving the North American market), and Hong Kong (serving mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and South-East Asia), in addition to partnerships serving India, Japan, and Australia-New Zealand, Scandinavia and Iceland, Swan Hellenic helps the journey commerce with specialist native companions to offer prospects with professional private service worldwide.
Additionally see: Welcome Aboard Swan Hellenic’s Stylish New Expedition Ship SH Vega – All Issues Cruise