First time planner here. I have been doing quite a bit of research and talking to friends who have been. The one consistent advise has been a small expedition ship is better than large. These ships maneuver better and quickly get guests off ship on landings. There apparently is a max of around 100 passengers allowed off ship at one time (law). While expensive, for these and other reasons we have selected Lindblad/National Geographic. Hope that helps.
Thank you Piggly. Will look into those.
Agree with Piggly. We did research as well and are going on National Geographic Resolution January, 2024. Highly recommend you book soon. I chose two other January cruises and both were sold out. We got the last cabin on the Resolution. Good luck.
Just got back from 20 day tour on Poseidon Sea Spirit. Loved the trip, excellent service and expedition crew. Small ship 114 people max. Two or three landings or zodiac cruises a day, when not at sea and weather permitting.
Smallest ship you can afford.
We went with Aurora and can't recommend them enough. The only ships we saw smaller were the MV Ushuaia and the Magellan Explorer.
Small ship equals long shore trips.
I can't recommend Lindblad highly enough (Lindblad also operates the National Geographic Expeditions). When other ships get stuck in Antarctica, it's the Lindblad ships that get called in to rescue them.
They operate small ships that are the highest ice breaking class, with captains and crews who are the most experienced, knowledgeable, and nimble. Spend a couple of weeks with a Lindblad crew -- from captains to first mates to naturalists to expedition leaders -- and you'll hear stories about their careers and the other ships they sailed on while working their way up, all the while hoping and striving to someday get a chance to work for Lindblad.
I learned from one captain that nearly every expedition ship in Antarctica is captained by a Russian-trained captain who doesn't like diverting too much from the schedule.
On one new years eve, aboard Lindblad's Orion, we had a magical, sunny afternoon in which we postponed lunch entirely because the sun had come out on the other side of a small sound, and the captain had raced around the peninsula to jam the ship into the fast ice so that we could drop kayaks in the water and commune close up with thousands of adelie penguins. The galley crew, who had put lunch on hold, drove around on zodiacs delivering snacks and hot toddies to our kayaks. After dinner that night, we toasted the new year on the fast ice surrounded by whales and penguins, and visiting the captain on the open bridge, he showed me on a radar screen the location of the dozen other ships that were near the peninsula that evening. Every one of them was on the other side where it was cloudy and snowing hard.
Now you put a price on that.
I've traveled with Lindblad six times. Their ships aren't all the most luxurious. The prices are high. The vibe is casual. You eat and hang out with the crew and get to know them. The experience is second to none.