We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

On ships with more than 100 passengers

Midwest
Level Contributor
454 posts
12 reviews
Save Topic
On ships with more than 100 passengers

I understand that only 100 people are allowed on land at one time, so most articles I've read on Antarctica suggest choosing a ship with fewer people. Yet, many ships seem to have a 100-200 capacity of passengers.

For those who have traveled on a larger ship, how does it work when over 100 people want to go on zodiac landings?

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
Level Contributor
15,022 posts
29 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

Its all done on a rotational basis. You are allocated a group at the start of the voyage and for each landing the groups are rotated so no one is ever "always first or always last".

The actual landings - its a lengthy process dependant on how far the ship is from the landing zone. The zodiacs are going over full and initially coming back empty but after a while people will start returning if their allocated time is up (or they are desperate for a toilet!) so there is a rotation of people on land, people in zodiacs and people still on the ship.

Obviously the smaller the numbers means faster transfers and longer times on shore (dependant on weather) but the expedition teams have the process down to a fine art to ensure everyone gets their time even on the larger ships.

Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
55 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

On the MV Expedition (G Adventures), they handled it a couple of ways. Some people were kayaking and didn't land until later, when others had returned. On one landing we were near two islands, so the two groups went to different spots and swapped. On one other occasion, one group did zodiac trips around the icebergs and looking for wildlife while the other group landed. It all worked out really well.

Edit: Beaten by Perfectly Perth!

Edited: 25 December 2013, 05:04
Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
Level Contributor
15,022 posts
29 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

Blimey - split second posting Brissie !!

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
57 posts
127 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

So how do you research to find out which ship/tour is likely to give you the max. zodiac time or land time or kayak time or combination thereof. I appreciate the rotation system, the efficiency of crews, the variations as listed by Brissie_girl.

We have the same issue (1 operator with multi agents ) as we consider "Quest for crossing the Antarctic circle- 7 Feb.15" with Chimu, Bentours, G Adventures on MS Expedition. Is it simply a question of liaising with each to ensure the best package deal with airfare, expedition plus say Patagonia side trip?

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
Level Contributor
15,022 posts
29 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

I would be asking each of the 3 who is the actual operator and who is simply an onselling agent. I know Chimu book out entire voyages as they have done so with the Sea Adventurer trip that leaves immediately after mine. Bentours - as far as I know is purely an agent. G Adventurers - I "think" (based on the majority of postings here) are the operators for MS Expedition.

No one can give you a guarantee of the maximum zodiac/landing/kayak time - and no sensible operator (or agent) will be prepared to give any kind of guarantee simply because its 100% weather and sea condition reliant.

denver, co
Level Contributor
380 posts
106 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

Take a smaller ship.

NYC
Level Contributor
1,299 posts
169 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

Our ship made several landings that were highlights but so small they couldn't accommodate even he 97 of us at once so we did 2 shifts mixed with zodiac-ing. Had here been even more of us, these intimate landing spots would have either been available to experience for very brief times due to additional rotations, or ruled out altogether.

Level Contributor
2 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

Just returned from Seabourn Quest 24 day cruise, five days in Antarctica and three days in South Georgia Islands. We had 420 passengers which seemed to be larger than most these days. We had traveled there in 2011 on a much larger ship but did not do any landings due to the ship size. The Seabourn experience was amazing! For both Antarctica and South Georgia Islands we were divided into five groups, each with 75 minutes ashore or on Zodiacs. The ship would announce when our color was to come down and get life jackets and pick up our boots. Very we'll organized with almost no wait time. Getting on the Zodiacs was easy enough with crew making sure you were OK. Our expedition team members were comprised of naturalists and photographers who gave lectures and escorted us to shore and Zodiac tours. We thought 75 minutes on shore was adequate and they didn't worry if you wanted to linger awhile longer to get a few hundred more photos of the amazing wildlife. We saw several other expedition ships while we were there and it seemed we were going to some of the same areas they were even though our ship was larger. I must say as wonderful as it was to land on Antarctica, it was just as wonderful to visit South Georgia Islands and see even more marine life and penguins. I saw NO downside to being on a ship that size as we seemed to go to the same areas as smaller ships plus the experience Seabourn provides just can't be topped!

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
Level Contributor
15,022 posts
29 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

75 minutes ? Wow. I am use to landings of 10 to 14 hours. Don't think 75 minutes would ever satisfy me.

NYC
Level Contributor
1,299 posts
169 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: On ships with more than 100 passengers

I have to agree with Perth. I don't think a single landing during my time there was less than several hours, and many lasted all day. The all day landings (Falklands and South Georgia, primarily) sometimes included hikes of varying distances up to 5 miles, and explorations a good ways off from the landing sight. On Antarctica proper and the islands of the peninsula, landings were not all day because urinating is essentially prohibited on land and no one can go 8 hours of no peeing! You can pee into the sea, but there isn't typically any privacy for doing that so it wasn't something people did except in an emergency. So we'd be on land for 2-3 hours or so, then pop back to the ship for a pee break, then zodiac tour or go back to land if that was the individual's preference.

On a smaller ship of under 100 people, you generally do not get assigned into any fixed groups or rotations for the trip. For each landing, you just line up on deck by the zodiac ramp and all passengers are off the ship pretty much within 10-15 minutes in groups of 7-10 in the zodiacs. Lining up is very informal but the process overall is very organized and smooth. During the briefing before each landing, the expedition staff will announce when the "official" start time is that zodiacs will begin bringing passengers back to the ship from shore and what time the last zodiac will be. Once ashore, one zodiac may act as a shore-to-ship "taxi" during the landing in case someone wants to go back early (for an urgent bathroom situation, because they are just tired or hungry, etc). The result is tremendous flexibility for each passenger to structure each landing as s/he sees fit.

Not every landing is a place you will want to necessarily spend 8 hours. But some, like St. Andrews or Salisbury Plain in South Georgia, are vast expanses teaming with wildlife of every sort and you will want to have up to all day to explore. But even the smallest of landing spots completely absorbed me for a couple of hours. If I only had 75 minutes at any of the places we landed or toured by zodiac, I would have left completely frustrated. At several places on the peninsula, after trapsing around a while, I just planted myself on the beach or a hilltop for 1-2 hours to take it all in. Those quiet times were some of the highlights of my trip. The animals (which I had studiously taken care to stay the required distance from when I sat down) start wandering closer and closer to you as you sit, and before you know it you are watching porpoising penguins pop out of the surf feet from you as others lay down next to you or just waddle by inches from you.

My number 1 criteria for selecting an expedition would be ships under 100 people. Luxury mattered little to me. For me it was all about the number and length of landings, ability of the ship to cope with ice and to drop anchor as close as possible to the shore, and the quality of the expedition staff. Others will have different priorities, but if yours are like mine, then <100 passenger expeditions is the way to go.