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18 January 2013 / leggypeggy

Antarctica—basics about our expedition and ship

Ocean Diamond

Heading back to the Ocean Diamond

Quite a few people have contacted me with questions about various aspects of our trip to Antarctica.

I’ll do my best to tackle them all, and this first ‘stab’ covers the queries relating to the expedition and ship.

I plan to write separately about how we got our last-minute deal, crossing the Drake Passage, landings and Zodiac cruises, cameras, kayaks, camping and anything else important that comes to mind. Links will be live when I’ve written the answers. 🙂

Ship flags on the bridge

Ship flags on the bridge

Our trip

Many companies offer Antarctic expeditions sailing from Ushuaia in Argentina. Trip packages—ship size, number of passengers, number of days, destinations, extras and price—vary tremendously.

We were already part of a four-month overland journey through much of South America, so a diversion to Antarctica would take us off the truck. We didn’t want to miss too much truck experience, so were looking for an expedition that would last 10 to 12 days.

We found a 10-day trip—the ‘Antarctic Explorer: the Classic Adventure’ on the Ocean Diamond used by Quark Expeditions—that was leaving two days after we arrived in Ushuaia. We sailed on 30 November and returned to Ushuaia on 9 December.

Heading to the Antarctic Peninsula

Heading to the Antarctic Peninsula

We boarded about 4:30pm on 30th and sailed about 6:30pm. We were near the entrance to the Lemaire Channel by the evening of the 2nd. It’s said that the Ocean Diamond covers the passage in 12 hours less than other, smaller ships.

We set sail to return on the afternoon of the 6th, at least half a day earlier than scheduled, because one passenger needed medical attention that could not be provided on board. I think it may have been a detached retina.

So in between we had almost four days at the Antarctic Peninsula.

Our ship

Lounge on the Ocean Diamond

Lounge on the Ocean Diamond

This was the first season Quark Expeditions used the Ocean Diamond, and I found it comfortable and spacious, although quite a few people wished there had been a sauna.

The Ocean Diamond has seven levels and can take 189 passengers—we sailed with 182 and more than 100 crew. There were deluxe rooms with balconies (why bother?) down to our triple (with two portholes) that we shared with Olivia.

The bridge was on level six and often open to visitors. Level six also had a small gym and pool, which was not filled during while we were crossing the Drake Passage.

Poor John’s favourite spot was the glassed observation room on level seven.  He had a great view, a great reading chair and was very hard to find until I decided to think like him.

Reception area on the Ocean Diamond

Reception area on the Ocean Diamond

His second favourite place was the library on level five. The collection is huge and covers the whole range of topics applying to the Antarctic.

Poor John abandoned his Kindle for the entire expedition and read about five books from the library. Since then he has told everyone who will listen about the windy phenomenon known as a williwaw.

My regular haunts, besides the dining room on level three and the library, were the auditorium on level five (for lectures and yoga) and the lounge on level four. It had hot drinks on tap all day, including a decent coffee when you got up at 6am and breakfast wouldn’t roll around until 7.

Coming next: the most requested topics—landings and Zodiac cruises.

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16 Comments

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  1. Derrick / Jan 18 2013 10:21 pm

    I would really like to do this trip, both South America and the Antartica part, but its the overall costs that I really would like to know, along with food (was it any good ?) how much did you get ?
    Sights and sounds of everything
    You can only get so much from a blog (time writing rather than getting out there seeing, photographing everything, then posting it online
    Bush camps, hostels
    So many questions
    I am seriously jealous of you Pegggy

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jan 18 2013 10:24 pm

      Hey, you are doing your best to keep up. And I hope to cover all your questions. As an aside, we’re thinking of going on a 55-day overland with Oasis from Rio to Lima later this year. Interested?

      Like

      • Derrick / Jan 18 2013 10:36 pm

        I would, but there is a overland show at Olympia this month, I’m going to see what is on offer
        I’ll drop you an email (but dont forget, I’m a one finger typer 🙂

        (I have been swapping emails with a guy in Oz, about overland companys, its been interesting)
        Do you have Skype ?

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Jan 18 2013 10:46 pm

        I have Skype.
        I think there’s a travel show near London later this month. Oasis Overland should be there. Their stall should be staffed by Colin and Sammy, our driver and tour leader in South America. Great people and very knowledgable about South America and Africa.

        Like

      • Derrick / Jan 18 2013 10:53 pm

        Just one finger typing you, it will explain a bit better
        Great about Skype 🙂
        If I can add you, when is a good time ?
        Derrick

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Jan 19 2013 12:03 am

        Done. And so nice to chat.

        Like

      • Derrick / Jan 19 2013 12:21 am

        it certainly was, AND you are the first person (apart from the wife) I have chatted to on Skype, amazing, you in Oz, me in the UK, just like a phone call, but cheaper 🙂

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Jan 19 2013 12:30 am

        Cheaper??? Free!!! 🙂

        Like

      • Derrick / Jan 19 2013 12:38 am

        well, a lot cheaper than a phone call, just whatever the internet charges are, and mine is free, unlimited use :-)(I dont know what yours are, but knowing Oz, not cheap 😦
        As they say on Skype, internet calls are free, PC-PC, laptop-Laptop, iPod-iPod, iPad-iPad, or tablet-tablet or any combination you want to use
        What ever device you use, me its an iPod or on this occasion a tablet to a laptop (I think)

        Like

  2. lmo58 / Jan 19 2013 8:47 am

    Hi Peggy,
    As always, a really interesting description. The ship looks great although I’d still be worried about the Zodiacs although they’re an essential part of the experience. Thanks again.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jan 19 2013 12:01 pm

      The Zodiacs aren’t as challenging as you’d think. Stay tuned for the description.

      Like

  3. Sue Daw / Jan 19 2013 10:52 am

    Hi Peggy,

    What a scream, and so apposite. I rolled on the floor laughing. (It reminded me of conversations with my sister except that said subject is horses and/or dogs).

    As Imo58 says, ‘as always, a really interesting description.’ I’m so enjoying this subject and eagerly waiting for the next installment.

    I hope that chandelier’s construction is custom-made for the Drake Passage!

    I’m leaning towards a small ship expedition in one of the Russian ships and a route that takes in the Weddell Sea and its spectacular tabular icebergs as well as the peninsula.

    Regards,

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jan 19 2013 12:03 pm

      Hey, eagle eye. I posted the reception photo just to show off the chandelier.
      Frankly I think whatever expedition a person does will be wonderful—and probably the first of many. We’re hooked.

      Like

  4. mickeydownunder / Jan 19 2013 11:45 am

    It was fate and timing that you and Poor John could experience the Antartica! WHAT an expereince indeed! I can’t wait for your next installment too! Did anything take you by surprise? Always interested to continue to hear about your travels through your eyes too! 🙂

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jan 19 2013 12:04 pm

      I think most of it took us by surprise. We hoped to get a last-minute deal, but we hadn’t done any ‘homework’ on Antarctic journeys. We had no expectations and loved every minute.

      Like

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  1. Zodiacs and Antarctic landings—a package deal « Where to next?

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