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An Unforgettable Antarctic Christmas
Post: #1
What a trip! There aren’t really words to describe the beauty we encountered but I will do my best. If you are looking for the short review - IT WAS AMAZING. For a longer version... read on!

There were 9 of us in our ‘huddle’ - 2 gents, 6 ladies and TM Sarah Wrightson. We met in the lounge at Heathrow and enjoyed the hospitality together. The British Airways flight to Buenos Aires was 13.5hrs. We had all upgraded to Premium Economy or Business Class. We were met at the airport by local guide Andrea and went straight into a city tour of Buenos Aires. We visited some colourful areas within the La Boca district first and were shown where we could exchange US$ for Pesos. We also went into the cathedral and saw the Plaza De Mayo square. Our hotel, the Emparador, was really lovely and we walked the short distance to a local restaurant that night for our welcome dinner. 

The next day everyone had elected to do the Tigre Delta optional. This meant we could finish our city tour by visiting La Recoleta cemetery first while it was still cool and quiet. The cemetery has some stunning architecture and while it may seem macabre it was a fascinating place to visit, not least to see Eva Peron’s resting place. After that it was an hour journey to where we would pick the boat up for the delta tour, which was very interesting. That night was the optional Dinner and Tango show at Café De Los Angelitos which we had again all opted for. The dinner wasn’t great but drinks flowed freely and the dancing was good to watch. I did think it odd that both optionals for this trip were on the same day but that’s how the timings worked out. Before this trip I had no desire to see Buenos Aires and wouldn’t have come if this trip didn’t set off from here but I have to say I really enjoyed it. Andrea was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide and it was a pleasure to enjoy her city. 

The next day was embarkation day. The ship sails from Ushuaia and they put on 3 charter flights to get everyone down there. We were on the first flight which meant a pickup time of 4am. Having not got back from the Tango show until midnight, there wasn’t much sleep to be had that night! The flight left from the domestic airport and took about 3.5hours. Our luggage was taken separately from the hotel and we didn’t have to check it in ourselves. We’d been told there were strict weight limits but they didn’t seem to be checking. On arrival in Ushuaia we’d all chosen to do an optional tour that took about 3 hours and then it was finally time to get on the ship.

MS Midnatsol is a lovely ship with 9 decks. Cabins were from decks 3-8. We had all booked at least an outside cabin, the superior versions were on a higher deck. I didn’t go for superior as I wanted to be low down in case of bad weather – I’ve read you get less seasick if you are low and central on a ship. My room had 2 single beds, an en suite shower room and a large rectangular window. It suited my needs perfectly but might have been a bit of a squeeze with 2 people in it. Check in was very efficient and our suitcases were already in our rooms when we arrived. After check in we had to give our medical forms in – these had to be signed by our GPs no more than 6wks before sailing to confirm we were fit to go. Next step was to be fitted for our expedition jacket, which is yours to keep.

Food onboard was excellent. Breakfast and lunch were buffets, with a large selection of items. Salad bar, cured meats and fish, soup, bread, hot main courses and the PUDDINGS! There was something for even the most fussy eaters. Dinner was either a buffet or sit down meal, depending on landing schedules. If a sit down, there were 2 seatings each night and it’s a 5 course affair. Menus were posted each morning. Tea, coffee and water were available free of charge 24/7. Superior cabins had kettles in the rooms.  Drink prices were not too expensive with a bottle of wine starting from c£20, beer at £4 and soft drinks less than £2.

There was lots to do onboard. There were regular lectures in the amphitheatre and they also showed films and TV programmes like ‘Frozen Planet’. Wifi was available on board and was slow but pretty good. It was about £150 for the whole voyage, valid on 2 devices so you can split the cost with someone.

What to take – layers are the key. You get given the jacket which is wind and water proof but it’s not warm, you need to wear layers underneath it. I wore a vest and then a thermal baselayer, then had a light down packable coat and then the jacket. On the bottom I had thermal leggings and then either jogging bottoms with waterproof trousers over the top or ski trousers. You are provided with muck boots to wear on landings, which were like comfy wellies. I wore thermal socks and then welly socks under my boots. You’ll need a hat (or 2) and something to keep your face and ears warm, like a snood. My hands were never that cold so I wore light gloves when needed, didn’t need the heavier ones that I’d packed. You’ll also need high factor sunscreen for your face, and lip gloss. Sunglasses are a must, preferably polarised ones. You need a backpack to take with you on landings (your hands need to be free when boarding the zodiac boats). I’d suggest taking one that is waterproof, or putting your belongings in a dry bag within a normal backpack. It can get pretty splashy on the boats. Take lots of camera batteries and memory cards. Also take any mediation you might need - painkillers, cold meds etc. There is a shop onboard but it’s limited and quite expensive.

Each day we did either a landing, a cruise in the zodiac boats or both. Everyone is assigned to a boat group and you are given a schedule each day (we were Chinstrap Penguins). It’s all very well organised. Each night you are given a briefing on the plan for the next day but this is always subject to change depending on ice and weather. Some of our best days were plan C or D – we visited a Chilean Naval base one day which was not planned, and also got to do a landing on sea ice which doesn’t happen often. The crew and expedition team are fantastic – so knowledgeable and always striving to get the best experience for their guests. The Captain managed to outrun a storm that was forecast for when we set off across the Drake Passage making our voyage a lot calmer.

Being on land in Antarctica was a very special experience. The vast landscape, pure beauty and the freshest of air make you feel more alive than ever before. Add to that the comical penguins that you encounter everywhere and you feel like the luckiest person in the world. You have to keep a certain distance from any wildlife but the Penguins don’t know how to read so they don’t abide by this rule… they come right up to you to introduce themselves. I could watch them forever. 3 of us, including TM Sarah, were brave / stupid enough to do the Polar Plunge, swimming in the Antarctic waters. Bracing to say the least, and we even got a certificate!  Big Grin
We saw a lot of whales on this trip. The message came over the tannoy to announce them and we all ran out on deck to see them, no matter what time of the day. At some points the ship was surrounded by Humpbacks, they were so close we could even hear them…. Amazing.  We also saw Orcas on our way back, but at a greater distance.

After a truly fantastic voyage we were all sad to disembark in Ushuaia. Our internal flight back to Buenos Aires was with a different airline and we had to check in our cases ourselves this time. They were strictly enforcing the luggage allowance. We had one final night before the flight to heathrow the following day and enjoyed a lovely farewell meal at the hotel together. This really was the trip of a lifetime, people keep asking me where I will go next and I just don’t know… let the planning commence!

Well done for getting this far through my review, sorry it went on a bit and this is the condensed version! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

PS i tried to add photos but the file size was too large, my Instagram account is @jellifleur if you really want to see them  Smile
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Post: #2
Hi Jellifer,

Thanks so much for your review! Smile Would you be happy to give permission for us to use it for marketing, e.g. on our social media/in magazines/on our website?

Also, it would be great if you could send us some photos that we could share, could you email editor@justyou.co.uk, or you can also tag us on Instagram - @justyouholidays and use the hashtag #justyoumoments Smile

Many thanks,
Vickie
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Post: #3
Hi Jellifer

Thanks for the wonderful review and glad you all had a great time. I'd love to do this trip, but drat, I am not a good traveller on water!

Regards
Sylvia
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Post: #4
Thanks Jellifer, what a fantastic review.
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Post: #5
Hi Jellifer,
Many thanks for posting this outstanding review! Reading about your adventure has made me want to ‘splash the cash’ and do this tour - it sounds absolutely fantastic!

Cheers
Mike
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Post: #6
Hi Jellifer

really enjoyed your review of such an amazing tour, i'd love to be able to do this one day but my job requires me to work over xmas/new year, maybe when i retire who knows

best regards

dave
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Post: #7
Star 
What an experience Jen!
Great review.
It was fabulous to share the adventure with you and the other "huddle" members.

See you again somewhere in the world.
Happy Travelling,
Sarah
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Post: #8
(14/01/2019, 03:54 PM)Vickie Wrote: Hi Jellifer,

Thanks so much for your review! Smile Would you be happy to give permission for us to use it for marketing, e.g. on our social media/in magazines/on our website?

Also, it would be great if you could send us some photos that we could share, could you email editor@justyou.co.uk, or you can also tag us on Instagram - @justyouholidays and use the hashtag #justyoumoments Smile

Many thanks,
Vickie
Hi Vickie, 

Yes it’s fine to use it for marketing. I’ll email you across some photos too.  I haven’t received the welcome home letter with a questionnaire - please can you send me one?

Hurtigruten also do tours to Norway including one to Svalbard to try and see the polar bears. Most of us on the trip were interested in doing this - could you propose it to your holiday creators pretty please?
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Post: #9
Hi Jellifer,

That's great, thank you!

Your feedback form should be on it's way to you shortly Smile

I can indeed! I have passed this on to them to look into.

Many thanks,
Vickie
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Post: #10
(14/01/2019, 03:54 PM)Vickie Wrote: Hi Jellifer,

Thanks so much for your review! Smile Would you be happy to give permission for us to use it for marketing, e.g. on our social media/in magazines/on our website?

Also, it would be great if you could send us some photos that we could share, could you email editor@justyou.co.uk, or you can also tag us on Instagram - @justyouholidays and use the hashtag #justyoumoments Smile

Many thanks,
Vickie

If the others agree I can add the editor to a Dropbox area I set up so the group can share photos. That would be easier than email.

Alan
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