My wife and I participated with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris on their nearly four-week December/January, 2008/09 wildlife expedition to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Orkneys, and the Antarctic peninsula. Their chartered ship, the Polar Star - a converted icebreaker, navigated over 4,000 miles of the South Atlantic with 93 participants plus Cheesemans' staff of 15. Cabins were modern and cleaned daily. Although not a luxury cruise, food offerings and service were very good. The ship's bridge was open to passengers 24/7, a great place to read charts and navigational equipment while watching for whales and seabirds.
Our small group size enabled passengers to land together, maximizing our shore time at nearly 25 locations to observe and photograph amazing wildlife. Cheesemans' deservedly prides themselves on providing as much time ashore as possible. Groups larger than 100 cannot all land at once, an important consideration when selecting tour operators to the Antarctic.
Staff specialists were energetic and enthusiastic, offering lectures on wildlife ecology, identification and photography, digital photography tips, geology, and history of Antarctic exploration. A staff member was always on the bridge during daylight hours to assist with wildlife spotting. Zodiac landings or cruising among ice floes and whales were everyday events when not at sea.
Passengers were generally active, eager, and flexible with occasional changes in itinerary due to stormy weather that opened new opportunities for exploration. Although more expensive than shorter tours, Cheesemans' per-day cost is comparable and provides the most extensive and intensive experience you're likely to encounter in the southern ocean. Besides, it'll likely be your only trip of a lifetime!
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Best Suited For: Couples
Tour format: Boat
Tour type: Group
Tour length: Over a Week