Cruise Ship: Antarctic Dream
Cruise Destination: Antarctica
Cruise Dates: February 2006
Guest Contributor: seastef
Don't expect much from Antarctic Dream and you may be only moderately disappointed. "Antarctic Nightmare" was how some passengers described the trip. That might have been overly dramatic, but "amateurish operation" (an extremely frequent description) is certainly apt. One often had the impression that the staff and company had been told what a quality cruise experience was like, and they tried to accomplish that without having much of an idea of how to do so.
For our cruise, many of the amenities promised were not provided (Internet, laundry service, functioning gym equipment, helicopter on board, helicopter ride in Antarctica, included cocktails, airport transfers, movies on demand, in room security box, visit to Cape Horn [they cited immigration laws], and much more). In addition, there were substantial mechanical problems that rendered much of the ship uninhabitable, left us dead in the water for a time, and additionally cost many hours of time diverting for parts. The staff did not make much (if any) apology for these omissions and problems and did little if anything to ameliorate the negative impacts. As an example, the diesel fumes made it impossible to stay long in the conference room for most passengers (and most the lecturers). Rather than move the lectures to a different room where sufficient space and AV equipment was available, they insisted on keeping the lectures in the conference room with extremely low attendance and frequent complaints of headaches and nausea from those who endured the room.
There is almost no air circulation on the lower (Amundsen) deck of cabins. This compounds the problem of mold caused by the inverted tilt of 4 of 5 bathrooms I saw. (Instead of sloping toward the drain, the floor slopes away. With nowhere else to go, shower water slowly seeps through the bathroom wall and into the bedroom carpet where it allows mold colonies to flourish. With the lack of air circulation, it stays moist.) On the Amundsen (lower) Deck what they describe as "window or porthole" really means a seven inch porthole. On the Shackleton (main) deck, cabin 236 (and likely 237) should be avoided- the noise level was over 50 dB and the vibration so strong that the ceiling panels and moulding shake free.
The number of landings was significantly curtailed by our departure 10 hours late (announced 24 hours in advance and never explained nor apologized for), the slow speeds due to the mechanical problems and a diversion to pick up repair parts, a surprise 4-6 hour diversion to pick up cargo (this is the Antarctic Shipping company, after all), and poor planning. Landings were never over 2 hours (and often reduced in length once we were ashore) and were often obviously of low quality- of our 8 landings in Antarctica, two were after sunset. One was a 30 minute stop on a barren beach to allow those who wished to do so to take a dip in the geothermal waters. We certainly did not guess that we would spend 14 days on this ship for only 5 daytime landings with fauna! As another example of the frustration of their poor planning and lack of adaptability, we spent many, many hours of a gorgeous day going in circles waiting for another ship to leave one beach rather than going to a site just a few miles (under 40 minutes) away. The alternative site was described by guidebooks as the gem of the region. Days later we attempted to land there and were told we could not due to the 10-15 kt winds.
Our cabin was rarely cleaned (the bathroom was cleaned once in the 14 day cruise), our bed linens were not changed at all despite repeated requests, and we were only provided one change of towels (again, despite repeated requests).
If you consider this cruise, keep in mind that the crew, housekeeping, and the wait-staff speak extremely limited (if any) English. Knowledge of Spanish is perhaps not required, but certainly makes for a less frustrating experience. They refuse to print or post a menu (either in Spanish or English) and the waitstaff must take orders for meals. If your Spanish vocabulary is not expansive enough to include "krill pie," anticipate difficulties.
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