In March 2014, I was privileged enough to journey to Antarctica aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov for their special ‘Marine Mammals’ voyage. It was a typical Antarctic Peninsula cruise but with a focus on marine mammals as whales are in abundance during March and we definitely saw lots of whales. We were also lucky to have on board 2 special guests – whale researcher Ari Friedlandler and Tarongo Zoo Seal Expert Ryan Tate who were both keen to share their expertise/anecdotes informally around the deck and formally through some of the on-board lectures.
I really had the most amazing experience on my trip and Antarctica truly is a magical place. To help you decide on a vessel you can see my review of the Akademik Sergey Vavilov below:
Staff / Crew
One of the stand outs for me were the expedition staff. Not only were they extremely knowledgeable, friendly and approachable, the sheer enthusiasm and passion they had for their jobs and Antarctica was truly admirable. It was the last cruise of the season and many of them had been working back to back cruises all season… yet there was genuine excitement at everything we encountered. I think it proves how amazing Antarctica can be and how no two trips are ever the same.
The food aboard was really good and plentiful and in fact I found that I probably ate way more than I needed to. There was also a lot of variety. Breakfast was a buffet and on the second day when I was feeling a little queasy, I was so happy to find vegemite! At lunch and dinner there was always a salad buffet plus soup and a choice of several mains and of course dessert. There was also afternoon tea if you could fit it in.
Cabins were spacious and I was lucky enough to have a private twin cabin. There was ample storage and comfortable beds even though one of them was technically a sofa bed. Tea and coffee facilities and a refrigerator were available in the cabin and there was always a chocolate on my pillow waiting for me before bed. The bathrooms were a bit small and it was definitely a bit of a challenge having a shower crossing the Drake Passage. Twin Semi-private rooms were the same as the private but with the one bathroom shared between the 2 cabins. Triple cabins seemed a little bit more crowded and only had a washbasin with full bathroom facilities share amongst all the triple cabins. Suites were very spacious with separate living areas.
Vavilov is a very comfortable vessel with great hospitality. There is a fantastic bar/lounge on the top deck with a cosy atmosphere and great view. There’s a happy hour every evening with the cocktail of the day at $5 and beers $4 (normally $5). The bridge is open to passengers which offers a great place for wildlife spotting. Another bonus for me was that the Vavilov not only provide wellington boots for use during your trip, but also waterproof pants and jacket that you wear as your outermost layer. Sure, you may look like a fireman, but I for one was grateful for the supplied gear especially since inevitably it gets covered in penguin and seal poop! It also saves you lugging around heavy gear all around South America. All in all I think the Vavilov is a great choice for expedition cruising in Antarctica.