My journey started with an overnight stay at the 5* Alvear Icon hotel in Buenos Aires. I checked in and was immediately greeted by a representative from Seabourn.
She provided me with luggage tags; we were allowed a maximum of two checked bags with a 34kg weight for each bag. A selection of excursions were offered, at cost, for the afternoon and evening in Buenos Aires. These included a panoramic drive, a wine tasting experience, a tango show with dinner and three tours to places of interest outside of Buenos Aires. Private car touring with a driver was also possible.
The three and a half hour flight to Ushuaia was very comfortable. Seats were pre allocated and the middle seat in each row was not used allowing plenty of space. A 'Seabourn' meal was provided and on my flight to and from Ushuaia a Seabourn representative was on board to give an overview of arrangements on landing and answer any questions. This was particularly useful on the return flight.
On arrival in Ushuaia I identified my bags and they were then transferred to the Seabourn Venture. The next time I saw them was when they were delivered to my beautiful V1 Suite. Our transfer to the ship included a short tour of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and just 680 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula. Embarkation was quick and the captain was waiting to greet me together with other officers, and I soon had a welcome glass of champagne in my hand. I was shown to my suite and invited to take lunch in The Colonnade.
This buffet restaurant was open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and on a few occasions during the cruise the evening was changed to a themed dinner with waiter service. After watching the Safety Video in my suite I attended a Welcome Aboard and Introduction to the Expedition Team in the Discovery Lounge.
This lounge was the venue for each of our daily briefings where we would learn about the following days activities and have an overview from the various expedition leaders about what we had seen and enjoyed that day. The excitement was mounting as at last we set sail for our 13-day Antarctica exploration cruise.
We now had two days at sea as we crossed the Drake Passage. This time was spent fitting all guests with the complimentary Helly Hansen Polar Shield two-piece parka. It consisted of a warm inner liner that could be worn separately and an outer fully water and windproof jacket. We were also taken to the boot room by the landing zone where we could choose our boots. There was an open-sided locker, with our suite number on, to keep the boots in for the duration of the cruise.
All guests attended a mandatory IAATO briefing to help us prepare for our expedition; this was followed by biosecurity checks of any outerwear brought on board which was checked for any seeds and removal of organic foreign bodies. We also had a briefing about the opportunities to take part in kayaking and submarine tours during the voyage.
The two day crossing passed quickly and by the second afternoon we were invited to our first wildlife watch with the expedition team at two outdoor venues as we approached Elephant Island, 150 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula. This was where Shackleton's crew took refuge and waited for 127 days before they were rescued.
Our Antarctic summer weather was bitterly cold and windy, so it was incredible to realise that they had survived that long during the Antarctic winter. At our briefing this evening we had a great surprise when we were told that we were on our way to Snow Island Hill, home of the Emperor penguins. Not many cruises visit this island and although not landing we were told we would have Zodiac tours to look for this wonderful species.
The days then passed with usually two tours, often one a Zodiac tour and the other a landing. Our briefing each evening gave us an overview of what we would see and the weather conditions to expect. We would also be told if a wet landing would be necessary which usually involved stepping from the Zodiac into ankle-deep water. There were always plenty of expedition leaders to help.
Our weather on the first and last day was cloudy and damp with some snow but for the five days in between we had sunshine and blue sky which set off the beauty of our surroundings perfectly. The staff on board were very friendly, personable and kind. My two suite attendants looked after me very well, even surprising me with a lovely hot bubble bath, with fairy lights draped over, waiting for me after a particularly cold day of tours. I felt very spoilt.
The food served on board was of a very high quality with The Restaurant open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, always waiter-served and with plenty of choice. The Colonnade was the buffet restaurant with a wide variety of food available for breakfast and lunch as well as the opportunity to order from a daily menu; some evenings they changed to a waiter-served dinner here that was served family style on sharing platters.
Sushi was available every evening in The Club, perfect with a pre-dinner cocktail. Most evenings I enjoyed dinner in The Restaurant, together with a few lunches and one breakfast. The spacious layout with multiple table sizes allowed for guests to dine as a couple or with friends. The service was always friendly with a different menu each evening and a red and white wine offered each time. If you did not like the wine suggested they would always provide an alternative. On two evenings we had speciality dining - one was a Chef's Dinner the other a Signature Dinner. These were seven course meals with a commemorative menu to take home and were both very enjoyable.
Before and after dinner each evening there was entertainment in The Club and the Constellation Lounge. This was provided by a duo and a multi instrumentalist pianist and they were all very talented; providing either background music or more of a show. Following guest feedback, Seabourn are in the process of providing more entertainment on board.
The cruise director gave two performances in the Discovery Lounge as well as themed performances in one of the lounges. On the evening of the last day of expeditions, an impromptu party was held in the Expedition Lounge, DJ'd by the head of IT; it was great fun!
My V1 suite was very comfortable with a large seating area adjacent to the balcony. The bathroom had a tub and separate shower. Each suite has a drying cabinet with a radiator and hanging space, perfect for drying any wet or damp clothes between expeditions.
Binoculars are provided in every suite which were a great benefit and could be used on board and on tour. I also returned one evening to find a very comprehensive Antarctica Cruising Guide book, full of destination information, pictures and maps - a perfect accompaniment to the itinerary.
The Expedition Team were exceedingly knowledgeable and when guiding us on our Zodiac tours were very happy to explain and answer questions. They were also proud that not a single planned tour had to be cancelled; we saw and enjoyed every visit that they had previously announced. We were very lucky.
The ages of guests for my cruise ranged from 14 years to mid 80s and we were all very well looked after. The journey was very smooth, even the Drake's Passage each way didn't create too much of a problem; I wasn't aware of anyone feeling ill.
We were advised that it was possible to visit the bridge at any time; I was shown around by one of the expedition team and had a fascinating time. One evening we enjoyed a Caviar Sailaway on the patio deck and on the last evening we had the Seabourn Signature Epicurean Event which were both very enjoyable. During the day as well as 'conversations' with the Expedition Team in the Discovery Centre, Trivia, unhosted Social Bridge Play, Spa Events, A Teddy Tumble and Afternoon Tea were offered throughout the cruise.
The return to Ushuaia and onward to Buenos Aires was very well organised. Overall I had an amazing time in this incredibly beautiful part of the world and Seabourn provided the perfect combination of expertise for the tours with comfort and luxury on board. I loved it!