Incredible Antarctica Trip of a Lifetime with a Fantastic Crew!
I cannot overstate just how impressed I was with the fantastic experience that Quark Expeditions provided during my recent trip to Antarctica. The education, fun, sight-seeing, service, food, accommodation, and care that everyone on the cruise--from the talented and knowledgeable and adventurous Expedition Guides to the warm and gracious food service staff to the wonderful and cheerful hotel and housekeeping crew--made the trip an absolute joy throughout!
Our interaction with Quark began way last year, via regular email correspondence with Laura to book our trip. She was exceedingly helpful and answered our plentiful questions and helped facilitate a Triple Cabin aboard the Ocean Diamond ship. A couple months before out trip, however, we were ecstatically surprised to find out that we had been upgraded to a Suite, doubling our lodging real estate!
Our cabin was spacious (by ship standards) and clean, with storage and everything efficiently organized. Our housekeeper, Tony, greeted us with a smile everyday and always had a cheerful attitude, even if we interrupted him (which humorously tended to be a habit... we always seemed to be coming back to our room right when he arrived to clean in).
The food was fantastic. Food tends to be on a cruise, and this was no exception. Breakfast and lunch were buffets daily, with minor variation in the menu for breakfast but different meat and fish entrees, vegetables, potatoes, soup, and grains for lunch each day. Dinner was always a different four course meal and absolutely delectable. The fantastic chefs conjured up cuisines from all around the world, providing great variety each day.
Of course, the highlight and reason for our trip was the actual exploration of Antarctica, which lay in the highly capable charge of the Expedition team. We had excursions twice a day--in the morning after breakfast and in the afternoon a couple of hours after lunch. The typical excursion consisted of dividing the boat in half to produce groups under the 100-person maximum allowed on Antarctic land under the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty System. One group would go to shore, where they were presented with a variety of paths that could lead to wildlife colonies, high overlooks, or fun walks along the shore. The other group would cruise in Zodiac boats, gaining a different perspective of the landing site or chasing marine wildlife or exploring the natural features of whatever bay or harbor we were in.
We were highly impressed by how quickly and efficiently the staff operated. Zodiac cruises often launched faster than the announced schedule, which kept us on their toes. As with the ship staff, the Expedition crew was constantly full of smiles and great energy, clearly showing their passion for polar exploration.
Our transit days also featured multiple seminars and courses covering Antarctic history, wildlife, and science, with a few miscellaneous classes like photography courses thrown in for anyone interested. We also had expedition recaps and assorted activities on the ship during the late afternoons and evenings to bring people together and to review the past day and upcoming plans.
That doesn't mean things were all serious either. We had an incredible outdoor barbecue in the Lemaire Channel, a fun Polar Plunge event where brave souls jumped into the icy Antarctic waters, a truly magical and unforgettable overnight camping adventure, and plenty of nighttime partying for those interested in social activities. It was so wonderful meeting so many kindred spirits who shared the love of travel and exploration.
Throughout it all, the Expedition staff was fantastic. Our fearless Expedition Leader, Niki, was tirelessly amazing in greeting us on shore at every landing, plotting our courses, and coordinating the excursions and landings. We loved spending time with guides like Lauritz, Ema, Johann, History Dave, and Jake, just to name a few. Their enthusiasm and love for their fields of expertise were contagious, and they really helped us appreciate the grandeur and majesty of our surroundings even more.
Add to that all the whales, seals, penguins, and sea birds we saw, set amongst an incredible and resplendent landscape of pure and pristine ice and snow, and you had an unforgettable trip. Thanks, Quark, for facilitating the trip of a lifetime. Our experience was so grand that we were already plotting how we might be able to partake in another Quark adventure in the future!