By Jess Cooper
In March 2019, I travelled to Antarctica as a guest of One Ocean Expeditions. The trip didn’t go quite as planned, but it was certainly an unforgettable experience that I enjoyed every minute of!
The RCGS Resolute is the newest ship in One Ocean Expedition’s fleet. She was built in 1993, but was well-renovated in November 2018. She’s got an ice-strengthed, Lloyd’s Ice Class 1AS hull – for us non-boat folk, it’s the world’s highest rating for an expedition ship! She’s a gorgeous and well-equipped vessel, certainly above and beyond for an expedition-style ship!
The RCGS Resolute is fitted with a steam room, sauna, indoor hot tub, an outdoor pool and a well-equipped gym. There’s also a comprehensive wellness program on board, offering RMT massage therapy & yoga sessions led by qualified instructors. There was also a mud room to keep boots & coats in, and two separate dining areas – the main dining room and the more casual bistro, both offering 270-degree panoramic views. The food was absolutely superb! Breakfast was buffet-style and a daily special of eggs benedict or the like. They were happy to accommodate any requests, including my preference for poached eggs for breakfast! The kitchen staff were very quick to learn people’s preferences and catered to your every need. Lunch and dinner were four courses in the main dining room – a starter, soup, main and dessert, each with several options. Lunch and dinner in the bistro were buffet-style. For the health conscious or early riser, you could delight in the Fruit Smoothie Bar with various healthy add-ons.
My room was incredibly spacious – bigger than some hotel rooms I’d stayed in which was definitely unexpected. There was an abundance of storage – three massive cupboards and under-bed storage. The couch also had drawers underneath if you still needed more storage room. The large picture window gave excellent views. One Ocean also provides a complete expedition gear package for you to use during your voyage including a weather-proof jacket and pants, rubber boots, trekking pole, water-proof dry-bag AND binoculars! Certainly saved me a LOT in packing!
The hotel staff were exceptional. One Ocean have a 1:4 staff to guest ratio, the highest in the expedition cruise industry. Each deck had an Adventure Concierge and a Cabin Steward. They were endlessly helpful, offering to help you unpack, taking care of every need, organising customised activities and attending to your room twice daily.
We aimed for two excursions per day, although less-than-ideal weather meant we only managed this on one day. Safety was paramount, especially during our first landing during a blizzard! Cones were set up and staff were positioned along the walk to ensure no one strayed too far. The scan in and out system as we left the boat also made sure no one got left behind.
Aside from the excursions, there was a lot of lectures offered as we crossed the Drake. One particularly interesting one I attended was by the photographer, who gave us tips and app recommendations for shooting great photos on your iPhone.
Between those and the excursions off the boat, there certainly wasn’t a lot of down time!
All the experts were engaging, interesting and eager to help. Even though it was the last expedition of the season, it certainly didn’t feel like it – they were just as excited as we were by every whale, penguin and seal spotting.
We were also lucky to have a whale research team on board the ship, who not only presented lectures, but gave patrons of the boat access to their on-board research facilities.
During the third day, we were called back before the end of our two-hour excursion due to poor weather conditions. All guests were called to the main dining room and we were informed that we would be heading back five days early, due to a massive storm heading straight for us. As disappointed as we all were, this is just an unfortunate risk that comes with visiting the wilderness of Antarctica!
One Ocean Expeditions handled this incredibly well, with the expedition staff providing extra lectures and activities to keep us entertained as we crossed the Drake back to Ushuaia. One day it was snowing so heavily, there was enough snow on the back deck to make snowmen. The staff organised an impromptu snowman building competition, and the kitchen staff whipped up some mulled wine for us to enjoy. It was the little things like this that really made me feel as though they were making the best of an unfortunate situation.
The first thing I did once I found out we were heading back was to rush to my room, pop my swimming cossie on and dive into the outdoor pool so I still got my Polar Plunge!
Even though I was only down there for a few days, I still felt the magic of Antarctica. Both the boat and the continent exceeded my expectations, and I would go back in a heartbeat.
While heading back early was disappointing, it was certainly a reminder that every adventure is at the mercy of Mother Nature, and there are never any guarantees. Sometimes you just have to make the best of it and be thankful for what you do get to experience!