Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Traveller’s Antarctica expedition surprised me…in a good way! Prior to my journey, I had serious doubts based upon the prior management, but hopes due to the new one. However, because of this, I don’t think I really had any particular expectations. I was, however, concerned about what sort of Antarctica experience would be delivered with pricing that was literally 25% of pre-Covid pricing for similar expeditions.
Possibly more important than my specific analysis is one overriding fact: Atlas seems to have captured its demographic, and those folks were extremely happy with what Atlas delivered.
Add to that Atlas’s staff – while being a work in progress in many areas – being genuinely sweet, nice, and motivated to the point of being contagious; which, combined with the foregoing, made this one of the friendliest and down-to-earth cruises I’ve ever been on. (Those that know me know that I usually keep to myself most of the time, but on this journey I interacted with the other guests regularly.)
That said, let’s get into my Reflections!
Many of my observations in my prior articles:
were extremely positive, with a few exceptions, the reality is that my observations have been based upon a relatively new cruise line, operating on a very tight budget, in a remote area, in a market where the best expedition staff and hotel teams generally go where the money is best. In other words, Atlas Ocean Voyages is operating with one hand tied behind its back and doing a heck of a job considering all that.
The World Traveller is one of the most “yacht-like” cruise ships I have been on. The staterooms and suites finishes are, well, sexy. While storage is a bit tight except in the top suites (and then not excessive) the staterooms and suites are comfortable and function well, if not a bit tight. A few misses made me shake my head, such as no drawer at the desk/vanity and small furnishings on the balconies, but overall you feel good in your accommodations.
One thing you must be prepared for is the cost of the internet. You are given 1 GB complimentary. For those that just want to send a few emails, that works. But for those that are working, like me, it is a drop in the bucket. Packages are available for up to 5 GB for $350. Making matters worse, once you assign your data to a device you can’t move it to another one, so you need to pick and stick with it…or buy another package. With my articles with photos, social media, and taking care of clients, I spent almost $1,000 just on internet!
The public spaces are beautiful and, especially the Atlas Lounge, keeps the yacht-like nautical feel. The Dome Lounge on Deck 7 gives you extraordinary open views with an easily accessible outer deck.
The Auditorium is far forward on the ship and is steeply sloped so you are looking down at the speakers. While comfortable in calm seas, when the ship is rocking, except for the most hardened folks, this venue is perfect to seasickness to kick in. Fortunately, all presentations are simulcast into the suites on a dedicated channel.
There is one dining room (Lisboa Restaurant) on polar expeditions (an additional al fresco restaurant is available on warm weather cruises) that is a combination of buffet for breakfast (special orders for eggs, pancakes, etc. are offered) and most lunches with dinner being a plated affair.
I, personally, found the cuisine to be impressive – especially at this price point – for a few reasons, with the main one being – if you know how and what to order – a creative and varied International Menu is always available. I truly enjoyed rabbit, octopus, Portugues garlic shrimp, fresh spaghetti with mushroom sauce and truffles, fresh pappardelle with oxtail stew and braised tomatoes, Indonesian, Arabic, Brazilian, Portuguese, French, etc. inspired menus – using the spices that are supposed to be used and in the proper amounts – along with Americana items such as really good Wagyu beef hamburgers, Chili Dogs, and Meatloaf.
Not every dish was fantastic, but most were very good and, heck, just to have the opportunity to try so many cuisines on a small ship…in Antarctica…is worthy of bonus points.
I did hear some grumblings by some who were more expecting of an American cruise or restaurant experience and, let’s face it, my culinary opinions lean pretty far out into the “Cool! Let’s try that!” rather than “I know what I like and that is what I want“, which is more the norm. So possibly Atlas could deliver a bit more of that?
There is an “open bar” with some premium liquors being extra. However, the offerings – while of good quality – are limited. For example, there are two quality gins and two Scotch whiskies included, and only a couple of premium offerings for each.
On the other hand, the included wines were international (with a focus on Portuguese) and quite good for what they were. The Premium Wine List is fairly limited, but with a few selections of white and red from a number of European and South American countries…and very few American wines.
There is a troublesome catch, however. If you order even but a sip of alcohol – be it a mimosa at breakfast or a beer at lunch – you are blocked from going out on an expedition (zodiac cruise or landing) for the remainder of the day. This draconian policy is truly troubling as discussed in my last article. Suffice it to say, safety is one thing, this is another…and something no other expedition company employs. However, as the focus is on experiencing Antarctica you have to decided which is more important…and I always choose Antarctica.
Now, for the expedition. It is what I lovingly call, “Expedition Lite“. Yes, you do have options for kayaking and camping, but there is a conservative approach to what landings can be attempted, what your landing and zodiac cruise experience includes, as well as the lectures offered.
The Expedition Team is, overall, young, enthusiastic, and nice. But with a few solid exceptions, they are not the most experienced. Also, World Traveller was shorthanded, especially for qualified zodiac drivers; so the experts were doing double-duty and, thus, were not as available in numbers or expertise on landings as would be desired. However, the guests were happy…like really happy…with their expedition experience. That is, of course, the most important thing.
However, if you don’t know what you should know, then you have no reason not to be happy. But I do know, and I was – to a degree – disappointed. I would, for example, try to fill in some information to those guests asking questions during or after a landing or discussing the excessive snow’s impact on the success (or lack of it) of the breeding season and its timing, etc. This sort of thing should be pushed out by the expedition team to each arriving batch of guests so they become more a part of the experience rather than a mere observer/picture taker.
Another disappointment was that the expedition team didn’t provide enough lectures or contemporaneous discussions on relevant topics. They didn’t even mention “Shackleton”, and “Ross” was only mentioned as in the Ross Sea. Discussions of Exploration and Exploitation (whale and seal hunting…and what about mineral rights?) are essential to understanding and appreciating the history, biology, politics…and, thus, the future…of Antarctica!
There also should have been more pre-experience ethology and ecology discussions of penguins, whales, and seals so that the guests weren’t just looking at them, but understanding and experiencing what they were seeing. The same holds true for how climate change is affecting such things as declining sea ice which is affecting krill populations which is, in turn, affecting, for example, declining Adele penguin populations in some areas and the boom of Gentoo penguin populations.
But, as I said, the guests were happy and the reality of it is, that as much as I would have liked for there to be a more enriched experience, Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Traveller did deliver Antarctica and some fantastic experiences.
It is worthy to note that the World Traveller captain was very much on top of the weather and sea conditions and, as a few other ships did, sort of cut the last day short so that the ship would slip in between two large storm systems as we crossed The Drake Passage. He and the expedition team kept us well-informed. We had some seas, but nothing terrible. And the World Traveller showed that she has both impressive speed and stability.
In fact, as we successfully raced in between the storms, we watched Argentina win the World Cup with snacks being passed during the game. It is too bad we wound up sitting in the Beagle Channel rather than arriving early into Ushuaia, as it would have been fantastic to have been partying in the streets…or should I say “street”. LOL. Can’t have everything.
Our charter flight home was fine. Atlas takes your luggage from outside your stateroom or suite the night before and you don’t see it again until you arrive in Buenos Aires. Nice!But when you arrive there is no Atlas representative…and you are on your own, possibly unless you have booked a post-cruise night with Atlas.
Just know that the EZE airport has few amenities until after check-in…and you must watch your luggage and carry-ons like a hawk! And if your charter flight is into AEP (the domestic airport) you will have to arrange a transfer to EZE. (With the crime issues in Buenos Aires I highly recommend you arrange a private transfer rather than an Uber or taxi; eliminating the chance of them taking off with your luggage!)
Reflecting back, as I do, this relative newcomer, Atlas Ocean Voyages, delivered what I would call “A Great Value for Money Experience”…and a very nice one at that. Overall, I was impressed with the experience delivered by the ship’s hardware, staff, and cuisine; especially seeing the staff improve on an almost day-to-day basis.
Yes, there are a few things I think need to be changed and improved. But those things may or may not be important to you. They obviously are to me. And, to be fair, those things are addressed on a number of other expedition experiences…but, importantly, at a significantly higher expedition fare cost.
I do have to note that my experience was only on an Antarctica expedition, and things may be different on a more traditional cruise in warmer climates. I just don’t know.
In short, I see really good things in Atlas Ocean Voyages’ future as a premium, small ship, cruise line. stay tuned with Goldring Travel!