We have been thinking about coming to Antarctica for a long time. What stopped us was the expense. Why were some tours outrageously expensive and others ridiculously expensive? What did you get for the money? Should we just sail past on a regular cruise ship and claim to have been to Antartica? Should we take a small ship, because it might allow us to spend more time ashore since no more than 100 can be on shore at any one time? It was hard to judge from afar. Would our relatively cheap one mean that we were missing out on something? According to our guide, the experience we have gotten last week is exactly the same as the one that others doing the pricier tours have done. He has worked them all with over forty visits to the continent and knows what he is talking about. The community of guides and naturalists that enjoy working in Antartica and have the required expertise is small. They all know each other and share ideas and experiences. He’s heard all the stories and experienced a few himself.
Our ship the Midnatsol began as a Norwegian ferry, part of the famous Hurtigruten line that unites all the towns on islands all long the Norwegian coast with the mainland. It was built to be in cold weather, a point in its favor. We even have heated bathroom floors. We love to tour with Overseas Adventure Travel and were on their smaller ship in the Mediterranean last fall. When it had trouble getting away from the dock due to high winds, we were glad we had not chosen to go to Antartica with them on that ship. The bottom deck on the Midnatsol housed the cheaper cabins (which we booked) and cars as a ferry. We were pleased to be upgraded two decks and discovered that the car ferry area had been converted to a staging area for the zodiaks, kayaks, snow shoes, boots, etc. Smaller ships have smaller zodiacs so transport and shuttle times are about the same as ours, although they could get close. Being on the Midnatsol sometimes make us feel as if we are in Norway. The kroner is the currency in use on the ship. The food served feels very Nordic; there hasn't been a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) that hasn't included salmon. I've never seen caviar on the breakfast buffet, but there are two kinds available every morning.