Epic Antarctic Adventure Begins – Aboard the Ocean Endeavor

I’m honestly not even sure where to begin with this part of the trip. I’m standing at my kitchen island browsing through page after page after page of notes and quotes and musings in my travel journal that I take with me everywhere I travel. I have literally thousands of photos to edit and sort through. I have absolutely no idea how to even go about breaking down the stops, zodiac excursions, or the cruise and crew themselves. My original goal was to post our final two trips of 2022 before leaving for South East Asia at the end of March. Epic fail on my part since I am not even close to finishing trip one of two from the end of last year. I still have all of Antarctica, plus Costa Rica and Panama on the to do list. Where has all the time gone?!

After much deliberation, I have decided to describe the ship, Ocean Endeavor, and post up a nice little photography teaser of the astonishing place that is Antarctica and the very end of the world. And then gradually work on the full posts. Procrastination has prevailed for now. So here we go!

The Ocean Endeavor is a nine deck ship, significantly smaller than Caribbean ships with far more stabilization installed than the tropic island hoppers. The waters tend to be MUCH rougher where these baby-sized vessels travel. There are also far fewer people packed into the steel floating device. We had a whopping 194 passengers with 200 staff members aboard the ship for the entirety of the expedition. A lot more intimate than getting stuffed into the huge people movers crammed with obese, waddling travelers floating around the sunny northern seas. I hate regular cruises, but this one I could absolutely handle!

Ocean Endeavor was built in Poland in 1981 and was still in remarkably good shape, replete with several lounges and restaurants, a gym and sauna, hot tub, doctors quarters, mud room, and library. Personally, we did not see anything lower than Deck 4 (I take that back… we saw the stairwell of Deck 3 as we hobbled towards the gang plank bound for the zodiacs). The only reason half the passengers even saw the 4th deck was because the mud room was down there, which is where we dressed to depart the ship on the zodiacs. We peasants, however, had our accommodation on that level as well. It made for lots of stumbling up and down stairs. Honestly, I was just happy we at least got a porthole!

The basic layout of the Ocean Endeavor:

Deck 4: Mud room and domiciles – For dressing and sleeping.

Deck 5: Reception and doctor and more rooms – For handling of onboard financials, medical needs and sleeping.

Deck 6: Nautilus Lounge, Polar Boutique, Compass Club and Polaris Restaurant – For lounging and drinking, shopping, coffee preparation and reading, and eating.

Deck 7: Aurora Lounge – For… very little honestly. I think I only stepped foot in there a handful of times.

Deck 8: Sauna, gym and spa, and bridge – For steaming, working out, massages and piloting the ship.

Deck 9: Meridian Club – For taking in the views, reading and playing games, and yoga-ing.

Each day, we dined in The Polaris Restaurant where meals were served buffet style. Group meetings were generally held in the Nautilus Lounge where we enjoyed adult beverages from the bar while listening to the expedition guides provide boat loads of information. I spent much time flying around the gym as the ship rocked from side to side during my daily workouts. The Aurora Lounge was great for reading and playing board games, along with a few rounds of yoga. It was the ultimate test of one’s balance! There is also a hot tub, pool and sauna, but I never managed to take advantage of any of them. All of the furniture was bolted to the ground and handrails were installed in every space imaginable. Eventually, it became obvious why.

Sailing away!!!

Open air decks were littered around the boat, allowing for views of the pristine landscape. When waters were rough, however, access to these decks was forbidden. Sadly, I was not permitted to do a handstand on the continent itself. ONLY muck boots and walking sticks are allowed to touch the ground per IAATO guidelines. I had to settle for boat handstand on an outdoor deck with the beautiful, snowy, polar mountains in the background.

Interesting tid bit… the Ocean Endeavor was originally a Soviet ship for the first decade of it’s life with the port of registry listed as various places in the former Soviet Union. Wild, that we spent nine days sleeping aboard a Cold War Era ship. Since it’s sinister beginning, it has undergone multiple refittings, and I’m sure barely resembles what it did in during its malevolent inception. It is now owned through a joint venture with Intrepid Travel and Chimu Adventures registered in Nassau, Bahamas.

Second Fun fact… we had zero seafood while on the ship. What the hell?!?! Some of the freshest seafood is pulled from the waters around Ushuaia. Why, you ask? Any of the seafood obtained there was not up to the standards of Intrepid Travel – only sustainable food was served to us from local providers. Okay, I can live with chicken and beef for the good of the environment for nine days.

After boarding the Ocean Endeavor, we were greeted with a welcome juice made of only the freshest fruits. After unceremoniously dumping our belongings in our state room, we all piled onto the upper decks to snap photos of Ushuaia in the setting sun. We watched with anticipation as the dock crew untied the ship and prepared for our departure. Loud cheers and clapping erupted as the ropes flopped into the bay. We were underway.

The next morning we would awake at the Lost Continent of Antarctica. I smile just thinking of the sights that tantalized my senses at daybreak.

9 thoughts on “Epic Antarctic Adventure Begins – Aboard the Ocean Endeavor

    1. There will be multiple posts about this expedition… I still have no clue how to break it down! It was the Hubs’ dream trip, and I was able to find it (with camping options as he demanded) for a significant sale price a couple of years ago. Absolutely worth the large price tag!!! I will gladly send you even more information about company, booking, flights, ship, costs, etc. We loved every minute of it – even when we were falling all over the ship because of the Drake Shake.

      We honestly have been traveling constantly as of late. We’re trying to make up for the debacle that 2020 and 2021 were to our cancelled travel plans. The SE Asia trip we leave for (hopefully – the other half has been waiting 11 weeks for renewed passport) was terminated by the company SEVEN times over the last 2 years. Hope you guys have some exciting trips coming up too!

      1. A trip like that would be many years out. Like maybe even a decade, but I’ll hold you to that promise if we ever do get there. 🙂
        We spent Christmas in Death Valley and just got back from a week in Jamaica. This summer will be France and Andorra, followed by Charleston in the fall.
        Yikes on the passport. As SOON as we get back from Europe this summer my husband HAS to renew his so we’re ready for Portugal next March. I’ve heard there are long waits and this freaks me out! I hope your husband gets it in time (and with lots of time to spare).

      2. Sounds like you guys have some great destinations coming up as well!

        Good news on the passport… There is a phone number with real people answering the calls that can address the issue if his happens to come back later than promised. Apparently, the call takers can light a fire under the asses of the lazy people at the passport office. The husband’s passport was created on March 16th (after calling on the 15th), and because he paid for the expedited shipping, it arrived by the 20th. PHEW!!! SE Asia, here we come!

      3. That IS good news. If we have trouble, I’ll definitely be contacting you for that number! Save travels to SE Asia! We were there right before the pandemic struck (Laos, Cambodia), so I can’t wait to hear about your visit.

    1. Soooo amazing!!! I have thousands of great photos and videos of the wildlife we saw to post. I never thought I’d say I would not hesitate to pay that hefty sum to go back sometime in the future. It was just that astounding an experience.

  1. Wow, what a fantastic adventure. You could even go as far as describing the Antarctica cruise as the ultimate journey. Ever since I finished reading a book about Tom Crean who figured prominently in three of the four major British expeditions to the Antarctic a century ago and spent more time in the ice and snow than either of the more celebrated, I considered going on such an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip, too. I mean – who wouldn’t want to spend days looking for wildlife like penguins, humpback or mink whales, and even leopard seals? All the while admiring the jaw-dropping glaciers and mountains of this extraordinary landscape. Thanks for sharing and inspiring. Aiva xx

    1. If it helps encourage traveling to the Lost Continent, the ship we were on was always nice and warm, not huge like Caribbean cruises (approximately 400 people max), and the people that we befriended were VERY like minded travelers. There will be a few more posts about this trip, I’ve just procrastinated on finishing the posts due to the insane number of photos I took. We even wished we’d had more time in Ushuaia in Argentina. BEAUTIFUL country and city!

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