M/V Plancius

Antarctica

At a Glance

  • M/V Plancius the latest vessel to join the Oceanwide fleet

  • Predominantly shore based and focused on education as well as exploration

  • Encounter incredible wildlife such as whales, penguins, seabirds and seals on your voyage

  • Comprises 54 comfortable cabins, all with en-suite facilities

  • A highly experienced expedition team will be on board with you

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Best time to Visit

Good time to visit

Average time to visit

Antarctic weather is a lesson in extremes. Antarctica is the world’s coldest, windiest and driest continent. During the summer months the winds abate considerably and the weather is surprisingly comfortable, averaging between 20 and 50F. Summertime also means 18-24 hours of sunlight which allows life to flourish for a brief summer period. Long days also allow extensive exploration by small ship cruise to Antarctica. Antarctic weather allows for a short season of cruising from November to March each year.

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Description

The M/V Plancius is the latest expedition vessel to join the Oceanwide fleet, and offers superlative 11-day expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula. A truly unforgettable journey experiencing the power and savage beauty of the White Continent.

Originally an oceanographic research vessel for the Dutch Navy, the M/V Plancius has been thoroughly refitted to offer 54 comfortable cabins, all with en suite facilities.

The nature of its cruises into the Antarctic regions will very much be focussed on exploration and education, spending as much time ashore as possible. There is a restaurant/lecture room and spacious observation lounge (with bar and library) which has picture windows that provide unparalleled opportunities to enjoy the scenery and wildlife and, when the weather is kind, there are large open deck spaces, with full walk-around on one of the decks. A highly experienced expedition team comprising an expedition leader and five lecture guides are also on board to help you make the most of your time.

Various itineraries, all starting from Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego, are on offer which range from the classic 11-day Antarctic Peninsula cruise to 19-day itineraries that include the Falklands and South Georgia. One thing for sure is that you will encounter dramatic scenery and incredible wildlife such as whales, penguins, seabirds and seals on your Antarctic voyage.

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Accommodation

There are 53 cabins (all ensuite), some of which have portholes and some windows. Four cabins are quadruple, three are triple and the remaining 46 cabins (standard - c. 15 sq m, and superior - c. 21 sq m) are mostly twin with some double superior cabins.

Facilities

The Plancius offers a lecture-cum-dining room, a bar and observation lounge with library, and the open deck spaces offer excellent viewing opportunities of the wildlife.

Activities

All excursions are included. Depending on the voyage, you may spend several days aboard the ship, followed by a series of landings, each several hours long. On some voyages you land two or three times every day. During your time in the high latitudes, you will have almost continuous daylight, which means that excursions may be scheduled before breakfast, after dinner, or even in the middle of the ‘night'. Often the light for photography is best at these times.

Floorplans

Floor Plan - M/V Plancius

Floor Plan - M/V Plancius

Reviews

4

(Press)

My long-time fascination with the exploits of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton led me aboard the MV Plancius on a three-week journey to the Antarctic Peninsula, via the remote and windswept Falkland and South Georgia islands. Shackleton didn't reach the South Pole - his ship was trapped and crushed in the ice of the Weddell Sea - but he ranks as one of history's great leaders, returning to rescue his crew without the loss of a single man.

Among the Antarctic hero's greatest achievements on that ill-fated 1915 expedition was an incredible 15-day dash across the Southern Ocean in an open boat with five crew hammered by a hurricane, in constant danger of capsizing. I was keen to see a little of what he saw, not follow in his footsteps. Yet only eight days into my voyage, I, too, find myself tossed around in those same seas off South Georgia in a small open boat in a force-10 gale and a three-meter swell with nine terrified companions.

We land at Cooper Bay after breakfast, in overcast conditions but little wind, to see nesting macaroni penguins and the rare South Georgia pipit, Antarctica's only song bird. We're back on board our Zodiac (an XL-sized rubber ducky) and on our way to another beach to see elephant seals when the sky darkens suddenly and a strong wind blows up. Our driver turns us around quickly and heads back to the ship, anchored a few kilometers offshore, as the storm gathers with frightening and unpredictable speed.

We watch with a mixture of anxiety and admiration as the driver of a Zodiac ahead of us unloads his nervous passengers and - in a desperate acrobatic feat - shoves an aged and rotund passenger on to the ship's landing platform while executing his own reverse flip back into the Zodiac.

We're on the maiden voyage of the Plancius, a former Dutch research ship able to carry 110 passengers. There are a few teething problems, such as an intermittent public address system and uneven air-conditioning (and, strangely, no thermometer on board until a passenger finds one in her luggage) but the ship is sparkling clean, newly fitted-out and attended by unfailingly helpful cabin and hotel staff.

The meals, especially the fish, are superb - no mean feat considering there are 500 meals a day to prepare and on a couple of those heavy-weather days there are more smashed plates than a Greek wedding. Bar prices are reasonable: a bottle of decent white wine sells for €14 ($21.50), beer for €2.50. And the captain wears slippers. It's reassuring when the ship's skipper stands on the bridge in comfy tartan slippers. A ship can have helicopters and high-tech stabilisers but if the captain stands there in gumboots and oilskins, I'm off.

Our only landing on the Antarctic continent is at Brown Bluff, an ice-capped, flat-topped extinct volcano on the peninsula's northeastern tip. All other landings are at penguin colonies on islands off the peninsula.

The advantage of a relatively small ship and passenger list on an Antarctic voyage is the ability of everyone to go ashore at the same time - 100 passengers in 10 Zodiacs - compared with the routine on large cruise ships, where more than 1000 passengers have to wait to be ferried ashore and landings are restricted to 70 people at a time. The downside of a small ship is greater vulnerability to seasickness. However, our Dutch ship doctor dispenses very effective patches, unavailable in Australia, which we place behind the ear.

A voyage to Antarctica is an adventure of a lifetime, even though for an hour off Cape Disappointment, I wondered if it was the last of a lifetime.

4

(Press)

We're on the maiden voyage of the Plancius, a former Dutch research ship able to carry 110 passengers. There are a few teething problems, such as an intermittent public address system and uneven air-conditioning (and, strangely, no thermometer on board until a passenger finds one in her luggage) but the ship is sparkling clean, newly fitted-out and attended by unfailingly helpful cabin and hotel staff.

The meals, especially the fish, are superb - no mean feat considering there are 500 meals a day to prepare and on a couple of those heavy-weather days there are more smashed plates than a Greek wedding. Bar prices are reasonable: a bottle of decent white wine sells for €14 ($21.50), beer for €2.50.

And the captain wears slippers. It's reassuring when the ship's skipper stands on the bridge in comfy tartan slippers. A ship can have helicopters and high-tech stabilisers but if the captain stands there in gumboots and oilskins, I'm off.

Experiences

  • Exploring the Lemaire Channel

    Boasting some of the most spectacular mountain scenery and icebergs, the Lemaire Channel is a truly beautiful part of the Antarctic Peninsula to explore, both on your ship and on Zodiac excursions.

  • Spectacular South Georgia

    Longer Antarctic expeditions include time exploring South Georgia, arguably the highlight of your cruise. With breathtaking scenery, huge congregations of king and macaroni penguins and amazing birdlife, there is so much to discover here.

  • The Drake Passage

    The stretch of sea between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica is the Drake Passage, an often turbulent stretch of sea that marks the beginning and end of your journey south. Take in the midnight sunset and watch albatrosses fly alongside you.

  • The Falkland Islands

    With clear skies, seamless horizons and large numbers of penguins and albatross to be found on white sand beaches and amongst tufts of vibrant tussock grass, The Falkland Islands are rich in natural beauty and a visit here is culturally fascinating too.

  • Visiting Port Lockroy

    Port Lockroy is a British-built research station situated on Goudier Island and restored into a museum about the early explorers in 1996. A fascinating place to explore, and plenty of gentoo penguins outside to entertain you, too.

  • Whales, seals and dolphins

    Whilst most visitors find the penguins the primary draw in terms of Antarctic wildlife, the marine life includes numerous species of seal, dolphin and whale. Species include humpback whales, orcas, elephant and leopard seals, and hourglass dolphins.

  • Zodiac excursions

    One of the real highlights of an Antarctic cruise is getting out on the water in small Zodiac vessels, the ideal way to get up close to the icebergs, wildlife and marine life.

Location & directions

Antarctica

The starting point of your voyage to Antarctica is Ushuaia, the southern most city in South America.

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