By Casey Carr

Atlas Ocean Voyages is the Real Deal

If you have Instagram, you can check out my Story Highlights from this trip with lots of great video!

 

I returned last week from South America and the Christening/Naming ceremonies for Atlas Ocean Voyages ships the World Traveller & World Navigator.  It was a whirlwind trip, 3 nights onboard the ship and a short cruise through the Chilean Fjords, but it was enough to know that Atlas Ocean Voyages has something really special.

Our trip began in Buenos Aires and, full disclosure, my sister and I got mugged there.  You can read more about that experience HERE, but they had guns and they stole our wallets and phones.  It was scary, but we weren’t harmed, and I still love this city.

Lots to see and do here and most trips to Antarctica should consider at least a 1-night pre-stay in Buenos Aires, to reduce risk that you’ll miss the charter flight to Ushuaia, which is where most Antarctica expedition cruises depart from.  You could spend a week in Buenos Aires and not see it all.  If you have ample time, a day trip to an Estancia in the countryside is a must, and Iguassu Falls is close enough for a 2-3 night visit.

The Ushuaia Charter Flight

It was painless.  Atlas charters the whole flight so you have a private checkin desk and all of your fellow passengers will be onboard with you as well, so it’s a nice icebreaker.  Note that they will weigh your carry-on to ensure it’s under their max allowed, although I was overweight both directions and they just let me go (don’t count on that).  It’s a 3 ½ hour flight and includes meal service.

World Traveller & World Navigator

We’ve been selling Atlas Ocean Voyages for a year now and receiving terrific feedback from our guests, but this was my first time to experience it for myself.  This was also a unique experience because Atlas had invited me down to preview 2 of their ships, World Traveller & World Navigator, and also to participate in the christening and naming ceremonies for each ship.  We were onboard Traveller, sailing the Beagle Channel to the Garibaldi Glacier, where Navigator would meet up with us for the ceremonies.  Weather changed those plans slightly, but we did get to participate in both ceremonies with all their pomp & circumstance, their Godmother’s present to cut the ribbon, and complete with the smashing of a bottle of champagne against their masts for the christening.

These ships are absolutely stunning. I’ve seen pictures of the interiors but Atlas has minimal media out there, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was quite honestly blown away.  I have sailed on smaller expedition ships, including Scenic’s marvel of a ship the Eclipse last year, which has helicopters and a submarine onboard.  I like Atlas at least as much if not more.  Let’s start with the interior design, which Atlas calls “yacht-style” and they really nailed it.  Eclipse was beautiful but still felt to me like a cruise ship.  World Traveller and World Navigator feel like yachts, from the nautical patterns in the carpets & upholstery to the birch wood veneers that seem to wrap around every surface.

Inside the well appointed staterooms, you won’t find the standard metal walls with wallpaper, but floor to ceiling wood veneers, elegant large marble bathrooms with walk-in mosaic glass showers featuring rainfall head & body jets and L’Occitane amenities.  Plus small touches like a bar stocked with your preferred liquor or other beverage (requested in advance through your MyAtlas Portal), and your own binoculars for spotting wildlife. Several large chilled water bottles were refilled constantly by my stateroom attendant, who seemed to appear like a genie whenever I needed something.

Atlas offers the rare “Solo Stateroom” so that single travelers can avoid the large supplement that other cruise lines charge.  Otherwise the base level stateroom, Category B2, is a 270 sq/ft Veranda stateroom with a sitting area and an outdooer veranda.  The A Category Horizon Staterooms are basically the same as the B Category, but with a French Balcony – a floor to cieling window that will lower halfway, giving you a balcony but allowing you to keep that square footage as interior space.  From there, Deluxe Category staterooms feature a separate living room, and three suite categories feature even more space up to 465 sq/ft.

There is one main dining room serving breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Then a snack bar that is open all day, called Paula’s Pantry, where you can get sweets, sandwiches, juices, smoothies, coffee, tea and the like, anytime you feel like it.  Plus an always available room service menu for you homebody’s (Suite guests can order from the dining room menu).

There is a theater onboard where the Atlas Expedition Team will offer their onboard program, teaching guests about thewildlife, history and mystery of Antarctica as well as their other destinations.  The rest of the public spaces onboard are dedicated to gazing outside, with cozy lounges surrounded by large windows, and the Dome Lounge on the top deck at the front of the ship, with panoramic floor to ceiling windows and a glass domed roof.  This is sure to be the main gathering area for wildlife peepers, with quick access to the deck outside.  It’s also where high tea is served every afternoon.

Midship in the top deck there is a pool and hot tub.  I presume the pool will be used more in the summer season in Europe.  And finally the mudroom on Deck 3 is where you’ll dress for your excursions before stepping outside into your awaiting zodiac rafts.  I met the guide team, a fascinating group of individuals from all walks of life and several different continents.  Our zodiac excursion to look at the Pia Glacier was just a small taste of the wonders that await visitors to Antarctica.

These ships are also extremely eco-friendly.  They use a fuel that pollutes less, they process their waste before jettisoning, they even have a GPS positioning system that allows them not to drop anchor, which can damage eco-systems on the sea floor.  It’s a fact that they are rightly proud of.

Food

The cuisine onboard was fresh, creative and delicious.  Seafood is the specialty, with lobster, king grab, prawns, scallops and so much more on the menu.  If you aren’t adventurous, simple staples can always be found – sandwiches, fruit, meats & cheeses, a burger.  Dinner service took about an hour and a half, with several courses served with excellent presentation and paired with regional wines.  It’s the kind of dining experience where everyone ends up trying their neighbor’s dish, because it all looks and smells so fantastic.

Breakfast is set out buffet style but there is an ala carte menu as well, with several options including my favorite, omelettes made to order.  Lunch is similar, buffet style but also with an ala carte menu featuring a very nice selection.  And again, if you want to eat lunch in your underwear, it’s your vacation and room service is an option.

Itineraries

Atlas Ships will sail Antarctica for the entire season, with itineraries that range from 9 to 14 nights.  When you look at an Atlas Antarctica itinerary, you’ll notice that the days in Antarctica say “Captain’s Choice” which Atlas describes thusly: “Captain’s Choice ports of call add to the sense of adventure and an element of surprise. Your ship’s captain takes you to the best areas for wildlife viewing and expertly navigates to remote and hidden landings for a more intimate destination immersion.”

I talked to the Expedition Leader Jonathan onboard the Traveller, and here is how he described it.  “What we do is really wonderful compared to other cruise lines who set their itineraries and follow them no matter the conditions, no matter if the animals aren’t there.  If the conditions are bad, you miss your port of call, that’s it, but we move according to where our guests will have the best experience.  We can follow the animals, the weather.  It’s this flexibility, combined with our expertise and our captain’s expertise navigating Antarctica that allows us to provide the best experience for our guests who have come all this way to see it.”

Beyond the Antarctica Season, Atlas will sail the Arctic & Norwegian Fjords, as well as Iceland & Greenland and the Mediterranean.  Because of their small size, they’ll be able to visit ports that the larger ships can’t get to, and drop their activity platform in small sheltered bays to allow guests to swim, kayak or jetski (yes, they are equipped with two of them).

Visit both the Arctic and Antarctica, and you can be “Bi-Polar”.  I wish that were my joke but I stole it.

I have a lot of people sailing on Atlas this year, and I could not be more thrilled with what I just experienced.  Atlas has the right leadership at the helm with former EVP of Oceania Cruises, James Rodriquez as their new CEO (along with MANY other alums of Oceania Cruises), and their ships are truly beautiful.  They’ve got something really special and they know it.  If you are reading this and are booked on an Atlas cruise this year, buckle up for an amazing adventure.  If you aren’t booked on an Atlas Cruise this year, what are you waiting for?

There has never been a better time to travel to Antarctica.  Atlas has taken a big step into the market with some mind boggling cruise fares.  In September they launched a “2nd Guest Sails Free” offer that was so popular and successful that they just carried it right on through the Fall, and this year you can Sail to Antarctica with Atlas in the neighborhood of $5000 – $10000, depending which Category you prefer.

Ready to see it for yourself?  Check out our Atlas Ocean Voyages Page or reach out using the form below!

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