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Plancius in the Antarctic Peninsula

Oceanwide Expeditions

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Pioneers of ship-based expeditions, inventors of Basecamp Antarctica, and one of the first companies to take travelers to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen. With our own fleet of ice-strengthened vessels, we get you deep into the heart of this otherworldly environment so it can get deep into yours.

Oceanwide Expeditions Cruises

Oceanwide Expeditions Ships

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Plancius in the Antarctic Peninsula The sun rising over an Arctic village Observing the gentoo penguin Zodiac cruising in Antarctica Mysterious Spitsbergen scenery Zodiac cruising in Spitsbergen

FAQs

What is the difference between an ice-strengthened ship and an icebreaker ship?

An ice-strengthened ship is a ship made of steel. These ships are made to get through the ice at Antarctica and the Arctic. Nowadays, most of the ships that cruise to Antarctica and the Arctic are ice-strengthened ships. Ortelius and Plancius are both are ice-strengthened ships. Ortelius has the highest ice-class notation (UL1 equivalent to 1A) and is therefore very suitable to navigate in solid one-year sea ice and loose multi-year pack ice. Plancius has an ice-class notation of 1D.
Icebreakers are needed if there is a trade route to keep ice free, if there are military reasons for patrolling in areas with heavy sea ice or if you need to work in heavy ice conditions, particularly in winter. Icebreakers are expensive to build and very expensive in fuel to run (sometimes powered by gas turbines or a nuclear generator). They are uncomfortable to travel in on the open sea. 

What is the currency for Arctic/Antarctica?

The currency on board our vessels is the Euro, but it is also possible to pay with USD on board.

Are binoculars expensive and does Oceanwide Expeditions provide binoculars?

Good binoculars are not cheap but will give more joy while looking at wildlife and can last a lifetime. At the lower end of the price range there are still reasonable binoculars for sale but try them out before you buy them. Normally we do not provide binoculars on board but on some of our departures it is possible to borrow a pair of binoculars from Swarovski Optik for the duration of the voyage.
       
How much cash per person should we bring?

We advise that you bring as little cash as possible. You can pay the bill at the end of your expedition with a credit card while still on board.

You might need some cash for purchases during excursions, but most places also accept payment with credit cards. 

For tipping the crew and expedition team, however, we prefer that you use cash.

Do I have to be really fit to join an expedition?

You must be in good general health, and you should be able to walk several hours per day. The expedition is ship-based and physically not very demanding. Although we spend as much time as possible on shore, you are welcome to remain aboard the ship if you like.

To join most excursions, you must be able to get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level to board the Zodiacs. Staff will assist you in and out of the boats. This will become progressively easier with practice. On shore it can be slippery and rocky. We will be traveling in remote areas without access to sophisticated medical facilities, so you must not join an expedition if you have a life-threatening condition or need daily medical treatment.

Any major health problem or physical condition that requires emergency care must be brought to our attention prior to the voyage. In order to let us know about health problems, please fill out our Personal Information Form, which you will receive from us at time of booking. This form must be completed and returned within one month after booking. Since we travel in very remote areas, a medical evacuation by air is often impossible.

What is an expedition cruise?

Expeditions cruises are trips that focus on maximum contact with local wildlife, natural phenomena, and locations of cultural/scientific significance. These trips are best enjoyed in relatively small groups led by highly experienced expedition guides.

Are there age restrictions for the voyages?

Children must be at least three years old to sail with us. We do not have an upper age restriction, but all passengers must be mentally and physically capable of making the voyage.

Can I bring children on my voyage?

Yes, but the minimum age we can allow on board is three years old. The maximum age we consider to be a child is 16 years old. We offer a 40% child discount in certain cabin types on a selection of voyages for children between three and 15 years old.

Can I fly my UAV/quadcopter/drone during an Oceanwide Expeditions trip?

Oceanwide Expeditions does not allow recreational UAVs/quadcopters/drones during its voyages, either on the ship or off.

The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) has prohibited the recreational use of UAVs/quadcopters/drones on member vessels, Zodiac boats, and during scheduled landings. Also, the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands have issued a ban on recreational use of these devices in their territories.

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) has also prohibited the use of UAVs/quadcopters/drones on member vessels and during cruise excursions. 

Oceanwide Expeditions is a full member of both organizations and supports their decisions.

How long has Oceanwide Expeditions been running expeditions?

Even though Oceanwide Expeditions was founded in 1996, we look back at 32+ years of experience in expedition cruising with a thorough knowledge of the areas visited. The Dutch Plancius Foundation (1981-1996) was the predecessor of Oceanwide Expeditions. ​

What would be the longest delay for medical attention during a trip to the Arctic?

In Svalbard and West Greenland we are generally within helicopter reach and a medevac is usually not more than some hours away if we have a serious problem. In East Greenland there are only limited aerial medevac possibilities and an evacuation via a remote airfield or to the hospital in Ittoqqortoormiit, Scoresbysund, could take 1-3 days to realize depending on location of the medical emergency and weather (flight options or ship based evacuation). All scenarios are highly weather dependent. 
 
It is therefore obligatory to acquire a travel insurance that also includes coverage for (medical) evacuation/repatriation costs by helicopter, plane or ship. After the booking process you will be asked to provide us with details of the acquired insurance policy.
If you are in poor health or in doubt, please consult your physician for a check-up that you are healthy enough to travel to such remote places with limited to no medical facilities.

On our motor vessels we have a qualified physician onboard on all trips. The infirmary onboard our motor vessels is merely suited for first aid medical care. Aboard our sailing vessels we have no onboard medical facility or physician available.

Do I need binoculars?

Yes, binoculars are often needed to see wildlife, whales and for example birds in the wild.

Can I join trips if I'm in a wheelchair or disabled?

Unfortunately, we’re only able to provide voyages to passengers who meet a certain level of physical ability. Rough seas, rugged terrain, and physically demanding weather conditions are all commonly encountered during our voyages, which can at times be challenging even for people in peak physical fitness.

The added difficulty of a wheelchair or other physical disability, therefor, could prevent us from making safe and timely shore landings, which in turn may undermine our voyage schedules and potentially put other passengers at risk. 

Will I experience sea sickness?

This is one of our most common questions, and the answer depends very much on the individual and whether or not you’re going to the Arctic or Antarctica.

If you are going to Antarctica, you will have to cross the Drake Passage, which can be stormy and turbulent. In this case, we advise bringing motion sickness medication or purchasing it on our vessels, if supplies last. In the Arctic, however, our voyages stay closer to shore, so you may not need seasickness medication as much, if at all.

Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring it if you are prone to motion sickness, regardless of whether you’re going to the Arctic or Antarctica. Most people recover from motion sickness within a day or two, and we always have a doctor on board our larger vessels (Plancius, Ortelius, Hondius, and Janssonius) should you need additional help with seasickness.

How much time do we spend on shore?

That is hard to say. It depends on the weather and constraints of time and distance. Depending on the voyage, you may spend several days aboard the ship, followed by a series of landings, each several hours long. On some cruises, you land two or three times every day.

During our time at the high latitudes, we will have almost continuous daylight, which means we may schedule excursions before breakfast, after dinner, or in the middle of the night. Often the light for photography is best at these times. We would like to show you as much as possible, but we also want to leave it up to you to skip an excursion.

How do I know at what destination I am during a trip?

The expedition team keeps you informed about the destination at all time. 

What would be the longest delay for medical attention during a trip to Antarctica?

It is very difficult to say as it depends on the distance from where the medical emergency happens to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, or Ushuaia, Argentina. There are no helicopter nor plane evacuation possibility from South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, nor any medical facility that will be able to help with a serious medical situation in this area.

It will take at least 2-3 days from South Georgia to Port Stanley and similar if a medical emergency happens between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. All scenarios are highly weather dependent. 

In the Antarctic Peninsula we have a chance to use the air field at Frei/Bellingshausen station at King George Island, South Shetland Islands, but this is not a given thing and needs to be arranged in advance. Assuming that such arrangements can be made, evacuation time may be between 1 - 2 days depending on weather conditions. If flight arrangements have been possible to arrange but the weather does not allow the plane to land or the evacuation from ship to shore (only possible via Zodiac), it could delay a medevac or consequently force the ship to Ushuaia in order to complete an evacuation.

We are far away from any possible medical facility in this area and any evacuation scenario takes a lot of time and could have a devastating effect on the rest of the trip for fellow travelers.

Therefore if you are in poor health or in doubt, please consult your physician for a check-up that you are healthy enough to travel to such remote places with limited to no medical facilities.

On our motor vessels we have a qualified physician onboard on all trips. The infirmary onboard our motor vessels is merely suited for first aid medical care. 

Do you offer discounts for children?

Children under 16 with parents receive 40% discount in Superior, triple (sharing with 2 parents/adults) and quadruple (sharing with 3 parents/adults).

What is the age range of the passengers?

Our passengers range from their 30s to their 80s, with the majority being between 45 and 65 years old. On our sailing vessels, passengers tend to be slightly younger.

Our expeditions usually attract independent travelers from around the world who are characterized by a strong interest in exploring remote regions. The camaraderie and spirit of adventure that develops between our passengers is an important part of the expedition experience.

When does Oceanwide Expeditions travel to the Arctic?

Oceanwide Expeditions travels to the Arctic during the European summer months.

Does the crew speak English?

We have an international crew aboard our vessels. The primary language of our ships is English, but some voyages are bilingual. Though all of our staff speak English, other languages are common as well.

How do we get ashore?

We use sturdy, flat bottomed boats called Zodiacs for landings. As there are few harbours in the areas where we sail we use Zodiacs for our landings on the remote shores. Our motor-vessels are equipped with a stairs-like gangway for boarding these Zodiacs. The sailing-vessels s/v Noorderlicht and s/v Rembrandt van Rijn are not equipped with such a gangway but instead passengers board the Zodiacs via a small ladder on the side of ship. This is not very demanding but passengers should be aware that in order to join the landings they have to be able to do this.

What's your general advice on the Zika virus?

On January 15, 2016, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upgraded their Zika virus travel health notice to "Alert Level 2", (Practice Enhanced Precautions) with specific affected areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America.  You may have received or seen previous communication providing this information.  As of January 26th, the CDC notice now includes the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the affected areas. For the most up-to-date information on the Zika virus and countries affected, please visit their website.

Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquitoes, which mainly bite during daytime hours. It is not transmitted from person to person. Symptoms of Zika typically develop 3-12 days after being bitten and may include fever, headache, skin rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from 2-7 days and most people who contract Zika experience no symptoms at all.

There has been a recent increase in poor pregnancy outcomes among mothers who contracted Zika during pregnancy. These cases are being reported in areas where Zika virus outbreaks have occurred. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is still developing. For this reason, the CDC Advisory particularly impacts women who are pregnant and women who are trying to become pregnant.

The CDC advisory recommends that women who are pregnant in any trimester consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If pregnant women do opt to travel to Zika affected areas, the CDC recommends talking to their healthcare provider in advance and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip. Specific guidance for women who are trying to become pregnant is also included in the CDC advisory. More information can be found on their website.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika Fever however individuals can reduce their risk of contracting Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses by following these steps prior to going ashore:

Apply insect repellent which contains one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin (KBR 3023), Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD, or IR3535.
If both sunscreen and insect repellent is used, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
Wear a loose, long-sleeved shirt and long pants, preferably of a light color to minimize the likelihood of being bitten.

Should you experience any symptoms of fever, headache, skin rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes) while sailing with us, please contact the ship's doctor or their own doctor if they have already returned home. Please inform your healthcare provider about your recent travel.

Will I get seasick on the Drake Passage?

This largely depends on your own tendency to get motion sick. The Drake Passage can get turbulent, but it is occasionally placid as a lake.

We highly recommend purchasing motion sickness medication in case the former occurs. If you find yourself without any such medication, we sell very effective brands on board.

There are also a number of best practices you can adopt should the seas get rough, such as avoiding alcohol, smoking, or any foods that are spicy, fatty, or have strong odors.

You can also keep to the lower decks of the vessel, where rocking will be less severe, fix your gaze on the horizon, or simply lie down. But not all of these remedies will work for everyone, so you have to decide what will help you based on your own experience.
We can recommend reading our blog: 7 tips to defeating motion sickness.

What happens if we cannot camp?

Our expedition leaders always do their best to ensure the camping activity is carried out, but sometimes this is impossible due to unsafe environmental conditions. If such is the case, we may offer camping on the outer decks of the ship.

What if one of my scheduled activities is cancelled due to weather conditions?

When an activity is cancelled due to weather (or any other) conditions, we will offer an alternative activity when possible. We may also reschedule the activity for another time. If neither option is possible due to local conditions, however, we can offer no refund for the missing activity. This is the unpredictable nature of expedition travel. Sometimes we are lucky, sometimes we are not. Itineraries are always subject to change due to ice, weather, or wildlife conditions.

Which ships travel to the Arctic?

Plancius, Ortelius, Hondius, Noorderlicht and Rembrandt van Rijn.

What will the weather be like in the polar areas?

In the Polar areas the weather is always an unknown factor and is usually very changeable. Temperatures can be cold, though not perhaps as cold as you might expect. On calm sunny days it can feel quite warm. But wet, windy weather must also be expected.​

Can I travel with Oceanwide if I'm pregnant?

Yes, although with certain restrictions. Please first consult your gynecologist and obtain all necessary medical advice before booking or making a voyage with Oceanwide Expeditions.

Also, be aware that we may not be able to provide you a voyage at all if your pregnancy has advanced beyond a certain point (usually 29 to 36 weeks, depending on your circumstances). Our onboard infirmaries are not equipped to accommodate pregnancies, and our areas of operation are almost always very far from any hospital.

Moreover, our standard seasickness medication may not be suitable for pregnant women, in which case you will need to find an alternative. For any other questions you might have about this topic, please feel free to contact us.

What are the requirements of children under age 18 traveling with one parent or legal guardian?

Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to stay in a cabin without parental or adult supervision. 

Isn't it cold in the polar regions?

Not during the summer, which is when the majority of our voyages take place. It depends on where you go in the Arctic, but temperatures can get up to 10°C (50°F) and don’t tend to drop too far below 0°C (32°F).

Antarctica is slightly colder, but still warm in the austral summers, reaching up to 2°C (36°F) depending on your location, and tending not to get too much lower than that during the warm months.

You’re only likely to experience colder weather during our fall and winter Arctic trips, where temps can range between -34°C to 0°C (−29°F to 32°F). But you’ll have the northern lights to keep you warm.

Are the sailing trips the same as the motor trips?

Our sailing vessel is much smaller compared to our motor-vessels. The maximum number of passengers is 33 on s/v Rembrandt van Rijn. The atmosphere on board is very intimate and there is more direct contact with the sailing crew.

The number of guides on board is also lower, on Rembrandt van Rijn there are two staff members who will lead shore and Zodiac activities.

Rembrandt’s sailing speed is slower compared to our motor vessels so the distances covered will also be different. With Rembrandt being smaller though this opens more possibilities for activity sites as she can access more areas, because of this there is a greater amount of flexibility with the sailing itineraries.

Are there restrictions on what can be done while on shore?

Yes, an overriding concern is the protection of the wildlife, environment, and cultures in all of the areas we visit. We will address conservation issues in the onboard briefings, and the expedition staff will assist you on shore. We are members of IAATO and AECO and will abide by their guidelines. We will also follow all local requirements to minimize our impact on the environment and wildlife.
When in doubt, remember our two most important rules:

* Do not leave anything but footprints
* Do not take anything but memories

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