Two Oceanwide ships sail toward our first Antarctic season since the lockdown
If we were excited telling you that we’re finally going back to Antarctica, we’re thrilled to report that Plancius and Hondius are already on their way south.
The two vessels are booked solid and will restart operations on November 23 and 26, respectively, kicking off the season with our 19-night Solar Eclipse cruise through three extraordinary destinations: the Falklands, South Georgia, and our much-missed Antarctica.
“It’s fantastic to be starting again,” says Oceanwide CEO Michel van Gessel. “It’s especially great to be starting from such a place of confidence. We’ve provisioned our vessels, upgraded their health protection technology and protocol, and we’re finally getting back to doing what we love to do with the people we love doing it with – our crew, our guides, and most of all, our passengers.”
The long wait for this moment was not easy, but the hours were not idly spent. As we reported in our recent going back to Antarctica blog, our headquarters and vessels have been bustling with activity since Argentina’s announcement that it would reopen its ports on November 1.
Our hotel manager on Hondius, Michael Frauendorfer, had much to say about the feeling on board as he and the crew prepared the ships to sail. “There was some stress getting everything ready so we could leave on schedule, but as our date of departure approached, all of us were super excited to be getting back to doing what we do best.”
Frauendorfer was returning from Antarctica on Ortelius in March 2019 when most of the world’s ports closed, forcing the ship to sail from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and finally to Montevideo before being able to disembark passengers.
But now that borders are opening again, he is delighted to be going back. “It’s also a little weird after all this time,” Frauendorfer admits. “Even though our general work didn’t change, we’ve completely upgraded the health and sanitation practices on our ships, so some things are very different.”
Oceanwide COO Mark van der Hulst elaborated on these upgrades: “Each ship now has two doctors instead of one, along with PCR testing devices, thermal cameras for temperature screening, UV light filtration systems, and quarantine rooms with independent air intakes, among other things. We’ve also expanded the cleaning and sanitation duties of our crew and have devised a detailed response plan in the unlikely event of an infection on board.”
On both Plancius and Hondius, all crew from the cook to the captain cannot wait to see the polar regions again. “I have goosebumps,” says Hondius Captain Toni Salo. “I didn’t let myself believe we were actually going back until we threw the last line off the ship. Now that we’re on our way, all the hard work and waiting has paid off. I love having saltwater under my keel again!”
When asked if he has any concerns about what to expect as we restart our Antarctic operations, he says no without hesitation. “We’re prepared, we’re focused, and it’s business as usual. This is what we do. The only thing I’m worried about is people not traveling!”
With our Antarctica cruise schedule booking up fast, we don’t think he has to worry.