After months of lockdown, we’ve finally been thrown the key
When Argentina announced this month that it would reopen its borders on November 1, a shiver of barely suppressed excitement passed through Oceanwide Expeditions - coupled with no small amount of anxiety. After all, this was the first time we had gotten any real assurance that we would be able to resume our expedition cruises in Antarctica since global ports closed a year and a half ago, and we were beginning to wonder when we would ever see our beloved passengers (and polar regions) again.
Can it be true? we wondered. Dare we believe it?
Yes, and in fact we’re already preparing! Anticipating what we hope will be the first step in exploring the polar wilderness with you on a regular basis again, our Vlissingen headquarters has become a hive of activity, the chemical reaction that occurs when professional travelers get their first whiff of freedom after months of enforced hibernation. Here’s how our team has been hustling to get all the expedition essentials in working order...
We will restart operations in Antarctica with two of our four ships, which have been supplied and are on their way to Argentina this very moment: Plancius and Hondius will begin the 2021 Antarctic season on November 23 and 26, respectively.
Due to their many months of inactivity, both ships have been to drydock for maintenance and inspections. We have also put them through extensive sea trials to guarantee they haven’t lost any of their polar edge. These trials thoroughly tested the vessels’ equipment, speed, maneuverability, and other vitals and have found them to be as fit for Antarctica as ever.
Meanwhile, our crews and guides have been hard at work on various other projects. Our hotel department hastily (but thoroughly) arranged the provisions needed to ensure you enjoy the same comfortable onboard experience for which we are known, while our deck and engine room teams worked tirelessly to finish vessel maintenance and improvements.
We have also checked and re-checked all of our expedition equipment to make sure it’s ready for use on our numerous activities: Mountaineering, diving, camping, kayaking, and snowshoeing gear have all undergone close scrutiny, and we have examined our Zodiacs and landing kit so that you can count on the usual Oceanwide standard of excellence when exploring the surreal polar wilderness.
Most importantly, we have made multiple health protection upgrades to keep you safe during our voyages. These include pathogen defense technology on our ships as well as enhanced sanitation protocol for our crews. We have installed UV air filtration in our air HVAC systems, which we have adapted to better enable fresh air intake. We have also added thermal cameras in ship common areas for continuous temperature screening, PCR testing devices for our onboard doctors, and quarantine cabins with independent ventilation systems.
These upgrades are buttressed by significantly enhanced safety protocol. Prior to each voyage, all passengers must present proof of completed vaccination, and we are strictly adhering to all location-specific pre-boarding regulations to further protect the health of all on board. All of our guides and crews have been fully vaccinated, and we have expanded the sanitation measures for cabins and common areas. We have also devised a detailed outbreak response plan in the event of a suspected or confirmed infection during voyages.
In other words, our Antarctic 2021 schedule is up and running and open for bookings. The wait has been long, but there’s finally snow at the end of the tunnel. So have a look at our current Antarctica cruise schedule, and let’s keep exploring!