See inside the Ocean Endeavor, a ship that sails to Antarctica. Rooms can go for over $10,000.

See inside the Ocean Endeavor, a ship that sails to Antarctica. Rooms can go for over $10,000.


Tourism to the isolated snow desert dates back to the 1950s and has grown dramatically in recent years.

Tourists stepping on Antarctica at the tour’s first landing site.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Source: British Antarctic Survey

In the 2016/2017 season, only about 38,000 people visited, while in 2019, around 74,000 people made the journey.

Passengers on a zodiac boat.

Passengers on a zodiac boat.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Source: Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty

However, travel was halted during the pandemic and many tours were canceled or postponed — including mine with Australia-based tour company Intrepid Travel.

The front of Intrepid’s Ocean Endeavor ship.

The front of Intrepid’s Ocean Endeavor ship with a branded flag waving.

Taylor Rains/Insider


My trip was originally scheduled to depart in November 2020, but was delayed to November 2021, and again to November 2022.

Antarctic ice reflecting in the water.

Antarctic ice reflection in the water.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Fortunately, with COVID-19 now under control and many tours, including Intrepid, requiring vaccinations, I was finally able to reach Antarctica last month.

Standing on Antarctica.

Standing on Antarctica.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Source: Intrepid Travel

My incredible 9-night journey was on the 200-person Ocean Endeavor expedition ship, where rooms can cost passengers over $10,000. Here’s what the trek was like.

A chinstrap penguin with the Ocean Endeavour in Antarctica.

A chinstrap penguin with the Ocean Endeavour in Antarctica.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Flying is also an option, but only about 1% of tourists arrive by plane as the weather is unpredictable at the landing sites and the continent’s infrastructure can make it difficult to rescue a stranded aircraft.

An Icelandair 757 on Antarctica.

Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions based a Boeing 757 Chile to fly tourists to Antarctica.

Tim Hewette/ALE


Source: The Points Guy, British Antarctic Survey, Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions

For my adventure, the departure port was in Ushuaia, Argentina, which is the southern-most city in the world.

Standing with the "fin del mundo" sign in Ushuaia.

Standing with the “fin del mundo” sign in Ushuaia.

Taylor Rains/Insider


I flew to the small city from Buenos Aires on the nation’s flag carrier, Aerolineas Argentinas, though budget airlines like JetSmart also offer service. Whatever the airline, I suggest you reserve a window seat — the views are unforgettable.

The view on descent into Ushuaia.

The view on descent into Ushuaia.

Taylor Rains/Insider


For Intrepid’s trip, guests were instructed to arrive a day early and were provided accommodation in Ushuaia. I was booked at the Wyndham Garden Ushuaia Hotel del Glaciar, which was about 10 minutes by taxi from town and up a giant hill.

Hotel del Glaciar, though other guests were booked at the Las Hayas Ushuaia Resort down the road.”>

I was put up at the Wyndham Garden Ushuaia Hotel del Glaciar, though other guests were booked at the Las Hayas Ushuaia Resort down the road. The latter was a nicer hotel, though mine was perfectly comfortable with great views of the port.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Here, an icebreaker was hosted and I met a wonderful group of nine travelers who I spent my entire Antarctic adventure with.

family: (L-R): Erica, me, Emily, Courtney, Paulina, Nastassja, Joanna, Ashley, Harrison, and Hugo.”>

My little Antarctic family: (L-R): Erica, me, Emily, Courtney, Paulina, Nastassja, Joanna, Ashley, Harrison, and Hugo.

Taylor Rains/Insider


The following day, Intrepid arranged a transfer from the hotel to the port, which is where we got our first look at the company’s specially-modified expedition ship — the Ocean Endeavour.

Standing at the port with the Ocean Endeavour.

Standing at the port with the Ocean Endeavour.

Taylor Rains/Insider


The ship is new to Intrepid, with my voyage being only the company’s second-ever to Antarctica.

The Ocean Endeavour in Antarctica.

The Ocean Endeavour in Antarctica.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Originally named the Konstantin Simonov after a Russian poet, the Ocean Endeavour launched in 1982 and was used by Soviet companies to ferry people around the Baltic Sea.

The Ocean Endeavour in Helsinki when it was still named the Kristina Katarina.

The ship went by many names, including Kristina Katarina (pictured), before being called the Ocean Endeavour.


MFKI


Source: USA Today

The ship was converted into a polar vessel in 2014 and equipped with 20 robust zodiac boats to transport people from the ship to remote landing sites in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Guests on a zodiac in Antarctica.

Guests on a zodiac in Antarctica.

Courtesy of Harrison Hunt


Source: USA Today

Arriving at the Ocean Endeavour, it was much bigger than it looked from afar but was dwarfed in comparison to the luxury vessel on the adjacent dock, where rates start at over $20,000 for a 12-night cruise in November 2023.

The Ocean Endeavour (right) and the Le Commondante Charcot (left) in port.

The Ocean Endeavour (right) and the Le Commandant Charcot (left) in port. The ship was named after French Antarctic expeditionist Jean-Baptiste Charcot who voyaged to the continent in 1903.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Source: Ponant

Getting settled into the boat was quick and easy with help from the designated reception desk on deck 5.

The reception desk.

The reception desk.

Taylor Rains/Insider


The employee onboard held onto my passport and gave me my key to cabin 4100 located toward the front of the boat.

My cabin key on the Ocean Endeavour.

My cabin key on the Ocean Endeavour.

Taylor Rains/Insider


I paid a Black Friday rate of $5,700 in 2019 for a triple interior room, meaning I had two random female roommates and no window in the cabin. I also had to pay a “fuel surcharge” in August 2022 due to rising oil costs, amounting to about $450.

Triple room on the Ocean Endeavour.

Fortunately, my roommates were lovely adventurers and we had no drama.

Intrepid Travel


My rate was relatively cheap compared to current triple room prices that sit between $8,800 and $11,000 for 2023 voyages. I also paid less than one person in my group who spent upward of $7,000 in 2021 for her triple room.

The Ocean Endeavour.

Intrepid includes the possibility of a fuel surcharge in its booking conditions.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Source: Intrepid Travel

While at first, I was a little worried about being in a triple, the room proved to be one of the biggest on the ship. Inside were four beds, including three that pointed toward the side of the ship and one that faced back to front.

The interior of my room.

Excuse the mess, it was a hectic embarkation day. My roommate snagged the far left bed and quickly realized how easy it was to fall out of it during the journey through the infamous Drake Passage, but more on that later.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Also inside the cabin was a separate bathroom and shower, which were each inside a small room with a door. There was shampoo, body wash, a handle to hang onto, and a curtain inside the shower room.

The doors to the separate shower and toilet.

The doors to the separate shower and toilet. The toilet uses a vacuum system and we were warned about letting anything fall in as it could clog up the entire ship’s plumbing.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Other amenities in the cabin included large closets with hangars, a TV that broadcast a few rotating movies and onboard science presentations, power outlets, and securable drawers.

Triple interior room.

The science presentations were live-streamed from the ship’s Nautilus Lounge.

Intrepid


I thought the room was extremely comfortable, and the large size meant I wasn’t falling over my roommates. Though, I didn’t spend much time in the cabin other than sleeping or showering.

interior cabin.”>

My triple interior cabin.

Taylor Rains/Insider


While my room only had one shower, the other three triples on the boat had two. Moreover, they only had three beds across the cabin with one full bathroom on either side. The closets were not as big though.

Other triple interior options onboard.

I preferred my larger room, despite only having one shower.

Intrepid Travel


Other rooms onboard included a comfort twin, which one person in my group spent $7,700 on when booking in the summer of 2022…

A comfort twin room.

She had one random roommate.

Taylor Rains/Insider


…as well as single rooms and suites. These go for much more than the shared cabins, costing between $10,000 and $18,000 per person, according to current Intrepid pricing.

My friend had a room with two twin beds and two berths that folded down, meaning four people could sleep int he cabin. She had no roommates though.

My friend had a room with two twin beds and two berths that folded down, meaning four people could sleep int he cabin. She had no roommates though.

Courtesy of Karen Beck


Source: Intrepid Travel

Passengers will not find casinos or giant Broadway-like auditoriums, nor are there water slides or steakhouses onboard.

The reception area.

The reception area on the Ocean Endeavour. Most spaces had minimal seating or decor because everything would slide or fall through the Drake Passage.

Taylor Rains/Insider


Instead, the amenities were simple, but still very nice. Toward the front of the boat was the Polaris Restaurant, where buffet-style and a-la-carte meals were served three times a day.

Guests getting food on the first day.

Guests getting food on the first day.

Taylor Rains/Insider


I thought the food was delicious, and there were some vegan and vegetarian options, but there was minimal fish because the company couldn’t find an acceptable ethical vendor.

One of my a-la-carte steak meals.

One of my a-la-carte steak meals.

Taylor Rains/Insider


My group bought several bottles of wine in Ushuaia before embarkation, which Intrepid let us bring onboard at no additional cost and we drank them at every dinner.

Wine bottles at dinner.

Wine bottles at dinner.

Taylor Rains/Insider


While the dining room was really only intended to provide meals, it ended up being a pretty eventful space when journeying through the Drake Passage.

The dining room.

The dining room.

Taylor Rains/Insider


On our way to Antarctica, we were lucky to only have what is called the “Drake Lake,” which means the rough sea was actually pretty calm, and the boat didn’t have unbearable movement.

Day two of sailing through the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica.

Day two of sailing through the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica.

Taylor Rains/Insider


But, on the way back was a different story. We encountered what is known as the “Drake Shake,” battling gale-force winds of over 30 miles per hour and waves reaching over 15 feet, making it hard to eat, walk, or even sleep.

The boat hitting the water after a giant wave in the Drake Passage on the way back to Argentina.

The boat hitting the water after a giant wave in the Drake Passage on the way back to Argentina.

Taylor Rains/Insider


The lounge is where the expedition team provided daily educational lectures on topics like whales, penguins, photography, tectonic plates, and the history of Antarctica.

The study of seabirds was one of the lectures, and the expedition team took guests outside to survey and photograph the ones flying around the ship.

The study of seabirds was one of the lectures, and the expedition team took guests outside to survey and photograph the ones flying around the ship.


Courtesy of Harrison Hunt




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