The Ocean Endeavour offers arguably the best value-for-money Antarctica cruise ship experience. It's the kind of ship that focuses on the expedition and destination being the be-all and end-all. It offers a fantastic array of Antarctic activities, expert knowledge and outstanding crew dedication. What the Endeavour doesn’t provide, however, are all the glitzy bells and whistles one would typically associate with a cruise ship. There are no unnecessary luxuries onboard. For adventure-seeking explorers, this is what makes the Ocean Endeavour the ideal ship to explore Antarctica.
While the Ocean Endeavour is the ideal ship for some, we know it might not suit all - with this ship guide and personal reviews, we'll help you decide if travelling to Antarctica on the Ocean Endeavour in the summer of 2023-24 is right for you.
During the last cruising season, Viva sent two of its most experienced staff on an Antarctic expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour: Tara and Emma. You might remember Tara as Viva’s #1 anti-seasickness expert! Well, Tara is back with more invaluable insider info for eager Antarctica travellers, alongside Emma, one of Viva’s Senior Destination Specialists.
Thanks to our crew’s invaluable input, here is everything we’ll cover in this guide:
Emma cant contain her excitement about being in Antarctica. Who can blame her?
The Ocean Endeavour – General Overview of Pros and Cons
If you’re seeking a luxury cruise ship experience that just happens to be going to Antarctica, then the Ocean Endeavour will not fit your bill. Step aboard this no-nonsense vessel, and you are under no illusion that an expedition of discovery to the southernmost continent on Earth is what's in store.
Your expedition aboard this ship will be all about Antarctica, her extraordinary nature and incredible wildlife. You will be disappointed if you're looking for a classic 'cruise ship experience', complete with nightly cabaret shows and onboard entertainment.
Yet make no mistake: the Ocean Endeavour is a superior Antarctica cruise ship staffed by a dedicated and professional team that'll look after you in every way. The food and amenities are excellent, and the scientific/naturalist focus on Antarctica is invaluable. And nothing beats a blissful soak in the onboard jacuzzi at the end of a fun day of exploration.
The Ocean Endeavour offers everything you need on an Antarctic expedition minus all the little fluffy extras you don't. You can save a considerable amount of money this way, which is especially beneficial when undertaking a journey that is, in and of itself, expensive.
A sneak-peek onto a typical day onboard the Ocean Endeavour
What Tara and Emma loved most about the Ocean Endeavour
A super-quick glance at the Endeavour’s pros that won our crew over.
- Completely refurbished in 2017 – the interior is modern and classic
- Crew-to-guest ratio of 1:8 – one of the highest dedicated crew ratios in the world. You feel exceptionally well taken care of – there is always someone to advise or assist.
- Immersive lectures and presentations – with a citizen science programme and an array of experts on board, you get so much more from your expedition.
- Impressive activities programme – one of Antarctica's most wide-ranging selections of activities. There's SO much on offer you don't know what to do first!
- Constructed for 450 pax, it only carries 200 to Antarctica – there’s literally twice as much ship per guest! It never feels crowded, and on-land transfers are swift.
- Ample indoor space – abundant indoor lounges and areas for socialising/downtime. Because, sometimes, you want to relax outside your cabin.
- Amazing outer decks – soak up 360° views for an ultra-immersive experience in Antarctica’s startling landscape.
- 10 cabin categories – to suit a variety of budgets and configurations. Interior single cabins allow solo travellers to avoid sharing/paying for a single supplement.
- Added surprises – you never know when some of the expedition crew will bust out their guitars for a sing along, organize a hilarious pub quiz or tell stories of their amazing adventures in the wild!
- Keep up with your fitness & wellness routine – on Antarctica expeditions, this feels like needed therapy more than an indulgent luxury! Gym, spa, sauna, yoga classes.
- NOT a traditional cruising feel – it feels like you’re on an expedition of discovery, as it should be!
Interior décor of the Ocean Endeavour – functional & comfortable
The Ocean Endeavour–general and technical specs
In the international cruising scene, the Ocean Endeavour is considered an old-timer. It is one of those 'oldie but goodie' institutions that still delivers an incredible experience. She is sought-after on Antarctic expeditions due to her impeccable reputation – the ship's amenities and crew are second to none.
History of the Ocean Endeavour
Built-in Poland and launched in 1982, the Ocean Endeavour lived a few ‘commuter and expedition lives’ all over Europe before being refurbished for polar adventures. In the southern summer, she visits Antarctica. In the northern summer, she tackles the Arctic instead.
The Ocean Endeavour is an Ice-Class 1B strengthened ship.
137 m (451ft)
21 m (68.9ft)
5.6 m (18ft)
220 volts, 50 Hz**
6 fully-enclosed lifeboats, 8 Liferafts
**The Ocean Endeavour has European-style, two-pin sockets. Bring travel adapters!
Motorised by four German-built MAN marine diesel engines (almost 13,000kw), the Ocean Endeavour is nimble and expeditious when underway. Antarctica's weather can be unpredictable, so the captain can easily veer course and make landfall in a more protected bay.
What helps the Endeavour's manoeuvrability is its draft – it measures only 5.6m (18ft), so it can negotiate small bays and reach remote coastal destinations in Antarctica that ships her size usually can't reach. This is one of the Ocean Endeavour's most invaluable bonuses.
The crew operates a sea-to-land satellite phone and internet system for emergencies and are exceptionally trained for looking after guests in what is, at times, very inhospitable conditions. Everything from on-shore landings to water sports, hikes, etc., is about guest safety. You are in good hands, and you feel it. The ship is also equipped with a medical clinic and a doctor who’s on call 24/7.
Tara getting kitted up for her Zodiac outing – the Ocean Endeavour provides jackets and boots for on-land excursions
What kind of travellers does the Ocean Endeavour suit best?
Given her extensive experience booking hundreds of clients on Antarctic expeditions, Tara says the Ocean Endeavour is primarily ideal for solo travellers, groups of friends, and adventure seekers. Most of her fellow ship passengers were not what you'd consider 'classic cruise lovers’ and were travelling on a ship for the very first time.
My fellow travellers had definitely come for the destination, first and foremost. Many had never actually been on a cruise before, and joined simply for the lure of an Antarctic adventure, since it was a bucket list destination for them. They were surprised to discover how different an expedition cruise is to what they’d seen or heard about large cruise ships - Tara
Emma says that you ought to discard any notion of going on a health kick while cruising Antarctica on the Ocean Endeavour. Yes, the food is that good.
There are always plenty of healthy options on offer at meal times, but SO many indulgent treats you'll want to savour. But don’t worry…luckily, there’s a gym on board if you need to burn off some calories! You can also rack up steps on the outer deck or join a yoga class when offered – Emma
The Ocean Endeavour boasts two restaurants and a varied menu that caters to all tastes and many dietary requirements
The Ocean Endeavour’s Unique Wellness Program
Said to be the only Antarctic expedition ship with a dedicated wellness program, the Ocean Endeavour boasts a day spa, hot tub, a well-equipped gym, and two saunas.
And if you think that’s a side-serve of unexpected luxury, you’d be 100% correct.
No reason to miss your daily workout!
Warming up in the spa or sauna is a nice treat to the end of the day and adds to the magical experience – every guest gets a bathrobe to use for their comfort during the cruise - Emma
Sweet little touch that feels super indulgent
Lounges, Library, Social Spaces
Expedition cruises to Antarctica are pretty busy affairs. Yet, there's always time to relax, catch up on the day's excitement with fellow guests or widen one's horizons with Antarctica-specific reading. The Ocean Endeavour boasts three lounges, a lecture theatre, an outdoor observation area on the top deck, a well-stocked library (open 24/7) and plenty of smaller spaces to claim as your own.
The Ocean Endeavour offers plenty of space, so you never feel overcrowded. You're spoilt for choice when selecting an area to relax or gather with newfound friends – Emma
The lounges are a fantastic gathering space in the evenings when everyone shares their day's experiences, and the expedition crew outlines what you can expect the following day. There are two PCs for everyone to use to download their day's photos. At the end of the expedition, the entire folder is shared with everyone.
Sometimes, changes are made at short notice due to weather conditions. The communication was always on key, and we were kept well informed - Emma
The Aurora Lounge onboard the Ocean Endeavour
The ship's library is another invaluable space, bursting with Antarctica-related reading material. There is much to know about Antarctica, its wildlife and scientific discoveries – it's hard to get all that information before boarding a cruise ship. But with such a comprehensive source of information at your beck and call, knowledge is at your fingertips.
So much reading material is available in the library and on the notice boards – you can learn more about Antarctica and the fantastic wildlife and your expedition crew. There’s even a chess board and some cards for you to use - Emma
The Ocean Endeavour Crew
The crew is one of the many things that sets the Ocean Endeavour apart. First, you have the expedition crew: their combined field of expertise is far-reaching. From historians to marine biologists, glaciologists, ornithologists, photographers and outdoor adventurers, the Ocean Endeavour seems to have an expert on board for just about every discipline imaginable. They are your specialist Antarctic guides who impart knowledge and guide you on various activities and excursions.
Then there’s the ship crew – in charge of the smooth cruising of the vessel – and the guest service team – in charge of you and your fellow passengers.
As mentioned, the Ocean Endeavour boasts one of the most desirable crew-to-guest ratios of any cruise ship worldwide. Having that kind of dedicated, expert attention is priceless.
The Expedition crew were all welcoming and highly knowledgeable and made us all feel like one family embarking on this fantastic journey together - Emma
The Ocean Endeavour Activities
The Ocean Endeavour boasts a full fleet of Zodiacs, ensuring that all passengers can quickly disembark from the ship, utilizing four zodiac docking bays so there really is no waiting around for your turn.
All itineraries include daily Zodiac outings and on-land excursions, weather permitting. Groups are rotated around, so there are opportunities for everyone to land ashore, make an exploration by zodiac with a range of different guides, each with their own areas of expertise.
The infamous and unforgettable Polar Plunge is also on offer and included in the price – so you have no excuses!
Day paddling in Antarctica is a magical experience
For an extra cost, you also have an array of additional activities on offer – from kayaking and SUP boarding to ice camping and even private, small group photography workshops when available. All additional activities are in hot demand and many sell out early – book your spot in advance so you don’t miss out!
I have so many highlights in mind! From kayaking in an icy bay with jumping penguins and creaking glaciers to taking a polar plunge in Neko Harbour, landing on a beach in South Georgia teeming with around 250,000 king penguins. I didn't think it could get any better… then we were given the rare opportunity to hike in South Georgia, following the same path Sir Ernest Shackleton took on his heroic journey to rescue his men! What a special treat!" – Tara
Tara meeting the Kings of South Georgia
And when you're not galivanting about the ice and penguin rookeries, you can enjoy the onboard amenities. Many presentations and fun lectures are available, as are yoga classes, when time (and weather) permits. And let’s not forget that spa!
At Viva, we offer a selection of Antarctica Cruisesand expedition ships from which to choose. Keen to chat to one of our Destination Specialists about exploring the White Continent with the Ocean Endeavour? Contact Us today and start planning your next adventure.