What’s it like to travel on the World Explorer ship?

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Antarctica Planning & Tips

Built specifically for expedition-stye cruising, the World Explorer is a 5-star vessel featuring the latest in quality cabins and facilities. At 126 meters in length, the World Explorer is by no means a small Polar vessel and can take up to 176 passengers and 125 staff and crew. 

Having previously travelled on smaller vessels, I was a little concerned that the larger size of the ship would hinder my experience slightly due to only 100 people allowed on shore in Antarctica at any one time. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the ship and how well the expedition team managed the operations.

My cabin on the World Explorer ship

A plush cabin on board an Antarctic expedition ship
The Veranda Suite onboard the World Explorer

Upon boarding the Word Explorer in Ushuaia, I was directed to my room, a Veranda Cabin. Having never sailed to Antarctica in a cabin with a balcony, I was particularly looking forward to this new experience and enjoying views of the White Continent over my morning coffee.

I wasn’t disappointed. The cabin was spacious and light and the balcony had enough room for two chairs and a small table. There was a couch area in front of the balcony which provided a good changing area and the en-suite was impressively large. Most smaller vessels have an en-suite that is essentially a tiny wet room, but the bathroom on the World Explorer felt like exactly that – a proper bathroom.

I was in a twin room and the two beds, although close together, were of a good size. The flatscreen TV was wall-mounted in front of the beds and I loved the fact that you could watch live broadcasts of the onboard lectures on the TV from the comfort of your bed.

First impressions of the World Explorer ship

I remember thinking how big the World Explorer felt when I first boarded. I’ve sailed on a number of Polar vessels now and the majority have been far smaller and much more intimate. The ship feels almost like a miniature cruise liner because of its high tech facilities and size.

Wandering around the ship I realised just how much space there was. The World Explorer could handle a ton more passengers than 176 but chose to keep it feeling exclusive. Nowhere felt crowded or dingy and the hotspots like the observation lounge always had plenty of space for everyone.

A peaceful observation lounge on board an Antarctic expedition ship
A peaceful observation lounge on board the World Explorer

The World Explorer has an ice-class of 1B, which is more than adequate for the larger bays of Antarctica and South Georgia. The expedition team were particularly pleased with the onboard waste system which converted passenger waste into energy to heat the ship. As strange as that might sound it was pretty ingenious, as were the twin Rolls Royce 900kw hybrid diesel and electric engines that powered the vessel.

Continuing my exploration, I realised that there could definitely be more outside deck space, but this may be the pay-off to accommodate a balcony on each passenger cabin. The top deck is excellent, however, and includes a 360 degree running track which is a great touch.

An outdoor deck on the World Explorer ship
An outdoor deck on the World Explorer

Unlike all other Polar ships I’ve been on, the World Explorer also comes with a heated saltwater pool and two jacuzzis. Though pools are common on cruise liners, they are incredibly scarce on Polar vessels – considerably smaller by comparison – and I was looking forward to having a dip.

Life aboard the World Explorer ship

I spent 20 days aboard the World Explorer and not once did I feel cooped up. The ratio of passengers to ship space was outstanding. I could often walk around for 45 minutes and only see a handful of people.

Crossing the Drake Passage we encountered a patch of rough swells, but the World Explorer’s advanced stabilization system smoothed out the rolls. It was genuinely bemusing to see the size of the swells and only feel the slightest movement.

One of my highlights was the lecture hall, designed like a small cinema with a huge screen and no windows. The lectures given by the expedition team were fantastic and the large screen really brought the more visual presentations to life.

Another particular favourite of mine was the jacuzzis. There is nothing quite like the simple pleasure of relaxing in a hot tub when the outside air temperature is below freezing. I used the saltwater pool several times and my top tip here would be to ask reception whether it has been heated or risk having to wait in your dressing gown whilst it warms up.

Outdoor track, pool and hot tubs on the World Explorer ship
Outdoor track, pool and hot tubs on the World Explorer

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were generally buffet-style and the food was excellent. There was often a queue for eggs at breakfast as there was only one chef on hand, but in general, the system was quick and efficient. Tables ranged from 2 to 16 seats. As I was travelling by myself I gravitated towards the larger tables and made some good friends.

Another pleasant surprise was the internet. On my previous voyages the internet has been incredibly slow and patchy at best – don’t get me wrong, the fact that the internet is available at the bottom of the world is frankly amazing – but onboard the World Explorer I actually managed several Skype calls. I should warn you, however, that it’s not cheap – I paid roughly $50 for 100mbs of data.    

The large forward-facing observation lounge became the nexus of the ship for me. This is where the expedition staff would gather to scan the seas for wildlife and I would often stand with them, asking questions about the surrounding landscape. On previous voyages, I found that the Captain’s bridge served this purpose, but the bridge was almost always closed to passengers on the World Explorer.    

Who is the World Explorer ship suited to?

Travelling aboard the World Explorer gives you a great introduction to expedition cruising. As I mentioned earlier, it almost feels like a miniature cruise liner. If you’re new to expedition-style travel, then the World Explorer may be the perfect vessel to get started with.

I never felt overly pampered onboard the ship – something I was thankful for as that’s not my style – but it also didn’t feel as rugged as many of the smaller Polar vessels do. The facilities onboard such as the pool, jacuzzi and wellness centre are exceptional and perfect for travellers who appreciate their home comforts.

The spa onboard the World Explorer Antarctic expedition ship
The spa onboard the World Explorer

The two purpose-built zodiac embarkation platforms mean that there is minimal queuing time for landings and boarding is very easy, even in inclement weather. Previous vessels I’ve sailed on with less than 100 passengers have a stronger feeling of camaraderie than is found on the World Explorer. This may suit couples and families wanting a more private experience.

Overall, if you want a top-notch expedition-style experience without having to sail onboard a small, rustic ship, then the World Explorer would be a great choice.

Alex Mudd

Head of Swoop Antarctica

Head of Swoop Antarctica, Alex, returned from his first trip to the 7th continent 16 years ago firmly bitten by 'polar fever' and obsessed with icebergs. Further forays into the Polar regions have included following muskoxen in Greenland and dog sledding across Spitsbergen.

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