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Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

bath uk
10 posts
Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

Thinking of the polar pioneer in jan 2015 but not a massive amount of reviews -any thoughts anyone?

One slight problem is that it only has limited time in the Falklands - what are your views on going a few days early to spend a few extra days there.

(As LAN only fly on a sat that might mean taking the raf flight from Brize Norton in midweek - anyone travelled on that?)



Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
536 posts
25 reviews
1. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

I had a friend do the trip a few years ago. It was on a commercial aircraft chartered by the RAF. He said that the only thing noteworthy about the flight was the fighter escort for the last 200kms into the Falklands -still at war with the Argentineans.

There's a detailed account of a flight last November at flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1408844-uk-…

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
536 posts
25 reviews
2. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

I went on the Polar Pioneer in Jan 2011 on the recommendation of friends. I found Aurora Expeditions very good and would recommend them.

Apologies for answering your question in 2 bits and back to front.

Edited: 8:55 am, August 18, 2013
Stanley, Falkland...
Level Contributor
30,836 posts
55 reviews
3. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

The flight is twice-weekly. I've flown on it recently a couple of times. There is nothing military about it, except the airport, and the lack of alcohol on board.

You also get to land on Ascension Island, which few people do.

It's worth spending extra time on the Falklands - yes. Most cruise stops are too rushed.

South London
4 posts
4. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

Steve, hi there

I went on the Polar Pioneer in Nov 2012 to Antarctica with Aurora Expeditions .

The route was Falklands => South Georgia => Antarctica => ‪Ushuaia‬

I flew down to the Falklands from Santiago, Chile on LAN airlines.

On that tour, we only spent a few hours in Port Stanley before boarding the ship, it did not really give a great deal of time to explore the Falkland islands , so if you want to explore, arriving a few days ahead of time definitely helps

The Polar Pioneer compared to other expedition ships is quite small, it accommodates around 50 passengers and then another 20 or so which make up the ship's crew and Aurora staff, whilst not a luxury ship, it is very comfortable and clean .

I was in a twin share cabin which was quite ok for two people. There are two large dining rooms and a very comfortable bar/lounge area that are available for use 24 hours in case you get tried of the cabin.

The dining service and food onboard is quite good , with the chef catering for all types of diets/food requirements .

Snacks, fruit , tea , coffee and juices are available 24hrs in the dining area.

Unfortunately for me, what was supposed to be an adventure of a life time turned out to be an absolute nightmare due to the rude and highly unprofessional attitude of two staff members - The Tour leader - Don and the kayaking instructor - Al .

The extent of this terribly rude attitude from both very disrespectful men completely ruined my tour, and as this happened at the very start of the tour and I was stuck on the ship for the remaining weeks in a very uncomfortable atmosphere .

Suffice to say , I could not get off the ship fast enough when it docked in ‪Ushuaia‬, Argentina.

After an official compliant , Aurora Expeditions did apologies for the action of their staff, but that will never erase the terrible experience I suffered.

The other staff members and the ships crew were very friendly and professional.

I "may" one day use Aurora Expeditions again , but one thing is for sure , I will NEVER go on another Aurora Expedition's tour if either Don or Al are part of the expedition staff. I would suggest you make inquiries on the staff members on your tour.

Good luck steve, Antarctica is magically !

Edited: 11:25 am, September 15, 2013
Level Contributor
1,697 posts
28 reviews
5. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

Very sorry about your bad experience, Andy. Here's to none of us ever having one.

How can one know at the time of booking who will comprise the expedition team? At best the company can provide a preliminary list. Once onboard, we usually quickly determine who we click with and try to be in their zodiac, on their hike, etc.

Level Contributor
4 posts
45 reviews
6. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

If you want to gon on your own, bear in mind that you have to pay a substantial amount of money to the site(s) you intend to visit, i.e. most of these islands are in private hands and those farmers do make a nice living out of tourists, so think twice.

Aurora Exp. on Polar Pioneer was a mixed experience for me since the voyage across the sea is so long, what I enjoyed most was South Georgia though. Went in March 2014.

Oxford, United...
Level Contributor
35 posts
1 review
7. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

I did your trip the other way round in January this year, and had a great time - see below.

The benefit to me of doing Ushuaia/Antarctica/South Georgia/Falklands was that I had the opportunity to stay on in FI for a week. Several from my trip did this, with one group staying for another 2 weeks. Personally I think this is a better way to do it as it gives you a chance to "unwind" before going home at the end of a fantastic 3 weeks - whereas at the start of my trip I was quite excited and really just wanted to get on with the cruise that I had been eagerly anticipating. I don't think I would have got as much out of the FI at the start.

In addition I loved South Georgia more than Antarctica, and so was very glad the experience "just got better" as the cruise went on. I think I would have been mildly disappointed had my cruise been the other way round - although Antarctica is just quite different from South Georgia, but to my mind not quite as spectacular.

There are plenty of travel agents who will organize your time in FI. I travelled via Audley Travel in UK, whom I cannot recommend highly enough, having used them for trips to many countries over the years. Their offices are not too far from you in Oxfordshire if you want to visit to discuss. I flew down to Ushuaia with Aerolineas Argentinas from Buenos Aires, and then back from Stanley to Santiago on LAN. Had no problems with either airline, and used LAN for other flights. I think Aurora are doing a lot of the Polar Pioneer cruises to and from Puerto Williams now, so a return flight with LAN would suit you.

I could have used the RAF flights quite easily as they go from Brize Norton, which is about 10 miles from me. However I decided I needed a full week to see enough of FI, and am glad I did. The LAN flights are also quicker, and cost much the same..

I met up with my husband in Stanley, he having flown out with LAN via Santiago. We went straight to Darwin for 2 nights, then on to Pebble Island for 3 nights. We then had 1 night in Port Howard, which was disappointing compared to the rest, and the final 2 nights in Stanley. I can recommend the Waterfront in Stanley as being small but comfortable, and cheaper than Malvina House.

We spent much of our time on Battlefield visits, that being my husband's main interest having lost 2 friends there in the war. However I was surprised at the amount of new wildlife we saw, which was still exciting for me even after all the penguins, seals and birds in Antarctica and SG. One week was enough for us, but I can understand people staying for more. We met up with a couple on a 3 week trip - if you want to see a full range of the wildlife you need to see several of the islands, and that takes time.

You ask about the Polar Pioneer - I can highly recommend this little ship, and Aurora as a company. As Andy says, there are only about 50 passengers, so you get to know everybody, and in my experience the expedition team look after you well. It is not luxurious in any way, but perfectly comfortable. The cabins were more spacious than I had imagined, with perfectly adequate en suite facilities if you pay the extra for those.

The food is excellent. No choice but plenty of it, and any special dietary requirements are well taken care of. The seating arrangements in the 2 dining rooms are a little "school dinner-ish" but that does give you the chance to meet other people, which is helpful when you are travelling solo - of which I was not the only one.

The other communal areas of bar and lecture/cinema room are rather cramped, but the bridge is spacious and wonderful. Open to all almost all of the time, and such fantastic views when it is too chilly to be outside on deck for too long.

I found all the crew and expedition staff to be knowledgeable and so helpful at all times. The historical and natural history lectures were excellent. The Zodiac trips were well organized, and having been rather worried about the boarding etc for these, found everyone to be patient and always helpful. A small group of passengers kayaked on several days, and I understand had a great time - I heard no complaints about that aspect.

I liked the informality of the Polar Pioneer. No dressing up. No "set seats" at either dinner or in the Zodiacs. One just took a place for either where there was space, or met up with whom one wanted. A basic, well-organized, comfortable ship which allowed you to concentrate on what you went there for. It was spotlessly clean, beds comfortable, with linen changed every 4 days, and a cheap laundry service which returned items often within the day. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is not looking for a bit of "cruising luxury".

I don't visit places twice - too many other places to go in too little time - but would certainly book Aurora and the Polar Pioneer for an Arctic trip. Yes, the sea voyages are long so get your sea sickness remedies organised, and trialled before you go so you know what suits you (although there is an excellent doctor on board who will sort you out if problems). If you are not going to find that the wildlife sightings, and the chance to just meet and chat to people from all over the world, are going to keep you from being bored on the 3 day sea trips - then take books and music on an iPad like I did - and then bring them home unread and not listened to! But I did have a couple of thousand photos to sort through - and I am not a photographer!

All in all, yes, go for the Polar Pioneer. Give yourself a week in Falklands. But if you can, do the trip the other way round. Enjoy it - it is the trip of a lifetime for most of us.

Stanley, Falkland...
Level Contributor
30,836 posts
55 reviews
8. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

Re #6. The charge from the landowner of Volunteer Point is about £15 per head. Not much in the scheme of things. A day trip is about £100 per person.

9. Re: Polar pioneer and the Falklands ( and RAF flights)

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