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We sat down with Quark Expeditions' Business Development Manager Andrew Schweitzer to discover more about their brand new ship the Ultramarine and to learn what sets them apart from their competitors...
Ultramarine’s design embodies our 30+ years of expertise operating exclusively in the Polar regions. It’s our first purpose-built expedition vessel, designed to go beyond the familiar in polar exploration, to discover new places and immerse our guests in the best the polar regions have to offer. Carrying just 199 passengers, she’s equipped with two twin-engine helicopters, which means our guests have the opportunity to explore even further. 20 quick-launching zodiacs, deployed from the water-level zodiac hangar allows guests to get off the ship in half the time of other vessels, which means more time in the destination and faster deployment during opportunistic wildlife encounters. The ship offers the category’s most spacious suites (most with private balcony) and including a number of Solo Panorama cabins for singles, beautiful public spaces and more outdoor wildlife viewing spaces than other expedition ships its size. It also features a best-in-class operational range and an innovative mix of sustainability features that exceed all industry standards.
Ultramarine offers the industry’s widest selection of Adventure Options, including sea kayaking, paddle excursions, stand-up paddleboarding, camping – and now, for the first time ever, flightseeing, heli-hiking, heli-landing, alpine heli-trekking, alpine kayaking, mountain biking, ice sheet landing and an exclusive Greenland camping experience.
Sustainability has always been part of our DNA at Quark and I’m pleased to say that Ultramarine will feature a Micro Auto Gasification System (MAGS), which is the industry-leading system that converts waste into energy at the site that it is generated.
MAGS eliminates the environmental impact of waste transportation, offering an innovative sustainability feature that exceeds all industry standards. Between MAGS, our wastewater management, heat recovery system, and efficient engine systems, guests can be sure that they're travelling to the polar regions on the safest and most environmentally conscious ship in the industry. Often small ships have 2 engines of the same size. Ultramarine has 4 engines - two pairs of two different sizes so we can match the power needed to the right size engine using 1, 2, 3, or 4 engines, improving efficiency. Additionally, they are 'Tier 3' engines as per IMO (International Maritime Organization) which means they are fuel-efficient and low emissions. Ultramarine also has a 'marine scrubber' installed which reduces nitrous oxide emissions. And finally, we only burn low sulphur diesel which reduces the sulphur-oxide emissions.
Apart from the twin-engine helicopters, I’d have to say the sauna looks absolutely incredible. Imagine being able to get some rest and relaxation in the comfort and warmth of the sauna, whilst enjoying the spectacular uninterrupted views of the wilderness outside.
I often get asked ‘When is the best time to go to Antarctica’? and the truth is, there really is no ‘best time’ to go. The experience you have in Antarctica will depend on the time you choose to travel. The Antarctica travel season spans from early November, when you can experience the reawakening of the 7th continent, to the end of March / early April when further south becomes accessible due to the receding pack ice.
During the early season (November – December), icebergs are at their greatest mass and the pack ice is just beginning to melt, so the water is unbelievably blue. It’s a great time for wildlife viewing, as penguins begin their courtship rituals and begin to nest and Orca Whales return for the summer feeding season.
During the mid-season (December – February), the days seem to stretch on forever, with up to 20 hours of daily sunlight from late December into January. Late December is also when you can see penguins hatching and whale-watching is tremendous this time of year.
Finally, in the late season (Mid-February to April), pack ice recedes so we can explore further south. The days shorten and the sunsets are incredible. Penguins are becoming ‘teenagers’ and the beaches are littered with wildlife. The late season also offers more landing opportunities as we’re less limited with ice.
Who you choose to travel with to the polar regions is the most important decision you’ll make. Rule No. 1—as with any major commitment—is trust. You’ve got to have faith that the expedition company you’ll choose is a good fit for your travel goals, has a proven track record, and has the best expedition team and onboard staff to truly make your polar voyage unforgettable. And, of course, a company that puts your wellbeing and safety first is vital.
Most of all, you want to know that your expedition company of choice knows the polar regions—intimately.
Quark has been travelling to the Polar regions for three decades, which is longer than anybody else - Polar travel is all we do. We also have the most experienced expedition team in the industry, an impeccable safety record, the most robust portfolio of Adventure Options, and the most diverse fleet of ships in the expedition industry. And last but not least, we’re the best equipped with everything necessary to ensure our guests have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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