24 Hours Aboard the Ocean Nova

Dive into the ship experience with Antarctica21’s International Travel Consultant Rafael Guzmán.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Antarctica21’s International Travel Consultant, Rafael Guzmán recently returned from a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise expedition aboard the Ocean Nova, and he’s ready to share his experience with you. On this eight-day, seven-night expedition, he and his fellow passengers sailed between the South Shetland Islands and the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula to enjoy a scenery full of ice-filled fjords and bobbing icebergs, as well as plenty of wildlife: seals, penguins, and whales included!

As if the journey itself wasn’t magical enough, the amenities available aboard Ocean Nova took the trip to another level. With its glass-enclosed observation lounge, presentation room, and spacious dining room and bar, this boutique vessel offers a luxurious way to visit one of the most mesmerizing destinations on Earth without sacrificing a pinch of comfort.

From Rafael’s perspective, one of the greatest advantages of traveling to Antarctica aboard a small ship such as Ocean Nova is that all passengers aboard the ship—which averages around 67 at capacity—are able to disembark for every available excursion, usually twice per day. It’s also never crowded, allowing everyone to enjoy the landscape unimpeded for over two hours per disembarkation.

“You get to take your time with each place,” says Rafael. “On many landings, I hiked to the highest point I could reach to take in the best views I have ever seen in my life. One of the coolest things about this was just striking up a conversation with the other guests about the wonders of the place. Each person had an impressive background and exciting stories to share.”

Keep reading to learn what your days could look like on Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise with us!


Most travelers aboard Ocean Nova begin their day at 7:30 in the morning, when the expedition leader announces the official wake-up call over the ship’s intercom. The unexpected nature of this trip makes it exciting to learn what the day has in store for us. Passengers meet in the dining room to enjoy breakfast, which includes a buffet-style spread with plenty of healthy options and fruit varieties, from strawberries and apples to watermelon and cantaloupe. There’s also an egg station that offers omelets of any style and scrambled and fried eggs. You can pair your plate with bacon, sausage, and several types of delicious pastries. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s even a rotating option of waffles, pancakes, and French toast to enjoy.


Breakfast on board Oceam Nova

Breakfast on board Ocean Nova | Photo by Andel Paulmann


After breakfast, it’s time to freshen up before the day’s morning excursion at 9 a.m. Because of the size of Ocean Nova, it’s a more intimate experience, which makes it easy to have conversations with fellow travelers. Most opt to mix and mingle over coffee before heading out for the first adventure of the day, which could include an experience like Rafael’s: On one particular morning, he and his fellow travelers landed at Useful Island in the Gerlache Strait of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Arriving by Zodiac, they immediately spotted a colony of Adélie penguins. As they played in the water near them, they also had a sighting of a crabeater seal that seemed oblivious to their presence. Rafael and a few of his fellow travelers also opted to hike to the top of the island to have a 360-view. Snow-capped peaks and icebergs loomed in the distance, even in his wildest dreams, Antarctica could not have been as beautiful.

adelie penguin and crabeater seal in antarctica

Photo by Rafael Guzmán


Arriving back on board soon felt like coming home after a long day. Most travelers enjoy taking off their many layers and getting cozy back in the warmth of the ship. Rafael particularly loved taking off his boots and removing his camera gear. After backing up his photos and resting for a few moments, he met with the rest of the passengers around 12:30 to enjoy lunch. On a typical day, there’s usually a hot soup perfect for keeping warm after a big adventure on the ice, as well as salads, rice, pasta, and meat- and fish-based dishes.

After an hour or two to rest and digest, passengers usually head out on their next adventure around 2:30 in the afternoon. One of Rafael’s favorite afternoon experiences included visiting Neko Harbor, where he got to see one of his favorite glacier formations of the entire trip. After hiking to the top viewpoint, he had an even better view of the glacier—as well as the Ocean Nova, which looked like a speck compared to the grandeur of the natural landscape.

Being able to freely explore without being surrounded by hundreds of people makes all the difference. It allowed him to get a real perspective of the massive landscape and could feel like he had it to himself or could share it with what quickly felt like a close group of friends. There is no doubt that it had a significant impact on the feelings felt when facing the overwhelming landscape.

Neko Harbor in Antarctica, Photo by Rafael

Neko Harbor in Antarctica | Photo by Rafael Guzmán


After most afternoon disembarkations, passengers usually return to the ship around 5:00 in the evening. While most days you can expect to stay aboard the ship and rest and relax, some days include even more adventure. One of Rafael’s favorite evenings aboard the Ocean Nova included participating in the legendary polar plunge. On the day he plunged into the icy water, it was about 0.8 Celsius (around 33 Fahrenheit). Following his jump, he and his fellow adventurers were offered a vodka shot to warm up after completing their big challenge. Apart from the rushing sensation and unique experience, we can all agree that it is something to brag about for years to come!

From 6 to 6:45 p.m. each evening, it’s officially happy hour in Ocean Nova’s Panorama Lounge. Most passengers meet in this convivial area to speak about the day’s big adventures. The guides share information on each species and provide context to round out the day’s events. The expedition leaders also offer a presentation of the day’s sightings, from wildlife to natural events such as a glacier calving, including pictures that the ship’s photographer captured.

Presentation about expedition highlights of the day

A presentation about expedition highlights of the day | Photo by Rafael Guzmán


It doesn’t hurt to have explorers and scientists going over their findings and discoveries in first-hand narrations. Having such a passionate group of characters in the expedition team made us appreciate the place even more, understanding the importance of each penguin, whale, and seal. Each plays a part in the ecosystem, and one easily starts picking out favorites among all these alien-like species.

By 7:30 p.m., it’s time for dinner, which is a full-service seating with wine or beer offered. After dinner, Rafael enjoyed meeting back in the Panorama Lounge to speak with his fellow travelers. But given that each day is packed, he was usually off to bed shortly thereafter to prepare for the next day of adventure!


The story was provided by Rafael Guzmán who traveled with Antarctica21 on Ocean Nova from December 12 – 19, 2022 on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise. 

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