If you’re on this page, it’s probably because you’re either planning a trip to Antarctica in the near future and want a tour of the Akademik Ioffe or you know someone who’s going (or already has) and you want to see the ship they were on.
We’re in category one. We traveled on the Ioffe and thought it would be great to share with you an online Akademik Ioffe tour so you could see what you’re getting yourself into if you decide to travel to Antarctica on this ship.
Akademik Ioffe introduction
The Akademik Ioffe is an ice-strengthened, Russian polar vessel that travels both to Antarctica and other polar areas of the world. The Ioffe was built, along with her sister ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, in 1998.
The purpose of both vessels was to conduct experiments on long-range underwater sound. They told us that this involved submarine detection, but that they no longer do this kind of work.
*nudge, nudge, wink, wink*
One Oceans Expeditions holds the lease on both vessels to take their guests to the polar regions of the planet.
Update: See the note at the bottom of this post.
Abram Fedorovich Ioffe
The Akademik Ioffe is the namesake of Abram Fedorovich Ioffe, a prominent Russian physicist famous for his work on electronic theory, solid-state physics, and the physics of semiconductors.
Who are One Ocean Expeditions?
One Ocean Expeditions is a Canadian tour company based in Squamish, British Columbia. The company leases three vessels:
- Akademik Ioffe
- Akademik Sergey Vavilov
- RCGS Resolute
All three vessels are purpose-built to travel to the polar regions of the world.
The Ioffe and Vavilov both carry less than 100 passengers which, given the restrictions on the number of people able to go onto actual land at any given time in Antarctica, is perfect.
The Resolute carries a maximum of 146 passengers.
A tour of the Akademik Ioffe
The Akademik Ioffe is small but mighty. While the ship is small and only carries about 100 passengers, it provides a comfortable experience for everyone. From dining and entertainment to enjoying peace and quiet, the Ioffe is great for almost every guest.
One thing to keep in mind – neither the Ioffe nor the Vavilov is a luxurious vessel. You won’t be roughing it, by any stretch of the imagination. But you won’t be living in the lap of luxury either.
Each ship focuses more on service and unique experiences that more than make up for sleeping in a basic room, for example.
You’re on a small vessel – and for good reason. First, large vessels often cannot cruise in certain areas where you’ll see the most wildlife. Second, large vessels often carry more passengers than can actually go to land on expedition days.
You want to be on a small ship like this. Trust me.
The Lobby and Reception area
This is where your journey starts – in reception.
Upon boarding the vessel, you will immediately enter Deck 3. Here, at the reception area, staff will welcome you to the ship, check you in, and immediately confiscate your passport!
That’s because you are leaving Argentina, but not really going anywhere that requires a passport. The purpose of this is to ensure that the people who left Argentina come back to Argentina.
There is a desk in the reception area where you can always find the staff to ask questions, and to set up or to arrange anything during your journey on Akademik Ioffe.
Akademik Ioffe Dining Room
Still on Deck 3, next to the reception, sits the Akademik Ioffe dining room. The dining room seats about 120 people comfortably – crew included. All meals happen here. On most trips, plated meals are served at dinner each night.
During our trip, however, all meals were buffet-style, with only a couple that were individually plated. This is because we had more guests on the ship than normal due to it being the running of the Antarctica Marathon. Because of the popularity of the marathon, they bring more guests and slightly reduce the number of crew.
The dining room also serves the purpose of hosting presentations (they also have a presentation room downstairs on Deck 1). Daily announcements and itineraries, along with special celebrations, happen here during meals.
Akademik Ioffe Bar and Lounge
At the other end of the ship on Deck 3, the bar & lounge on the Akademik Ioffe is one of three main gathering places for guests – the others being the library and the dining room.
Here, guests gather throughout the day and into the late hours of the night to enjoy drinks, coffee, conversations, and games.
One of the two coffee stations on board is here, and you can always get coffee, tea, or other hot beverages in the lounge.
The lounge conducts daily breakfast smoothies and happy hour at the bar, where staff can assist you with drinks and ice. While there is not always staff at the bar, there’s a clipboard with a piece of paper to write down your name if you grab any drinks, such as beer and soda, from the bar. It is an honor system.
There’s also a snack bar where you can find mostly Canadian based snacks and treats, such as candy bars, Oreos, and even Lay’s Ketchup chips. They also have a stack of postcards, as well as a “postal box” here to mail out your postcards home. Same as the drink bar, they have the honor system where you can write down what you take from here.
The Ioffe lounge has a pretty good collection of board games, but if you have a favorite, bring it along!
Still on the Hallway Deck 3, there’s one of the most important rooms on the ship for the guests: the Mud Room.
Upon boarding the vessel, you will be fitted out for your own outdoor gear that is provided by Akademik Ioffe. You might be surprised that you won’t need to bring much with you, as you’ll get much of your outdoor gear for free from the company. Don’t waste money. Here’s what to pack for Antarctica if you’re traveling with One Ocean Expeditions.
You’ll spend a lot of time in the mudroom. It’s where you suit up before you leave the ship. As you pass through the mudroom, you’ll get into your ski pants, boots, parka, and life-jacket.
On the way outside, you dip your boots into a biocide to make sure you don’t bring any germs or bacteria onto the continent.
Akademik Ioffe has a wonderful library, located on Deck 5 of the vessel.
I rarely spent much time in the Akademik Ioffe library. But it’s a great place to go if you want to get away from other passengers to read a book.
Akademik Ioffe has a pretty good collection of nature-oriented books, and their bookshelves are well-organized with the regions of the world: Antarctica, Greenland, Canadian Pacific, Canadian Atlantic, and the North Pole region. You can find so many interesting books – anything scientific to photographic essays about wildlife and nature.
This is the quiet place on the ship.
Right outside the library, you can find a few lazy-boy chairs and dimmed lighting in the hallway. For many, these sofas are the perfect spot for a quick nap!
The Akademik Ioffe Bridge
Up on Deck 6, the Bridge is where all navigation happens, and it is the room that you have to visit at least a few times during your journey.
A crew member keeps watch Even on a ship, office work happens
One of the coolest aspects of traveling on the Akademik Ioffe is that the ship has an “open bridge” policy. That means guests may enter the bridge at any time and watch the crew at work while taking in the sights from the Captain’s point of view.
There is always a One Ocean staff member on the bridge who can explain everything to you, point out birds and other wildlife, and otherwise make sure no one interferes with the crew.
The bridge is only off-limits when the Captain and crew determine that they need the space to themselves. For example, when the weather gets very rough and the crew doesn’t want any distractions.
One of the nice things about One Oceans Expeditions is that they bring subject matter experts with them on each trip. For example, on our trip, we had an expert on glaciers and another on the history of Antarctica.
Each day, there is a presentation on some interesting aspects of your trip. From a presentation on the Antarctica Treaty to a talk about various types of ice we’d be seeing, this is where it all happens.
One of the best presentations wasn’t exactly a presentation. Rather, we got to see a film. And it’s one of the most interesting old films I’ve ever seen.
The Peking Battles Cape Horn is a film by Captain Irving Johnson describing life on a ship in treacherous seas. Johnson made the film in 1929 and voiced it in 1980. It’s worth a look!
Media Room (and Connectivity)
The Akademik Ioffe has no Internet or cell connection, unfortunately, but they have a Media Room located on Deck 1. Here, you can download, organize and process your photos and videos on several Mac computers. If you need a minor print job, you can do it here as well.
The only way to connect to the outside world during your Antarctica journey is to sign up for the ship’s email system, which only allows you to send and receive text emails (no photos or videos).
Very occasionally, you can get a WiFi connection from the nearby cell tower at one of the bases. It almost never happens, though.
We were once connected to the Chilean network, and then to the Chinese and then South Korean. It depends on where the nearest base is.
Akademik Ioffe has a gym
Akademik Ioffe will be your home for over a week during your journey, and thankfully there’s a gym on Deck 1 that you can use.
Don’t expect state-of-the-art amenities and machines here; however, it is enough if you want to stretch your legs and have a quick run. The gym has an elliptical, a treadmill, a stationary bike, and free weights.
It is a small gym, so to avoid conflicts over particular machines, there’s a sign-up sheet on the door for you to book a time slot.
If you like music, and this is kinda funny, there is a basket of cassette tapes – yes, cassettes! All music from the 80s. It’s a bit of a time-warp!
On Deck 5, there are two lifeboats. They keep them ready to go for guests and staff.
In your Day One safety drill, you’ll learn how to use these boats and where the muster stations are. Each of these safety boats can carry 66 people.
The boats can endure rough seas and extreme temperatures. Each has water, food, and other survival equipment.
Spa and Plunge Pool
There is a 10-foot deep plunge pool on Deck 5, filled with the cold ocean water. Adventurous guests can choose to make a quick plunge. A great way to wake up in the morning!
Conveniently, the pool is next to the door to a small dry sauna, massage room, and shower. Several regulars added the plunge and sauna to their morning routines during our trip.
Yes, Akademik Ioffe has a Hot Tub and it’s quite popular!
It is on Deck 4 outside. Just open up the cover, set the temperature, grab a drink and gather some of your friends to hang out! A great place to watch the sunset in the evening.
Staff on the Akademik Ioffe
Akademik Ioffe is a Russian vessel, with about 60+ crew members, most of whom work behind the scenes. Most of them are Russians, and they typically don’t interact with guests.
The entirety of Deck 2 is for crew members only. Deck 2 has a similar layout to other decks, including cabins, a dining room, and gathering spots. Guests may not enter deck two.
The crew members that you will interact with are the hospitality crew. They drive the zodiacs, lead presentations, organize and lead kayaking trips, do the daily announcements, and manage the hotel.
During our journey with One Ocean Expeditions, the majority of these hospitality crew members were Canadians, along with a few folks from New Zealand.
Prices on the Akademik Ioffe
Beer, wine, spirits, potato chips, candy bars, and more – the Ioffe has a wide variety of options. And when the staff is at the bar, you will pay for your food and drinks directly. If they’re not, it’s on the honor system. You take what you want and write it down.
I won’t provide a complete list of prices here, as I know they will change from year to year. But the good news is, while you’re a captive audience on the Ioffe, you won’t pay “captive audience” prices as you will on many ships.
A beer costs the same as it would in an average American bar. Snacks aren’t overpriced. The only thing we thought was too expensive was a can of soda at $2.
Here’s the bill for our stay. And keep in mind, we brought several bottles of wine, beer, and alcohol on board with us, too.
Is One Ocean Expeditions worth it?
Note: As of Spring, 2019, the Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Serget Vavilov are no longer a part of the One Ocean Expeditions fleet. In addition, One Ocean has been cancelling trips with little notice and not refunding travelers. Please see this news story for more details.
While our trip was fantastic, we absolutely do not recommend booking a trip with One Ocean at this time.
Our tour was a little different than the one you may take. We were in Antarctica so Halef could run the Antarctica Marathon. Because of this, there was a bit of a change on the ship.
First, the Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon have a 3-year waiting list, so they try to get as many people on the ship as they can, safely.
That means they trade staff for guests. We had 10 fewer staff members on the ship to accommodate more guests. Although we all thought the service level was great, we’re told it’s even better when they had a full staff.
Second, while dinner is normally a plated meal, the number of guests, coupled with the staff reduction, meant that was difficult to do. Dinner was buffet-style on this trip.
I’m sure there were lots of other behind the scenes changes that affected the staff, but guests had a wonderful time and likely didn’t notice.
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.