Tips for Choosing an Antarctica Cruise
Don’t make a a costly mistake
VASHON ISLAND, Wash. – TravelWild Expeditions, small ship experts plan travel to off-the-beaten path destinations such as the Canadian Arctic, and Alaska, offer their expert advice for travel to Antarctica. Over the past decade, travel to Antarctica has grown steadily. So have the number of options on how to get there, with plenty of ships, itineraries and cruise price points. With so many options available, it can be difficult for travelers to sort through them all to find a trip that fits their budget, vacation dates, travel style, and particular interests.
At TravelWild Expeditions, one of their primary functions is to help travelers understand their options and find the perfect Antarctica cruise. To get started, it’s important to consider the following:
Know Where You’re Going
To simplify things, they categorize Antarctica cruises into two groups.
The first group consists of cruises that visit the Antarctic Peninsula—the land mass closest to the tip of South America. These trips typically are 10–14 days in length and will make multiple landings on the continent to see wildlife and walk among the amazing landscapes. Expect to see many species of penguins, whales, seals and seabirds as well as enormous icebergs, expansive glaciers and rugged coastal mountains.
The second group of cruises visit the Antarctica Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. These trips are approximately 18–24 days in length. South Georgia is widely considered as one of the top wildlife destinations in the world. There you will walk among huge colonies of king penguins—up to 100,000 at Salisbury Plain—as well as elephant seals, Antarctic fur seals and a variety of seabirds including wandering albatross. Time spent on the Falkland Islands is a bonus with numerous species to see there including rockhopper, Gentoo and Magellanic penguins, black-browed albatross, striated caracaras, oystercatchers and more. These trips are truly epic in every sense of the word!
Antarctica cruise ships vary considerably in size, passenger count, ice ratings (used for sailing in ice), and level of onboard amenities. You can choose from very large ships of up to 500-plus passengers to smaller ships with as few as 12 passengers. If your goal is simply to see Antarctica and you’re more interested in the onboard amenities than spending time ashore, you might consider the largest ships. However, if you want to get ashore often to experience the continent and its wildlife close-up (and this is what we always recommend to our clients!), smaller expedition-style ships in the 75–200 passenger range are ideal.
Regulations in Antarctica limit the number of passengers that can go ashore at once to 100, so the larger the ship, the more time and hassle involved with getting people ashore—and later, back to the ship—and passengers must go ashore in shifts, which reduces their time ashore at each landing.
When To Visit Antarctica
The Antarctica cruise season runs from November through March and, in our somewhat biased opinion, there’s never a bad time to go! That said, you are more likely to see certain things at different times of the season. All trips take place during summertime in the southern hemisphere, when temperatures in Antarctica are at their mildest (usually in the 30s – 40s Fahrenheit) and we are able to see the continent’s extraordinary wildlife.
For those flexible on dates and cabin choices, there are plenty of ways to visit Antarctica without paying full price. TravelWild offers numerous discounts which can be found on their website or, get early notification (and the best cabin selections) by signing up for TravelWild Expeditions’ newsletter: https://travelwild.com/email-signup/
Until fairly recently, the only way for travelers to get to the Antarctic Peninsula was by ship—most commonly from Ushuaia, Argentina. These days, people can forgo the 2 day (each way) crossing of the Southern Ocean by flying to the peninsula and then boarding a ship to cruise around Antarctica. Fly-in trips are great for people with limited time to travel.
Most people choose to visit Antarctica to see the prolific wildlife and otherworldly landscapes. However, those looking to be a bit more active during their cruise will be happy to know that more and more ships offer options for kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, and even overnight camping on shore. Some of these active options are included in the cruise fees while others are offered at an additional cost. There are now even Antarctica cruises where these activities are the focus of the trip as opposed to being optional activities as is the case on most Antarctica cruises.
What’s Included & What’s Not
On most trips cruise fees will include:
- Shipboard accommodations
- All meals on board throughout your voyage
- All shore landings as per the itinerary
- Port charges and landing fees
- Both formal and informal presentations by expedition staff/leaders
- Coffee and tea
- Some ships will also provide passengers with parkas and rubberized boots
- Airfare—unless specified in the itinerary
- Drinks—at meals and in the lounge. Coffee and tea are typically free but alcohol and other soft drinks are extra
- Charges of a personal nature—like laundry, telecommunications, etc.
- Some activities—most ships charge extra for kayaking and camping. Other activities are often free (snowshoeing, xc skiing)
- Voluntary gratuities
- Travel insurance
- Passport and/or visa expenses
Note: the above lists are meant only to provide a general idea of what’s included and what’s not included. Exact inclusions/exclusions are specific to each trip so be sure to ask before booking.
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TravelWild Expeditions is committed to finding the perfect ship or itinerary for each traveler. Their travel planners have “been there, done that” and have endless patience for learning the travel style and wishes of each client. With a high repeat client repeat; they’re doing something right!
About TravelWild Expeditions
For nearly four decades TravelWild has helped adventurous travelers bring their wildest dreams to life. Their small-ship cruises take you to places few will ever visit—places of unparalleled natural beauty and prolific wildlife. They love to help adventurous travelers experience the wonders of the natural world in areas like Antarctica, the Arctic, Alaska and more. Their expedition trips by small ship, cruise to remote destinations where thousands of people have realized their dream of seeing exotic wildlife and beautiful landscapes; making memories that last a lifetime!
TravelWild’s objective is to provide a customer-tailored voyage, comfortable accommodations and transport, a concern for the environment and the safety of clients—all while maximizing the chance for clients to experience those exceptional and elusive wildlife and nature moments. Travelers expect the spectacular from TravelWild—and that’s what they deliver!
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