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  • The Seventh Continent

    10/2/2020 10:06:36 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


    Maybe you read about Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 trek to the South Pole. Maybe you’ve been to 6 continents already. Maybe Antarctica is a bucket list destination for you. No matter the reason for your interest in Antarctica, it is one of those destinations that fascinates and inspires so many travelers.



    Located around the South Pole, Antarctica is a challenge to reach! The easiest way to get there is by cruise ship. There are no hotels and no permanent residents of Antarctica, so you need to go with a tour operator who brings all of the supplies you will need. There are two main types of Antarctica cruises: a sail-by cruise and a cruise with landings. A sail-by cruise is most common among large cruise lines with large ships. As part of a South American itinerary, they cross the Drake Passage and sail by the continent so that travelers can see it from the ship. Travelers will not get off the ship and actually step onto the continent.


    The second type of cruise is an expedition cruise. These are most often done on smaller ships that come with all kinds of gear to permit travelers to go ashore. Days in Antarctica are filled with landings and explorations around the continent. Only 100 people are allowed off the ship at any time, so you will be able to do the math based on the number of people on a ship to know how much time you may be able to spend on the continent.



    While Antarctica is a large place, the most common destination that travelers visit is the Antarctic Peninsula, a small peninsula of land outside of the Polar Circle that is closest to South America. Most travelers will depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, considered to be the gateway to Antarctica. Your cruise ship will depart from there, cross the Drake Passage, and then do a sail-by or do landings that explore the peninsula and other areas close by. There is also an option to fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to a small airfield in Antarctica and then board a ship there. No matter how you choose to go, you will experience the continent while based on a ship.



    When choosing an Antarctica itinerary, you should consider what kind of trip you want (sail-by or landing) and what other places you may want to visit while you are in the area. For example, you may be able to combine a trip to Antarctica with other locations in Patagonia and/or islands such as the Falklands or South Georgia. Crossing the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica can sometimes be a challenge due to notoriously rough seas, but most everyone who has done it says the reward is worth it!



    What can you expect to see? The answer is white. It is a land of ice and rocks. There will be no vegetation, because nothing can really grow in the cold, dry, and windy environment. Perhaps the biggest draw for most people is the animal life. You will see whales, birds, seals, and lots of penguins. Experts estimate that 78 million penguins call Antarctica home. You will see them, be entertained by their antics, and smell them!



    If you do an expedition cruise, you can expect to use kayaks or zodiacs to land ashore once or twice per day while you are in Antarctica. These small vessels allow you to truly experience the grandeur of the continent as you sit at sea level with icebergs towering above you. You will probably see some of the icebergs calve, you will follow penguin tracks in the ice, you will watch penguins frolic and swim at the edge of the sea, and you may even get to do a polar plunge off the back of your ship. Talk about a bucket list item! Your ship will also be staffed with all kinds of scientific experts who will lead your daily expeditions and offer seminars to prepare you for what you will experience. Basic polar gear is usually provided by the ship, but you will need to bring plenty of warm layers and some specific gear if you choose an expedition cruise.



    The season for Antarctica cruises is November through February, when it is “summer” in that region. The days are long. In fact, if you are there on December 21, you will have 24 hours of sun.


    Inspired to cross this item off your bucket list? We would be thrilled to help you make that happen. Begin thinking about whether you want to do a sail-by or an expedition cruise. With that basic goal of your trip, we can then help you narrow it down to a cruise that will be right for you, giving you the experience of a lifetime that you are looking for.



    Details and Recommendations

    Getting there: Antarctica is far away! Plan to allow a lot of time to get there and return. In fact, many people will spend a couple of days in Ushuaia before boarding their cruise ship. You will likely travel first to Buenos Aires and then to Ushuaia. There is very little, if any, time change, so while these flights are long, they tend to be less stressful on the body than flights east or west.  


    How long: Expedition cruises generally run 10-14 days; sail-by cruises are often part of a larger South American itinerary and generally run 14-18 days. This includes time to cross the Drake Passage both ways. You should allow a minimum of 2 weeks by the time you add in travel to and from South America. If you do a longer cruise that takes in more of South America and/or the islands, then plan on 3 weeks total.


    Don’t miss: This opportunity! Going to Antarctica is something that very few people have the opportunity to do. Whether you do a sail-by or an expedition, if you can work it into your plans, do it. And when you are presented with opportunities on an expedition cruise, take them. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t miss anything!  


    Contact: Globe Travel at 434-390-8233 or to help you find the right Antarctica experience to meet your travel goals.


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