Planning an Antarctica Cruise
Antarctica Cruises are an area of travel where experience and expertise are really important. It is a significant investment of time and money and therefore it is important to consider:
* The time of year to travel.
* The style of cruise that best suits you (more traditional expedition or “soft expedition”).
* Not all cruises go below the Antarctic Circle (so it’s important to choose the right itinerary).
* Smaller ships, carrying fewer guests, are more likely to spend more time in zodiacs and onshore.
* Pre-existing medical conditions (and how that may affect your ability to travel and your travel insurance).
At Fine Travel we work closely with the specialist cruise lines and local representatives to provide our clients with an Antarctica cruise itinerary to best meet their needs. As a full service travel agency we also assist with flights, accommodation, travel insurance and any other travel related requirements that may arise.
Luxury & Soft Expedition Antarctica Cruises
Although “luxury” may not be immediately associated with Antarctica Cruises, three cruise lines that are well known for their commitment to luxury cruises experiences offer such itineraries. Each of these luxury cruise lines offers a different style of ship and itinerary, which you can explore:
- Ponant – French luxury and expedition cruising
- Silversea Cruises – Luxury all inclusive cruising
- Seabourn Cruises – Exceptional cruise experiences
Specialist Expedition Antarctica Cruise Itineraries
The itineraries offered by more traditional expedition cruise lines include:
Certain cruise lines offer itineraries from New Zealand and Australia to the Ross Sea area (such as Heritage Expeditions). These itineraries offer a different experience with more days at sea and usually include New Zealand and Australian sub-Antarctic Islands.
Antarctica cruises allow you to experience the last discovered continent, where wildlife and nature exist without excessive pressures of humankind.
The dramatic mountains, glaciers, icebergs and ocean provide a backdrop to the lives of the wildlife who have adapted to living here. During the brief summer months of light, an astounding abundance of life returns to crowd the headlands and beaches. Many varieties of penguins and seals as well as a huge number of bird species can be seen during your visit. Watching whales is a great bonus.
The “heroic age” of Shackleton, Amundsen and others a hundred years ago opened Antarctica to the world.
Antarctica Cruise Types
There are two very different types to Antarctica cruises. Firstly the larger cruise ships that visit here are restricted to scenic cruising through the area and generally include a visit to the region with longer cruises around the South American coast.
However the majority of cruises here are provided by smaller specialty ships that allow passengers to disembark onto the Antarctic islands and the continent itself. These cruise ships tend to be sturdy expedition style ships and do not offer all the extras associated with modern cruise ships. These Antarctica cruises are dedicated to the experience and generally feature onboard experts (on the region and the local wildlife) who give lectures and lead shore excursions. Visits to the Islands are usually by Zodiac inflatables.
The contrasts in temperature are striking as summer in the Falklands and Ushuaia can sometimes be quite warm, while summertime in Antarctica hovers at the freezing mark.
Antarctica Cruise Seasons
Cruises here operate from October to March in the southern summer months when the days are longer – there are up to to 20 hours of daylight in high summer.
Larger cruise ships tend to depart either Valparaiso or Buenos Aires and include an Antarctic experience within their ‘round the horn’ cruise.
Specialty ships generally depart from Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world located on Tierra del Fuego. These cruises often combine visits to Port Stanley in the Falklands with visits to uninhabited islands to enjoy the remarkable sea and bird life.
Weather in Antarctica
Weather in the sub Antarctic islands is cool but pleasant in the summer months but the temperature on the continent itself rarely gets above freezing. The nature of the area means that the weather can and does change quite quickly, so if you plan a cruise here take good note of the cruise lines advice on clothing. Again remember that island visits are by zodiac inflatables so you need to ensure you are properly dressed for these trips.
Travel Insurance for Antarctica
Generally the cruise lines will require that guests sign waiver forms before starting the cruise. We highly recommend arranging travel insurance. If you are concerned about getting cover given pre-existing conditions or your age, please contact us to discuss options as we work with a number of travel insurance companies who have provided cover in such circumstances.