Quark Expeditions offers $1500 airfare credit for Antarctic travelers

Quark Expeditions Antarctic CruiseThe Antarctic travel season is now officially in full swing, with cruise ships carrying adventurous travelers across the Southern Ocean and around the Antarctic coastline. For many, a journey to the bottom of the planet is the trip of a lifetime and very high on the list of “must see” places. But a trip to the frozen continent can also be a prohibitively expensive one, which is why Quark Expeditions is currently offering airfare credits to help make the trip a reality for more travelers.

Quark, which is one of the top adventure travel companies in the world, is offering a USD $1500 credit per person for flights to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world and the launching point for most Antarctic cruises. The offer is good for all Antarctic travel booked with the company between January 16 and February 26, 2011.

Quark offers three unique itineraries for adventure travelers to choose from. They range in length from 12 to 20 days and each gives access to a variety of destinations and experiences on the Antarctic continent. For more details on this great offer, and to review the various itineraries that Quark has to offer, click here.

If Antarctica is high on your list of destinations, then perhaps this is the time to make a New Year’s resolution to visit that place at last. Let Quark Expeditions help make that dream a reality and take advantage of the $1500 credit in the process.

[Photo credit: Quark Expeditions]

Update on Antarctic cruise ship Clelia II

Antarctic cruise ship Clelia IIYesterday we posted a story about an Antarctic cruise ship, named Clelia II, that ran into trouble when it reportedly lost an engine while crossing the legendary Drake Passage on its way back to Ushuaia, Argentina. To make matters worse, the weather was incredibly bad, with 30 foot waves crashing against the vessel, adding even more of a challenge to completing repairs and continuing the journey. Later in the day, we received an update on the ship courtesy of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

According to the IAATO, the Clelia II is making its way north to Ushuaia under its own power and at regular speed. Contrary to early reports, the ship did not lose an engine, but instead suffered damage when a powerful wave crashed over the bow, smashing a window on the bridge and damaging important electronic equipment. The damage to that equipment caused the vessel to temporally lose communications and engine power, dropping its operational speed dramatically. Once repairs were finalized however, the ship got back underway with just the heavy seas causing issues for the passengers and crew.

The IAATO reiterated that the ship suffered no damage to its hull, nor was there a discharge of any oil or other types of fuel that could have an impact on the environments of the Southern Ocean. Furthermore, the organization confirmed that one crew member did indeed suffer minor injuries in the storm.

If all goes as planned, the Clelia II should arrive back in Ushuaia today, with all passengers safe and sound. I’m sure they’ll all be more than happy to be back on dry land when they reach port, but at least they’ll have a great story to tell their friends back home.

Antarctic tour operators offer tips for independent sailors

The Antarctic tourism season is just getting underway and travelers the world over are preparing to make the journey to the bottom of the planet where they’ll be treated to one of the most remote and untouched destinations on Earth. The vast majority of those travelers will book their visit with a travel company and will end up cruising the Southern Ocean aboard a ship that is specially designed to safely navigate those waters.

But some of the more adventurous travelers will actually make an independent journey to Antarctica, electing to sail aboard their own private yachts. To help those sailors, the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) has released a set of guidelines and requirements for those traveling off Antarctica aboard a sailing or motorized vessel that carries 12 or fewer passengers. Those guidelines are designed to not only help keep travelers to the region safe, but also protect the fragile Antarctic environment as well.

Amongst the resources made available for independent travelers sailing below 60ºS are information on the permits and legislative requirements from various countries of origin, as well as guidelines for anticipating some of the potential risks for traveling in the area. The IAATO also spells out etiquette for contact with indigenous wildlife, as well as encounters with other ships, both private and commercial. These resources and much more can be found at IAATO.org/yachts.

The IAATO is an organization that works with its members to promote safe and environmentally friendly travel to Antarctica. Over the past couple of years there have been several high profile incidents in the region, but the IAATO has made some positive recommendations to help its members to avoid future issues while keeping clients safe and preventing environmental disasters. As a result, there are fewer vessels traveling the Antarctic waters and the region is safer to visit than it has been in some time.

For adventure travelers, Antarctica often represents their ultimate destination. Whether the travel their on a commercial tour or as an independent sailor, the IAATO is dedicated to helping them realize their dreams of seeing that place in a safe and responsible manner.

[Photo credit: The IAATO]

Is it the end of the line for Antarctic cruise ships?

Over the past decade, Antarctica has become an increasingly popular destination for adventure travelers with a penchant for visiting remote places that few others have the opportunity to see. To meet that demand, more and more ships have ventured into the frigid and treacherous waters along the Antarctic coasts, giving tourists a glimpse of the frozen continent, which had in the past seemed like a destination that was unapproachable for the average traveler. But those large cruise ships have raised concerns about potential threats to the fragile polar environment, and now there are measures being proposed that may prevent the vessels from venturing into those waters at all.

The International Maritime Organization has issued a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oils around Antarctica. Those fuels are the ones that pose the greatest threat to the environment should a spill occur, and they also happen to be the fuel that powers the larger ships in the region, which sometimes carry 500 passengers or more. The IMO ban is scheduled to go into effect next August, thus the upcoming season could be the final one for large cruise ships to sail those waters. The Antarctic season generally runs from November to February.

Several high profile cases in recent years have helped to spur this ban, including the sinking of the M/S Explorer , which hit an iceberg back in 2007, and two separate incidences of ships running aground last year. But intrepid travelers looking to visit the frozen continent shouldn’t panic. There will still be options to visit the Antarctic, albeit on much smaller ships. The trip may get a bit more expensive (as if it wasn’t already expensive enough!) however, with fewer options and operators to choose from.

[Photo credit: The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators]

“Bus2Antarctica” comes to a successful end – Andrew Evans arrives on his 7th continent

On January 9th, National Geographic writer (and Gadling team member) Andrew Evans set off on a trip to reach Antarctica.

Not that many people make this trip, and while the destination itself is still very special, Andrew made his voyage even more exciting by completing the trip using public bus services. Of course, he had to use a boat to complete the final portion since amphibious public transit services are still in their infancy. 1,650 tweets later, he arrived this afternoon and posted the following message:

Just set foot on Antarctica. My 7th continent & the end of my bus journey! http://ow.ly/i/vgQ 68º 16.892′ South

Congratulations to Andrew, and many thanks for the fantastic updates during your journey – reading tweets may not be as exciting as actually traveling with you, but it sure did keep me entertained.

(Image from Bus2Antactica Twitter channel)