Antarctica is the southern most continent on Earth and can reach temperatures as low as −129°F (−89°C). But to cruise travelers, the home of the South Pole is one of the hottest new destinations around and cruise lines are sending them there in ever-increasing numbers. Once seen as a place of treks for hearty explorers, burly men of substance and adventure travelers, luxury cruise lines are finding Antarctica a popular choice, offering a variety of itineraries.
Now, Crystal Cruises is sailing to Antarctica for a Christmas/New Year’s cruise beginning December 21, 2013. The Buenos Aires-Valparaíso voyage aboard 922-passenger Crystal Symphony sails through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Falkland Islands, Drake Passage, Cape Horn, and the Chilean Fjords, going ashore on the Antarctic continent multiple times.Unique to the Crystal version of Antarctica, passengers can fly, hike, and zodiac over and on the icy continent and overnight at the Chilean Eduardo Frei Antarctic Base (INACH). Neither are cheap rides though, prices start at $7,450 per person.
Wait… the Falkland Islands? That’s not quite Antarctica Geographically; it’s South America. And politically, well, it’s still in Europe. Perhaps they are going by the ecozone or floristic kingdom definition of Antarctica? Perhaps.
This type of trip flies in the face of all the principles espoused by slow travel, but it’s an impressive feat all the same. It still kind of blows my mind that we can access every edge of the planet in but a week (at least nominally or floristic kingdom-ly).
For those wondering, they’re currently tied at two games a piece. The ultimate winner is likely to be the one who doesn’t collapse from jet lag in New York.
Lindblad Expeditions is kicking off 2013 with an excellent deal for travelers planning a visit to Antarctica and the surrounding region later this year. The adventure travel company, which specializes in adventure cruises to some of the most spectacular destinations on the planet, is offering free airfare for anyone who signs up for their November cruise to the frozen continent. That 24-day trip includes stops not only in the Antarctic, but also the Falkland Islands and South Georgia as well.
Travelers will depart the U.S. for Ushuaia, Argentina, on November 7 before setting sail aboard the National Geographic Explorer, a ship specifically outfitted for safe travel in the Southern Ocean. Over the course of the following three weeks, they’ll spend four days visiting the Antarctic continent itself as well as two days in the Falklands and five days on South Georgia. The remainder of the itinerary is spent at sea traveling between those destinations.
While aboard the ship, passengers will be able to attend lectures given by a variety of specialists, including legendary oceanographer and Honorary President of the Explorers Club Don Walsh. A National Geographic photographer will also be aboard, capturing stunning images from the journey and travelers will even be able to take advantage of a special documentary film workshop. Given by Nat Geo photographer and filmmaker Cotton Coulson and David Wright, that workshop will provide instruction on how to make their own personal documentary of the voyage.
Anyone who registers for the November 7 departure between now and March 31 will receive complimentary airfare for the trip. Additionally, travelers who sign up for either the November 27 or December 7 departure of Lindblad’s shorter 14-day White Continent itinerary will also get free airfare for either of those voyages as well.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica, 2013 could be the year that you make that dream come true.
Travel via cruise ship has a number of advantages. For one example, you can unpack once but visit multiple destinations on a floating hotel. Doing so safely is another, causing cruise lines to constantly consider life as it is at ports of call around the world. What was once a safe place to visit may not be six months from now. That’s when cruise lines alter itineraries and steer cruise ships clear of troubled waters.
Argentina’s Ushuaia has been referred to as the southernmost city in the world with attractions that include the Tierra del Fuego National Park, Lapataia Bay and a host of wildlife viewing, fishing, skiing, hiking, biking, dining and shopping opportunities. Ushuala is also a South American cruise port. When the decades-old tension between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands heated up recently, cruise lines chose to go a different direction.
“Information had come to our attention that demonstrations may have occurred in Ushuaia that could have impacted the ability of Veendam to enter and leave the port in accordance with accepted maritime practices,” said Sally Andrews, Holland America spokesperson in a TravelPulse report.
But what happens when ports are not accessible?
Cruise lines commonly compensate passengers for missing a port deemed unsafe, substituting another port in its place or adding an extra day at sea.
“As a result of this change, guests onboard were refunded for any shore excursions booked in Ushuaia and the government taxes and fees for the canceled port,” added Andrews.
We saw the same moves made by cruise lines after political unrest in Egypt caused ships to skip a destination many passengers had on their bucket list. Yes, those booked got “a cruise” but it was not “the cruise” they had planned on.
So what to do if my port of call is canceled?
If port cancellation happens before sailing, check with the cruise line, they may be offering booked passengers the ability to transfer their booking to a future sailing.
Check the details of your travel insurance. While “political unrest” rates run about as high as “weather disruptions” on the easy refund list, some travel insurance policies take into account such matters and while the cruise line may not offer a complete refund for cancellation, insurance can help.
Carefully consider cruise line offers to cancel and rebook without penalty. While potentially missing one port of call does not a bad cruise make, if that missed port is the one you were looking the most forward to, the hassle of rebooking and planning different time away from home might be worth it.
Negotiate with the cruise line. There is no rule that says booked passengers cannot try to make a case in favor of consideration by the cruise line when a port is canceled. Legally, the cruise line has that covered in the Passenger Contract all travelers agree to before booking. Still, cruise lines know that a little good will goes a long way to smooth over what could be a deal breaker itinerary change to a passenger.
What did those planning on visiting Ushuaia miss? Check this video to see:
The race is a standard 26.2-mile marathon, but its undulating course makes it a tough challenge for even the best runners. Each year only about 50 athletes manage to complete the full route, which begins in the Falkland’s historic capital of Stanley and then wanders out into the beautiful and breathtaking countryside. Along the way, runners are likely to encounter abundant wildlife, including penguins, seagulls, reindeer and possibly even an orca pod that is passing by just off shore.
Even if you’re not already a seasoned runner there is plenty of time to get ready for the Stanley Marathon. March is still a long ways off and if you have the right training schedule, and maintain a strict regimen, you can be prepared to compete in the race. Of course, the sooner you get started on that training, the better off you’ll be.
While you’re focused on all of that running, you may not have time to think about your travel options. Thankfully, adventure travel company Adventure Life has a Falkland Islands Marathon package that takes all of the worry and hassle out of that portion of your preparation. Let them take care of the details of getting you to and from the Falklands, while you simply worry about getting fit for the run.
If you love to travel and are already a runner, or have just always wanted to compete in a marathon, this is an excellent opportunity to combine those passions into one big adventure.