- Can I
visit Antarctica on a budget - are there last
minute deals? - Antarctica is
not a backpacker destination or a place for
travellers on a shoestring budget. However....
It is possible to get a late deal
on a cruise if you go to Ushuaia saving
maybe up to 50% on the advertised cost, though
this is still going to cost you $6,000
to $8,000. To do this you need to stay in town
for some time during the season which lasts from November
to March and visit the numerous travel agencies
on a daily basis. You need to be able to travel
the next day when a last minute trip comes up,
ships are leaving on an almost daily basis during
this peak period. Nothing is guaranteed however
and you need to factor in your extra accommodation
and food costs while you're waiting, some years
there may be a choice of deals, other years
there may hardly any at all. Flights during
this time need to be booked in advance to avoid
Increasingly, in line
with many other travel destinations, it is
the early booked deals which are often
better (and far more predictable) than
hoped-for last minute bargains.
is the age range on Antarctic Trips?
- The age range of passengers
on Antarctic trips tends towards 40+, there
are often 30 something's in lesser numbers and
maybe some younger passengers, most will probably
be in the 45-65 age range.
There is no
"shoestring" way of getting there so you don't
get many young independent travellers. Passengers
on Antarctic trips are frequently very well
travelled and tend to be interesting people,
the sort who are prepared to spend money on
an "experience" as opposed to going on an eating
and entertainment type cruise. Antarctic trips
are reasonably active so passengers need to
be able to get around readily.
sort of entertainment is provided?
- Antarctic small ship cruises are not
what people usually imagine a cruise to be,
for the majority of passengers, this is a positive
While you have guides and experts
on board, their expertise does not necessarily
lie in performing a medley from "Chicago" complete
with fish-nets and high heels after dinner (you
could always ask). There are usually no professional
entertainers on these ships, there will be talks
and maybe videos shown but they will be very
much to do with Antarctica and the specialisms
of the guides. Reading, relaxing, watching the
world go by, getting to know your fellow passengers
over coffee or a drink at the bar are what will
pass the time when on board and sailing. Antarctic
cruises differ from the wider cruising experience
quite significantly in this regard.
- How fit
do I need to be to take part in the activities?
- Most cruises will have a variety
of activity levels for the passengers. You need
to be in generally good health, while there
will probably be a doctor on board the ship,
you will be a long way from any other medical
You should be sufficiently
able-bodied to get in and out of zodiacs from
the ship and ashore and negotiate uneven possibly
slippery ground. Once ashore there are usually
two or three different walks. Typically one
will be easy at low level over a short distance
with frequent stops, one will involve gaining
more altitude and cover much more ground with
infrequent stops. Another will often be for
photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, which
may be quite energetic or might involve spending
a lot of time in one area as dictated by circumstances.
Some trips will offer one or more activities
of sea kayaking, cross country skiing, camping,
snowshoeing, mountaineering or diving as options
where obviously a higher level of fitness is
medical facilities are there? -
Antarctic cruises are not like cruises
where ships call at towns and cities with all
of the medical facilities that you would expect.
Ships will carry a medic, but facilities will
vary according to the size of the ship.
In an emergency, pretty much all the ship
could do would be to head back to the nearest
port which may well be a day or two's days sailing
away. It may be possible to visit a national
base if there are facilities and medical personnel
Anyone with any kind of significant
disability or medical need should contact a
tour company and explain the situation in as
much detail as possible so that the Antarctic
trip can be tailored to the individual need.
There is no reason that a disability that does
not prevent someone living a fairly normal life
at home should prevent a trip to Antarctica,
obviously it is very much down to individual
is the food like? - Food will
be plentiful, tasty and nutritious, of course
the more luxurious your ship the greater the
variety and quality. Fresh fruit and veg may
run low on longer (20 days +) trips, but overall
you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference
from a good hotel restaurant. Most dietary
requirements can be met. I have never heard
anyone comment negatively about the food on
an Antarctic trip but have heard lots along
the lines of "Hadn't really counted on that
aspect, definitely a bonus!".
there be a variety of nationalities on the ship?
- Antarctic cruise ships tend
to be very cosmopolitan environments. The language
on board is most commonly English and lectures,
guided walks etc. will be conducted in English,
there are however particular cruises where French,
German, Chinese etc. language and culture predominate.
While there may be a majority group of some
nationality on a trip, there will nearly always
be half a dozen and probably many more different
nationalities represented by the passengers.
- Are these
cruises suitable for older passengers
- Antarctica is a fairly active
place to visit, though you can have quite a
sedate time on a trip there if you choose. To
make the most of it, you should get ashore as
often as possible. To do this, you should be
able to walk down somewhat wobbly possibly steep
steps to get into the zodiac which will be rising
and falling to some degree with the waves (up
to a foot is typical, usually less). At the
other end, you will need to be able to get out
of the boat over the side and probably into
ankle deep water or onto wet rocks. There will
be many strong hands to help you do this, but
it does require a certain level of sprightliness.
Once ashore you may need to negotiate uneven
rocky ground and/or ice and snow that may be
slippery. While there are many active people
in their 80's and even older who visit Antarctica
and take part in the whole programme, it is
not for the infirm or unsteady of any age.
- Are there
any guides on trips to point things out and
explain what I see? - Biologists,
ornithologists, geologists, historians etc.
will be your guides to where you are and what
you will see in Antarctica. Don't be afraid
to ask questions, if you're asking there will
be others who would like to know the answer
too and the guides will be glad you're interested.
is "Open Bridge" - A policy
on the bridge (where the crew go to drive and
operate the ship) of most cruise ships to Antarctica.
You the passenger can wander on and have a bit
of a nose around as long as you don't press
The first time I went on the
bridge of a ship in Antarctica, there was
quite a swell running, as I was walking off,
the ship lurched and I fell against a big
bank of switches and buttons setting off the
abandon ship signal - try not to do this!
there be an opportunity to discuss photography?
- Many ships have a resident
photographer as a part of the programme at no
additional cost. There will also be many keen
photographers on your trip happy to offer help
and advice. Even if you are a novice it's worth
getting a decent camera for your trip and practice
using it before you go.
is the likelihood I will encounter rough weather
at sea? - You should expect
rough conditions at some point, this may be
when crossing the Drake's passage or elsewhere
on your cruise, though you may encounter calm
seas all the way. If you suffer at all from
sea-sickness, take some medication, patches
are popular and quite effective. Take
care during rough seas as you can be dumped
into your chair or onto your bed more enthusiastically
that you expected or find that getting up happens
a bit more quickly!. Slippery silk pajamas are
not recommended as every time the ship lurches,
you'll shoot off in that direction (possibly
quite entertaining for onlookers however). Walk
around with your legs bent a little at the knee
to absorb unexpected lurches. It can also be
The first time I encountered
rough seas I stayed in my bunk for about 48
hours feeling awful, this is the worst thing
you can do. Make the effort of find your sea-legs,
some food in your stomach is better than none.
Go up on deck or look out of a window, the sickness
comes largely from the discrepancy between what
your eyes tell you and what your inner ear tells
you. i.e. ears say the world is moving around,
eyes say it isn't. If you look at a static horizon,
it all makes more sense and you feel better.
After my inauspicious start (over 30 years ago)
I've never suffered from sea-sickness since.
there be opportunities to buy souvenirs?
- It is possible to buy souvenirs
in Antarctica from the gift shop and Post Office
at Port Lockroy on the Peninsula, and also the
gift shop at the American Palmer base on the
peninsula. The New Zealand Scott base and American
McMurdo base in the Ross Sea region also have
gift shops. Otherwise shops are non-existent.
Ships usually have shops with scenic postcards
and branded caps, t-shirts etc. of the ship.
is meant by "Unlocked door policy"
- This operates as standard on ships
in Antarctica. There will be a ships safe if
you wish to leave large amounts of cash. Like
a utopian global village, there is no crime
aboard a cruise ship in Antarctica. Most ships
are cashless, bills and tips being paid by card
on the last day or morning of departure. Some
smaller ships however do not take tips by card
and so you will need cash for this - ask before
you set off.
can I expect from the weather?
- The unexpected! There's a lot of weather
in Antarctica and it's in evidence most days.
It can and does change in a moment so make sure
you take your outer layers and insulating layers
ashore with you even though the sun is shining
and it's warm when you set off.
- Are cruises
suitable for children? - Some
ships have rules where they won't take passengers
who are under 6 or under 12. While children
are not discouraged from an Antarctic trip,
they are not particularly catered for either.
The chances are you won't meet any other children
on the cruise and there may be long periods
of entertaining yourself (sea passages) which
for the adults is all part of the attraction
of being able to switch off and absorb where
you are, read, chat etc. For children this may
be a more challenging time and also for parents
hearing "I'm bored" (and other passengers too).
Antarctica is only really a family destination
for older children.