visit Antarctica on a budget - are there last
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
as the cheapest cabins are usually taken. To
do this you need to stay in town for some time
during the season which lasts from November to February 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
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 thing!
While you have guides
and experts on board, their expertise does not
necessarily lie in performing a medley from
a musical 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.
Relaxing, reading, 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.
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
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
required and possibly some prior experience.
medical facilities are there?
Antarctic cruises do not call
at towns and cities along the way 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 reasonably
active life at home should prevent a trip to
Antarctica, obviously it is very much down to
is the food like?
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 also 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.
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 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.
any guides on trips to point things out and
explain what I see?
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"
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
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. Walk around
with your legs bent a little at the knee to
absorb unexpected lurches. It can also be great
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 to 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. If you are just looking at the ship as
it moves with you, the balance organs in
your inner ears are saying the world is moving around,
while your eyes are saying it isn't. If you look at a static horizon,
both are saying the world is moving, 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 on the Antarctic Peninsula from
the gift shop and Post Office at Port
Lockroy (most Peninsula trips call here),
and also from the gift shop at the American
Palmer base, though far fewer trips call
there. In the Ross Sea region, New Zealand
Scott base and American McMurdo base also
have gift shops. Otherwise
shops are non-existent, ships usually have a
small one with scenic postcards and branded
caps, t-shirts etc. and maybe some other
items of clothing.
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 may 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
gloves and hat ashore with you even though
the sun is shining and it's warm when you set
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 generally 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.