If you’re looking for a trip outside of the ordinary tourist traps, you should definitely consider giving Antarctica a try. Despite the growing popularity of Antarctica cruises, it’s still a sparsely visited region and offers some of the most pristine stretches of untouched land left for people to explore.
Since Antarctica is so remote, it’s going to require a little more planning on your part to make sure you get the most bang for your exploration buck. After all, it’s not like you can just hop on a flight or train to squeeze in an extra activity or two that you missed the first time around.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some steps you can take to make sure you get as much adventuring awesomeness out of your Antarctic trip as you can.
The Best Way to Start Planning an Antarctica Trip
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How much do you want to spend on your trip? The cost of a cruise depends very much on a number of different factors (we’ll go through some of them below), but you should expect to be spending at least U.S. $5500 for the cruise itself. (There are some cheaper cruises in the area but these generally only visit islands, not the continent itself.)
Also keep in mind that you’re going to have to pay to fly yourself to whatever port your cruise ship is departing from. For example, one of the major Antarctic cruise ports is found in Ushuaia, Argentina.
If you’re looking to spend a little less, keep your eye out for discounted Antarctica cruises. Some cruise lines will offer discounted berths if they have a couple of spots left open as the departure time draws near.
Time of Year
Antarctic cruises run during the summer. The waters become too icy, and the weather too hostile, for ships to make the trek during the winter months. However (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) the summer months are the reverse of our own.
So when you’re planning for an Antarctic trip you’re going to be looking to head out somewhere between November and March.
Weather and Clothing
Antarctic summer temperatures can reach as high as around 10°C, but count on it being close to 0°C (freezing). Oddly enough this means that (depending on where you’re from) you might be going into warmer temperatures in Antarctica than you’re experiencing at home.
As for clothing, most Antarctic cruise lines should offer you detailed information about what type of clothing and accessories you should bring. The tldr is that you’re going to want to bring layers. Layers help trap air between them that warms from your body’s heat and in turn helps keep you warm. Also, it’s easier to swap out layers when they get wet instead of counting on one or two bulky layers.
You’re also going to want tall rubber boots with good grips on the bottom. There’s a chance that you’ll have to slosh through a tiny bit of water as you get on and off the Zodiacs (rubber outboard-engine boats) that zip you to shore.
Some cruises will offer the use of rubber boots as a perk while others require you to bring your own. Make sure you’re clear on your particular cruise’s boot situation; they’re definitely an item you’re going to want to shell out a little more for if you have to buy them yourself.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget your sunscreen and some decent sunglasses. The sun bounces off of the snow and ice, making for a mighty bright glare.
Smaller is Generally Better
If you’re looking to get ashore as much as possible then it’s a good idea to avoid ships that carry more than 500 passengers. In fact, ships with less than 200 passengers are ideal because Antarctic conservation laws don’t allow more than 100 passengers to step ashore at one time.
So if you’re looking to get as many chances as possible to make friends with the penguin population than set your sights on smaller Antarctica cruise line ships.
If you’re prone to seasickness at all then definitely give your personal doctor a visit before your trip and get your hands on some Dramamine (or another motion sickness solution).
Once you’re actually at Antarctica itself your ship will anchor in calm bays. However the trip to the continent requires crossing the infamously rough Drake Passage which has proven the undoing of many a tipsy stomach.
Remember – motion sickness medicine is preventive, not a cure. You have to take it ahead of time for it to have a proper effect.
Be an Adventurer
Trips to the Antarctic are not your typical getaway. They require more work, but they also come with a sense of pride and accomplishment that you’re not going to find in your trips to regular tourist hotspots.
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Photo credits: Dietmar Denger for Oceanwide Expeditions