Planning your Antarctic adventure can be exciting, but you should make careful considerations in areas of trip length, cost, and the ship you choose. There are other factors to consider in your preparation, including the month in which you'll travel (most run during the austral summer) and point of embarkation. You will need to gather appropriate clothing, photographic, and other gear you will not be able to purchase once you embark.
When to Go
Antarctic cruises are mostly concentrated at ice-free coastal zones during the Antarctic summer, the five-month period from November to March when daylight hours are at their maximum. Mid-December and January are normally Antarctica's warmest months.
An Antarctic cruise can range anywhere from about US $4,000 to US $20,000 for a twin cabin, not including airfare to and from your port of embarkation. This estimate is for regularly scheduled cruises. As an alternative, you may choose to charter a private ship for your smaller party and running your own itinerary. You can expect to pay between US $7,000-US $10,000 for a two-week chartered cruise.
How long are trips?
Antarctic tourism centers around twenty or so vessels carrying 45 to 280 passengers each. The ships primarily sail to the Antarctic Peninsula region and some also include South Georgia and the Falkland Islands in their itineraries. There are several expeditions to remote regions outside the Peninsula each season, including voyages to the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea, and occasionally East Antarctica, including offshore islands. Most trips run 10 days to 3 weeks from port to port. Two weeks is at least a good introduction to the landscape, scenery, and wildlife.
Further information on Itinerary Options
Where do Trips Embark?
Most expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula depart from Ushuaia in Argentina, the closest landmass to the White Continent, however other South American ports are sometimes used. Cruise departing from non-South American ports are generally much more expensive.
Cruises to Eastern Antarctica and the Ross Sea often also utilize the following ports: Hobart (Australia) to Auckland or Christchurch (New Zealand), and Port Elizabeth (South Africa) to Hobart (Australia).
Infrequently cruises also depart from Cape Town (South Africa) and Fremantle/Perth (Australia).
Choosing the Right Ship
There are a variety of choices in the size of the passenger ship you choose for your Antarctic adventure. Choosing the right cruise ship can make a world of difference in the satisfaction of your experience. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) has established such rules as ship size protocols for entrance to Antarctic waters and appropriate conduct at landing sites. IAATO is a well-respected voluntary organization. When booking your trip, make sure your cruise ship or tour operator is a member of IAATO.
Do I Need a Passport?
Documentation and passport visas are not required to visit Antarctica, however if your itinerary stops at other countries en route, documentation may be required.
The extremely cold and windy conditions of Antarctica make clothing considerations very important. Layering is essential to keeping the body, especially the extremities, warm, comfortable, unrestricted, and perspiration-free. Assembly of the following suggested clothing items should begin well in advance of a trip to Antarctica in order to ensure proper fit and comfort.
Foundation (base) layer. This is the first layer next to the skin so it should be soft, comfortable, and able to quickly wick away perspiration. Includes a thermal or capilene long-sleeved top and long underwear of the same material.
Insulating layer(s). These are the most variable and can be layered on as necessary. These are usually made of fleece, the modern alternative to wool.
The outer or shell layer. This top layer needs to be windproof, but not necessarily waterproof, as there is no rain at Antarctic temperatures. The outer shell should either be made of natural down lining or synthetic materials. This jacket or coat should always have a hood attached. Examples include: polar parka, windproof jacket, or a Gore-tex jacket.
Wool cap and insulating headband.
Gloves or mittens with high wrist cuffs.
Insulated high boots. These need to cover the ankles.
Wool or synthetic fleece scarf.
Thick, warm wool socks.
Thick warm pants. Made of moleskin or synthetic material like fleece.
Sunglasses and/or goggles. Antarctic summers can be intensely bright.
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