Monday, February 9, 2015

An Introduction To Antarctica Cruise Deals

By Beryl Dalton

The White Continent used to be a place that you could only visit if you were part of an expedition or if you could get a job at one of the research bases there. Now it's easier to get there. With Antarctica cruise deals, you can even take the kids on a journey to one of the world's most unspoiled destinations.

Antarctica is the most southerly continent in the world. It's also the least populated, with its thousand or so human inhabitants living in research bases from countries as diverse as Russia and South Africa. Only a handful of cruise ships sail the icy waters here and they can only do it because they're specially built to deal with the harsh conditions.

However, the continent is one of stunning scenery, with rugged mountains, vast expanses of ice and hot springs. Wildlife here consists mainly of marine mammals such as whales as well as migratory birds, including penguins. Cruises generally visit the Antarctic Peninsula, the Ross Sea, the South Shetland Islands and Anvord Bay.

The only time that you can really visit is in summer, which falls between November and March in the Southern Hemisphere. Temperatures can reach into the teens and vessels can make their way through the ice, something which is impossible in winter. Antarctic summer days are long and even at midnight there can still be daylight. However, the weather here is always unpredictable and your itinerary may change at the last minute.

Naturally you should take plenty of warm clothes that you can layer. You don't normally need a formal outfit like you would on other cruises, since things are kept casual in Antarctica. Warm, waterproof boots are essential and it's a good idea to take a waterproof jacket and pants too. Don't forget to pack your bathing suit, though, since you'll probably want to soak in the hot springs. Good sunglasses and sunblock are important too because the ice reflects the Sun's rays and increases your risk of sunburn.

Because of the difficulty of getting to the Antarctic region, cruises here don't come cheap. However, there are several companies that offer packages. If you simply want to enjoy the scenery, a larger ship is a good idea since these vessels can cope better with rough seas. The drawback is that they can't go to as many places as smaller boats and may not include shore excursions. Whichever line you choose, though, check that they're accredited by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, since environmental irresponsibility can have devastating effects on the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.

When you plan your trip, consider adding some extra time for exploring the port that you will be departing from. This can be Port of Bluff or Invercargill in New Zealand, Hobart in Australia, the Chilean capital Santiago or South Africa's Cape Town. However, most cruises depart from the world's most southerly city, Ushuaia, which is in Argentina's Patagonia.

You can book cruises to Antarctica once you're in a port that offers voyages there, such as in Ushuaia. However, it's easier to simply book online. Online is a better option too because you can compare deals and customer feedback.

About the Author: