9 Things Everyone Should Know Before Traveling to Antarctica.
While I knew a few facts, such that I would need to travel on a ship and leave South America, I was naive about things like costs and what to pack.
After a wild journey across the Drake Passage and many incredible experiences on my seventh continent. I have learned what went right and what went wrong.
These are the 9 things I believe everyone should know before they embark on Intrepid Travel’s almost two-week “Best of Antarctica” voyage.
The white desert is remote and requires a lot of fuel and manpower to reach it. This forces companies to charge quite a bit for these once-in-a lifetime trips.
A triple cabin interior cabin cost $5,700. It had single beds and a shower. I also had two roommates from different genders.
My rate was purchased in a Black Friday sale in Nov 2019, but I was charged a $456 fuel surcharge in August 2022 because of rising prices.
Rising fuel costs, as well as surging demand, are pushing rates up, with the most expensive cabins — singles and suites — going for $10,000 to $18,000 during Intrepid’s 2023/2024 season.
Source: Intrepid Travel
These rooms can be reserved by solo travelers. Double rooms will require an additional supplement.
Source: Intrepid Travel
The tour cost me $350 per person and included three meals per day, a night in a hotel, expedition guides, and all Antarctic sightseeing. It wasn’t the only expense.
I also had to pay about $1,000 total for roundtrip flights from the US to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires…
…as well as $300 for camping and $150 for snowshoeing. I had to sign up on the boat for the latter, but neither excursion was cancelled due to bad weather at the landing sites.
Additional cost was also charged for souvenirs purchased from the boat’s onboard store and alcohol from its bar. Intrepid allowed us to bring wine or beer for no extra charge.
2: You will be leaving out of South American cities, and it is not always easy to get there.
My cruise left from Ushuaia in Argentina, which is also the world’s most southern city. While there are ships that depart from other places like Punta Arenas (Chile), I will be focusing on my experience getting in to and out Ushuaia.
I was booked on Aerolineas Argentinas flights from Miami to Buenos Aires, Ushuaia and back. My return flight from Buenos Aires was changed by the airline. Not only did they amend the time, but also the departure airport.
Instead of flying into the international airport and easily connecting to my Miami-bound flight, I was re-booked onto a flight to the domestic airport, which is about 45 minutes away by car — and my connection was shortened to just two and a half hours.
It was a very stressful trip home. Aerolineas offered me a flight from Ushuaia earlier to help me out.
Even though I was fortunate, I wouldn’t fly out on the same day as disembarkation again. Instead, I would fly out the morning after, giving me more time between flights. My return to Miami was at 11:30 pm.
3: You don’t need to bring many clothes, but you should have things like hand warmers, sunscreen and binoculars.
Several large suitcases and carry-ons were seen at the Ushuaia hotel. I also saw backpacks and camera bags. This was just for one or two people.
What I learned is that you can survive with one checked bag, or even just a carry-on and a personal item — which is the route I took.
Three-fold is the reason I recommend that you pack light if Antarctica is your only stop.
One — heavy jackets and muck boots are included in Intrepid’s tour price, and the same goes for most other operators, so you can leave those at home.
The windproof and waterproof jackets are usually brightly colored and will keep your ship warm. Intrepid allowed us the use of our Kathmandu puffer. However, the parka and boots were only for rent and were given after embarkation.
Two — the ship is hot, so you will not need to wear layers on the boat, and only closed-toed shoes are allowed.
I recommend that you rotate your T-shirts, jeans, and leggings and bring only one pair of tennis shoes. You won’t need sandals, hiking boots, or heels unless you are spending more time in Antarctica.
Three — laundry onboard the Ocean Endeavour was $39 for a full load of clothes, and some companies offer the service for free.
Moreover, Intrepid’s tour is in Antarctica for up to four days, so you only need a few layer pieces — especially if they are merino wool, which is anti-odor and can be worn several times before washing.
I regret not having brought a pair binoculars. It would have made it easier to see distant wildlife. I’m glad that I brought my SPF40 chapstick and handwarmers, as I prefer the latter for my boots.
The Drake crossing took about two days each direction and many people were seasick. Scopolamine patches that my doctor prescribed helped me avoid nausea.
Although some people experienced blurry vision, I didn’t feel any side effects. I recommend that you bring an additional anti-nausea medication, such as Dramamine, with you, but not to use them together.
5: This is an expedition. Don’t expect to drink mojitos at the pool or see Broadway performances at a huge theater.
The Ocean Endeavour is a sturdy polar ship designed for cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic. It comes with all the necessities, such as cabins, lounges and a dining area.
There is also an onboard spa, gym, pool, and hot tub. But that’s about it. As you can see, the pool was not open and the jacuzzi was only half-open.
There is no casino, steakhouse, sushi bar or dance club. You will still feel at home in your tiny Antarctic community.
The tour guides also prepared daily science presentations that covered everything from polar birds, seals, tectonic plates, and the history Antarctic expeditions.
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