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Travel Antarctica's Cruise Season Will Look Different This Year

01:05  20 april  2021
01:05  20 april  2021 Source:   cntraveler.com

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a bridge over a body of water © Courtesy Quark Expeditions

Antarctica has become one of the world's most coveted travel destinations in recent years, with visitors growing annually. This past year was set to be a record—until travel was halted due to the pandemic. Now, with travel picking up as vaccinations continue, and cruising resumes in various pockets globally, travelers are wondering: will they get to hike by honking penguins, bounce in Zodiacs, and ogle Tiffany-blue ice sculptures as breaching whales splash later this year? Fortunately, yes: in fact, the upcoming Antarctica cruise season looks the most viable of any this year. Yet expeditions will look and feel differently than before. Here, we break down what may change about Antarctica travel this year—and how you can still visit the magical White Continent.

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What to know about booking post-pandemic cruises to Antarctica

The average polar voyages will still cruise 10 days, with six spent in Antarctica and four days crossing the Drake Passage. Most expeditions begin in Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile, with a hotel overnight before a chartered flight, usually to Ushuaia, Argentina, where most ships set sail.

Before you commit, carefully check the new COVID-19 protocols. Does the expedition require vaccinated crew and passengers? Which vaccines are accepted and how is the travel bubble maintained? Will the medical team provide testing and treatment capabilities? Examine refund and insurance policies, including evacuation options. While pricey, remember that these expeditions are mostly or completely all-inclusive, with chartered flights, hotel overnights, expedition team-led excursions, polar jackets, gratuities, Wi-Fi, and alcohol built into fares.

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With so much pent-up demand for cruising—and especially, for small-group bucket list voyages to open spaces void of humans—cruisers are already booking fourth quarter sails, especially for solar eclipse itineraries. Cruise lines may reduce passenger capacity for increased social distancing, adding to limited availability.

This Antarctic season promises so much that's new. Several new purpose-built, ice-class vessels will debut that are more environmentally sensitive, may provide smoother sails in rough seas, and offer an exciting array of novel exploration possibilities, like polar diving.

Our favorite Antarctic itineraries to book

Ponant: The Emperor Penguins of Bellingshausen Sea

Most expeditions ships cruise the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, the continent’s northernmost part. This extraordinary voyage, on Ponant’s new 270-passenger, hybrid electric-and-natural-gas-powered icebreaker Le Commandant-Charcot, ventures deep into the Antarctic Circle to Bellingshausen Sea. Here, behold thousands of emperor penguins. These rarely sighted birds can reach nearly four feet in height and weigh up to 88 pounds. Ponant is also bringing several activities new to its Antarctica experience, including hot air balloon rides, hovercraft touring, and polar diving. This 20-day expedition sails between Puerto Montt, Chile, and Ushuaia, Argentina; departs November 1, 2021; prices begin at $29,760 per person.

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Silversea: Antarctica Bridge

Suite living, doting white-gloved butlers, complimentary caviar: what more could a luxury-loving Antarctic-bound adventurer crave? Silversea offers a staggering 57 polar sails of varying lengths and itineraries on three different ships this upcoming season, but the Antarctica Bridge sails beckons travelers dreading the potentially rough seas of two-day Drake Passage crossings. So ditch the Drake and hop on a 75-seat private plane for the two-hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to King George Island, the largest in the South Shetlands. This six-day cruise sails roundtrip King George Island, Antarctica; departs December 11, 17, 23, and 29, 2021; prices begin at $14,560 per person.

a flock of seagulls standing on a beach: Penguin-spotting in Antarctica © Courtesy Silversea Penguin-spotting in Antarctica

Scenic Cruises: Antarctica in Depth with Patagonia Adventure

A 21-day expedition, with 12 days onboard the sleek Scenic Eclipse, allows ample time to taste single-malts in the complimentary Whiskey Bar touting some 120 selections. Choose a pillow from the menu for your verandah suite; entry-level accommodations begin at a generous 344-square-feet. Exploration standouts include submarine and helicopter outings. On Day 13, head to Argentina’s Patagonia for endemic wildlife and glaciers galore. Explore the national parks Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine. Departs November 10, 2021, January 29, 2022, and February 16, 2022; prices begin at $24,057 per person.

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Lindblad Expeditions: Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent

Sip martinis in an “igloo” onboard the new 126-passenger ice-class National Geographic Endurance, or twin vessel National Geographic Resolution. In the daytime, pop in for soak-up-the-scenery shelter in the two clear-domed igloo-like structures on the Observation Deck. Reserve one overnight in a two-person bed with comforters, bed warmers, and LED lighting. This 14-day voyage delivers every Antarctic joy, from kayaking and snowshoeing to a National Geographic photographer ensuring perfect penguin pics. The vessels tout the hottest expedition ship design—an X-BOW, promising smoother sails and reduced deck spray. Departs November 7, December 7, 17, and 27, 2021; prices begin at $15,080.

Hurtigruten: Antarctica, Chilean Fjords, and Falklands

This 18-day sail includes the scenic Beagle Channel and the Falklands, a British territory with a charming capital awash in tearooms and pubs. The new (launched 2019) environmentally sensitive, hybrid-powered 500-passenger Roald Amundsen reduces fuel consumption and CO-2 emissions by 20 percent. On these sails, the captain will attempt a difficult landing at Cape Horn, notorious for wild seas where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet. In the Interactive Science Center teeming with science equipment and workshops, contribute to research by joining a Citizen Science program. Departs November 8, December 10 and 26, 2021, January 11 and 27, 2022, and February 12 and 28, 2022; prices begin at $10,314 per person.

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Atlas Ocean Voyages: Antarctica Discovery

New expedition line Atlas Ocean Voyages ups the ante with the term “all-inclusive.” Join in Orlando; after passing a COVID-19 test, wave bye to luggage (which reappears in cabins) and board Atlas Ocean Voyages’ own first class private plane to the Ushuaia, Argentina-based ship. The 196-passenger World Navigator—the company’s first of five polar vessels—is both environmentally friendly and adventure-meets-luxury. Refresh at the juice bar after spin classes. Exhale in SeaSpa, a first for the popular L’Occitane en Provence brand. The industry-first Water’s Edge outdoor viewing area features wraparound heated benches at near-water level; jaw-dropping wildlife encounters can include closeups of snoozing whisker-twitching leopard seals, or fin-slapping humpbacks mere feet away. Departs November 19, 2021 with 11 departures into March 2022; prices begin at $9,699 per person.

a close up of a snow covered mountain: Glacier sighting is a unique experience on an Antarctic cruise. © Courtesy Quark Expeditions Glacier sighting is a unique experience on an Antarctic cruise.

Adventures by Disney: Antarctica & Patagonia Expedition Cruise

On Disney, programming is devised for children, teens, and adults—together, and in age-group-specific activities. Specially trained adventure guides work alongside expert naturalists, catering to all ages. Tuck into family-friendly food and Disney-themed activities like movie nights, pool parties, talent shows, and trivia contests. On Junior Adventure Night, parents dine without the littles as adventure guides host children, who learn to read nautical maps alongside crew. Departs January 30 and February 20, 2022; prices begin at $11,209 per child and $12,459 per adult.

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Quark Expeditions: Celebrating Shackleton: Journey from Antarctica to South Georgia

Quark launches the new 199-guest Ultramarine for this one-off, 20-day voyage celebrating Antarctic hero Sir Ernest Shackleton. The ship has a 35-person expedition team that includes glaciologists and historians. Its two twin-engine, nine-passenger helicopters can travel over open water for longer than most, so cruisers see more of the peninsula. (Notably, flightseeing is included; usually it's an add-on for a fee.) Among journey highlights, thousands of king penguins (the second largest penguin species), and Elephant Island, looking as it did when Shackleton and his men arrived more than 100 years ago. With four embarkation points and 20 Zodiacs in a water-level marina hanger, fast launches for sightings are a snap. Request a wake-up call for when an orca pod or other wow-worthy wildlife is spotted in the wee hours. Departs December 22, 2021; prices begin at $26,995 per person.

Crystal Expedition Cruises: Expedition Antarctica

You'll find amenities typical to luxury ocean liners, like all-suite accommodations with verandas, butler service, diversified dining, and entertainment, on Crystal Endeavor. Making its inaugural polar splash this November, the eagerly awaited 200-guest expedition ship sports a casino. In Umi Uma & Sushi Bar restaurant, you can feast on chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s miso black cod as penguins dive off ice floes. Expedition tools, such as Zodiacs, kayaks, submersible, and helicopters abound, with experts in fields like biology and ornithology leading small groups on the 12-day journeys. Depart November 18, 29, December 10, 2021 and January 5 and February 4, 2022; prices begin at $14,049 per person.

Viking Expeditions: Antarctic Explorer

Viking Expeditions, from Viking, launches in January 2022, with new-build 378-passenger Viking Octantis. New amenities include a trio of pools at different temperatures, and a terrace with heated lava stone “firepits.” Count on about 25 experts onboard, including biologists and resident scientists working in the onboard laboratory, where guests learn about, and participate in, research. In the Hangar marina, guests easily and comfortably enter and debark RIBS and Zodiacs inside, rather than outside, the ship, avoiding ladder-climbing and boarding bouncing boats. Departs January 23, February 3, 14, and 25, 2022; prices begin at $14,995.

6 ways you can ruin your cruise in an instant .
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