March 30, 2007 at 2:19 am #957
I am looking for some advice on an Antarctic Circle Cruise. I am hoping to join one of the scheduled sailings in 2008. Right now there are openings in Feb. 2008 and Mar. 2008.
I am trying to determine if, statiscally speaking, a cruise will have a better chance at making the crossing in Feb. or in Mar.
I would appreciate any advice that can be provided.
ThanksMarch 30, 2007 at 11:35 am #8796
Hi Ginney, welcome.
Good question. I’ll give you my .02…
The short answer is that ice conditions change so rapidly that it’s hard to predict. If you’re aiming for the Antarctic Circle, Feb and March are usually the best months of the year, and the odds are good either way. Ice conditions are probably slightly better in March but the weather is more dicey.
The type of ship matters too. If you’re going to the Ross Sea side of Antarctica, chances are that you’ll be on a real ice breaker — probably the Khlebnikov or something similar — which can handle heavy ice conditions. In that case you are highly likely to cross the Antarctic circle.
Most people cruise on the Peninsula side of the continent beneath South America, and I’m assuming that’s where you’ll be going. Chances are you’ll make it at that time of the year although you never really know until you get there.
All things being equal, I think I’d go in February. There’d be more wildlife, longer daylight hours, and you’re statistically more likely to have better weather (no guarantees of course).
Either way, just getting there will be an adventure.
glennMarch 30, 2007 at 1:00 pm #8797
Thank you very much for the prompt and comprehensive response! I have been trying, without much luck, to get straight answers from cruise vendors.
At this time there are not a lot of spaces left on the polar circle cruises for 2008. The Maryshev, which sails on Mar 10. and the Vavilov, which sails on Feb 6., seem to be my two options out of South America (Ross Sea exceeds my budget).
It sounds like the Vavilov might be the better time, but unfortunately I don’t think I can afford to go with them as they are close to $10,000. for two people.
That means the Maryshev on Mar. 10 is the only choice I have left for 2008. Is leaving USH on Mar. 10 pushing the weather limits?
I guess the bottom line is I am wondering if I should wait until 2009.
Again – thank you for all your help.March 30, 2007 at 3:32 pm #8798
… close to $10,000. for two people. Is leaving USH on Mar. 10 pushing the weather limits?
Yeah, cruises to Antarctica are expensive. Most don’t even include the flight to Ushuaia and other travel. 10K for two people is actually very cheap. It’s also some of the most incredible scenery on earth, so I really encouage you to go sometime.
March 10 is definitely at the end of the season. The weather along the Peninsula gets very unstable starting in March as the sun goes down. The wind breaks up the ice, making some areas more accessible, but the wind can also jam ice together or prevent shore visits. On the ‘plus’ side, if you can call it that, is that late-season cruises often give people a better picture of what the environment is really like along the Antarctica Peninsula. Most people only see it in the relatively warmer, nicer Dec-Jan season, and come away thinking that’s what it’s like all the time. (Ha. I laugh.)
If the March cruise is the only one you can afford, my question would be how important is it to see penguins? If the trip is primarily to get below the Antarctic circle, I’d say go for it. But if you’re after wildlife, be aware that many of the penguin chicks will have fledged by then — you’ll see penguins, but perhaps not in the large groups that were present earlier in the season.
glennMarch 31, 2007 at 2:52 pm #8799
I truly appreciate all this wonderful info!!
It sounds like a crossing in March is not unlikely, but that we can expect harsher weather. So now my question is, Will the harsher weather prevent landings?
Most folks think I am crazy, but my goal is to get below the circle and to land on the continent. Wildlife viewing along the way is an added bonus (especially whales), but I really want to do the crossing and a landing. While I wish I could experiance more of the “real” Antarctica, I guess I will have to settle for weather that is not quite ideal 🙂
If we don’t see a lot of penguins along the way, I won’t be terribly disappointed as we visited NZ and Australia last year and went to a few rookeries there. For this trip, I am more interested in the overall environment, the ice, and the remoteness of Antarctica.
By the way, it seems I was not clear in my last post, the 10K was not the cost of a trip for two, but rather the ship that sails in Feb. is 10k MORE then the ship that sails in Mar. 🙂March 31, 2007 at 4:36 pm #8800
Will the harsher weather prevent landings?
Sometimes, yes. But that can happen at any time of the year, on any cruise. The cruise companies know that the passengers are there to experience Antarctica and, from what I’ve seen, they’re pretty amazing at getting people ashore, even in foul weather.
To give you some more perspective, for the past couple of winters along the Peninsula at Palmer station (Latitude 64S, three degrees above the Antarctic circle) we were able to takes small boats to the local islands and make shore landings into June. Considering that it’s the middle of an Antarctic winter, that’s really good. The limiting factor until about May was the weather, not the sea ice. About half the days were bad enough that we couldn’t get out — but our standards are tougher, and it’s likely that most cruises would have been able to put people ashore.
For contrast, when I left Palmer at the end of November 2005, the weather started out gorgeous. For unusual logistical reasons I left on a cruise ship, the Clipper Adventurer. As we headed north the captain tried repeatedly to get passengers on shore, but of maybe 6-8 serious attempts we were only able to land once — due to sudden high winds (>60 knots). This was at a time of the year that is typically considered “better”.
The bottom line is that Antarctica has world-class crappy weather, and there’s no tellin’ what will happen. It’s probably safe to say that, if you’re on a cruise that includes shore visits, you will get ashore, somewhere. It’s only a question of where and how often. It’s rare that a ship cannot make any landings, although I’m sure it does happen now and then.
When you say “land on the continent”, do you mean physically on the continental land mass or will any Antarctic island do? This is a minor nit, but the fact is that many people, while they may land on some Antarctic islands, never actually set foot on the continent itself. When you see it, you’ll understand why… (It’s tough to land on a calving, 300ft glacier face.) Having said that, the Antarctic Circle curises sound like they have a good chance of doing so, perhaps better than some of the wildlife-oriented cruises that focus on the offshore islands. I haven’t been on a cuise to the circle, so this is mostly speculation on my part based on tourists I’ve talked with. By the sound of it, however, the circle cruises head as far south as they can, hoping to cross the circle. When the do that, or else hit ice dense enough to stop forward progress, they plop everybody on shore (or the sea ice) and, well, there you are.
As far as experiencing the “real” Antarctica, you can’t miss. One way or the other, you’ll see it. At least, the coastal version of it. For the Plateau experience, bitter cold and mind-numbingly endless ice sheets miles thick, you have to pay another $30K apiece and fly to the Pole. Wheee.
glennMarch 31, 2007 at 8:10 pm #8794
Several of the vendors that I have spoken with about the cruises assured me the ships try really hard to make the crossing and as many landings as possible. Problem is, I figure they want to sell me a cruise, not paint a real picture. So I am very happy to hear your prespecitive – this helps alot as I try to decide the best approach.
I agree there is a difference between reaching an Antarctic island and the continent itself. Ideally I want to reach the main continent and not just an island. I am an “experiance junkie” and the more I can see, touch, and feel, the better.
I also have to confess to be a “collector”. Not things but places and I would LOVE to get to the South Pole!!!!! Unfortunately, when I researched it and saw the price I knew it would never be in my budget. Pity – I imagine that would be an amazing adventure!April 17, 2007 at 2:40 pm #8795
Ginny, I’m a little lax about checking in here these days, hope you are still there.
I’m not familiar at all with the cruises out of chile. I’m at McMurdo in the Ross sea and we usually get one or two cruises in a year. If you are looking for wildlife you will probably see more on the Chile cruises. The weather is just plain warmer there. The Ross Sea cruises hit a lot of grandeur. Just getting in requires a bit of icebreaking. Both hit historic areas. You’ll probably stop at some of the various old whaling stations. The ross sea cruises bring you to some of the huts erected by the early explorers.
MikeApril 18, 2007 at 2:27 am #8793
Thanks for the information. As much as I would love to take the trip from the Ross Sea, there is no way I can afford that one. So I am settling for one that leaves Ushuaia, Argentina.
The trip I chose does go a bit south of the polar circle, but does not even come close to McMurdo. Too bad, I would really like to make it there as well.
I am just hoping that the weather holds out in March long enough that we can do the circle crossing and also get to land on the continent a couple of times.April 18, 2007 at 3:06 am #8792
You’re going to see things that very few people on earth have ever seen. I’m envious already.
Ushuaia is in a beautiful mountain setting and kind of a hip town, which is interesting considering that it’s at the ends of the earth. If you have a night or two there and some time to explore you might like it. I don’t know if you’ve been to Argentina or Chile before but if your pocket book isn’t already stretched beyond its limit I might recommend hanging out there for a while, particularly in either Patagonia or maybe Buenos Aires.
glennApril 18, 2007 at 3:28 am #8790
I was definately planning to get to Ushuaia a few days early, as I want to explore a bit of Patagonia. I had also wanted to head over to Chile, but I am finding it is difficult to get other then air transportation arranged between Ushuaia and southern points in Chile.
No matter what we end up doing, I am certain it is going to be a wonderful visit. I have read a lot about the area and it all sounds fabulous.April 18, 2007 at 5:38 pm #8791
You up north at the moment? Lorie and I went into escrow yesterday on a relatively bad shape 1920s vintage house in Crescent City.Actually not too bad but some rot in the foundation on the south wall. Thats where the winter storms hit. No work yet for either of us. I should get my contract this week. You heading back to the ice this year? Sorry I don’t here much, with my limited email time, I’m mostly just on the Antarctic Memories site. It’s job fair time and things are cooking. See you later
mApril 18, 2007 at 7:32 pm #8787
Yeah, I’m up in Washington still waiting for the summer to arrive. And I have no idea what I’m doing, work-wise.
It would be nice to get a job locally but there just isn’t anything here. So the other day I threw in a resume for a vessel IT position (gawd help me, I must be crazy) but I’m only marginally qualified for it. With the pre-screening Q&A test on Rayjobs I doubt my resume will even make it to a hiring manager’s desk before it’s filtered-out by HR. If I get serious I may have to go through the back door and email it directly to folks.
Congrats on the house purchase deal. My house is over 100 years old and it’s been a handful, so I have some idea of what you’re in for…
PS to Ginney — sorry to hijack the cruise thread, if you have any more questions please ask.April 20, 2007 at 8:39 pm #8788
No problem – I just easedropped a bit 🙂
I’m also in Washington working in the IT world. I have a state job in Olympia working for the court system. I am an old mainframe COBOL programmer turned webmaster.
If you find yourself staying in Washington for a bit, maybe my husband and I could buy you lunch someday and you could tell us what we REALLY need to take with us on our trip and give us more insight in to what we can expect.April 21, 2007 at 4:22 am #8789
Lock up your daughter processes! Batten down the hatches and IP Portals! Load the FORTRAN-IV cannons with semi-compiled copies of Zork and Hunt the Wumpus! Take no USENET-prisoners or hexadecimal core dumps! Fire at will!!
Oh, wait. That was a long time ago…
Kinda makes an old mainframe salt nostalgic. Anybody got an vintage DEC I can borrow, just for a few days?
Oh — want to know what you really need on the trip? You already know: a passport, credit card, US cash for buying T-shirts at the station store(s), a good camera, and lots of memory cards for it. An MP3 player or laptop is also handy for those long Drake Passage crossings. Everything else is secondary.
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