musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Travel to Antarctica

This post discusses the mechanics of getting to Antarctica the way we did it, offering recommendations, tips, general thoughts, etc. For photos, click here. For my impressions of our trip, click here... 

With Lauren in grad school studying an obnoxious amount of hours each week, I was in charge of finding how we could get to Antarctica. Plus it’s been my dream to go so I was happy to oblige.

So, as any self-respecting person under the age of 70 would do, I started by googling “how to travel to Antarctica” and ended up selecting Expedition Trips to book the journey. They were very helpful and pleasant, essentially making the process pretty easy and straightforward. But there were a few things that I wished I knew before we booked.

Our ship was the M/S Expedition, a recently converted ferry owned by another (rival) tourism group: G Adventures. A company that generally specializes in on-land adventures (i.e. Machu Piccu), the Expedition is the only cruise ship owned by G. And it’s obviously their pride and joy. The boat staff is a friendly mix of seasoned expedition-ists and energetic young people, a demographic mirrored by the passengers. When I think cruise I generally think wheel chairs and walkers; not the case on the Expedition. Plenty of mid-20 to mid-40 ish type folks and a few friends our age we’ll keep up with in the future for sure.

Although this isn’t usually how we roll (i.e. we usually practice 'shoot from the hip' tourism), we may look into G Adventures for our next adventure. Apparently the company tries to fill the gap (they used to be called "Gap Adventures" but apparently had to change due to some lawsuit or something) between plush all-inclusive tours and backpacking; thus making far-flung, previously unattainably expensive journeys... well... attainable. Plus, they pride themselves on quirkiness and I'm a sucker for anything that makes life a bit more interesting.

What I didn’t know is that we could have (and arguably should have) booked directly through G Adventures. Their online marketing folks aren’t as good as Expedition Trips apparently because I don’t ever remember seeing them on the Google search results, travel blogs, etc. They might want to get on that. In addition to it being potentially cheaper, by not booking with G we missed out on a few things (like not having a welcome packet when we arrived in Ushuaia - our port of embarkation) initially.

Angel on one shoulder: "Expedition Trips helped us book other things like horseback riding, hotels and flights if we needed them to..."
Devil on other shoulder: "Yeah, but if I'm going to be booking my own flights/hotels, why go with a middle man if you can book directly from the source?"

It's a fair point, especially for 'shoot from the hip'-pers like us.