After reading ‘A Bargain Cruise to Antarctica: Too Good to be True?‘ by Cruise Critic writer Susan Bryant, I started to think about what Swoop clients want to get out of a cruise to the Antarctic. Many of them are keen photographers and being able to get a close up shot of a baby adelie penguin or an elephant seal with its young is key to that experience. Others are expecting a once in a lifetime trip and they aren’t prepared to cut any corners when it comes to visiting a place that they’ll never visit again. With that of course, comes a sizeable price tag although as I’ve mentioned in the past, it is possible to find Antarctic cruise deals if you book early enough.
What saddens me is that big cruise liners are offering enticing deals to take people to Antarctica without really making it clear that they won’t step foot on the Antarctic peninsula itself. As Sue mentions in her post, Reader Offers Ltd quoted a very reasonable £2,699 per person for an 18-night cruise to Antarctica, calling at places like Paradise Bay, Gerlache Straight, and Elephant Island in the Sunday Times with the caption ‘Wake up surrounded by breathtaking scenery every day’. What it didn’t say was that vessels carrying 500+ passengers are forbidden from landing ashore because of environmental impact their presence would have on the Great White Continent. This, more often than not is not made clear from the outset, and passengers are often saddened when they realise there’ll be no speeding down the Gerlache Strait in a nifty Zodiac boat surrounded by towering ice cliffs on their cruise. What’s more, spending 9, 10, 11+ days on a ship without getting off at all isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Many people aren’t prepared to pay a hefty amount just to wake up surrounded by ‘breathtaking scenery’ from the ship, it’s about feeling the cold on your face, crunching the ice under your feet, walking amongst penguins and following in the footsteps of Shackleton. This is an experience which can only be found on a small ship carrying up to 100 passengers. Plus, the great thing about joining a small cruise ship apart from the fact you can get up close to the ice, is that many of them offer photography classes, kayaking, camping on ice, hiking across the ice and even scuba diving in Antarctica, something which can only be done in small groups.
So – a word of advice; if you want to experience the real Antarctica and not just see it from a ship, join a small Antarctic cruise and visit in October or March for the cheapest prices.