Antarctica Cruise Watch-Outs. 8 Things Brochures Don’t Warn You About

Published by Darron Toy on


You’re about to discover eight really
big watch outs if you’re dreaming of, considering or planning going on an
Antarctica cruise. I’m Gary Bembridge, and this is another of my tips for travellers.
I’m going to give you eight big watch outs that I really wish I had known a
lot about before I went on this amazing experience. The first thing you need to
know is that a trip to Antarctica is going to cost you a lot of money. Expect
to spend $10,000 and upwards to go to Antarctica, and you
could be spending $20,000 or $30,000 if you really want to
go in luxury and at peak times. There’s a number of key costs to that.
The first is the cruise itself and even the cheapest that you’re likely to find
is around about $6,500. Secondly, you’re going
to have to get to Ushuaia in the southern tip of Argentina. 90% of
people who go to Antarctica will leave from Ushuaia. So, most of the cruises
will depart from here. People can either go to Buenos Aires then
come down to Ushuaia, or what a lot of the cruise companies do, is you
fly to Santiago and they have a charter flight from Santiago Chile to a Ushuaia,
because that’s one of the closest hub airports to there. Thirdly, you’re
going to have to buy or rent specific equipment. You’re going to
need various layers, boots, gloves and hats. A whole
bunch of equipment that you’re going to need to go to Antarctica. There could
be some other costs so, for example, on Silversea they include kayaking as part
of your fare, however, most other expedition cruises if you want to do
things like kayaking there’s an additional charge. And, of course, then you
have other expenses on board like the laundry and Wi-Fi. But assume as a starting
point that it’s going to cost you at least $10,000 to go to
the Antarctic per person. The second key thing is there is a limited amount
of time of the year that you can actually visit Antarctica.
The core season really is December, January and February. Some cruises
will start going towards the end of October and really start up during November, but
there is a lot of ice till then. The season really ends for most companies
at the first week of March. Some will go a little bit later. December / January is the
peak time when it’s that’s warmest, between five to minus five degrees
Celsius, with long days of 20 hours of daylight. This is when prices are the highest and
you need to book way in advance if you want to go at this time. The third thing
you need to understand is when people talk about cruising Antarctica, it is
very specific part that you go to. There’s a number of different
itineraries. The classic Antarctica cruise goes from Ushuaia across Drake Passage, spends some time in the South Shetland islands and then moves across to
the Peninsula. That’s where most of those cruises go to. You’ll have two days
crossing Drake Passage, five or so days on the South Shetland Islands and the
Peninsula and then two days back. So, it’s normally around about ten days. The second most popular trip is the one which includes South Georgia and the
Falklands. These tend to be up to two weeks or longer and it’s a much broader
and more diverse itinerary. It’s longer and will cost you much
more money. My next big watch-out is be extremely cautious and careful about
what size ship and cruise line you go with. There’s basically three key
ways that you can see Antarctica: one is on research ships (which are very small
and pretty rough and ready kind of experience), you then have expedition
ships and these tend to be a wide range of ships but they will be quite
small, around 200 passengers or less, and then the third way of doing it is on much
bigger ships, which could have 500 or more passengers. They tend to be more classic cruise ships. The expedition ships and research ships will be
ice-class ships, designed to deal with the sea ice. Very importantly in my
view, you have not visited Antarctica unless you go on an expedition ship or a
research ship. If you go on a bigger ship you will not do any landings. The
regulations in Antarctica say that only ships of around 200 guests can
do landings and only 100 people can be on a landing site at any one time. The big
ships will come down to Antarctica and they will do some scenic cruising, but
if you really want to experience it you need to go on a smaller ship. They also have the capacity to go much deeper down into the Peninsula where
there are more icebergs, ice and sea ice and you can, importantly, do the
landings. Don’t just come down to Antarctica, in my view, on a big ship so you can
tick the box saying you’ve seen it, because seeing Antarctica and stepping
on land and going and moving amongst the wildlife is very different to just
sailing by and having a look at the incredible scenery. Also, very importantly
not only because of the cost but also because some of the restrictions, it’s
really an adult activity. Most companies will not let kids under the
age of 8 or 6 onto the zodiacs, which means that they will then spend the
whole time on the ship with no kids facilities. It is very much an adult
experience and if you do have kids that you want to take to Antarctica, I
recommend you wait until they’re in their teens or even older before you go with them to Antarctica. Probably the biggest watch out about
going to Antarctica is the getting there and the getting back. You have to spend up to two days on Drake Passage crossing from Ushuaia to the South Shetland
Islands to start exploring. Drake Passage has some of the roughest, if not
the roughest, seas in the world. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you
go. There’s not a time of the year where it’s better or worse, and it can be very
very rough. You need to assume that for two days there’s a
strong chance that you’re going to have rough seas. You could be lucky and
have what’s known as “Drake Lake”, but most of the times you’re likely to have “Drake
Shake”. We were very lucky and our crossing both there and coming back
had pretty good seas. We had swells of 4 to 5 metres, but it can be much
higher than that. They do build in at least two full days to cross. If you have good
weather you’ll may find your time in Antarctica will be slightly longer,
because they can get there little bit quicker. For getting there,
assume that the sea is going to be rough. Make sure that you’ve taken all the
precautions and make sure that you’re well prepared. Another key watch out is you need
to have very specific gear. First of all, you’re going to need layers. Layering is
absolutely key to dealing with the cold in Antarctica. Also you can layer
up and layer down if things get warmer, like you’re hiking
a big mountain. First of all, you have a base layer which is long
johns and equivalent top. You then have an insulation layer which
could be as simple as a pair of jeans and some sort of sweatshirt. Then on top of
that you then need a waterproof layer, so you need waterproof trousers and you need a
waterproof parka jacket. Many of the cruise companies will provide a
parka because they want it to be a bright red colour, so when you go on
landings they’re able to spot you very easily on land. You’re also going to need
very thick socks. You’re going to need very specific boots and these need to be
high boots which come up to almost knee level, because a lot of the landings
that you do will be into water. You’re also going to need some thin inner gloves and then a couple of sets of waterproof big
chunky gloves. Also some sort of neck gaiter, not a scarf it’s better have a
neck gaiter because also you can pull it up. You need a good hat which covers your
ears. Your ears get really cold! A good pair of sunglasses as it’s bright. Bear in
mind you do need to bring this gear yourself because the ship will not have
it for you. You won’t be able to get it on board. Another really important watch out is nothing is guaranteed and you need to be very flexible and open.
Antarctica weather and conditions change very rapidly. The ice moves rapidly
and weather chops and changes like crazy. Nothing is guaranteed. There is
a rough plan of what you’re going to do and goal of places you’re going to go
and see, but it could constantly change. There is always a risk
that you’re going to spend a lot of money to head down to Antarctica and
it may not work out. You cannot get upset and they will
do whatever they can to get you to places. But, it’s a wild part of
the world and be prepared to be flexible and prepared that things may just not
go at all to plan. Antarctica is one of the most incredible places in the world.
I would strongly recommend that you put it on your list and start saving to go.
I’d love it if you watch many more of my Tips For Travellers videos as they’re
designed to help you make the most of your very precious travel time and money
on land, at sea or on the rivers of the world.


31 Comments

Dan VonBank · June 27, 2019 at 5:31 pm

I miss Antarctica. Spent about 2 years there.

Tony Cahill · June 27, 2019 at 5:38 pm

i love your videos!

Burp Ie · June 27, 2019 at 5:42 pm

I didn't dress that warm working outdoors in -40 weather.

MRGRUMPY53 · June 27, 2019 at 5:50 pm

Watch out for carnivorous Penguins (they can pick your bones clean in two minutes)………….I wonder if Flat Earthers ever go there?

Edward Travels · June 27, 2019 at 6:04 pm

The brochures don’t do a good job explaining Ushuaia. It’s such a pretty town at the end of the world and there is a lot of stuff to see and do there. It’s worth a couple of days. The brochures also don’t do a good job in sending people to Iguazu. That’s such an amazing place and everyone should see it

David Farmer · June 27, 2019 at 6:15 pm

Great information Gary. Looks expensive bit worth it.

uncriticalsimon · June 27, 2019 at 9:08 pm

Does anyone sail from Punta Arenas instead of Ushuaia? I know ALE fly from Punta Arenas (a very expensive option, but you can e.g. go to the South Pole if you want) but can you sail from there?

Of course flying can also be a comparatively cheap way of seeing Antarctica without stepping foot there. https://www.antarcticaflights.com.au/

NW Monk · June 27, 2019 at 9:27 pm

As a constructive criticism, could you pull the camera back a bit? A full face full frame is just a bit intrusive and unsettling especially when viewing on large screens. It's like you are figuratively about to kiss me. That's how close you seem. Other than that, very informative videos, although I tend to minimize them because you are so "up in my grill".

cinnie2 · June 28, 2019 at 12:06 am

What a great video. Convinced me I won't be able to make this trip, but fun to watch anyway. Thanks.

Patrick Mooney · June 28, 2019 at 12:10 am

Excellent and important information, as always. I agree and I hope others listen to you. Thanks, Gary!

Mister X · June 28, 2019 at 2:25 am

Hi Gary….thanks for the advice…..cheers!

African · June 28, 2019 at 4:55 am

All I could add to it is that Obama became a president just so he could get to Antarctica. Though he still wasn't rich enough to take an entire ship to Antarctica, so he just took an airplane…=D

Enjay Nicolay · June 28, 2019 at 5:43 am

No kids you say?

Saving those pennies starting NOW!

Colin Ely · June 28, 2019 at 5:51 am

Years ago there was a cruise that left from Tasmania and came back to New Zealand that went right into the Ross Ice Shelf and visited McMurdo Base

Jennifer Ross · June 28, 2019 at 7:13 am

Very interesting video. I’m going on the silver cloud in February, doing 10 days in Antarctica then 21 days from Ushuaia to Cape Town. Can’t wait. It’s the trip of a lifetime.

Lyn Eggleston · June 28, 2019 at 7:29 am

I get seasick just thinking about cruises- but I love these videos- great information and really interesting!

Laura Phillips · June 28, 2019 at 10:55 am

Thank you; another exceptionally informative video!

The Mighty Cruise Ship Experience · June 28, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Just wondering….
What is that thing hovering over the kayakers at 1:31 of the video?
It looks freaky. A UFO maybe?

Lynne Mclachlan · June 28, 2019 at 4:13 pm

As always brilliant advice

jennifer RS · June 28, 2019 at 6:34 pm

Everyone I know considers a vacation going to the beach. I’ve spent my 29 years of life dealing with 100+ degree summers in Texas. I hope one day I get to go Antarctica! 😃 It looks like another world!

Roxanne Bell · June 29, 2019 at 4:50 am

Your tips for Antarctica started about the same time I booked on the Silverseas’ Cloud. Is there anything you wish you brought with you on the cruise ship? I know our time will be limited on Antarctica itself, is there any excursions you would recommend?

Maurie Shakespeare · June 30, 2019 at 2:11 am

Did it this on Seabourn Quest, 450 passenger ship, and landings happen. I understand no landing for ships with more than 500 passengers. Quest was the perfect Expedition Ship. Highly recommended

Steven · July 1, 2019 at 4:22 pm

What isn't in the brochures about Alaska Cruises: Almost everyone is over 60. The bars, dance floor, and pubs are dead empty. The casino is full. American conservatives will share their political option with anyone standing still for more than 5 seconds. This includes the elevator. 90% of the cruise is in their room and likely asleep by 9 pm. We met one other couple in their 30s. This experience was from a Carnival cruise.

RE-L Mayer · July 3, 2019 at 8:15 pm

great video,thank you

Sir 2k6 · July 9, 2019 at 1:23 am

Great video's, very concise no-nonsense and to the point.

Jill Clardy · July 12, 2019 at 9:05 pm

Stunning photography and great recommendations !

Chris Williams · August 2, 2019 at 7:39 pm

Also not for those with limited mobility.

Debbie Radz · August 24, 2019 at 8:25 am

Another great video. I would love to visit the Antarctica. The information you gave is both interesting and informative.

polardenmother · October 5, 2019 at 12:43 am

My broke, disabled, Canadian heart is bursting with an intensely selfish sadness that I cant ever go to Antarctica, (the only place I have ever wanted to go and or live) and great envy and happiness for those who can. Could you talk the captain into bringing more garbage out than you'all bring in? please? "science" has left a terrible mess. If you see those shorelines you'll be horrified. I have wanted to be a clean-up crew ever since I found out about this disgraceful disregard for OUR beautiful planet. > By the scientists, no less! I understand the world has a problem but this garbage prob in Antarctica began actually long before I was born…. I am 60 now. There's no excuse for it and those old barrels and chunks of plastic Must Go Home. While you're at it take a closer look at what the usa military is sneeking around about down there. I am more concerned than I am critical at this point and you should be, too. Love you. xoxoxo peace

Sy Guzman · November 23, 2019 at 9:36 am

I'm GOING to Antarctica!! I don't care what it costs! I rather $$$$$ pay a price and be ACCOMPLISHED than sit in a rocking chair in my 90's thinking with regret, "I wish I would have…"

Fsdfsdgv Dfsgsdfg · November 23, 2019 at 6:01 pm

Very interesting video and you also seem to be a very nice person. I'll call you "Dad" as from now on.

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