Top 3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Polar Cruise Company
Polar travel has become increasingly popular in the last two decades, and there are many great companies to choose from to make your dream trip a reality. When choosing the perfect polar cruise company for your trip, you will want to do your research and ask the right questions based on your style and expectations. Here are three questions that we think are important to keep in mind during the selection process.
There are so many options and prices! How can I tell what’s right for me?
Each operator has a style that will appeal in different ways to different travellers. You will want to review the details carefully to determine which features are of value to you. Go beyond cabin pictures and marketing presentations, and evaluate the details, such as the itinerary, the composition of the Expedition Team, the features of the ships, etc.
There are operators that specialize in providing luxury expedition cruises, where the focus is opulence and grandeur. Others offer a no-frills experience, with economy expeditions offered at the lowest possible price. Others, like Antarctica21, focus on offering comfortable active adventures.
There are also operators that publish high prices, suggesting an experience of a higher value, but then routinely release outrageous discounts to make you feel like you are getting a bargain. Be careful and be skeptical. Evaluate all offers based on what you are receiving for the amount you pay, not the size of the discount. Like with most things in life, you usually get what you pay for.
What about the size of the ship, does that matter?
Yes, it does. In fact, selecting a ship size allows you to narrow down your search. Ship size really refers to the number of passengers on board the ship. For the purposes of Antarctic travel, ships that carry 100 people or less are considered small ship. Medium-sized ships range between 101 and 199 passengers. And large ships carry 200 passengers or more, even thousands.
The Antarctic Treaty allows only 100 travellers on land in one location at any one time. So when there are more than 100 people travelling together on a ship, they have to be organized in groups that take turns getting off the ship to spend time ashore in Antarctica. This process takes time and places certain limits around the operation: either fewer places are visited, or less time is spent at each location.
Larger ships, especially older larger ships, tend to offer the lowest price. However, the experience is qualitatively different compared to that offered by smaller ships. At Antarctica21 we only use small ships that carry a maximum of 71 travellers on board our Antarctic fly and cruise expeditions. Our focus is on offering the best Antarctic expedition experience possible.
Note also that large ships that carry more than 500 guests, like cruise liners, cannot allow passengers off the ship at all. Read our article on ship size for further details.
What about the Drake Passage?
To get to the Antarctic Peninsula you must first cross one of the most treacherous bodies of water on earth – the Drake Passage. The conditions during the crossing are unpredictable and can vary from the “Drake Shake”, with violent storm that cause huge waves of 10 mt and up (30 ft+), to the “Drake Lake”, with calms seas. All travellers who plan to sail across the Drake Passage should consider the possibility of seasickness.
Depending on the conditions, crossing the Drake Passage takes about 50 hours, longer if the sea conditions are challenging. If you are concerned about sea sickness and prefer to avoid sailing across, the Antarctic Fly-Cruise option provides an alternative. Instead of boarding a ship in South America, you board a jet there and in about 2 hours you fly over the Drake Passage in comfort, boarding the ship directly in Antarctica.