A baby boom of new polar cruise vessels anticipates a growing interest in exploring Antarctica for many years to come. For the upcoming 2018-2019, 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, AdventureSmith Explorations, the world’s leading purveyor of small and expedition ship cruises, has added to its portfolio five new purpose-built vessels that will cruise Antarctica.
“With your travel options in Antarctica increasing, it’s even more important to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip exactly the style and experience you want,” says Todd Smith, founder and president of AdventureSmith Explorations (https://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/). “Your trip to Antarctica should be a true journey, and turn you into an ambassador for the region, not just a passer-through.” How to achieve this? Smith suggests staying small and sustainable, on a ship carrying less than 200 guests.
Antarctica, unlike warm-weather destinations, remains a rarely visited, pristine world. In the 2017-18 cruise season (October-March), just 42,576 visitors set foot on the continent, less than half the number of spectators at the Super Bowl. But there are still many options to consider.
As the “go-to resource” for the also-expanding population of small ship cruise enthusiasts, Smith underscores how important it is that travelers understand the nuances of cruising polar regions. These nuances will determine which ship and itinerary a client selects.
For example, does a traveler have enough vacation time to cruise through the Drake Passage? Or will time constraints mandate a fly-over option? If your route of choice includes more remote locales like the Weddell Sea or South Georgia, “suites will be more comfortable than cabins when there are several days at sea with no leg-stretching land excursions,” notes Smith. Other considerations include ship size, activity options (some with added costs), seasonality for specific wildlife interests and focus, like wellness-themed ships and itineraries with guest host photographers. He advises booking now for the 2019-2020 season so his staff can make the best match between traveler and ship.
The new expedition ships designed for active polar explorations consider, among other factors:
- allowing guests to move twice daily off the ship to access Zodiac, kayak and on-land adventures. Former expedition ship options, including retrofitted research vessels, may not be set up as well for the active exploration that travelers seek today.
- the number of passengers. Expedition ships for under 200 guests are the core of what AdventureSmith Explorations is all about. Ships, especially in Antarctica, need to be of a certain size for a bespoke, intimate and active experience. To sustain a quality experience in this region, only 100 guests are allowed ashore at one time. Larger vessels may find it hard to facilitate getting guests ashore twice daily.
Following are the new builds in AdventureSmith Explorations’ polar-directed itineraries:
World Explorer for 176 guests first sails Dec.16, 2018, on the Explorers & Kings itinerary; in January 2019 it moves to the Antarctic Explorer 11-day itinerary that crosses Drake Passage. This 1B ice-class vessel boasts private balconies for each cabin, a glass-domed lounge for unimpeded ocean viewing, a gym, outdoor heated pool and running track. Days are packed with multiple landings, Zodiac cruises, and such optional activities as kayaking, camping and stand-up paddle boarding (additional charge). On days at sea, the expedition team presents lectures and workshops. Rates on this ship are from $12,695 per person double for 11 days.
Hondius for 174 guests sails first in the Arctic (see North Spitsbergen) in June 2019 before repositioning for its first Antarctica sailing Nov 3, 2019, on the Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica itinerary. South Georgia, famous for its explorer history (Shackleton), is a haven for endemic wildlife. Smith encourages guests who can add a few extra days to a voyage to include this island (See: Why Include South Georgia with Antarctica and AdventureSmith’s recommended expeditions that include South Georgia below).
The ship—the world’s first registered polar class 6 expedition cruise vessel—boasts an exploratory educational travel program: interactive workshops on astronomy, navigation and botany with as much time off the ship as possible. Guests can leave their shipboard base camp to hike, kayak, scuba dive and camp overnight (added cost). Choose from four different Antarctica itineraries aboard the Hondius; rates on this ship are from $7950 per person double for 10 days.
Magellan Explorer for 69 guests sails the Antarctica Air Cruise itinerary, with an air flight over the Drake Passage. The first sailing is Nov. 28, 2019, with itinerary options ranging from 6 to 16 days. The ship's capacity is for 100; however, guests are treated to the ultimate small ship polar air cruise experience with the vessel featuring only as many passengers as a single flight can accommodate. “The Magellan Explorer’s dedication to keeping it small fits perfectly with AdventureSmith Explorations’ philosophy of small, sustainable cruises,” Smith says. She offers a variety of comfortable accommodations (many with private balconies) and includes the elusive dedicated single cabin. Zodiac cruises lead to a variety of polar activities, including kayaking, hiking and snowshoeing (at additional cost). The per person double rate is from $5,995 for 11 days on the ship’s inaugural voyage, with most regularly scheduled Antarctic Peninsula sailings starting at $13,995 per person double for 8 days.
National Geographic Endurance for 126 guests launches in the first quarter of 2020, with Antarctica sailings slated for the 2020-2021 season. This educational polar vessel has a specifically designed hull to break through the tough pack ice, increasing the ability to explore hard-to-reach destinations and making new expeditions possible. Her ability to venture deeper into pack ice and unexplored reaches, paired with state-of-the-art educational equipment, helicopter landing platform and highly qualified guides, create an in-depth intellectual and exploratory experience. Also notable: out of the ship’s 69 cabins, 75% have private balconies and 12 are designed for solo travelers. Further details will be forthcoming.
Another recently announced 200-passenger polar ship is currently being built for safety and far-off exploration. The new vessel boasts twin helicopters and helipads for heli-skiing, flightseeing, and exploration of otherwise inaccessible places as well as an innovative, internal hanger with four embarkation points for a fleet of 20 Zodiacs. These exploration tools; the ship’s specialized, cutting-edge safety features; and special provisioning and waste handling systems (enabling a 40-day operational range) all ensure the ability to go farther into the polar regions safer and more easily than before; look for future routes into the Ross Sea and the remote western Antarctic “Phantom Coast.” This ship is set to be launched in 2020, sailing the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Other itineraries that include Smith’s recommended South Georgia stopover are:
Explorers & Kings aboard World Explorer’s inaugural voyage Dec. 16, 2018, which includes stops at South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and Antarctica. The per person double rate for this 20-day expedition is from $23,595.
Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica is a classic option ranging from 19 to 23 days aboard one of three different expedition ships for the 2019-20 season. A notable new 23-day option on Feb 24, 2020, aboard the Hondius includes Elephant Island of Endurance (Shackleton) fame and the Polar Circle. The per person double rate on this 23-day route is from $18,500.
Antarctic Wildlife Adventure on the all-suite Sea Spirit comes with thousands of dollars in savings for those who book early on select 2019-20 season departures by October 31, 2018. The per person double rate varies by trip length but starts at $13,295 for 20 days.
Antarctica Air Cruise in 2020 is rolling out a new 16-day special itinerary on March 1, 2020. Guests fly to Antarctica then sail back by way of Elephant Island and South Georgia aboard the new Magellan Explorer. The per person double rate on this 16-day departure is from $15,395.
A number of ships are offering special deals and promotions for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Some extend specials into the 2019-2020 season, with notable early-booking discounts. Click HERE for more information.
For details on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises worldwide, day-to-day itineraries, availability and reservations, Phone: 866-575-2875 toll-free or visit http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/.
About AdventureSmith Explorations -Think Outside the Boat!
Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Explorations is based in Truckee, CA, near the northern shore of Lake Tahoe. A recognized leader in small ship cruising, in 2012 owner Todd Smith joined the ranks of Condé Nast Traveler's prestigious world’s Top Travel Specialists list as the leading expert on small ship expeditions.