Definitely planning a trip to Antarctica is not the same as taking a couple of return tickets at Pricelne. When I need to move around Europe it takes me an hour to plan the route, get the flights, and find the adequate accommodation. If you want to travel to Antarctica, many of those things will not be necessary to plan, as they will come included in the package, but even more essential and more time consuming will be the fact that you need to select properly the kind of trip you are expecting to get.
Nothing can be more frustrating than spending a fortune to travel to Antarctica and discover later that you were not looking for this kind of trip. Probably you will not be able to allow yourself to come back again for economic reasons. Let’s take a look at what different possibilities are there, and which requisites you should look for before booking your trip.
First of all, do a large research. Do not worry about the time, and if you don’t have it, let an expert help you in it. The regulations in Antarctica are very different than the ones in any normal touristic destinations, and all the touristic tours operated there are regulated by the IAATO. Whichever vessel you choose to travel there, make sure they are members of the IAATO, and you will avoid strange surprises.
The kind of expeditions will be most of the times conditioned by the kind of transport you use to get there. If you choose to travel with a research vessel, you will find there many active programs and normally more younger customers are attracted. These vessels are not enormous, but are a good intermediate point. The ships are built for polar research and have the hulls strengthened to deal with the ice, but are not considered icebreakers. Many of them are Russian vessels that after the collapse of Russia were chartered to be used for adventure tour operators. You can’t expect luxury on board, but comfortable rooms and kind of a private environment to travel to Antarctica
Another kind of ship will be an expedition ship. Always larger than the research vessels, they are built to explore the remote waters of the planet. Normally they will include a large number of experts on board that will give classes during the whole trip in order to make your experience as cultural as possible. You will find a great source of knowledge there, and they are normally prepared for landings, so you will almost sure enjoy some land expeditions on the white continent. Normally they will offer a higher level of luxury than research vessels and more services will be offered to you.
Finally, an Icebreaker is directly designed to break through the ice. It is the biggest of the vessels discussed here, and they are nearly always leased by Russia to Adventure Tour Operators in a way that they can get some cash in the months where exploration in the North is not possible due to the winter conditions. These vessels are prepared to travel to the most remote and difficult parts of the Antarctica, so you will have the opportunity to land in the regions where all other vessels simply can’t make it safely. An extraordinary opportunity that normally will also involve a higher price and will get the most veteran travelers. Somehow, a trip with this boats feels like a true expedition!
In any case, there is one thing you must understand before booking with any operator. Even if it may seem that the larger the boat the most interesting the experience, regulations say that no more than 100 tourist can be in the Antarctica at the same time. This means that if the boat is very big, a large number of people will be there, and the turn taking to step on the continent will make the landings time reduced. That’s all up to you depending on the interest you have in walking on these remote lands.