We don’t necessarily have a bucket list of things we want to do before we die, but we do have a general idea of places we would like to visit. Antarctica has been at the top of our list for many years. We first planned, booked, and PAID for a trip in 2007. We were living in Australia at the time, and were excited to be going on our first big travel vacation in many years. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the trip when Rinker (the company I worked for at the time) was bought by Cemex. It was too late to get a refund, but we did receive credit for future trips with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. This worked out for us, as we were able to take the fantastic voyage to Svalbard and the Arctic Region in 2008:
Fast forward ten years to 2017. We planned ahead and had booked a cruise to Antarctica again. We planned well in advance, picked the Expedition Ship we wanted, secured the cabin we wanted, and then … cancelled. This cruise was with National Geographic/Linblad, and we were fortunately within refund time frame when we cancelled due to Lou’s impending knee replacement (the first one!)
Would we ever get to Antarctica? Thoughts of the big expedition went to the back of our minds and we filled our travelogue with adventures in Galapagos, Alaska, and Disney. We began to think seriously about Antarctica, and booked a short “practice” cruise with National Geographic to the Canadian Maritimes. And then … drum roll … the pandemic hit. The Canadian Cruise was cancelled, and our out-of-state travel came to a halt.
Earlier this week, we had just settled into our pre-dinner routine to watch the news (always an experience at our house) and perhaps have a glass of wine or a cocktail. Lou said, out of the blue, “I’ve been thinking about your 70th birthday next year (thanks for reminding me, Lou) – what do you think about going to Antarctica?” I think I was speechless for few moments. I had pretty much knocked this trip off of our radar, but guess what? Not only is it back on, it is booked and the deposit has been paid!
We did go back and forth for a few days:
… and so we ascertained each of us REALLY wanted to go. We discussed expectations, based on past cruising experiences and possible physical limitations. Lou may not want to go on all of the shore excursions, but that is okay. His primary concern is that I do all the activities I want to do, without worrying about him. This works with this type of Expedition Cruise, as there is plenty to see from the ship. And he will do some of the zodiac landings, so I think it will be fine. He did say his favorite activity is to take photos of me in the zodiac!?!
We are excited! Normally this type of cruise is planned at least 12-18 months in advance. We are booked for February 2023 – just 6 months from now!!! We were very lucky. Both the ship we preferred, and the last one of the type of cabin we wanted, were available for our chosen itinerary.
The cruising season for Antarctica runs from November thru March. January seems to be the preferred month, with penguins and whales both making an appearance. The mid-February departure date was the only one that went to Antarctica, South Georgia Island, and the Falklands. This should still be good viewing season for penguins and whales. We ruled out the November departures, figuring February was a better time to be away from Maine.
This map shows our itinerary. We will fly from Miami to Buenos Aires. There we hook up with our travel group, and take a 3 hour charter flight to Ushuaia – at the southern tip of Argentina. We will cross the Drake Passage enroute to the Antarctic Peninsula, then to South Georgia, and on to the Falkland Islands. The trip is listed as being 24 days, but I believe we actually have 20 nights on the ship.
My telling of the story may make it seem like this was a simple decision. It wasn’t. The cost of the trip, and being away from home for almost a month were the first two hurdles. Expedition cruises to Antarctica aren’t cheap, and if we were going to do it, we were going to include South Georgia and the Falklands. And it should not be a surprise – we picked one of the highest cabin categories since we will be onboard for 20 days. As for being gone so long, we are fortunate that Teresa seems to be excited about taking care of the dogs. We worked our way through cost and time away by rationalizing that it had been forever since we have travelled,
The biggest unknown is dealing with Covid. The pandemic is still here, and there is no hope that it disappears in six months. The ship follows onboard masking protocols, and all passengers and crew are tested before embarking. We will have travel insurance, and will do everything in our power to make sure we are Covid-free before the trip. We are less concerned about catching Covid, more concerned about how a positive test could interrupt the travel plans. Lou has already spoken to our new GP about getting medical clearance for the trip, and she said she will help us make sure we have the latest vaccines and boosters.
I think I have been the one more concerned about the what-ifs related to Covid. Lou’s attitude seems to be that we have sheltered in long enough, and shouldn’t avoid travel just because something might happen. I am good with this approach, and also take comfort in knowing the trip will be rescheduled if something goes awry. We will get to Antarctica!
If you have been following this blog forever, you might know we like to plan. I will no doubt be sharing some of the planning process as we go forward. It is fun to have a real trip to think about! The good news – you will only be subjected to our (let’s be honest – my) musings for a few months, since February 15th is departure time!
Thanks for following along. Can’t wait to inundate y’all with photos of icebergs, penguins, whales, seals, albatross, and more. Oh, and food. You know there will be food photos.
Stay Safe !!!