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The Battle for Antarctica

· Travel,Cruises

I will be cruising on the Celebrity Summit this weekend out of Port Liberty, New Jersey which means I get to sail out of spectacular New York Harbor almost exactly 50 years after I sailed in to New York aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth II (below). The photo of that momentous cruise garnered some hilarious comments on our Facebook page this week, so I thought I'd give you one more glimpse of my favorite outfit ever. And yes, I still have teddy.

I attended a presentation this week by Ponant, the French luxury small ship cruise line. I learned they have some incredibly unique itineraries all around the world, but they seemed most proud of their Antarctic offerings. I'm featuring this destination this week because just since we entered the travel business 4 years ago, the options for visiting the uninhabited continent have grown exponentially. So much so, that you could say there is a merry old battle going on between the cruise lines for this segment of the travel industry that is more and more popular with increasingly adventurous travelers. Luxury Expedition ships are a rather new concept, and you'll see below the world of opportunities that building them has opened. Even this week Viking announced they will join the crowd in 2022 with 2 brand new expedition-class ships. So, this is how you visit the most unspoilt and remote place left on earth, on your journey of a lifetime.

Top 5 - Antarctica Expedition Cruises

"The Antarctic exerts the powerful attraction of the inaccessible which leads Man to become passionately engaged. One is never the same after returning from a stay on the white continent." Jean-Louis Etienne

1. Scenic Eclipse - November thru February 2019 to 2022
Finally launched in August after a year long delay in the shipyard, the 6-star ultra luxury Scenic Eclipse is limited to just 200 guests, sailing in all-Suite accommodation (above). With a Specialist Polar Discovery Team on board and an average of two discovery excursions per day, Scenic are taking exploration to a new level, and that's before we talk about the submarine and helicopter.
From 13-day to 26-day itineraries are available that can include South Georgia (below), the Falkland Islands, the Chilean Fjords and extensions in Argentina and Brazil.

2. Crystal Cruises - from January 2021
The Crystal Endeavour (artist rendering below) is due to launch in August 2020 and will at least match the Scenic Eclipse's amazing facilities. Antarctic itineraries will run from January 2021 for the first few months of each year. Journeying to Earth’s most remote polar regions and faraway destinations, these will be true expert-led expedition voyages, combining rugged adventure and Zodiac landings with rare discovery, extraordinary wildlife and stunning landscapes few have ever seen.
Top tip - the Antarctic has no human inhabitants save for a few remote research stations. There are therefore no hunters, and the wildlife you will encounter has no fear of human presence enabling much closer contact than the Arctic region.

3. Ponant - lots of options November to February every year
Whilst Ponant currently have 3 ships, Le Boreal (below), Le Soleal and L' Austral, which head to the region every winter (summer down there), in the summer of 2021 they will also launch a super-luxury expedition class ship, the Commandant Charcot, which will be the first hybrid electric polar exploration ship. As a side-note, all these new expedition class ships are designed to leave no footprint on their journeys. Dynamic positioning technology means not even one anchor needs to be dropped. Ponant also partner with Abercrombie & Kent to offer incredibly varied and exciting land extensions.

4. Seabourn - November thru February 2019 to 2022 
Currently the Seabourn Quest has a couple of white continent itineraries, but not to be outdone, this stalwart of small ship luxury cruising, will also add to the growing ranks of ultra-luxury expedition class ships with the launch of Seabourn Venture in June 2021 with its first visit to Antarctica in November of the same year. I know this sounds like a long way away, but this ship is already pre-booking and selling fast. Yes, of course it has a custom submarine planned (below).
I must say that Seabourn Quest currently has one of my favorite sailings, a 42-day cruise, from Santiago, Chile and down that west coast, to Antarctica, then on to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and even to Manaus, a long distance up the Amazon River.

5. Silversea - November thru February 2019 to 2022
If you can't wait for all these new ships to launch, and need your luxury Antarctic thrill now, then we'd recommend Ponant as above or the Silversea Explorer (above and below) and the newly refurbished Silver Cloud.
Currently there is an unusual offer with Silversea Antarctic cruises that includes FREE economy flights, and a FREE hotel night pre or post cruise, plus complimentary airport transfers.

If anyone still needs convincing that the Antarctic isn't one of the most meaningful destinations in the world, Silversea have a few great cruise experience videos HERE.

If you'd like assistance planning your memories to come, let us know here.

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