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Antarctica Trip Report

Antarctica Trip Report

Old Feb 20, 2018, 10:51 am
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Join Date: Jan 2016
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Antarctica Trip Report

I am re-posting this from another thread so anyone who googles about Antarctica Trip can find this post.
Antarctica trip report:
Me and my wife just came back from Quark (pronounced "cork") expeditions Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake (7-day) all Inclusive premium suite trip. The cruise ship (Island Sky) is a ~100 passenger + crew luxurious ship built very well with great decor and mahogany wood treatments everywhere. Our premium rooms were spacious with a queen bed, walk in closet and a decent size shower and toilet room. There was a shared balcony which goes around the ship. The crew members were very knowledgeable and helpful. The food on the cruise was delicious with daily menu changes and one sunny day we had barbecue on the deck overlooking the glaciers which I will never forget!

The cost for the cruise was $9000 (after 25% discount) per person, which included the following:
-8AM DAP charter flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas.
-Overnight stay in Dreams hotel (5-star oceanfront hotel) in Punta arenas.
-Free (yours to keep) jacket with Quark logos (very well insulated, heavy and waterproof); High snow boots are provided, which need to be returned. You need to bring your own waterproof pants.
-DAP Flight from Punta arenas to King George Island. KG island has several territories owned by several countries, but only Chile owned land has a gravel landing strip. Flight times vary between 7am to 7pm based upon the amount of ice on the runway. It is very rare to see them not able to fly and lose a day but it can happen!
-Cruise for 4 nights which stopped twice a day in different islands 2 hours each time to explore/walk. Transfers from cruise to the land were made in zodiacs and we saw penguins, whales and several types of seals.
-DAP Flight back to Punta Arenas.
-Overnight stay in Dreams hotel.
-12 noon Flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago.
PS: I took a $80 Chile medical insurance plan for both of us which covers emergency evacuation for up to 200K as required by Quark prior to arrival. Quark offered a trip cancellation policy for about $1000, which I did not purchase. There was a doctor on the cruise and while we took the Scopolamine patches with us, we never needed them.
I have done extensive research before going to Antarctica and I wholeheartedly recommend Quark expeditions which is reasonably priced for an all inclusive trip, compared to ~20K per person Antarctica cruises.
Some cruises offer lower prices but overcharge for each activity. We liked the way Quark took care of everything (flights within Chile, hotel stay and island activities) for one price.

Quark booking was very easy over the phone without the need for any travel agent. I recommend calling them to make a payment rather than paying on the web site since Quark lets you pay the total bill over time with several credit cards (I would not have been able to pay the whole amount one time otherwise). We took advantage by opening several credit cards over 8 months and made lots of points.

We used AAdvantage points (100K points on Latam- call AA to book) for nonstop business class flights from Orlando to Santiago. U.S to Santiago flights reach early am so you can get on 8AM flight to Punta Arenas without the need to stay a night.
Return flight is also timed very well to return back with minimal amount of time in the airport.
Passengers may choose to break the trip and stay in Punta arenas to explore Patagonia by driving to Puerto Natales and Torres Del Paine.

Overall everything is arranged very well with Quark expeditions and I encourage anyone planning to visit Antarctica to use fly the Drake passage option. 4 nights may seem short (longer options available), but enough to see all the wild life. We had very good sunny weather but ymmv with heavy rain and clouds, which may ruin the experience. Antarctica landing seems like any place in Norway, but you will see expansive glaciers and icebergs throughout the cruise. Once you start sailing away from the King George island the whole scenery changes and you will feel like you are on another planet. One place they took us had an active volcano with warm waters and greenery which looked similar to the movie scene in Alien Covenant. Another memorable experience was to see several seals resting on the icebergs from few feet away while cruising on zodiacs.

Landing in King George Island

Premium cabin

Large penguin colony

Antarctic sunrise

CAN YOU DO ANTARCTICA TRIP FOR LESS MONEY?? One can do Antarctica trip by sailing the Drake passage for ~7K and also getting last minute cruise deals in Ushuaia (~$3500 to 5000). But, my wife refused to sail the Drake passage after seeing the YouTube videos showing violent water shaking the ship.

IS ANTARCTICA TRIP WORTH THE EXPENSE?? My answer is, it depends on what you expect out of the trip for 10K!
Antarctica trip is a once in a lifetime trip for many people and you will remember the scenery (massive glaciers, sun rise, seals floating on the icebergs, whales and thousands of penguins crossing in front of you) for as long as you live!
If you are interested in animal interaction only Chile has places you can go to see king penguins, whales and seals for lot cheaper price.
Several travelers compare it to the arctic trips where you see a lot more of floating icebergs and polar bears. Both are very unique and expensive trips any traveler should do as part of a bucket list.
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peterrudy is offline  
Old Feb 20, 2018, 11:36 pm
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Thumbs up

Amazing, thank you very much! We have been toying with the idea of doing this for a couple of years, but the costs have slightly put us off: for this kind of money the trip has to be perfect, and it seems as if you guys got it right.
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Old Feb 21, 2018, 8:14 am
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We did Antarctica on a 3 week cruise with Seaborne. Larger ship, 450 passengers. We were in Antarctica for 6 days. Kayaked and lots of on ground time. Would definitely recommend.
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Old Feb 21, 2018, 11:43 am
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Very enjoyable report! So glad you posted. Four days does not sound like much time but it seems to have been enough for you to see and do all that you wanted to. Sounds like you got very lucky with the good weather.
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Old Feb 22, 2018, 12:13 am
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Wonderful TR!

We did Antarctica with Ponant on the L'Austral two years ago - the 11 day / 10 night "emblematic Antarctica" cruise. It was superb, and we're going to do it again probably in 2021 - but this time to do the great Austral loop, which includes the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Islands, as well as Antarctica. We found the Ponant tour to be terrific - 3 zodiac outings per day and plenty of fascinating shore excursions.

We had "Drake Lake" going down, and "Drake Shake" coming back. "Drake Shake" was thrilling!!! I'm a doughty sailor, so wasn't bothered by the conditions, although that wasn't the case for many of the other passengers. One of the cool things about "Drake Shake" was the main dining restaurant was astern on a waterline deck, and we were regularly plunged underwater through the swells. A number of us insisted that the curtains be left open so we could look out under water when the ship took a dive!

Antarctica was the greatest journey I've ever taken, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
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Old Feb 22, 2018, 1:32 am
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I did 35 days on the Ortelius, semi-circumnavigating the entire continent, and it was one of the best trips of my life. Fantastic to be there!!
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Old Feb 22, 2018, 7:57 am
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I enjoyed reading this; thanks so much for posting. I did a Lindblad/NatGeo cruise to Antarctica last month, and it was very interesting to read your post and compare it with my experience. I was glad to have had six days in Antarctica, and, with a little help from the pharmaceutical industry, survived the Drake (which was relatively mild, especially on the outbound) very well. I was happy with the Orion (we had 102 passengers, a perfect size for Antarctica, given landing restrictions and the reliance on Zodiacs). I had a single cabin, which was a good size and nicely furnished, but had only two portholes rather than a window, and, more significantly, was on the main deck and very far forward--the icebreaking one night was so thunderous that it woke me up and kept me awake the rest of the night. The expedition and boat staffs were great, though, and I profited from the photography tips offered by the NatGeo photographers. Lindblad gave us parkas, and had poles available (I brought my own), but we had to bring or rent boots.
My trip included an overnight stay with short afternoon tour in Santiago--we stayed at the Hotel Santiago by Mandarin (formerly the Hyatt but being redone before it is rebranded as a Mandarin Oriental)--I became violently ill after eating dinner in one of the hotel's restaurants--my only bout of nausea on the trip, as well as some sightseeing in Punta Arenas on both ends of the cruise.
I thought Antarctica was amazing, am hoping to get back to somehow see emperor penguins...
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Old Feb 22, 2018, 8:39 am
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Mr. Erebus, from the Ross Sea.
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Old Mar 10, 2018, 11:25 pm
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Old Dec 26, 2018, 10:55 am
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Great pictures of the leopard seals!
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Old Mar 6, 2020, 2:45 pm
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Apologies for posting in an old thread, but I wanted to ask what the circumstances were for getting a 25% discount. Can OP comment?
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Old May 17, 2020, 8:11 pm
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Originally Posted by angra
Apologies for posting in an old thread, but I wanted to ask what the circumstances were for getting a 25% discount. Can OP comment?
Discounts are generally for last-minute deals, early-bird bookings, various other promotions (Black Friday Specials), inflated rack rate prices that are always on "discount," etc.
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