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Best (any) way to "visit" Antarctica?

Best (any) way to "visit" Antarctica?

Old Oct 22, 2023, 5:09 pm
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Best (any) way to "visit" Antarctica?

Have an ending-in-zero birthday coming up in May of next year and family/friends are asking what I want to do... While visiting all 50 states before I turn 50 remains a separate goal (and I just learned was an achieved goal of my grandfather as well), I thought it would be fun to see continent #7 for this one since the chances of ever having a business reason to visit is infinitesimal

The customary way, as I understand it, is typically a cruise. In general, cruising holds no appeal for me and minimal appeal for Ms. LincolnJKC so minimizing this while maximizing time on UA (where I can possibly put some of the 600+ PlusPoints to use) or at least *A would be ideal -- I thought NZ had a sight-seeing flight in the era of the DC10 but can't figure out if that's still a thing or how to book it if it is.

(My customary rule to call a place visited is to either spend the night or eat a meal outside of the airport... realizing neither of those are likely to be possible near the South Pole.... )

Last edited by lincolnjkc; Oct 23, 2023 at 1:59 pm
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 5:43 pm
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Originally Posted by lincolnjkc
I thought NZ had a sight-seeing flight in the era of the DC10
NZ did. It did not end well:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Erebus_disaster
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 5:52 pm
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Visit Christchurch. Its Uniteds closest destination to Antarctica and location of the International Antarctic Center. There are some charter flights to Antarctica from CHC; however, theyre really expensive. You can visit the IAC instead.
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 5:53 pm
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Punta Arenas option
https://www.swoop-antarctica.com/cruises/flights

  • Flight routes; more than 98% of visitors fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island, less than 1% fly from Punta Arenas to the South Pole
  • Average flight times; Punta Arenas to King George Island takes 2 hours (direct), Punta Arenas to the South Pole takes 10 hours (plus stopover)
  • Planes; BAE-146 is the most common model with 4 turbo propeller engines, capacity to seat 80 people (3+3 seating) and reinforced undercarriage for remote airstrips
  • Time of year/flight season; December to February
  • Passengers; 10% of Antarctic visitors in the 2016-17 season flew, 90% of visitors sailed to Antarctica by ship
  • Types of experience;
    - Fly & Cruise | 8 days (4 days in Antarctica)
    - Day trip by plane | 1 day (a few hours in Antarctica)
    - Flight to South Pole | 7 days (5 days in Antarctica, including a few days at the South Pole)
This is a situation where you will want a competent, experienced travel agent

And beleive it or not, there is a FT Antarctica forum

UA can get you to EZE or SCL and then local carriers can get you to Punta Arenas, after that suspect you are charters. The wallet will need to be deep.

Punta Arenas, Christchurch and maybe Capetown will be the main options

Note SCL and EZE are STW options for PlusPoints

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Oct 22, 2023 at 6:02 pm Reason: Note SCL and EZE are STW options for PlusPoints
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 5:56 pm
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United or Avianca or Copa down to SCL would likely be as far as you can get. From there, other airline down to Punta Arenas (PUQ), and then a flight down to King George Island (TNM). There are probably organized day trips of King George Island.
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 6:01 pm
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There is a reason why the conventional wisdom says that you “earn your passage to Antarctica.” You have to either pay dearly to fly there, or you suffer the Drake Passage crossing twice. I took my big trip right before Covid. I flew UA to/from EZE, and then down to Ushuaia on Aerolineas Argentinas. And, my upgrade failed in both directions, but at least I was able to get a PP seat for free on EZE-IAH before they were selling PP on that route.

I hope you make it whatever way you decide to get there.
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 6:34 pm
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Originally Posted by SS255
There is a reason why the conventional wisdom says that you earn your passage to Antarctica. You have to either pay dearly to fly there, or you suffer the Drake Passage crossing twice. I took my big trip right before Covid. I flew UA to/from EZE, and then down to Ushuaia on Aerolineas Argentinas. And, my upgrade failed in both directions, but at least I was able to get a PP seat for free on EZE-IAH before they were selling PP on that route.
I did Antarctica in Dec 2018/Jan 2019, and indeed, it cost a pretty penny. We did PUQ-TNM-cruise-TNM-PUQ so luckily no Drake crossings. Fortunately for me, it was OPM. Unfortunately for me, this was in the dark days before I knew about the importance of flying long haul J.
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 6:40 pm
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I'm not sure I understand your question and/or objective. Are you interested in only a fly-over or actually getting on the continent?

My reason for visiting Antarctica did not involve which airline could get me there so my response may not be of much help. (Hmm...are there any major airlines that actually fly into Antarctica??) I took United to Buenos Aires and then a private charter to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) where I boarded a National Geographic (NG) Expedition. Like you, I dislike cruise ships. NG calls it an "expedition." OK, fine. 🙂 And to be fair, if you're looking for the typical commercial cruise (i.e., bad shows, bad food, and too, too many people), NG is NOT in your future. It was a small ship, approximately 150 people, 10-12 days (I can't remember the exact number of days) and the "shows" were presentations by various members from NG (and other guests) on wildlife, flora, fauna, history, photography, etc., etc. Most were outstanding; two or three were a snooze fest and only because I had zero interest in the topic/presentation. Once we crossed the Drake Passage, we made several ports of call on the continent. Unless you're doing research in Antarctica, not sure you'll spend any prolonged time there unless you do a cruise/expedition. But someone will happily correct me.

I had a great time; loved the blue ice and clear water. To wit, the food on-board was outstanding - great crew! If you're going to Antarctica for nature et al., I highly recommend NG. If I never see (or smell) another penguin, I'm OK with that! Saw millions of them. Really. 🙂 And I loved the seal that knocked me over when I was walking in the water at one port of call. 🙃
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 6:43 pm
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Besides CHC, you could fly to Buenos Aries on United, but then to Ushuaia on Aerolineas Arentinas. You'd then need to get a ship to the Antarctic Peninsula
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 6:53 pm
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Definitely iah or iad to EZE via UA.
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 7:03 pm
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I flew UA to EZE, Aerolineas to USH, and then chartered a kosher cruise to Antarctica for over 50 kosher observant readers of my blog to go Antarctica via the Falkland Islands.
Trip of a lifetime!
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 7:05 pm
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Thank you to everyone who has provided insight (and the wallet check so far!

Originally Posted by SFO_UGS
I'm not sure I understand your question and/or objective. Are you interested in only a fly-over or actually getting on the continent?

My reason for visiting Antarctica did not involve which airline could get me there so my response may not be of much help. (Hmm...are there any major airlines that actually fly into Antarctica??) I took United to Buenos Aires and then a private charter to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) where I boarded a National Geographic (NG) Expedition. Like you, I dislike cruise ships. NG calls it an "expedition." OK, fine. 🙂 And to be fair, if you're looking for the typical commercial cruise (i.e., bad shows, bad food, and too, too many people), NG is NOT in your future. It was a small ship, approximately 150 people, 10-12 days (I can't remember the exact number of days) and the "shows" were presentations by various members from NG (and other guests) on wildlife, flora, fauna, history, photography, etc., etc. Most were outstanding; two or three were a snooze fest and only because I had zero interest in the topic/presentation. Once we crossed the Drake Passage, we made several ports of call on the continent. Unless you're doing research in Antarctica, not sure you'll spend any prolonged time there unless you do a cruise/expedition. But someone will happily correct me.

I had a great time; loved the blue ice and clear water. To wit, the food on-board was outstanding - great crew! If you're going to Antarctica for nature et al., I highly recommend NG. If I never see (or smell) another penguin, I'm OK with that! Saw millions of them. Really. 🙂 And I loved the seal that knocked me over when I was walking in the water at one port of call. 🙃
Touching the continent would be ideal (as would being knocked over by a seal ) but part of the reason for asking was to gauge options particularly from the UA POV...
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 8:12 pm
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Originally Posted by lincolnjkc
Thank you to everyone who has provided insight (and the wallet check so far!



Touching the continent would be ideal (as would being knocked over by a seal ) but part of the reason for asking was to gauge options particularly from the UA POV...
Have you given the cruises a proper consideration, I never consider a typical cruise but most of the Antarctica cruises are an order of magnitude more expensive and a totally different experience, they are usually north of $10k per person and some offer some personalized experiences. If you actually want to visit Antarctica they are probably the way to go. They mostly leave from Ushuaia, occasionally Cape Town or New Zealand as well.
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 9:40 pm
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Both my wife and I are only missing Antarctica -- same as you -- I asked her if it was worth it to spend ~$20k each to freeze our butts off to visit there just so we could say we did it -- she looked at me like I was crazy.... We've done Penguins and Ice -- bragging rights mean little to us now -- I clearly married the right woman!

Last edited by bmwe92fan; Oct 22, 2023 at 9:45 pm
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Old Oct 22, 2023, 9:47 pm
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We went to Antarctica in March 2015, and it was the best trip we've ever taken. To prepare for the trip, we visited Montral in February where the temperature was a balmy -25C (the airplane's exit door was frozen shut when we landed and it took a while to get it open). When we got to Antractica, I believe it only got below zero once or twice and we even had to remove our coats on a couple of port calls.
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