What’s “super hot” for cruise travel in early 2024? It’s expedition cruising, and many travelers are choosing a “bucket list” trip to the end of the Earth — a journey to Antarctica, “The White Continent.”
Yes, it’s a bit of a hike down there. But once there, from personal experience, The Meandering Traveler can emphatically say, “It’s worth it!” And fortunately, there are now more ways to get there, offering flexibility and choice.
Case in point? This week, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic unveiled two new Antarctica itineraries for winter 2024-2025.
(Shown above is a gorgeous Antarctic scene of ice and snow. Photo by Susan J. Young.)
South to Antarctica: New Journeys
Many Antarctica cruises average 14 days in length, which for some travelers is too lengthy. They may be still employed or simply unable to take that amount of time away from home and family responsibilities. Now, these new journeys provide more choices for Lindblad’s guests.
One new option totally avoids the infamous Drake Passage. That’s a notorious waterway of rough seas at times between Argentine or Chilean ports and Antarctica. Instead, Lindblad’s new eight-day journey includes air flights across the Drake Passage in both directions, plus a cruise on the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer.
In addition, Lindblad will also operate a new, 10-day itinerary that crosses the famous Drake Passage by ship (perfect for those travelers who want to say they’ve done the crossing). But on the return, they’ll take an air flight from King George Island in the South Shetland Islands. In other words, why cross the Drake twice?
“No matter how many days they have to invest, helping curious explorers discover the majesty of Antarctica is a joy and a privilege we’ve been successfully offering for more than 50 years,” says Trey Byus, chief expedition officer, Lindblad Expeditions. “We know this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most guests, so we don’t want them to miss a thing.”
Ideal for eager guests who want to get a head start on their Antarctic experience, the eight-day “Antarctica Direct: Fly the Drake Passage” expeditions will fly round-trip across the Drake Passage to the Chilean base on King George Island.
That isle in the South Shetland Islands is home to a diverse assortment of wildlife. Travelers might spot Weddell and elephant seals, and Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. During Christmastime 2022, The Meandering Traveler spotted Adelie penguins almost adjacent to our Zodiacs!
King George Island is also home to researchers from around the world. So, on the short trip from the airport on King George Island, cruisers will travel between the Chilean base on one side and the Russian base with a hilltop Russian church on the other side.
At the beach, Lindblad’s guests will don life jackets and board a Zodiac for a quick trip to their ship. National Geographic Explorer will be waiting just offshore.
South to Antarctica: Five Days of Exploring
With long hours of daylight during the travel period, guests will have ample opportunities to explore during the five-day period. They’ll possibly see whales at play off the bow of the ship.
They also can hike ashore along “penguin highways” — paths made by the cute waddlers. By strict Antarctica eco-protection rules, visitors must step off the path to let pentuins pass.
On the water, travelers can go kayaking in icy waters. Another fun activity is an evening Zodiac cruise while taking in the sight of diving penguins.
From our anecdotal perspective on an Antarctica cruise just a year ago, let’s just say some of these penguins — waddling slowly on land — are speed demons in the water.
It’s a hoot to watch them leap from the ocean, fly through the air and dive back into the water!
South to Antarctica and the Return Home
After multiple days of exploring, National Geographic Explorer will sail back to King George Island. There, guests will disembark the ship and fly to Puerto Natales, Chile. From there, they’ll overnight in a hotel before beginning their journey home the next day.
The new eight-day expedition launches with limited time inaugural pricing including return-trip private air to King George Island. Guests who book prior to January 31, 2024, will receive a $500 expedition credit per guest. To learn more, visit www.expeditions.com/fly_direct.
Then ask your personal travel planner any questions, discuss accommodations and perhaps book your Antarctica vacation.
Heading south to Antarctica, Lindblad Expeditions’ new 10-day “Antarctica Direct: Sail and Fly the Drake Passage” expedition was designed for the adventurous traveler who wants to experience it all. He or she wants to cruise the Drake Passage one way and fly high above the clouds on the return trip.
On this new itinerary, guests will embark National Geographic Explorer in Ushuaia, Argentina. Then, they’ll spend two days crossing the legendary 500-mile-wide Drake Passage to reach the icy desert of Antarctica.
There, they will spend five days exploring the Antarctic by foot, Zodiac, kayak, ship, and even cross-country skis. When the journey is over, they’ll arrive at King George Island, where they’ll board their chartered flight at the Chilean base. Then, it’s time to begin the journey home.
The new 10-day expedition launches with limited time inaugural pricing, including outbound private air to King George Island. Book before January 31, 2024, and receive a special $1,000 expedition credit per guest. For itinerary details, visit www.expeditions.com/sail_fly.
South to Antarctica: More Details
On board National Geographic Explorer, guests will have comfortable, even sumptuous accommodations with lots of space; see the photo above of a Category 7 accommodation, for example.
When it’s time to explore, they’ll also discover a fleet of double kayaks and Zodiacs that make viewing wildlife easy. The ship’s open-bridge policy also will give guests ready access to the captain and crew, not to mention the best view in the house.
“Opening doors for worldwide exploration is the heart of National Geographic Expeditions, and introducing new opportunities for travelers to gain access to incredible places further extends our commitment to storytelling from an up-close perspective,” says Nancy Schumacher, the expedition group’s senior vice president and general manager.
“Now, the options to take an expedition cruise or fly to Antarctica bring the amazing seventh continent closer,” she adds. Travelers will learn about the ecosystem and wildlife from naturalists and other experts. Depending on the voyage, those might include scientists, birders, archaeologists, mountaineers, and researchers.
South to Antarctica: Visiting Scientists
As part of the brand’s leading-edge program Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic hosts Visiting Scientists. That program enables imperative research using the ships as a catalyst towards a more environmentally focused future.
While on board, guests on select departures will have the opportunity to assist the scientists with research projects. That might involve data collection, wildlife spotting, and hands-on research.
In total, “Lindblad offers seven unique Antarctica itineraries and nearly 50 departures for the 2024-25 season,” says Shelby Steudle, president, Pavlus Travel. “So, the first company to take citizen explorers to the region nearly six decades ago, now offers more opportunities than ever before to explore The White Continent.”
To learn more about Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic’s new itineraries and all the options, visit www.expeditions.com/destinations/antarctica. And follow the intel below for using a skilled travel advisor to answer questions and handle your vacation booking.
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