Our Antarctic Adventure – Preparation – Part I

“Make All Preparations for Getting Under Weigh”

100 Day Mariner Medalian

When Barbara and I got hooked on cruising back in the spring of 2005, we started dreaming – dreaming of future cruises and counting our pennies.  Of course the ultimate dream for a “hardened” cruiser is a Grand World Voyage. However these cruises, which are over 100 days, are quite pricy, even for the cheapest inside “bilge” cabins.  Soon we were on mailing lists and the cruising “juices” really started flowing as we learned of the many possibilities. As we researched the possibilities, we came to the conclusion that some of these “extended” cruises were within our reach.  As time went by and we reached the “hundred-days” of cruising mark, we sort of became “snobbish” and were turning our noses up at anything under 14 days.  For our pocket book this meant were we just about limited to one cruise a year.

In March of 2008, one of our dreams started to come together – a 28-day “Fly-Cruise” to South America and Antarctica on board Holland America’s ms Prinsendam (see our itinerary). Barbara had “followed” the blogging of a woman who had done this cruise in early 2007. Though our dream cruise started and ended in Fort Lauderdale Florida, HAL was offering it in three segments; Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires, Argentina,  Buenos Aires to Lima, Peru, and Lima to Fort Lauderdale.  We opted for the second segment because the ports in the other two weren’t on our dream list.  The travel agency offering an attractive package for our segment was Cruise Specialists out of Seattle.  We cruised with them on our 2007 Asia/Australia/Polynesia adventure and found them to be a class act, especially since they offer escorted cruises and their own shore excursions.  So almost eleven months before sailing, we started putting down “earnest” money.  Cruising has become so popular these past few years, that booking early is almost a must for us.  This allows us to spread the expenses out over a longer period of time.   We made our final payment in November.  We have met folks who keep a set of bags packed and ready to go a few days before the ship sails.  Because the ships like to run with a full passenger load, last minute deals can be very affordable, especially on the one-week cruises.

Once we had made our commitment, we went to the www.cruisecritic.com web site and signed onto the roll call thread that was just for this cruise.  As time went by (we checked the thread frequently) others started signing on and getting acquainted. We have found this one of the best ways to “join” an onboard community prior to our actual boarding.  For this cruise there are thirty or so of us “CCers”.  In time names, addresses, email addresses, and sometimes, phone numbers are privately made available to the members.  Some of these folks are seasoned cruisers and readily share information about the ship and its planned ports as well as what to do ashore, especially which excursions not to miss as well as those to steer clear of. Some ports can easily be enjoyed on your own

Barbara delights in using every source available to research the ports we will be visiting.  Google seems to be her favorite, and she can come up with the most interesting tidbits. Since the ship and our travel agent offer shore excursions, she has a knack for ferreting out the best value for the money charged.  For Instance when we get to the Falkland Islands, Holland America offers an eight hour excursion to Volunteer Point to view the King Penguins for $349 per person. She found a private tour operator (best reputation in the business) in Stanley that charges less than half that amount.  The down side to the lower cost is the ship is not required to delay sailing if private tour operators do not get their clients back to the pier/tenders on time.  That could prove costly – penny wise and pound foolish so to speak – but keeps things exciting.  Another element to add to the Falkland equation is; the weather.  Because of changeable weather conditions some ships cannot even anchor there and even when they do, sudden storms can cause an early departure!  Since it takes two hours to get to the site (and two to return – duh) we could easily “miss the boat”!  Stay tuned.

All of our excursions have been arranged, and the packing is swinging into full operation.  Now comes the question – how do you pack clothes for such an extreme range of outside air temperatures?  Stay tuned! One thing in our favor, the ship provides warm parkas for the colder climes.

Our countdown – if we had one – is under 100 hours and my anxiety is starting to build – yes I do worry mostly about missed transportation connections and leaving a crucial element behind – like a passport – or were we supposed to get a visa and did not know about it!  What about shots – no, none required – that we know of!  This cruising can be very stressful until you are standing at the check-in desk getting your picture ID  taken, then its smooooth sailing.  So excuse me, I have to get back to packing. JWC

One thought on “Our Antarctic Adventure – Preparation – Part I

  1. Hi Jack:

    Gerry Nally here from HU-4. I was in the Helicopter crew that picked up the last scientists in Punta Arenas and flew them to the ship. We gave them some ride.

    That was a great bunch to fly with and to do the work at Palmer with you all. I have some great photos of Capt Nickerson, Lt. Moorehead, and me when we flew the Capt to the top of a glaicer if you want to add to your collection.

    I also have photo from the initation crossing the equater and will look to see if you are in any, have most everyone from that sloppy day at sea.

    Send your e mail address and I can download them for you.


    Gerry Nally AMS-2 HU-4


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