|Written by Sascha Grabow & Commentators|
|Friday, 22 January 2010|
My experience getting last minute deals to Antarctica:
I'm writing this from Ushuaia, Argentina, the main port for passenger cruises to Antarctica.
I have a spot held for me on the "Classic Antarctica" cruise by Quark expeditions for 4100.00 $ US. I believe this is the cheapest deal in town during this time of year. It was not advertised anywhere. While it is a discount for this particular boat, I'm not certain it's the cheapest you could pay for this itinerary. This is how I got what I got; hopefully others will be able to get as good or better deals having read this:
I came to Ushuaia without any reservations, assuming that I would be able to get a good price by waiting around for last minute openings. I'd been emailing one agency who had been insisting on $4900 as the best I could get, but I held out. I went to the first travel agency I saw and asked about Antarctica deals. They pointed me to the Antarctica tourist office near the port. I asked this office about last minute openings, telling them I'd heard rumors about a price that I made up on the spot ($ 4000 I think). They gave me a list of all the agencies in town, with their addresses, telephone numbers, and a chart of which agencies are contracted with which boats. They pointed me to one in particular that they'd heard had a $ 4400 opening. I went there but found them closed for lunch. I checked two other nearby places, who both tried to sell me the $ 4900 trip I'd heard about before. I found a third one that, when I fibbed again about hearing of a $ 4000 offer, magically came up with one, but it didn't leave until exactly a month later!! ...
... Then the office I'd been referred to opened again; I came in and spoke on their phone to their Antarctica specialist, Alicia Petiet, who was working from home. When I asked about a 4400 $ offer, she said she might have it, but couldn't confirm it with the company, Quark, until noon the next day, but that if I gave her my credit card info and name, she could get me first on the list. Figuring I had found a deal, I accepted.
I came back noon the next day and she told me the company had pushed her back until 2 pm and, apologizing for all the trouble, asked if I would like to call her at 2 pm or come back to the office. I chose the latter and left.
I swung by another agency, Ashuana Viajes, and asked about their specials, just in case, and they got on the phone with Quark and I heard them talking about the same ship, and about the time they still needed before they would know for sure if it was available. When the agent hung up, I said I already had my name down for that ship with another agency. The agent asked how much I was paying there, and when I had told them, then she considered, and told me that this sounded a bit expensive. After fiddling with a calculator, she replied to me she could offer it for 4100 $, but that she wouldn't know for sure until Thursday. They were just about to close, so I asked if I could come back after lunch. I called Alicia, the agent who had agreed on with me for $ 4400, and left a message telling her about the offer of $ 4100, saying I still wanted to talk at 2 pm. I figured I might get a counter offer from her. I did, but only at the same price as before, though she was able to guarantee me a spot right then and there (the only way I won't get it would be if someone randomly decides to buy that exact spot at full price (where they could just as easily get a $ 4900 deal leaving a day later)).
Everyone I spoke to was quite helpful. I especially recommend talking to both Alicia (San Martin and Fadur streets) and the people at Ashuana just one block uphill. I hope this helps give people a better idea of what to expect when hunting for Antarctica deals in Ushuaia.
One quick thing to add is that Alicia told me that the cheapest trip to Antarctica she had sold last-minute was for $ 3,700, and that had been in November. November and March are the months when you can actually negotiate a cheaper deal.
Nicely written and useful information. - Traver, The Hitchhiker -
What sort of berth are you talking about? Cheapest in quark web page today starts at $ 3.500+ 580 fuel surcharge in a triple bedroom for March 2/13 sail for Classic Antarctica 12-day-cruise with the Orlova. >> Myself I had a twin room, 2 people occupancy, which may have been pure luck.
A quick note that even though it is possible to get much cheaper rates for Antarctica cruises by going down to Ushuaia without a booking, please understand that there's a good reason why only the November and March departures are more often discounted - in November it is just ice and snow and the penguin chicks haven't hatched. By March, it's cold all over again and most of the penguins have already left for the sea or, at best, are moulting (not a pretty sight). So only do this if you are not interested in the wildlife - which I personally found to be a surprising highlight of my own recent trip to Antarctica.- Penguin Blogspot -
Bottom line: while you are getting a discount on the price, you are also running the risk of getting a discounted version of what you can see/do in Antarctica during the Nov/Mar months.
Thank you! You saved me from making a big mistake. I visited the NY Times Travel show about 2 weeks ago. I took some information from Hurtigruten because I am very keen to travel to Antarctica. They have a great deal right now where they will pay for your airfare (from NYC or Miami) and take 25% off the cost of a suite. That's a huge saving and I was very tempted, but the deal only applies to travel during their November and December cruises in 2009. The agent I spoke to said the only difference between traveling in November/December and January/February is that the January/February trips have warmer weather. She did not mention anything about a difference in the wildlife one will see (or not see!). Since the wildlife would certainly be a highlight for me, I will just have to save up for a January trip. Good looking out! Paz,
- Catblue -
... the only difference between traveling in November/December and January/February is that the January/February trips have warmer weather ... >> THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT TRUE !!!!!!
- Leigh -
If you can find a late December trip at a discount you should probably still consider it. It's just that my friend went in November and he told me (and pictures showed) that the baby penguins weren't hatched yet.
Just an opinion:
Usually antarctic weather on the peninsula could be quite bad and very unstable. January has better weather; anyway weather in Antarctica I still believe to be a bit of a lottery. That said, in January you have longer and warmer days, which is better (talking about longer, because then you can go on going/doing excursions), more fauna and less ice (which is also better cause you could risk to have a landing spoiled or a passage blocked). February is better for whales and way better to go further South because of less ice. Overall I think that like most things, most of the time, you get what you pay for. Anyway, no matter what, still it is a great trip, wishing all the best!
- St Path -
If you want good deals, look for some of the on-line travel agencies that specialize in cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic. They don't sell their own tours but sell other companies' trips and can help you find the best deals. They also know a lot about when to travel. I see a lot of posts here about what you can see at various travel times in Antarctica. The benefit of these companies are that they know all the various discounts and they are not going to only sell you one ship or one company, but help you find what works for you. Good luck!
- Swatman -
I know it is not the quite the same type of cruise but we have just booked a 20-night Antartica cruise with one of the big cruise ships, going from Valparaiso, Chile, to Rio, Brazil, leaving 21st of December '09. You tour around the Antarctic Islands for 3 days and visit lots of other places. Costs around $1600 per person twin sharing.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today!
You may even enjoy it and have time to do it again!