Waiting for a ship

I left home in March with a couple of special objectives for my travels. One of them was to try to get a last minute place on an Antarctic cruise. So after a few weeks in Buenos Aires I hopped on a plane down to Ushuaia. My plan was to hit all the cruise offices on the day before each departure looking for a cancellation or unsold berth. I was prepared to hang around for up to about two weeks which would give me four or five chances. My budget for the cruise was US$3000. I was expecting it to be quite hard.

Imagine my surprise then when after reaching my hostel at about 7pm on Saturday evening, by 10pm I was booked on a cruise leaving on Wednesday. It’s billed as a twelve day cruise but it leaves at 6pm on Wednesday and they kick us off the ship at 9am on Saturday week; the marketing people are stretching the truth a bit. Regardless, it’s an Antarctic cruise. Being a short one it doesn’t go to the Falklands or South Georgia, just to the Antarctic peninsula and back. The agents pointed out that actually this is a good thing; on the longer cruises you spend a lot more time in open water getting from A to B and no extra time on landings. The advantage of the longer cruise is you get to see Emperor Penguins on South Georgia. They don’t nest on the Antarctic Peninsular so they’re not seen on the shorter cruises. And of course, the shorter cruises are cheaper.

There was only one cruise on offer on Saturday and it was US$3600. All the agents were offering the same thing at the same price and it was non-negotiable. There was no discount for paying cash either. Ushuaia is a pretty conservative little place. Most of the shops are closed on Sundays, and Monday was a public holiday when everything would be closed again. I could cough up or wait until Tuesday or even Wednesday morning and hope the price had dropped and that there were still places. Supposedly there were only five spaces left. Faced with the possibility of missing out on a cruise, and maybe not being able to get on the other three departures in the next couple of weeks I decided to spend the extra US$600.

I have met several other people in the past few months with the same last-minute cruise objective. There are four at the hostel I’m staying at in Ushuaia and we’re all leaving on the same boat. So for this season at least, getting a last minute place on an Antarctic cruise is pretty easy but not quite the bargain I’d hoped for. Regardless, I’m excited and am really looking forward to the next twelve days.


P.S. It’s 11am on the day of departure and another guy in this hostel has just bought a place on the same cruise. The price was still US$3600.

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9 Responses to “Waiting for a ship”

  1. Christine says:

    I know what you mean about Ushuaia being quiet, it was the beginning of December when I was there too. I didn’t budget for a cruise on my travels (Easter Island was my ‘treat’).
    Look forward to hearing all about it, and seeing the photos.


    • Mark says:

      Hey Christine,

      Thanks for commenting again.

      Easter Island was a pretty nice treat 🙂 I’m out of budget for treats now. Don’t know how I’m going to manage to do the Galapagos next year. I might have to do some of that nasty work stuff!

      There’ll be photos aplenty when I get back to Ushuaia.


  2. Sallycat says:

    Soooooooooooo excited for you. Can’t wait to read how it goes. Antartica has always been on my list of ‘do before die’ things, but I confess, mainly because of those Emperor penguins you mentioned… Hearing exactly how you are doing it is very inspiring. Sal.x.

  3. Julia says:

    Sure you will have a great time despite lack of Emperor penguins en route. Can you remember what ‘that nasty work’ stuff’ is all about? Have fun.

    • Mark says:

      Thank you, I’m sure I’ll survive without them too. The Drake Passage crossing is going OK. Yesterday was quite rough, it’s smoother today and we’re expecting to arrive at the South Shetland Islands about 5:30pm. We might do our first landing tonight at Half Moon Bay.

      As for that nasty work stuff, I’ve just about obliterated it from my mind. Hopefully next time I have to do some work there’ll be nothing nasty about it.

  4. Christine says:

    Well, Mark, I ticked the Galapagos Islands off in 2005 (almost distrupted by a nasty coup (? spelling) in Ecuador 🙂

    I’ve got Madagascar high up on my list now but need to arrange about 3 months off work – not easy at the moment.

    Hope the Antartic winds are kind to you.


    • Mark says:

      Madagascar is a long way to go for ring-tailed lemurs. Is there anything else to go for? I guess so if you want to go for three months. As you can tell, I know nothing about it!

      The wind has not been unkind so far. Fingers crossed it stays benign.

      • Christine says:

        Hi Mark

        Have you managed to get back off the ice yet? Or did you decide to stay with the penguins?

        Hope the trip met with you expectations and that you find a good group to be with over the xmas and new year holidays.


        • Mark says:

          Hi Christine,

          Yes, I got back safely. I’d rather have stayed on the ship! When I think of something adequate to say about it – beyond just “amazing” – I’ll blog about it. There are some photos at flickr

          I’ll probably be in Bariloche for Christmas, I have no idea who with. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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