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Waiting for a ship

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

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.