By Marjorie Connelly
September 18, 2005
Are there package tours that cross the Antarctic Circle? - Katherine Lin, Flushing, Queens
Tourism to the Antarctic is mostly ship-based. Passengers are taken ashore using small inflatable Zodiac boats for short periods. While there are no land tours, some itineraries offer a chance to camp overnight on Antarctica. Most United States-based companies with trips to Antarctica use expedition and research vessels with ice-strengthened hulls that depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, between November and March, the Southern Hemisphere´s summer.
Depending on the itinerary and weather, trips generally include excursions to the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands using Zodiac boats and in some cases even offer kayaking or scuba diving. Passengers get a chance to observe the area´s variety of seabirds and marine mammals, including penguins, seals and whales.
AdventureSmith Explorations, (800) 728-2875 or www.adventuresmithexplorations.com, is based Tahoe City, Calif., and specializes in small-ship cruises and adventure travel. Trips of 11 to 20 days explore Antarctica, the South Shetland Islands, South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands. One 14-night trip includes a night in a Ushuaia hotel with a visit to Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina. Participants then go to the Antarctic Peninsula and cross the Antarctic Circle aboard Molchanov, a 52-passenger ice-strengthened Russian research vessel. Prices start at $7,995 a person.
Prices above are based on double occupancy and do not include air fare to and from Ushuaia. American Airlines flies nonstop between Kennedy Airport in New York and Buenos Aires, connecting with a Aerolíneas Argentinas flight to Ushuaia.
Most Hawaiian cruises are more than six nights, but do any operators offer partial itineraries? - K. K. Kua, New York, N.Y.
Unfortunately, none of the cruise lines that operate in Hawaii offer passengers the option to join them for a shortened cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line, (800) 327-7030 or www.ncl.com, has two ships based in Hawaii that sail under the American flag and therefore do not have to stop in a foreign port. The ships, the Pride of America and the Pride of Aloha, tour the Hawaiian islands year-round with seven-night cruises.
The Hawaiian cruises offered by Carnival, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean all last more than 10 days, require a stop at a foreign port and generally start or end on the West Coast.
Instead of a cruise, you might consider a four-day package. "We can design a customized package of any length," said Judith Brandon, a travel consultant at the Maui-based Imagination Destinations, (808) 878-3385 or www.imaginationdestinations.com.
For a four-day visit, she recommends sightseeing in Oahu, a flight over the Big Island of Hawaii, a whale-watching cruise and a visit to Lanai or Molokai. Or you could arrange to fly between islands or perhaps take a ferries from Maui to Lanai and Molokai.
And, of course, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, (800) 464-2924 or www.gohawaii.com, is a resource.