Antarctica

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Planning a trip to Antarctica and finding it overwhelming as to which tour company to go with and which ship is preferable to another along with all the other ins and outs of the destination. Would appreciate any recommendations.

In 2008 we traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel on their "Antarctica's White Wilderness" tour. Essentially the same tour is now offered via Grand Circle Travel Small Ship Cruises. Most importantly, you want to be on a ship of 100 passengers or less. Also, weather permitting, you want a tour that offers a number of zodiac landings enabling you quality time ashore to wander among the penguins and other wildlife. Our experience remains in our top three of our lives. We highly encourage the experience. For more detail about our experience plus general planning suggestions, look for my article in ITN "Antarctica's White Wilderness" by Wanda Bahde in the November 2008 issue. Enjoy!

Have traveled to Antarctica 4 times with Cheesemans Ecology Safaris. Their trips are often at least 1/2 full with retuning passengers, which says a lot about them. Trips may be a little more expensive, but they are worth every penny. Their website is cheesemans.com. Are based in California.

Take a look at www.expeditiontrips.com and sign up for their bi-weekly newsletter. They are a discounter for expedition-type cruising to antarctica, the arctic, Galapagos, Pacific islands,etc. on major ships including Lindblad/National Geographic, Zeagrahm,etc. And it is not last-minute deals, I have booked expedition cruises a year out. They are a good outfit, accountable and take credit cards.

We've been to Antarctica twice - the first time was the peninsula only, the second time was the longer cruise that included South Georgia and the Falklands. What is best for you depends on your priorities. If you want to add that seventh continent, the shorter trip will do. If you want to see lots of penguins, the longer trip is better. Early in the season, the penguins are courting, mating and nesting. Mid season is when the penguins have chicks. A small ship is indeed best for having more time ashore. I used Adventure Life (www.adventure-life.com, 1-800-344-6118) to sort it all out for me. They've arranged a number of trips for me and are very helpful.