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Circle or Peninsula

Vancouver, Canada
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Circle or Peninsula

Hi All,

I've been doing research on taking a trip to Antarctica for quite some time and I'm stuck on the type of trip I want to take.

Ideally I'd like to hit the Falklands and S.Georgia, but due to time constraints I'm focused on the continent for now.

My question, for those who have done it. Given the choice would you take a cruise that takes you past the Antarctic Circle? (Perhaps at the cost of more time on the ground)

Or would you go for a peninsula cruise (perhaps more time on the ground but not having the accomplishment of making it past the circle)

Thoughts and ideas would be appreciated!

NYC
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1,327 posts
170 reviews
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1. Re: Circle or Peninsula

Very personal choice. Crossing the circle is a purely psychological "achievement." It doesn't look any different south of the circle, there isn't a line you can see...they just tell you when the gps shows you pass, and ice conditions could scuttle the whole thing anyway. To me, it seems silly to pay a gazillion dollars for making it to a point that is pretty irrelevant in any meaningful way. Landings and zodiac tours among wildlife and icebergs on the oher hand and stunning hikes with awesome vistas can kind of life changing in substantive ways in expanding ones mind and imagination.

As for falklands and sought georgia, they are 400 miles and tthe another 1000 miles from Ushuaia. It takes a lot of time to sail to them and back to antarctica. If you have limited time, I would focus on a tour with as much time as possible on the peninsula. I recently spent 5 days in the falklands and 6 days on South Georgia and would say those are pretty close to the right balance for a trip to all 3 locations. Maybe a day less on each. But shave it down much more and it isn't worth the compromise imo.

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
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15,595 posts
29 reviews
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2. Re: Circle or Peninsula

I crossed the circle 8 or 10 times on my last trip. We actually lost count and only toasted once or twice when remembered. There is no magical red line on the ocean or ice so it's nothing you can see or preserve for posterity on camera. I definitely wouldnt pay extra solely for that.

Whereas - Falklands and South Georgia are filled with history and teeming with amazing quantities of wildlife and scenery. That I would - and do - pay extra for.

Michigan
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2,358 posts
55 reviews
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3. Re: Circle or Peninsula

I agree with both the above posters. Unless crossing a line gets you to locations where there are special things to see, then it's a purely individual thing. While no value for many, may be tremendous value for some. Ditto "setting foot on the continent". To me, islands just off the peninsula were just as much Antarctica as Brown Bluff or Neko Harbour. I'm sure some will disagree. Not worth arguing about as far as I'm concerned. Better just to respect each other's views.

What are you doing in Ushuaia (besides posting on Tripadvisor :) ) before your ship sails, Perfectly Perth?

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
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29 reviews
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4. Re: Circle or Peninsula

Well today - drowning mostly ! Just back from 7 hours with Pira Tours where we stood on an Unsheltered island for 2 hours in the pouring rain - and all the waterproof gear safely packed back at the hotel ! Then frozen and soaked to the bone crowded on a bus for 90 minute drive back to Ush. Luckily the hotel has taken all my clothes and camera bag to dry them so I can wear them tomorrow. Then I have been scrubbing penguin poop off my shoes in the bathroom sink - so hygienic ! Little surprised the tour had no boot washing facilities before we all boarded.

Anyway - am sure it's a fabulous tour when it's not torrential !!

Tomorrow - private tour up into the mountains and hidden lakes.

Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Circle or Peninsula

@PP Did you pre-book these Ushuaia tours back in Aust or were you just a walk up start?

Do you have any links?

Is Ushuaia crowded with cruise passengers? Many last minutes deals being offered?

Melbourne, Australia
Destination Expert
for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
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15,595 posts
29 reviews
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6. Re: Circle or Peninsula

<<<<<<<

@PP Did you pre-book these Ushuaia tours back in Aust or were you just a walk up start?

Do you have any links?

Is Ushuaia crowded with cruise passengers? Many last minutes deals being offered?>>>>>>>

Jack - the private tour was booked via the website toursbylocals.com. You read reviews of the guide and then contact that guide direct to build a tour together. My guy was Gaston and he was brilliant. I booked and prepaid that one about 3 months ago.

Pira Tours - has several websites and two offices - one on the wharf and one on San Martin. I booked that the evening before.

Giant monstrosity ships in every day this week. 3 big liners yesterday alone - thankfully we were way up in the mountains away from them all.

Have only seen one single cruise discount sign in all my walking. For departure today - no ship name but there are 4 small ones in port. 10 days quad share $4975 US. Not very cheap for a 10 day quad in my opinion.

Michigan
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55 reviews
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7. Re: Circle or Peninsula

Marine traffic is showing The Ushuaia, L'Austral, Fram, Sea Adventurer, and Ortelius (marinetraffic.com/en/…273413400). Has one arrived recently, or does L'Austral not fit within the "small ones" template?

I can't help but wonder about the logistics for one of those monster ships in a relatively small city like Ushuaia.

Melbourne, Australia
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for Perth, Antarctic Adventures
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15,595 posts
29 reviews
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8. Re: Circle or Peninsula

The Ushuaia might be the one I can only see the tip of - hidden behind all the others. Albatross foyer filled to the brim with coming and going people.

Yesterday no small expedition ships or slightly larger ones - just 3 giant monstrosities - Queen Victoria, Aidacara and one that wasn't coming up on my marine traffic ap so not sure. All sailed off by mid arvo so restaurants were empty for us for dinner.

Asia
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274 posts
33 reviews
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9. Re: Circle or Peninsula

Hi Emustyle, I just returned from my trip and had the exact same dilemma as yourself, unsure as to whether or not it was worth the extra time to cross the circle at the expense of something else. I personally like geographical milestones, visiting all 7 continents, setting foot on the equator etc etc, so wanted to either cross the circle OR set foot on the continent (for me, it needed to be the mainland, not the islands), both would be even better. My travel agent advised me that in her experience she had never heard of a trip that did not make a proper continental landing, though that did not mean it had never happened, so I deprioritised the circle. However, the agent advised me, the ship I went on did try to cross the circle weather and time permitting. Even though it was not the sole reason I chose that particular expedition, it did factor into the decision to choose that ship, as it left the possibility open to get both milestones.

In the end, we did cross the circle. The way it worked was that the evening before, we did the Lemaire Channel, then sailed overnight to the circle, we were woken up and crossed the circle at about 9:00am - so no champagne- but lots of us were on the bridge taking photos of the co-ordinates, and others just didn't really care and slept in as the weather was bad. We then sailed further south to reach the pack ice, the ship did some ice bashing, which was fantastic, we saw an emperor penguin and followed that for some time, then kept going until we could go no further', we tried a landing but there was too much snow and ice so it would not have been safe, following this we had more ice viewing/wildlife searching, before overnight back to the entrance to the Lemaire channel the next morning. So i didn't feel we missed out on any land time, even though we didn't get off the ship due to the conditions, but that could have happened north of the circle as well, as it was a factor of weather, not location.

Due to the conditions on my trip, and no two trips are the same, that day on the circle was the only day we saw pack ice, and I am glad I had the experience as that felt like real Antarctica to me, the real end of the world, and was completely different to every other day, but that is just my perception. So one point to consider is what time of the year you go? I am sure if I went earlier I would have had the pack ice experience further north, and I would have had the same feeling without crossing the circle. So to summarise my long reply, yes, you may see something different below the circle, and then again you may not depending on time of the year and weather. Ask the tour company, how they manage the additional sailing time (do they sail overnight etc.), and compare it to others who do not cross the circle and see how the 'land time' is impacted, if you are on an ice strengthened ship ask if they try to break some ice for fun, so you can assess if you may get that experience, irregardless of the itinerary if it is important to you and conditions permit.

In complete hindsight I am glad we did it, not for the geographical milestone, but because of what we saw and the experience we had. But who really knows what we missed out on in some other location north of the circle? The thing is you never know what you will see, there are no guarantees of seeing/doing any one particular thing, and even better, you don't know what you missed out on as you were doing something different, which I guarantee will be equally fantastic.

North Liberty, Iowa
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279 posts
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10. Re: Circle or Peninsula

<<<Unless crossing a line gets you to locations where there are special things to see, then it's a purely individual thing. >>>

The cruise I went on was to cross the circle and we went quite a bit further south than many/most other tours go. The morning after we crossed the circle (just a tiny bit north of the circle I think) we got to spend time at Crystal Sound. It was the most beautiful of all of the amazing places we visited on the trip, it was simply stunning. One of the photos from Crystal Sound is blown up on canvas in my living room and a small print hangs in my cubicle at work and I get a lot of comments on it. Most tours don't go that far south unless they are aiming for the circle and I would dearly love to go back to Crystal Sound. It wasn't a landing, it was 'only' a zodiac cruise.

Crossing the circle was fun... the crew brought us out hot chocolate, one dressed up as a giant penguin for photos, and we happened to find a small group of seals just basking on a small ice chunk right on the south side of the circle. It's completely dorky but somehow being that far south feels even more Antarctica'ish. :) It's not just being way south, it's WAY south. I don't think we really missed out on any landings because we crossed the circle. We simply started at the south end of the 'normal' tour area and then made all of our landings on the way back north.

If your option is X days just peninsula or X days and aiming to cross the circle then I'd call it a toss up and would want to go with the circle if they were going to try to go to Crystal Sound. It it was an option between South Georgia or the circle then I'd go for South Georgia.

Realistically though... you're going to Antarctica! No matter what tour you choose it's going to be amazing. :)