I decided in 2016 that I wanted to go to Antarctica, before I’d even gone to Australia (my 6th continent), but it didn’t work out. God’s timing being what it is, December of 2017 worked out to be my date with destiny for meeting Antarctica.
Since I live on the Americas side of world versus the Australia side (and yes I understand hemispheres and that “Americas side” sounds narcissistically American), my easiest route to Antarctica was straight south through Argentina. I chose Quark Expeditions as my operator of choice after a small amount of research in 2016 but admittedly, the bulk of my decision to go with Quark rested on two factors:
- A travel friend of mine had gone before and highly recommended them, and
- I crashed the already-planned trip of another solo traveling woman that I’d met in one of my online travel group. (Hey, girl! You’re awesome, you know who you are!)
So I literally did like 10% of the research for the most expensive trip (I’m talking many thousands of dollars, people) that I’ve ever taken and will probably ever take in my entire life. Good thing these people have excellent judgment! *insert crying laughing emoji*
I made my booking with Quark directly by phone because the cabin I was interested in was sold out online. Turns out there was indeed one more slot for that cabin but the online system wasn’t showing it. I also got a 25% off discount. I booked in September 2017 for a December 2017 voyage and paid in full the same day. Done. Quark often offers discounts so be on look out, especially closer to the the voyage dates. I met several people on the ship who had booked just days before (they were already traveling in Argentina though). Average cost for myself and all the people I surveyed was about $6,000 – 8,000 for shared cabins. On the Ocean Endeavor (my ship), there is no single supplement so I met someone who paid about $6,000 for a single inside room. These prices are phenomenal. Don’t feel slighted if you pay closer to $10k and some rooms/trips can range up to $20k. Yes, per person. I’ve heard alternate companies can be cheaper but Quark’s simplicity, expertise and customer service (shout out to Miriam in the corporate office) made the experience worth the cost.
Ok enough of that. If you you have other logistical questions, please feel free to comment or email me!
I arrived four days early to Buenos Aires to explore the city some before meeting up with the expedition group. Too bad I spent two of the four days getting more acquainted than I ever needed to be with the Argentine healthcare system. Once these medical claims process, I’ll say praise God for travel insurance. Note to all travelers: ears that won’t equalize may bring you to tears on the flight descent. No one will be able to help you. So good luck with that.
Anyway, in Buenos Aires, Quark corrals everyone together for one night at some fancy schmancy hotel with a way less than sufficient continental breakfast and then we all set out on the charter flight to Ushuaia, the bottom tip of Argentina. Once in Ushuaia, we had a couple hours to explore around and then boarded the Ocean Endeavor ship which turned out to be a super cute baby version of one of those massive Carnival-esque ocean liners.
As we all stood on the forward deck waving goodbye to the last land we’d see for days, I don’t think any of us knew what was in store. And no, I don’t mean Antarctica or some sort of surreal and contemplative introspection or any of the other cliches (though true) about a trip like this. I mean the doggone Drake Passage! So I’m dedicating a separate post just to the Drake. But first, here’s a little bit of Ushuaia…