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A Step Beyond

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Antarctica

Just about a year ago, I had the immense good fortune to cruise on the Star Princess to Antarctica.  Sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula was an experience that touched me deeply, and forever changed the way I view the world.

I wrote extensively about my trip at the time.  If interested, you can read my blog entries here:

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Cruising as we did through Antarctic waters on a large ship precluded the opportunity to set foot on the continent.  Vessels of more than 500 passengers are not permitted to arrange landings.  I regretted not being able to walk on the continent and mingle with the penguins, but the significant additional cost argued forcefully against it.

I made a mental addition to my bucket list, however, vowing that the next time (oh yes, there will definitely be a next time!) I would be prepared for the higher cost.  Now comes word that Quark Expeditions has upped the ante.  On select 12 day voyages out of Ushuaia, Quark is offering an overnight camping trip in Antarctica.  Participants, accompanied by a tour leader, are brought ashore by Zodiac to a suitable site, where they pitch two person tents and spend the night.  If the weather cooperates, they will be dazzled by a night sky that can only be experienced in the pristine air of the poles.

Incredibly, this adventure costs just $195 per person.  For this remarkably reasonable price, one gets to do what so few have ever done before – sleep on the White Continnet under the vast austral sky.

Technorati Tags: Antarctic camping, Antarctica, austral sky, Cruise line, cruise ship, Quark Expeditions, Ushuaia

All I Want For Christmas….

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50 Years Of Victory

Quark Expeditions is marketing, one suspects with tongue in cheek, its 20th Anniversary expedition to the North Pole as the perfect Christmas gift.  The 15 day trip begins in Helsinki, Finland on June 23, 2011 and includes the charter flight roundtrip to Murmansk, Russia the cruise’s embarkation and disembarkation port.

Expedition members will sail on 50 Years of Victory, the pride of the Russian polar fleet.   Able to cruise in open water at 21 knots per hour, the nuclear-powered icebreaker is capable of ripping through ice 10 feet thick.   Only 128 lucky passengers will have the opportunity to experience the North Pole and landings in Franz Josef Land, a group of islands just 10 degrees south of the pole.

Helicopter sightseeing as the ship navigates through the polar ice will undoubtedly be a peak life experience for those who take the opportunity.  Another highlight will be a polar champagne toast and barbecue on the ice.  Amateur and professional photographers alike will be in their glory.   Close encounters with walruses and polar bears in Franz Josef Land will just add to the magic.

The ship, 50 Years of Victory (sounds better, perhaps, in Russian), appears to be more upscale than one would suspect, considering that it spends its winters escorting merchant ships through the dangerous Northeast Passage in total darkness.   Public spaces include two bars, a library, gym, saunas and a swimming pool.   Prices for two begin at $48,760.

Now that I think about it, this really isn’t such a bad idea for a Christmas present.   I have, after all, been very good this year.

Technorati Tags: 50 Years Of Victory, Arctic Sea, Cruise line, cruise ship, Franz Josef Land, North Pole, nuclear powered icebreaker, Quark Expeditions