Sunday, 13 December 2009

CHILE Santiago and an ANTARCTIC CRUISE - MONEY SAVING AND GENERAL TRAVEL INFO

An update on our current position.  At the moment we are in the middle of a 7-month backpacking trip around South America.  We began in Ecuador, did a side trip to the Galapagos Islands then made our way through Peru, Bolivia, Northern Argentina and into Chile.

On 21st December we pick up a 20-day Holland and America cruise to Antarctica. Here is some information about how we can afford to take cruises.

Vacations to go is a great site for finding deals but only Americans and Canadians can book through it.  A good alternative is Smart Cruiser UK and the American Smart Cruiser and it is possible to book through either so depending on the exchange rate the American one may be cheaper.  Another good web site for cruises is Best price cruises and for checking out the shipping lines Cruise critic

The optimum time to book the kind of cruise these companies sell seems to be between 2 and 3 months before departure.  Taking the options of a guaranteed cabin versus selecting a specific one has always resulted in us having a nice upgrade.

In Europe it may be different, we got a late deal on a cruise to Egypt through African Safari Club a week before sailing then found the price dropped even further in the last 3 days.

If you monitor the type of cruise you want to do as a matter of course you will know the format and when it is best to strike a deal.

By doing this I had found out that a 1 week cruise from Usuaia rarely drops below $3000 and most people pay $4000 or more.  Many of these are expedition style ice breaker boats with around 100 passengers and they do take you ashore using zodiac boats.

An alternative is a regular cruise that does not land in Antarctica but spends 3 days cruising the area.  When  the lead in price dropped to only $1600 for the 20 nights I felt this was the best deal.  As a bonus the cruise also includes visits to the Chilean fjords, glaciers, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Usuaia, Falkland Islands, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and ends in Rio.  Another consideration is that a larger ship will probably be more stable and offers many more entertainment amenities on board and more choices for dining.

TIP
Here is a classic example of how we made our money stretch that bit further by modifying the way we visit Antarctica.  When the things you want to do seem too expensive it is often worth considering other options and sometimes lower the standard of the way you will do it.  Funnily enough in this case we have raised the standard of ship and duration of cruise, halved the price but sacrificed the chance to go ashore.

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