When is the best time of year to travel to Antarctica?
We all know that wherever you journey in the world you will be impacted by the time of year. However, more than any destination, the time of year you travel to Antarctica will make a big difference. There is no perfect time to visit Antarctica – each and every day is inspiring and magical.
With the help of our expedition specialists’, we have highlighted what to expect during different months:
Early summer offers pristine conditions with more snow and the largest icescapes largely undisturbed from winter. It is still a very cold time of year however the polar ice has begun to break up. It’s important to know that some areas may still have limited access. The scenery is truly captivating, incomparable to any other time of year, yet the wildlife may not be quite as plentiful.
Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adélie penguins do come ashore to breed. Their courtship and nest building can be quite comical to watch. By the end of November, there are plentiful nests full of eggs. Other wildlife to enjoy include seabirds such as petrels, skuas and albatross. While there are no guarantees, the elusive Emperor penguin can sometimes be found during special icebreaker tours along the Weddell Sea.
At this time of year, South Georgia, known as the home of King penguins, is also the area where Elephant seals are courting and breeding.
This time of year offers the warmest days (as high as 5 deg C!). There is also a lot of sunlight (around 20 hours a day) so it’s also a great time for photography.
December and January are traditionally the most popular months to visit. There is the added bonus of plentiful penguin chicks beginning to hatch. With longer warmer days, this time of year is also great for more and longer land expeditions.
For history enthusiasts, the ice surrounding East Antarctica is breaking up enabling tours to the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott. While this is a spectacular time, travelling to Antarctica over Christmas and New Year’s are unfortunately the most expensive.
Now the temperature begins to drop again and while the land is more rocky and muddy, there is still a lot to enjoy. Penguin chicks have started to grow their adult coat and have begun to fledge. This can bring in predators such as Leopard seals which not ideal for the chicks but a spectacular sight for us.
Fur seals are more bountiful and their pups have become more independent, sometimes becoming quite playful with visitors. Much of the wildlife has retreated to the sea by this point. However these months are the peak time for sighting whales such as Humpbacks, Sperm and Orca which have returned south to feed.
The Sub-Antarctic islands such as South Georgia and the Falklands have a large and different array of flora and fauna. The islands can be just as spectacular if not more than Antarctica. Unfortunately, there is still no calm time for crossing the notoriously rough Drake Passage. Please read our blog on alternative suggestions on how to reach Antarctica if this concerns you.
Go on, what are you waiting for?
There’s more to it than meets the eye!
Those who have never been on a river cruise may have preset views of what it entails. We are here to bust some myths so it becomes a holiday considered by everyone!
River cruising is for older people only
You probably already know this but cruising (in all its forms) is booming globally. Things are changing too, especially when it comes to river cruising. The average age for cruising is falling and cruise lines are providing more choices and activities including long-walking shore tours, hiking, kayaking, cycling, yoga and gym sessions. River cruising really has a place for everyone – the young and the old, singles, couples or families. There are even river cruise lines that specialise in family travel or travel for the under 45’s. For those content with the non-active kind of holiday, you can still do as little or as much as you like on a river cruise. It’s really all about options.
River cruises are prohibitively expensive
With any holiday (as with pretty much most things in life), some are expensive and some are not. There are so many river cruise companies with some offering budget and others luxurious options. You just need to ask our team of Cruise Travel Specialists to find out the range of holidays available and what’s included. Those on a budget can find great deals that might surprise and many of the more traditionally ‘expensive’ luxury cruises also offer great value packages so don’t dismiss them.
If you compare cruising with a ‘non-cruising’ holiday, we urge you to factor in the actual costs and time taken to arrange flights, transfers, car hire, accommodation, meals, drinks, tours etc. If you really do the maths, you’ll find that river cruises are actually great value, particularly as many include gratuities, entertainment, shore tours, airport transfers, sometimes flights and even drink packages!
If you only think of the Rhine or the Danube when it comes to river cruising – we are here to let you know that there are many, many more options!
River cruising is possible throughout most of the world but if we’re staying in Europe, we suggest considering checking out river cruising in Spain, Hungary, Ukraine, Portugal or the many rivers throughout Russia.
Further afield you could consider these too – the Mississippi, the Nile, the Mekong, the Amazon, the Chobe, the Irrawaddy, the Yangtze and the Ganges – so exciting just thinking about the possibilities!
Similarly to larger ocean cruise ships, no two river ships are the same, no destinations or experience is the same, no history, entertainment, food, culture, flora and fauna… the list goes on. River cruising is so diverse.
The reality of river cruising is that you can do as much or as little as you like. Many passengers find they have more to do than imagined, including onboard immersion and educational seminars. What you won’t be doing is the grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and cleaning!
While you can certainly stay onboard while docked, many of the river ports you’ll visit will have sights and activities including markets and shopping, museums and monuments, castles and cathedrals, as well as great dining options and watering holes at your ‘boat step’.
Depending on the destination you can immerse yourself in the culture, history and nature on a shore tour – one is sure to tickle your fancy!
River cruising isn’t for families
This may have traditionally been a reality, but the industry has transformed with some river cruise lines offering multi-generational holidays, especially during school holiday peak periods. Catering to all generations, many now have interconnecting cabins and appropriate onboard activities and shore excursions.
This is such a wonderful way for children to experience travel, but keep in mind at the end of the day, the size of river cruise ships. It’s still not for those children who have excessive energy needing vast spaces to climb and run!
Good news though is that if holidaying with children isn’t your ‘cuppa tea’ – there are still a lot of journeys to choose from (and don’t go in school holidays), just ask one of our cruise travel specialists!
You’re always on tour
If you think river cruising is all about large tourist groups being guided around crowded markets, museums and cathedrals sends shivers down your spine, then we have good news! While that can be the case, it isn’t necessarily the norm. Onshore tours are always optional, they don’t run all day for the most part, and small group guided walks are often an alternative.
Remember you never HAVE to join an organised tour, it’s free choice. When river ships are docked, often for the day, you can join part of the tour or explore the town and surrounds by yourself – just don’t miss your transfer and/or ships departure as they won’t wait for you!
So now is the time to investigate river cruising! We’re here to help you with any query or booking. Just call 1300 766 537 or check out our latest river cruise delights!
Are you a ‘happy hooker’?
Below is a blog written by Moira, our crochet cruise host, for those who are lovers of cruising and crochet (French for ‘hook’). You may not realise what a sensational combo these activities make! We have now made it a reality – all aboard the Cruise Express Crochet Cruise!
I believe everyone deserves to cruise at least once in their life and when they do, they are bound to get ‘hooked’, resulting in a lifelong love affair of the cruise experience. So this is how it was for me! I can’t tell you which cruise line or ship I love the most as all cruise lines have something unique to offer, though I am quite partial to a wrap-around, teak promenade deck.
With more than 35 cruises under my belt, I once took some cross-stitch with me and it was then that I realised this was my favourite kind of holiday – guilt-free craft time as I was sailing to sunny destinations – bliss!
Crochet is a wonderfully fulfilling and forgiving craft and, with its global resurgence in the last couple of years, has certainly evolved from the daggy granny squares associated with crochet to what is now known as ‘the yoga of craft’, with practical artworks created.
Youtube was my reintroduction to crochet, with many wonderful tutorials there to help guide me. I go into my own little world of mindfulness the moment I have a crochet hook in my hands. Even so, as my WIPs (“work in progress”) became beautiful creations and I enjoyed the zen of something growing in my hands, I craved community, a ‘hook and natter’ so to speak. And that’s where crochet cruising comes into its element.
Reflecting on our first two Cruise Express crochet cruises last year, I am left smiling. To craft solo is lovely, to be in a room with a sea view and brimming with fellow crafters is just splendid.
Crochet Cruising with Cruise Express in October 2019
The cruise package is unique with ALL workshops available to ALL crocheters. Everything is supplied and some coveted hooker tools are included as part of the package.
All our crocheters (hookers) have to do is pack a bag, bring a friend or hubby and come aboard – EVERYTHING plus more is supplied.
Hookers are a hoot of course! Always generous with their time and knowledge, kind and with a delicious, self-deprecating sense of humour.
A Day at Sea
On our recent crochet cruises, the daily rhythm was quickly established with a morning welcome from with myself, morning workshops and afternoon workshops run by our crochet teachers (including Emily Littlefair of The Loopy Stitch) and lots of social, hooking time.
Our room was set up for both workshops, retail therapy and social hooking and was utilised for about 14 hours a day – stormy day shawls, crossover vests and broom stitch bags were created as new friendships were forged.
It was not all hooking though. We enjoyed spa centre massages, hairdressing appointments, shopping, dining, hot tubbing, swimming, strolling, world-class shows, cocktail hour and shore tours, to name a few activities.
A Day in Port
Shore tours were quickly followed by social hookups as, like homing pigeons, our hookers found their way back to our workshop room at the top of the ship. Much laughter, conversation and show and tell was then followed by a good time before pre-dinner cocktails, dinner and of course a show.
Ahhhhh the life of a cruiser!! Cruising and crochet are a match made in heaven!
I look forward to hookin’ the high seas with you soon – click here to enquire about securing your cabin today on our October 2019 cruise or call a cruise crocheting specialist on 1300 766 537.
Cruise Express Crochet Cruise Host
This ultimate bucket list destination has never been more accessible…
It wasn’t that long ago Antarctica was only accessible to explorers, researchers and scientists – fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its spectacular rich wildlife, can now be reached by almost everyone.
An exhilarating trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most inhospitable and remotest of destinations can be achieved in several ways dependent on budget, tastes and other requirements. The options now available vary to suit intrepid explorers, to luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly. Alternatively you can just fly over the continent for several hours!
With so many options to choose from, there’s almost nothing stopping you… Outlined below are a few of our favourites:
Imagine immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on a smaller, more intimate expedition ship. One of the beauties of this style of cruising is that it allows you to get up close and personal when seeing the icebergs, glaciers, seals, penguins and whales.
Carrying between 50 and 200 passengers, expedition vessels are able to travel through smaller waterways, and their zodiacs are take passengers right onto the shore. As they have less passengers (and tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time) everyone will ultimately have more visits to ashore.
If you love cruising with all the bells and whistles of parties, shows, discos dancing, gambling and shopping, then expedition cruising may not be for you.
Expedition holidays are more about immersion and education, suiting travellers who are there to really get into the destination and prefer a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that expedition ships vary from ex-Russian research vessels with shared accommodation and facilities. Current expedition ships are much more modern and luxurious!
The luxurious Ponant line ships, including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts who know about the destination. These experts are available to you throughout your journey and they include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.
Super-fit and ultra-adventurous? We suggest you look into the cruises offering kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides and camping!
CRUISE SHIP VOYAGES
Large cruise ships are generally more comfortable in rough seas (particularly the Drake Passage) and offer more facilities and activities onboard. Approximately ninety percent of cruise ships depart from the very southern ports of Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile.
One of the downsides of the larger ships (those with less than 500), is that because there are very strict guidelines limiting the number of people that are permitted to embark onshore at one time, the opportunities for you to land are ultimately limited.
The ‘over 500-passenger’ cruise ships are not permitted to land passengers at all, so the views can be appreciated from the ship decks only. This may suit some (probably not most), particularly those with mobility issues.
Although the length of cruise holidays can vary, they are usually between 10 days and three weeks, with longer voyages incorporating South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
FLY & SAIL
If you are time poor or suffer seasickness, the best way to see Antarctica would be to fly directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. By doing this you can save on the ‘lost’ days at sea and avoid notoriously arduous waterways. The best part is that you then get to enjoy sailing in the regions calmer waters.
Fly and sail is almost always a more expensive option, but it does cut out a lot of time and enables you to tick one off the bucket list in merely a week or so while still experiencing so much of the majestic landscape and wildlife.
The most popular departure option is from Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in South America. From there it’s a mere three-hour flight to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Although this is a highly appealing way to visit Antarctica, we do suggest you keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are less frequent and less predictable than regular flights.
Chartered Qantas 747’s have been flying over Antarctica on day trips for over 20 years. The approximately 12-hour trip only operates in summer from either Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. As the warmer weather brings temperatures that start to break up the ice, it’s a great way to put the grand scale of Antarctica into perspective.
It’s an easy way to enjoy the scenery as the planes can descend to around 11,000ft and slow to 240 knots. With a glass of bubbles in hand, you also have the opportunity immerse yourself with onboard Antarctica education, documentaries, as well onboard environment and history experts.
From Australia, it’s a mere three and a half hours until you’ll see the first glimpses of ice sheets and icebergs. Up for something even more remarkable? Go for a 31 December departure from Melbourne to welcome in the near year!
For more information on booking the trip that bucket list dreams are made of, call the travel experts at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or email email@example.com.
Our guide to river cruising around the world
While there’s no doubt European river cruising is hugely popular, if you’re not into cruising on large ships, there are many alternative river cruise destinations that just may make you re-think where you go cruising next.
Peru, Ecuador or Brazil – The Amazon
At nearly 650kms long, the Amazon is the second longest river in the world. Surprisingly easy to fly to these days, this river offers what most don’t – truly unspoiled surroundings. The wild jungles are inhabited by isolated tribal villages where little has changed for centuries and tourists are rarely seen.
Luckily for today’s travellers there are several ships sailing this river and most offer comfort if not luxury, allowing you to get up close without leaving all creature comforts behind. The river itself, its tributaries and rainforests are rich with biodiversity. Have your camera at the ready and look out for monkeys, sloths and an abundance of birds. Most ships also have a naturalist at onboard so you’re not left wondering what that flash of colour was that just flew overhead!
Our tip? Avoid the height of the rainy season. There’s a reason the Amazon carries more water than any other river on earth.
Vietnam & Cambodia – The Mekong
For centuries locals have depended on the Mekong for shelter, food, water and their livelihood. This tranquil river stretches some 4,300km and is the longest waterway in South-East Asia. With its headwaters in China and Tibet most cruises concentrate on the lower Mekong in Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and out to the South China Sea.
There are so many styles of ship, tours and destinations to choose from, suiting all tastes, time frames, abilities and budgets. With a little research – and the help of a good travel agent – you can match your cruise to what you want to experience. Expect to see ancient temples, vibrant markets and bustling cities. A stand out for our money is the UNESCO listed Angkor Wat temple complex that spreads over 400 acres. We suggest you allow ample time pre or post cruise to fully explore this incredible site.
Launched in 2016, Scenic Spirit provides an exceptional level of luxury. Providing a boutique and intimate environment with just 34 balcony suites, you’ll enjoy the most personalised service with an almost 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio, with your shore excursions and beverages included – what’s not to love?
Burma – Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River
A cruise through the mysterious, once hidden land of Burma takes you deep into lands frozen in time with gilded pagodas, ornate monasteries and villages where friendly locals still follow a traditional way of life centred on farming. Flowing from the Himalayas, the Irrawaddy is Burma’s longest river, flowing the length of the country before emptying into the Andaman Sea.
With endless rice paddies, teak forests and dense jungle riverbanks, the countryside is also dotted with shades of saffron coloured robes worn by monks in and around the temples. You’ll also see an abundance of animal and bird life and may even be fortunate to catch a glimpse of the scarce Irrawaddy dolphin!
Most notable are the locals. You’ll be stunned with their gentle and friendly nature. Remember, tourism is relatively new here. We also suggest you do your homework – photography and certain types of clothing can be frowned on. Don’t miss the temples of Bagan located roughly 600km from the capital Yangon. The hundreds of ancient temples and stupas are easily accessible from most river cruises. Burma is one destination you should see before the world catches up with this unchanged land.
Want to go? Belmond operates the much-loved colonial-style Road to Mandalay river ship. It offers three, seven and 11-night itineraries including longer journeys downstream to Yangon and upstream to Bhamo on the Chinese border.
The 82-passenger ship offers the luxury services of a European rivership with countless opportunities to engage with local people. As well as giving lectures, each guide takes care of a small group of passengers for village and temple visits. The best time to visit Burma is during the dry season from November to April. At this time the warm and sunny days are ideal for sightseeing throughout the country.
Columbia and Snake Rivers
Often overlooked for nearby Western Canada and Alaska, those looking for the next big thing are often surprised to find there are more, just as spectacular, options less than an hour’s flight south of Vancouver or Seattle. The Pacific Northwest is fast gaining attention for its stunning Cascade Range with immense volcanoes including the famous Mt. St Helens and nearby Mount Hood. This is also wine and craft beer country. Portland, Oregon has more micro-breweries than any other city on the planet, and nearby Willamette Valley boasts over 500 vineyards.
Winding all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the prairies of Idaho, the Columbia and Snake rivers offer something very different. Expect to see sights such as Multnomah Falls that drops 189m into the river. There are bridges aplenty too – from the 6.5 km long Astoria Bridge to the Bridge of the Gods that Charles Lindberg actually flew under. What you may not expect is a series of locks that will either raise or lower your ship as it travels to or from Clarkston on the Washington / Idaho border.
Taking just 86 passengers, the ss Legacy, operated by UnCruise offers something that other cruise lines don’t – a round trip cruise from Portland. There are a couple of itineraries that focus on cruising at either end of the river systems – the main advantage being no necessity to travel to Clarkston which is some two hours south of the nearest major airport. Regardless – this spectacular area of the world should be on your list.
Mississippi – the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers
Snaking its way through 10 states, the Mississippi isn’t all blues, jazz and plantations, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. With its headwaters close to the Great Lakes, the river winds it’s way to the Gulf of Mexico via a series of locks much like those on the Panama Canal.
Travellers short on time can sail the lower stretches on paddle ‘steamers’ visiting cities like New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville. Expect to be immersed in all things Elvis, military history, antebellum architecture and the wonderful French-influences of creole and Cajun cuisine in New Orleans.
Those who are a little more adventurous can sail further, almost as far north as Minneapolis. Taking two weeks, you’ll see more of America than many locals ever do.
Botswana and Namibia – The Chobe River
For many, a journey through Africa involves 4WD vehicles and patiently scouting for wildlife. However, this completely misses one spectacular side to wildlife spotting – the water ways. If you really want to get up close and personal, our pick is the Chobe River. Close to the mighty Zambezi and the iconic Victoria Falls – the Chobe offers some of the best water based viewing in Africa. Hippos, buffalo and birds are the highlight but also expect to see elephants and other land based animals too.
Never heard of it? Our tip is to go before everyone else finds out too!
Egypt – The Nile
Cruising on the Nile conjures many visions – Agatha Christie mysteries, feluccas, camel trains, pyramids shimmering in the desert heat and teeming bazaars. Travellers these days won’t find themselves sweating genteelly under the waft of a palm frond. There are many options to cruise on the Nile with most cruises visiting the ancient sites including Luxor, Giza, Aswan and Abu Simbel – all with much needed modern comforts.
Our choice is the ss Sudan. Not only is this century old vessel a rare survivor of the past, Ms Christie herself sailed aboard, later penning her famous Nile based novel. Think brass beds, pleated lamp shades, deep wicker chairs, gold framed portraits of famous past guests and flutes of hibiscus tea. You may not be Hercule Poirot but this is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list!
India – The Ganges
Colourful, chaotic and spiritual. India is ideal for the intrepid traveller wanting to immerse themselves in this incredible culture – however you don’t just have to explore on land. A great way to see rural India, the Ganga Mata (Mother Ganges) and her tributaries, has and continues to provide life to millions of people. Cruises tend to focus on the human side of India, while unveiling scenery filled with temples, tea gardens, incredible palaces, bustling bazaars and national parks that protect India’s wildlife.
A river cruise on the Ganges can also take you through historically significant towns and villages that were once important as provincial or imperial capitals. With so many options to choose from, some will travel to UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Taj Mahal and Nalanda, the archeological ruins of an ancient university, dating back to the third century BC.
India – Brahmaputra River
For those really wanting to venture off the tourist trail, the little known Brahmaputra in north eastern India should be on your ‘must do’ list.
With its origin in the Angsi glacier, the river drains the Himalayas east of the Indo-Nepal border and travels some 3,848 km to the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra is the only navigable river in the world from which you can see 7400 metre high, snow covered Himalayan mountains. It is also the only river, apart from the Zambezi in Africa, from which elephant jeep and boat safaris are conducted. It is a river that spans 3 kms at it’s narrowest and 40 kms at it’s widest.
Many come here to see the “Big Four” which include the great single horned rhino, elephant, wild buffalo and tiger as well as fresh water dolphins in the river and birds like the Great Hornbill, Great Adjutant Stork and the Black Necked Crane. Together with over six hundred varieties of migratory and domestic birds, other mammals like deer, apes like the Hollock Gibbon, turtles & tortoises, this as one of the greatest natural habitats with the greatest variety of wildlife outside Africa.