Posted August 23rd, 2010, 01:00 PM
My Dad and I did the South America / Antarctica cruise on the Celebrity Infinity on its January 31, 2010 sailing. I've also done an Alaskan cruise on the Celebrity Mercury ( June, 2000 ). I think there are some similarities, but also some differences between the two cruises.
Our Alaskan cruise was much more port intensive. South America / Antarctica had a lot more sea days. Also, because the sea conditions can be very rough near the Falklands and Antarctica, you need to consider that the itinerary can change on short notice, as it did on our cruise. Port Stanley ( The Falklands ) was dropped entirely, and our two day visit to Antarctica was reduced to a half day ( and almost dropped entirely ). These types of cruise ships are really not designed for the Antarctic region, so their captains are understandably cautious.
Also, as a poster above mentioned, these big cruise ships, like the Infinity, do not let passengers off the boat at the Antarctica "ports of call". These are strictly "drive-by" type cruises. If you're interested in actually setting foot on the Antarctica continent, you will need to line yourself up on a much smaller, expedition style ship. Most of these leave out of Ushuaia, Argentina ( although I think there are a few that leave out of Australia and / or New Zealand ).
I don't think this cruise would be too strenuous for most travelers. Dad is 81, and has a brace on one leg, and uses crutches to walk. The only difficulty he encountered was getting on and off the tender in Ushuaia, Argentina, but tenders are always a problem for him because of his brace. Celebrity's crew members who ran the tenders were always willing to assist Dad any way they could. If we had been able to stop at the Falklands, Dad thinks he would not have been able to get on and off the tenders because of the choppy waters that are often encountered there.
Dad and I had a great time on our Antarctica cruise. We had beautiful, sunny weather during our half day in Paradise Bay, Antarctica. We were able to "round the Horn". Beautiful Ushuaia reminded me of some of our Alaskan ports. The area around Puerto Madryn seemed barren, but the town itself was nice. Dad and I had a wonderful tour there, including a "tea" in the nearby Welsh village of Gaiman. Montevideo was a nice city, but it's a big city... much different than your typical Alaskan port. We did a city tour and a winery visit there.
Our cruise started and ended in Buenos Aires. Dad and I spent four days there prior to the cruise, and loved every minute of it, even though it got rather warm and humid at times. We took in a tango show, visited a ranch, had some great beef, did a city tour, among other things. It's a great city. If you do this cruise, consider having Madi Lang of BA Cultural Concierge ( baculturalconcierge.com
) help plan your time in Buenos Aires, and even guide you around town. She's a delightful and interesting young lady who hails from Maryland. She planned all of our activities and transportation with my Dad's age and disability in mind.
All in all, even considering the itinerary changes and rough seas, I give our Antarctica cruise experience very high marks.
If you'd like to see our pictures, here's the link:
Also, if you haven't been there already, you might also consider a cruise that includes the Norwegian fjords. I did a cruise on P&O Cruise Line's beautiful Aurora ( part of the Carnival family ) back in 2001. The itinerary included sailing in and out of Southampton, England, with stops in Amsterdam, Invergordon ( Scotland ), two stops in Iceland, and four stops in Norway. This cruise, I think, was much more comparable to the Alaskan cruise in terms of scenery, ports, sea days, etc..
Hope this helps!