This week, the International Maritime Organization banned the use of heavy fuel oil ships sailing in Antarctica. This means beginning August 1, 2011, most large cruise ships will be banned from sailing in Antarctica.
Current projections say that the number of cruise passengers traveling to Antarctic waters will drop from 15,531 in this past season to 6,400 once the ban is in place.
Worried that this might affect your dreams of exploring this unique and fragile landscape? There is some merit to your concerns. Take heart: your Antarctica travel choices will definitely be more limited, but not altogether lost.
There are still cabins available on ships sailing before August 1, 201. Here are some examples:
Princess Cruises is offering a 20-Night Antarctica & South America on the Star Princess, with an itinerary of Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires. The sailing date is 12/20/10. For a full itinerary, click here.
Holland America is offering a 17-day Antarctica Explorer on the HAL Veendam, with an itinerary of Buenos Aires to Santiago. The sailing date is 1/6/11. For a full itinerary, click here.
Celebrity Cruises is offering a 14-Night Antarctic Cruise on the Celebrity Infinity, with an itinerary of roundtrip Buenos Aires. Sailing dates are 1/30/11 and 2/13/11. For a full itinerary, click here.
Another note: this ban will only affect the large cruise ships, not the smaller expedition ships, like those run by Lindblad Expeditions. These lovely small ships are an excellent way to really explore an area in a more personal way.