Hapag-Lloyd’s MS Hanseatic in Antarctica.
Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
January and February of 2011 mark a major turning point for those looking to cruise to Antarctica: it will be the last time large cruise ships will be able to sail to the remote, frozen region that is still widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  New regulations that will come into effect on August 1, 2011 ban the use of heavy fuel oil on larger ships – effectively banning most ships carrying over 500 passengers from the region.
In the past, large ships like Celebrity Infinity, Veendam, and Star Princess have offered cruises to Antarctica as part of longer South America itineraries.  Despite the fact that no actual shore landings were permitted in Antarctica due to the number of passengers carried, these mainstream ships were popular for the comfort and amenities they provided in a region still largely dominated by voyages on converted icebreakers and research vessels, many of which are highly functional but lacking in amenities.
All is not lost, however, for those seeking to experience Antarctica without leaving the comforts of their larger cruise ships behind: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has the solution in the form of its two luxury expedition ships, the five-star MS Hanseatic and the four-star MS Bremen.  Because of their intimate passenger count (neither ship carries more than 184 passengers), as well as their environmentally-friendly fuel, waste-treatment facilities and underwater paints, these ships can continue to sail long past the August 2011 deadline.
Because of their small passenger count, passengers can be ferried ashore via the ship’s own Zodiac rafts – a feature not available at all on the more traditional megaships.  Why travel all this way – to one of the most remote places on the planet – and not set foot ashore?  Passengers will have the remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bathe in the hot waters of Deception Island, view bird colonies, and watch the whales and enormous icebergs that populate the Antarctic Sound.
Passengers aboard these two unique expedition vessels will cruise Antarctica in comfort Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton could only have dreamed of.  Warm parkas and specialized boots are provided to all passengers, who are treated to fine cuisine and warm service.  In addition, both Hapag-Lloyd ships sport the highest ice rating available to any passenger ship, ensuring the safety of passengers at all times while at sea.  The line is also committed to off the beaten path exploration in a way that is environmentally sustainable.
Other lines also unaffected by the new regulations include Silversea Cruises ‘Silversea Expeditions’ aboard Prince Albert II, and Hurtigruten’s appropriately named MS Fram
For more information on MS Hanseatic and MS Bremen’s Antarctica itineraries for 2011, be sure to visit the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises website.  If you have any interest at all in this remarkable destination, our advice is to see it now: unlike the Caribbean, Antarctica won’t be around in its present form forever.

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