We know because we’ve been: “Out There” is a series of inspiring travel spotlights from AAA Travel advisors and employees.
The Antarctic is a bucket list trip for so many and it is no secret why. The last continent to be discovered is full of breathtaking, undisturbed landscapes that have been witnessed by few. Seeing glaciers and penguins up close on this remote, ice-encased island is a truly unique and special experience.
Andrea Bernier, director of financial systems in finance and accounting here at AAA Northeast, shared her experience exploring the seventh continent on a Hurtigruten expedition ship with us.
For Andrea, vacationing in Antarctica was a dream for over 10 years. Then, in late 2019, it was finally time to start turning that dream into reality. She started researching cruise itineraries and found the one! The trip of a lifetime. On Dec. 4, 2021, a total solar eclipse occurred in the waters off Antarctica, and the cruise planned on being there to see it. She was ready to book the trip and it was the perfect time with the AAA Travel Marketplace quickly approaching. This is when she met Melanie, her AAA travel advisor.
Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic began, causing changes to her 2020 travel plans. The Hurtigruten trip to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands trip was scheduled for more than a year away, so she was still hopeful that it would be occurring as planned and she would be able to see the solar eclipse.
The pandemic did not soften her anticipation and excitement for this trip. During this time, Andrea kept a close eye on Chile’s travel policy since that was the port of entry for her trip. Thankfully, Chile’s borders opened for travelers like her in time for her trip.
Of course, planning such an elaborate journey during the pandemic left a lot of uncertainties. For Andrea, this meant having her AAA travel advisor as a resource was extremely important.
“There was very little time to review the ever-changing requirements for the flights and cruise,” said Andrea. “Having Melanie by my side during that time was invaluable. She helped me quickly navigate the paperwork and ensured all our questions were addressed by the cruise line.”
Other passengers she spoke to weren’t so fortunate. They found the pre-departure process to be very frustrating and did not receive answers to their questions. Some even missed out on the cruise because they didn’t get everything submitted in time.
Once in Chile, Andrea was required to quarantine at her pre-night hotel before getting on another flight the next day to embark on the cruise. Then, it was on to Antarctica at last!
The first two days of her cruise were filled with lectures on wildlife and the history of Antarctica. She got to witness the stunning solar eclipse as the cruise made its way across the Drake Passage.
In regard to her experience aboard the cruise ship, Andrea told us that “Life on board the ship was quiet and calm. At times, it felt as if we had the whole ship to ourselves with the passenger capacity at less than half of what it normally was.”
At last, Andrea arrived at the Antarctica peninsula, and it was a majestic sight! “We were surrounded by towering white mountains, flowing glaciers, penguins swimming in the water and seals sunning on icebergs,” Andrea said. “It was truly a scene that needs to be experienced.”
New, secluded locations were selected for landings and the wildlife viewing was spectacular. “In our time there, we encountered four different types of penguins, their penguin chicks, countless bird species, seals, panda dolphins and sei whales,” Andrea explained.
After a stop at the Falklands Islands the cruise started its journey back to Chile, and before she knew it, Andrea was back home. “It was an incredible three weeks and the trip of a lifetime at the bottom of the world. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have traveled to such an amazing place and I am looking forward to future travel adventures.”
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