Antarctica Marathon 2014: Planning

So I finally decided to go to Antarctica in March 2014, only 6 months away! I didn’t think I would be going this soon as I am confirmed for the 2016 trip. I sent in my deposit, which guarantees my spot.

So I just got back from the wedding in Greece and I was having dinner with one of the guests who also lives in Boston. I was talking to him about marathons and he mentioned that there was a marathon in Antarctica. This sparked my interest in running a marathon on every continent. During dinner, I looked it up and found the Marathon Tours website. I believe it was a few weeks later that I decided to do a marathon on the Great Wall of China and ran my first international marathon the following May. Now about two years after the conversation happened, I am making plans to go to Antarctica.

As of now, I have done four continents: North America, South America (Chile), Africa (outside of Joburg) and China (Great Wall). I have Dublin coming up in October and planning on running Sydney in 2014. I just do not have enough vacation time to try to fit it this year. Sydney would be later this month and Auckland would be early November.

Background about Antarctica Marathon:

The first Antarctica Marathon took place in 1995 on King’s Island. It is not directly on the Antarctica Peninsula. It has been held every year on King George’s Island ever since. I would consider King George’s Island to be on the continent of Antarctica.

A few years ago, there was no multi-year waitlist to go to Antarctica. There was maybe a waitlist for the following year. I believe it was in 2012 that Marathon Tours were not allowed to run both ships so they ended up rebooking those people for the following year and the main reason why the wait-list was so long. I was offered a spot for 2013 but declined. This year I was offered a spot and I am accepting the offer. This year they have two ships going there so this could be the reason why I was offered the spot.

Schedule from Marathon Tours:

I will be on the Vailov so everything is scheduled one day later except the welcome reception dinner and briefing. The original schedule calls for guests on the Vailov to fly into EZE on March 3rd. However, I will fly in on the 2nd to get an extra day. I will be staying at the SPG Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel as this is very close to the Plaza Hotel, which I would be moving into on the 3rd. This will also mean I need to take an extra day off at the end because I will not get home until either the night of the 17th (Monday) or morning of the 18th (Tuesday)

March 1 – Depart from your home city for overnight flights to Buenos Aires.
March – Flights arrive in Buenos Aires and passengers transfer to the Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires. Light training run in late afternoon.
March 3 –  A half-day city tour will introduce you to the vibrant capital of Argentina. Evening cocktail reception, race check-in and welcome banquet and briefing in the Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires.
March 4 – Another day free to explore Buenos Aires.
March 5  – Passengers transfer to the domestic airport for early morning flight to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the world’s southernmost city. You will have half of the day to explore this interesting town with plenty of shops and restaurants. Board the ship at about 4:00pm for departure to Antarctica. Welcome reception and briefing on shipboard safety. Evening film, Ice Birds.
March 6-7 – Days at sea crossing the Beagle Channel and Drake Passage. The open bridge policy invites everyone to get a bird’s eye view of the navigational activity alongside the Captain and his crew. Videos and lectures will introduce visitors to the wildlife, climate and history of Antarctica.
March 8 – Land Ho! We drop the race operations crew on King George for a day of race preparation. The weather will be our master as we spend a couple of days cruising in and among the bays and channels of the Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. The ship’s Zodiacs will carry us to shore wherever possible, weaving safely among the icebergs and floes to visit with seals and penguins.
March 9– Race Day! The course has been prepared with flags and mileage markers. Hopefully, Mother Nature will be kind with the weather. The race will start about 09:00. Post-Race Party and celebration during the evening.
March 10 – We head south toward the eastern side of the Peninsula, cruising among the fjords and islands. Weaving among the icebergs, our destination is Paradise Bay, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. A sunny afternoon will permit us to have a barbecue and race awards ceremony on the aft deck. The zodiacs will bring us to shore for a visit to the vacated Argentine base nestled at the base of a hill where visitors are welcome to climb to the peak for a bird’s eye view of the area.
March 11-12 – We will probably find ourselves in the fjords near the Lemaire Channel where humpbacks cruise for krill.  We leave the “White Continent” to re-cross the Drake Passage.
March 13-14 – We spend two days at sea on our return voyage hoping for calm seas to glory in the memory of accomplishing a life-changing experience. We first sight land at Cape Horn, Chile where we will approach our return port at Ushuaia.
March 15 – This morning will find us in Ushuaia at about 8:00am when we disembark and check-in for our return flights to Buenos Aires and then onward to your international flights back home.

There seems to be plenty of options to land on the Antarctic peninsula so I will be excited to step foot on it.

Package Options:

Cabin Type Package Rate
Main Deck Triple $6990
Main Deck Twin $7390
Twin Semi-Private $7690
Twin Private $7990
Superior $8490
Shackleton Suite $8790
One Ocean Suite $9290

I chose the Main Deck Twin as it was the cheapest option available. All of the triple rooms were taken. Prices also depends on double occupancy at the Plaza Hotel.

Planning:

So there are a few major aspects that needs planning:

Flight to Buenos Aires

Once I get more miles, i’ll book an award flight down to EZE. There is a risk of trip delay so I may want to keep the award ticket due to the flexibility even if i find a cheap flight down to EZE. The risk of getting stuck at sea and delaying my trip would be bad if i book a non-refundable flight.

Since I would be flying down March 1, it is in the off-peak season for Argentina,
Milesaver off-peak Coach for 20k miles.
Milesaver peak Business for 50k miles
I may decide to try to find business class availability on LAN to Argentina. Now that I can use AA miles on TAM, i may want to try out TAM business class down to EZE.

I see that availability is very poor for the dates I had in mind. This only lists AA availability and not LAN or TAM. I’ll try to book something when I get the miles and work with the EXP desk on the advertised “expanded Milesaaver availability” to reticket it on the lower award once I hit EXP later in the year. Only 60k Economy AAnytime was available for the outbound, and business milesaaver on the inbound. The business class ticket i wouldn’t mind as I want to get back to work rested.

Reservations   Book Flights   Select Dates   AA.com2

Hotel for night after trip

Marathon Tours advised spending an extra night after getting back to Buenos Aires in case there are any delays at sea. I will be booking a night with SPG in BA.

There are no low category hotels and there are three different hotels in the downtown area. I will be picking Sheraton Liberator Hotel as it is in a different part of town as the Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires that I will be staying at as part of the Marathon Tour package.

Deposits, payment schedule

The initial deposit of $300.00 must be previously received or accompany this application.
A 2nd deposit of $2000 per person must be received before April 1, 2013.
A third deposit of $2000 is due July 1, 2013.
The balance of payment is due October 1, 2013.

I was a bit late in the schedule as I was pulled off the wait-list, so I had to pay the deposit of $4000 by the end of August.

Other fees

  1. Argentina Reciprocity Fee
  2. Marathon Entry fee ($200),
  3. Medical Evacuation Insurance (http://www.medexassist.com/Affiliates/AffiliateIndex.aspx?AffiliateID=1478). I clicked the link and saw that their insurance was only about $25 a week, even with a $100 deductible. I thought that was a great deal. I put in the countries I was going to and it was about $70 for the entire two week trip in Argentina and Antarctica.
  4. Trip Insurance: I am considering getting this as delays may happen and I want to be covered for any delays. I will need to find out more about what the trip insurance covers and what type of delay occurs.
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