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Is Antarctica cruising safe?

You may be tempted to dismiss the Titanic tragedy as a case of old-fashioned folly. Folks in the 1900s were foolish to believe that a ship was unsinkable. Yet even today, most cruisers really don’t appreciate the potential dangers of cruising.

Case in point: According to an AP story reported on MSNBC, an expedition ship hit a glacier this weekend while sailing in Antarctic waters. Hurtigruten’s ms Fram lost power, drifted against a glacier, and sustained minimal damage to a lifeboat and the forward part of the ship.

Although the ship experienced no structural damage, it’s the second time this year a cruise ship has run into trouble near Antarctica. In November, the ms Explorer hit an iceberg and sank, forcing passengers to escape in lifeboats (they were later rescued by another Hurtigruten ship, the Nordnorge). Hmm, where have we heard this story before?

Expedition ships are designed to cruise through more rough and rugged waters than traditional cruise ships, and the Fram was actually built for travel through icy waters. These recent mishaps should make cruisers think about how safe it really is to cruise Antarctica. Ships are more in danger of striking an object that could compromise hull integrity, and guests forced to abandon ship will have to wait in freezing temperatures in a very isolated environment. Some people also worry about the impact to Antarctica’s fragile environment from increased cruise traffic.

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