Travel by sea proves quite an excursion

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

It seems everywhere you look there’s increased interest in Antarctica these days.

The movie “Happy Feet,” featuring animated penguins, has been playing at the North Plains Cinema 7. Surely you remember last year’s “March of the Penguins,” the documentary about the Emperor Penguins and their mating ritual in Antarctica. This month’s “National Geographic” has a spread on the South Sandwich Islands, a few hundred miles from Antarctica’s frosty shores.

Things about this place way south of Clovis got my mind wandering. I looked up images and stuff from the Southern Ocean on the Internet. Then I dreamed about going there.

I discovered a Norwegian cruise line that sails around Antarctica. For about $7,000 per person you can get on a plane in L. A. (Los Angeles, not Lake Arthur), zip on down to Buenos Aires, hop on the cruise ship and spend over two weeks taking in the polar air and frolicking with penguins. That’s a lot cheaper than this other guy with a yacht who’ll take you to the frigid coast for three weeks for about $1,500 per day (you do the math).

I know $7,000 is chump change to some folks, but I need to win the lottery to pay that ticket price. And then there’s the matter of cruise ships. They have their pluses and minuses. The minuses? Being cooped-up with the loud on-board life and endless food (you can gain 10 pounds in a week).

The pluses? You get to see really neat places.

I once went on a cruise. My brother took me on a Caribbean trip with his family. I’d been living in rural America for a while so I had a bit of a culture shock when I left the land of trailer homes and pickup trucks and arrived in Miami, a land of red-tiled roofs and backyard swimming pools. Soon we were on the ship and sailing off into the Atlantic.

My room was probably smaller than some people’s closets. I thought it was pretty neat until later on that first night when loud rhythmic thumping kept me awake until about 2 a.m. I discovered my bed was underneath the stage of one of the ship’s nightclubs.

We passed through the low-lying Bahamas. The ship cruised past Cuba, and what a magnificent sight that was with its huge mountains rising from the sea. I felt a little guilty dropping in on the island nation of Jamaica, where there were so many poor folks. It seemed like every fifth person I passed would sidle up to me and ask
for spare change.

Then there was Mexico’s Cozumel Island. The ship docked, I took a taxi to town and hung out in an outdoor café on the town square. As I enjoyed my first Mexican cerveza I looked around. There were two guys hunkered over a table playing some kind of game, another guy stretched out on a bench having a siesta. Now that was the life. I fell in love with the place.

Just as I was getting used to the rhythm of shipboard life, it was time to go home.
Maybe I won’t make it to Antarctica. I might take a northern trip. The Lady of the House tells me she wants to take an Alaskan cruise sometime.

But, if you take that Antarctic cruise send me some pictures, won’t you?

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: