Operator focuses on Antarctica

TORONTO -- The recent shutdown of adventure-cruise operator Marine Expeditions last month left something of a void in the adventure-cruise market, but a new company is emerging to offer cruises and tours to one of the most sought-after destinations in expedition cruising: Antarctica.

Toronto-based Fathom Expeditions, a small-ship line, offers customized itineraries that are designed to accommodate special-interest groups, from naturalists to climbers and skiers to photographers and vacationers with a general interest in exploration.

The firm will offer three Antarctica voyages this year and next: a 14-day journey from Dec. 27 to Jan. 9, a 14-day voyage from Jan. 5 to 18 and a 16-day journey from Jan. 14 to 29.

Rates range from $4,670 to $8,160, depending on the itinerary.

At the helm of Fathom is Dave German, the company's president and an experienced expedition guide in adventure-oriented cruising.

German is serious about his expedition-oriented travel. In 1998, inspired by explorer Sir Ernest Shackelton, German planned and executed a 30-day overland trek across South Georgia Island, among the planet's most isolated locations.

The following year, German led 15 expeditions into the Antarctic wilderness and last year, he guided climbers and skiers down the length of Antarctica's Bransfield, Gerlache and Penola straits.

Over the past 10 years, German has led small-ship voyages up the length of the Amazon River and built expedition programs in the Galapagos and along the coasts of Peru, Chile, Argentina, Panama and Canada.

Although Antarctica is its speciality, Fathom offers journeys to South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands.

Trip themes change due to a variety of factors, such as the nature of the passenger contingent.

"We have a multi-tiered program that's customized for older folks who don't want to climb up volcanoes," said German.

"For more active people, we do some fairly aggressive hikes."

German said Fathom is a "boutique" expedition operator, an indication of the customized voyages and personal attention to participants the company offers.

"We've worked to get the best expedition leaders," said German, "and having led about 45 trips to Antarctica, we know a lot of places that other companies don't."

Fathom charters expedition ships according to voyage needs, using tested adventure-oriented vessels, including the one-time Russian research vessel Akademik Ioffe.

For additional information, call (800) 387-1488 or visit the company's Web site at www.fathomexpeditions.com.

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