NEW YORK -- Geraldine Kederich, a repeat passenger on small-ship operator Quark Expeditions, offered her opinion on one of the line's itineraries.

"Go on the peninsula trip," she said. "It's two days off South America. Then you're hooked, and you can do the other side [of Antarctica], off [New Zealand]."

Kederich was on hand at the Explorers Club here -- along with other Quark past passen-gers, tour operators and travel agents -- for a showcasing of the line's 2003 offerings.

The Classic Antarctic Peninsula trip, said Quark expedition leader Werner Stambach, is an 11-day cruise that starts from Argentina, which is "perfect," he said, for an introduction to the frosty region.

Quark also is touting several other adventurous vacations for 2003, like the Total Eclipse of the Sun tour, a 30-day expedition into the West Ice Shelf and the Ross Sea to see the first eclipse visible from the region since the early 1900s.

Another such option is a 25-day cruise to the rookeries of emperor penguins and the Transantarctic mountains. Both cruises, which begin from South Africa on Nov. 3, 2003, and Australia on Dec. 2, 2003, respectively, are on the line's Kapitan Khlebnikov, a 54-cabin Russian icebreaker.

Quark president Patrick Shaw said the line was introducing diving and kayaking to appeal to more active adventurers. These activities only are offered on the Dec. 16 and Feb. 16 departures of the Classic Antarctica voyages.

The line spends the U.S. winter in Antarctica but offers summer cruises in the Arctic.

Quark cruises also are lucrative for agents: The solar eclipse tour starts at $18,995, and the penguin cruise starts at $16,995; the Classic Antarctica peninsula trips start at $3,495.

Agents earn 10% commission to start, but Shaw said pay can reach 25%.

However, Kederich said, planning a trip to Antarctica isn't easy, especially if you're not familiar with the region.

"It took me a long time to figure it out," she said. "Finally, I took all the brochures home and laid them out ... with a map."

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