For a long time, Antarctica was a territory only within the reach of scientists and explorers, of adventurers on the edge of the possible. But tourism companies have already discovered the frozen south, with cruises and programs that are now expensive but feasible. We recently told ABC Travel about the landing on the ice of a huge Airbus A340. Now we have learned that one of those luxury cruises that will leave Ushuaia (Argentina) on February 23 will have two VIP passengers and an unthinkable ‘end party’: the McEnroe brothers (John and Patrick) will play a match – the first exhibition of professional tennis – on the frozen continent on March 1.
The trip is organized by Legends Abroad, a company specialized in unique experiences, often related to the world of sports.
This time, if there are no changes, the McEnroes will travel on the cruise Atlas World Navigator along with 140 passengers delighted to participate in a route baptized as ‘Antarctica Open’. The rates per passenger for this trip of twelve days and eleven nights, which include a charter flight from Orlando to Ushuaia, range from 13,180 to 75,000 euros, in a suite with more access to the McEnroes, for example in private lunches.
The sailing days, which will begin in Ushuaia, will continue through the fearsome drake passage -discovered by the Spanish sailor Francisco de Hoces in 1525, when his ship was swept away by a strong storm-, around the South Shetland Islands and along the Antarctic coasts, with visits to some scientific stations and zodiac excursions to observe icebergs and the wildlife.
The tennis match, of which there is no record of precedent, is scheduled for March 1 at the King George Island, discovered by William Smith in February 1819, during a trading trip from Buenos Aires to Valparaíso. It is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, where many of the continent’s scientific bases have been built. The first of them, Station G – Admiralty Bay, British, was inaugurated on January 18, 1947.
Protocols for stepping on Antarctic soil limit the activity of these expeditions to try to minimize the impact on this almost virgin territory. In the case of the McEnroe party, the passengers appear to have to split into two groups. As a general rule, cruise organizers are asked not to go down more than a hundred people at a time, to disinfect their belongings or not to eat during the excursion to avoid leaving any remains on the ice.
The main cruise season in the Antarctic summer lasts from December 21 to March 21, although it can arrive from November to April. The offer had been growing little by little, but without pause, until the stoppage caused by the pandemic. In 2015-2016, 112,000 seats were offered on ships departing from the port of Ushuaia. In 2019-2020 there were 135,153, the vast majority from the United States. This European winter (summer in the south) some ships are expected to start returning, including the Atlas World Navigator with the McEnroes on board.