Known as the Great White Continent, Antarctica is a magical cruising location with stunning ice-laden landscapes and once-in-a-lifetime excursions. Several lines now offer Antarctica cruise deals, so you can be one of the few travellers in the world to witness this continent’s impressive natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife up close.
If you’d like to experience the grandeur of these shores, read through our Antarctic cruise guide and start planning your next trip to the Southern Pole.
How to get there
It’s often hard to visualise how you would get to Antarctica, but most cruise lines set off from South America, from the likes of Buenos Aires in Argentina or Valparaiso in Chile. Others will also depart from Ushuaia in Argentina, which claims to be the most southern town in the world.
It takes around two days of sailing to reach Antarctica so it’s not one for a weekend jaunt. In fact, you’ll find that most cruises here will last at least nine days. The key thing to remember though is the limited window available for heading to the South Pole area – cruise ships can only make the journey during the Antarctic summer which runs from December to February. Along the way to Antarctica you’ll cruise through the Magellan Strait and see some of South America’s beautiful fjords and Southern Chile’s steep, glacial-formed cliffs.
Best cruise lines
Finding the best cruise to the Antarctic depends on what sort of cruise holiday you would like to have. Guidelines dictate that only cruises taking less than 500 people can make shore excursions. The larger cruise lines including Holland America and Seabourn don’t make any landings, but instead spend several days scenic cruising and whale watching.
Polar specialist Hurtigruten offers the charmingly named ‘The Frozen Land of Penguins’ cruise that spends 13 nights in the coldest reaches of Earth. Leaving from Buenos Aires and travelling through Drake Passage, you’ll spot albatrosses and other sea birds along the way. Holland America Line also has smaller expedition ships utilising inflatable landing crafts to get to the continent.
Silversea is no stranger to the Antarctic and it sends its Silver Explorer every year to these southern realms. Departing from Ushuaia, Argentina, Silver Explorer makes stops along the Falkland and Antarctica Shetland Islands. Due to the unpredictable nature of Antarctic weather, where you are able to visit on your cruise may vary day to day.
Most cruisers venturing to Antarctica do so because they love nature and want to spot some of the region’s unique animal inhabitants. With so many aquatic and adorable land creatures living in the Southern Hemisphere ,you’re sure to spot a few familiar favourites along the way. Antarctica can be a harsh environment for any wildlife and it takes a hardy creature to survive these inhospitable living conditions.
Seals are a common sight while cruising in Antarctica, and you’ll be able to spot a large variety in these waters including leopard and Crabeater seals. There are also several species of whales that make these waters their home,
like the king of the sea – the killer whale – commonly spotted in the Gerlache Strait, and the humpback whale found in the Lemaire Channel.
Everyone’s favourite flightless bird, the penguin, is perfectly suited to these cold conditions and can be found in numerous spots including Deception Island. Emperor Penguins – like those starring in ‘Happy Feet’ and ‘March of the Penguins’ – live along the ice in the Weddell Sea and are the only penguin to make their colonies on sea ice over the winter.
Day trips and excursions to Antarctica make for a totally unique holidaying experience, as there are no shops or restaurants here. Instead you can go on hikes and enjoy the breathtaking scenery and 360° views.
There are a few more common landing spots like Deception Island – an active black ash volcano, and Elephant Island, where you can spot chinstrap and gentoo penguins. For the cruiser with an adventurous side there are also thrill-seeking activities that are becoming a holiday hit, including kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, mountaineering and even scuba diving for professionally qualified divers.
Of course if you are going to disembark, remember that this is mainly an uninhabited continent for a reason – the conditions can be harsh. Be aware that any hikes or activities organised on land will be physically demanding so a good level of fitness will be required.
Cruising in Antarctica is a completely different experience to cruising the Mediterranean – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it in style. Nowadays, the cruises that are available offer luxurious surroundings and all the facilities you would expect from a cruise ship sailing anywhere else in the world.
December and January are the most popular times to travel and it’s when you’ll see the most sunlight. It’s also Antarctica’s summer season and when the wildlife is the most abundant, with penguin chicks hatching and whales arriving in the area.
Packing wise, of course it’s important to bring warm clothes and a winter coat, though many cruise lines will provide complimentary parkas. If you’re planning on going on any excursions make sure to bring waterproof trousers and gloves as well as a warm hat. Some ships will have rental gear available or you can rent items before you depart.
If you want to experience a truly once-in-a-lifetime voyage, then a cruise to the world’s most untouched continent is for you. Give us a call or search here for your next cruise to wondrous Antarctica.
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