Ever wondered what it would really be like to go on an Antarctica cruise? Shivering cold or absolutely spectacular? In this informative blog post, you’ll find out from the Antarctica and Patagonia Cruises experts at SouthAmerica.travel.
What It’s Like on a Cruise Ship
On an Antarctica cruise, you’ll see a part of the world that few people ever see. The White Desert has appealed to researchers and adventurers, but few others have aspired to travel to the depths of the world – until now. Luxury Antarctica cruise ships make it possible for the intrepid traveler to experience the final frontier from a comfortable cabin suite. Many cruise ships have comfortable cabins and suites, a spacious dining room, bar & lounge, lecture hall, library, observation decks, and Zodiak boats for excursions. All meals plus afternoon tea and a three course dinner are included. The ship’s crew are always on hand to answer questions, lead on-shore excursions, give educational lectures, and help you spot wildlife.
When to Travel to Antarctica
Most Antarctica cruises depart from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Cruises itineraries vary in length, from about 10 days to 17 days. Cruises to Antarctica depart throughout the South American summer, from November to March. During this austral summer, daytime temperatures vary between 20º and 40º F. Although it can be very sunny, expect rain, snow, fog and a high wind chill factor. The rest of the year, it’s much too cold. Read our previous blog post on the Best Times to Visit South America.
What You’ll See
From November-December, you may see crab-eater seals, elephant seals, humpback whales, Minke whales, and southern right whales, penguins hatching chicks in the South Shetland Islands, and incredibly long days – sometimes the sun doesn’t set until midnight! From January to February, most penguin chicks hatch, and you can spot fur seals, leopard seals, and whales. From late February to March, it’s autumn down under, and you’ll find adolescent penguins curious about visitors, whales, and beautiful algae blooms.
At any time, you may also see Adelie, Macaroni, Gentoo, and Chinstrap penguins, humpback whales, albatross, Antarctic Terns and Southern Giant Petrels, fur seals, leopard seals, southern elephant seals, orcas, and more wildlife from aboard the ship, and venture out on Zodiac boats for excursions on land, weather permitting. You can even go swimming in the hot springs of Pendulum Cove in the Shetland Islands.
Where You’ll Go
Popular cruise routes depart from Ushuaia, pass through the Beagle Channel and Mackinlay Pass, then Drake’s Passage and out into open sea. The Drake Passage is named after the English explorer Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1579. This passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, where cold polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters, creating an upsurgence of nutrient-rich water that sustains a diverse eco-system. You’ll see many Antarctic seabirds including albatross.
Continue on to the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands first spotted by Captain William Smith in 1819. Here you can see icebergs, snow-capped mountains, and whales. Hop into a Zodiak boat to go ashore the islands and explore with your travel guide. You’ll see vast penguin rookeries and seals colonies. King George Island, the largest of the South Shetlands, has Adelie and Chinstrap penguin rookeries, kelp gulls, blue-eyed cormorants, Terns, and Southern Giant Petrels. The island is also home to many international research stations. Livingston Island has Macaroni, Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguin populations. You’re also likely to see Weddell, crabeater, and leopard seals.
Depending on the weather conditions, your cruise ship may be able to navigate past beautiful waterways such as the Gerlache Strait, the Neumayer Channel, and the Lemaire Channel. These waterways feature huge glaciers and ice archways. You may stop in Paradise Bay, Paulet Island, Melchior Island, Cuverville Island, Portal Point, Neko Harbour, Pléneau Island, and Petermann Island for a visit to the southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins.
Most Antarctica cruises will include 1-2 shore excursions per day, depending on weather conditions.
Highlights of an Antarctica Cruise
-You may have the opportunity to get up close to baby penguins. These curious little creatures will sometime waddle over to inspect visitors. Imagine staying still on a pebble beach in Antarctica – and being close to a little penguin!
-It’d be hard to pass up a dare to jump into the, well, refreshing, waters of the Antarctic. Strap on a harness, and, with the supervision of a professional guide, hop into the water for a brief dip.
-Enjoy some of the world best whale watching!
-Some Antarctica cruises also include adventures such as camping, kayaking, cross-country skiing, or mountaineering to make the most of your Antarctica experience.
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