Cruises can take you to just about any place on the planet that’s accessible by water, and that includes Antarctica, sometimes known simply as “The Ice.” This vast continent, home to the South Pole and almost completely covered by ice and snow is remote and harsh, fascinating and beautiful.
If you want to cruise to Antarctica, you need to ask yourself an important question: do you want to see the White Continent only from the comfort of the ship, or do you want to set foot on it? The answer will guide your selection of a ship and itinerary.
There are “viewing only” cruises that sail close to the Antarctic Peninsula, the part of Antarctica closest to the southern tip of South America. On this type of cruise, you can marvel at the spectacular scenery, including glacier-draped peaks and ice floes that glow blue and green. You may also see wildlife in and over the water – whales, seals, penguins, albatross, and more.
There are also cruises that sail right up to the peninsula and use inflatable Zodiac craft to take you from ship to shore. Only 100 visitors are allowed to land in the same spot at one time, so it’s a very special experience. If weather conditions are good, you may be able to hike among cold-weather creatures; visit a penguin rookery; go kayaking, climbing, or diving; or even camp onshore overnight. But, you need to be in good shape: the crew will be there to help, but climbing in and out of Zodiac craft and walking icy paths requires strength and balance.
Both types of Antarctic cruises use ships that are built to navigate through ice and the often-choppy waters of the Drake Passage. Most are small but quite luxurious, with high-end cuisine and excellent service. Onboard guides and naturalists will help you understand all that you’ll see and do.
Antarctic cruises are available from late September through early March: you may be surprised by how many cruise lines, ships and itineraries there are to choose from. However, Antarctic cruises are very popular and can fill quickly. Fortunately, Anita, your professional travel advisor, can help you reserve a spot. They can also provide information on what to expect, what to take with you, how to extend your vacation with a land stay in Ushuaia or Buenos Aires, and how important it is to have travel insurance for this cruise of a lifetime.
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