An Antarctic cruise should be on everyone’s bucket list…but an Antarctica vacation is not a straightforward adventure vacation. There are a wide variety of cruises to Antarctica and the experience you will have can be completely different depending on a whole number of variables. We have put together a handy list of 9 things you probably didn’t know about Antarctica, to help guide you to making the most of this amazing destination:
Photo credit: Hamish Moffatt
1. Antarctica vacations vary depending on when you go
The Antarctic cruise season runs throughout the southern hemisphere summer between November and March, however what you see throughout this period can vary wildly. If you want to see stunning pristine snowy and icy landscapes then you need to visit between November and mid-December, before the summer thaw has truly taken effect. Later in December and through January sees the emergence of the penguin chicks and also the seal pups in South Georgia. February and March is the best time to spot the wide variety of whales. These three fairly distinct seasons mean that picking the right time to take your Antarctica holiday is very important.
2. Antarctica may be frozen, but it doesn’t mean it’s cold
Although known as the white continent, Antarctica on a good day can experience bright sunshine and warm temperatures well above freezing. Packing sunscreen and good quality sunglasses are a must.
3. You will get closer to EVERYTHING than you can possibly imagine
The wildlife you will see on an Antarctica holiday will astonish you and you will get so much closer than you can imagine. For instance there is an informal rule that you cannot go within 5 meters of the penguins. However, if you are standing still and they come to you (which they are quite happy to do) you are almost guaranteed to come within feet of them.
4. There are several itineraries to choose from
Not only can you travel from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina, but there are also voyages from Tasmania’s Hobart and New Zealand’s Dunedin. A basic Antarctica cruise from Ushuaia will last between 10 and 12 nights, crossing the Drakes Passage to give several nights and plenty of opportunities to make landings on the Antarctic Peninsula. The extended voyages last around 16 nights and go via The Falkland and South Georgia. South Georgia is a haven for seabirds and seals, so this longer voyages, although more expensive are well worth considering. Traveling from Australasia enables you to visit the lesser traveled Commonwealth Bay to see different variety of penguins and whales.
5. You can camp on Antarctica
Hurtigruten on their cruises to Antarctica in 2013 and 2014 offer the opportunity to camp overnight on the Antarctic Peninsula. You will be one of just a handful of people to have this very special experience, making your Antarctica holiday even more memorable.
6. You can swim in the Antarctic sea
It’s cold, but often there is the opportunity to take a dip…it will give you a good opportunity to brag to your friends.
7. The Drakes Passage can be calm
Although a necessary evil, the Drakes Passage can be calm. If it is choppy, it’s a good excuse to laze around, read a book or catch up on sleep.
8. Different ships offer very different experiences
Antarctica vacations conjure images of icebreakers, bunk beds, and basic food. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, you can visit the white continent in this way, but the likes of Silversea, Hapag Lloyd, Orion and Ponant Cruises offer fine dining, suite accommodation, and modern purpose build vessel on which to take your adventure holiday. All of these cruise lines offer cruises to Antarctica in 2013 and 2014.
9. It’s not just a once in a lifetime trip
A there are three distinct seasons and several different types of itinerary, an Antarctica vacation is not necessarily a one in a lifetime trip. In fact, many Antarctica cruises will have guests who have been several times!