trip to the 7th continent, one of the last bastions for true
expeditionary travel, is on the bucket list for millions of people around the
world. But what do you do once the plane tickets are booked and you’re on your
way down to the great icy continent? It’s definitely not your average trip and
there are a few things you should keep in mind before following in the
footsteps of Shackleton.
are a few different options for Antarctica cruises, typically most people leave
from Ushuaia, Argentina and cross the nausea-inducing Drake Passage to
Antarctica. I however opted for the gentler and less time consuming fly cruise.
Instead of spending four days crossing back and forth across the Drake, I flew to
Antarctica directly from Punta Arenas, Chile. A two hour flight was all it took
and I was onboard my ship before I knew it. This is a fantastic option for
those who are light on time or who have concerns about getting seasick.
of my biggest mistakes was the clothing I brought with me because as I learned packing for
Antarctica isn’t as easy as one might think. When we think of
Antarctica we think a cold, inhospitable vast region. And that’s true, in the
winter. That’s also why cruises don’t take place in the winter, the conditions
are far too rough. The summer months though are completely different and my
massive parka was nothing more than a waste of space.
weather, while not warm per se, also wasn’t the frigid nightmare I had
anticipated. In Fahrenheit, the temperatures hovered in the 30s and 40s,
necessitating a jacket for sure, but not one in which a small family of garden
gnomes could live comfortably. Instead of the expensive and very nice parka I
towed down through four flights, I instead wore a light windbreaker I
thankfully packed and which I picked up for free somewhere. Moral of the story,
you aren’t Ernest Shackleton. You aren’t going to spend a week trekking through
the wilds of Antarctica in the middle of the Austral Winter. You will be on a
comfortable boat, taking part in excursions and coming back every night to
enjoy hot chocolate and a comfortable bed. So dress appropriately.
boarding the cruise ship, I was shown almost immediately to my cabin, a modest
if not comfortable room. My cabin was set up as a single, but a hidden bunk
revealed that it could easily accommodate two people. These ships experience
very rough seas at times so everything that can be bolted down is literally
bolted to the floor. That also means that the accommodations are pretty
spartan. There was a bed, desk, chair and built-in wardrobe and that’s it. It’s
Antarctica, so TVs and phones are pointless. The bathroom was small but
perfectly functional. People spend a lot of time and money on these trips
though so the rooms are comfortable, don’t get me wrong and there are many
different cabin configurations available including more standard looking
hotel-style cabins with double and even queen size beds. But you honestly don’t
spend a whole lot of time in the cabins, aside from sleeping and changing for
the next excursion.
focal point of these trips is of course what you see and do. Every day the ship
visits a new spot along the Antarctic peninsula, the specific locations vary
based on weather and ice conditions. The night before staff announces where
they’re going and what to expect. Some of the excursions included an afternoon
on Deception Island, many hikes with penguins and even a visit to an Antarctic
research base that hadn’t seen visitors in months. The hikes were accessible to
just about every skill level, although a couple of them were definitely more
strenuous than the others. But that’s why we were there, to get out and explore
and to see for ourselves what makes this part of the world so very spectacular.
are just a few things to keep in mind as you venture on the trip on a lifetime.
What other questions do you have about the travel experience in Antarctica?