Traveling to all seven of the Earth’s continents sounds like it should be an easy feat. You get to purchase your plane ticket, get on the airplane and go. But visiting the continent of Antarctica is not as easy as that unless you are a research scientist and have a project based there. There is also really only one season that makes it accessible for tourism and it has been dubbed the ‘ice-melt season’ which tends to run from November to March, weather dependent of course. Most people choose to board an expedition cruise from Argentina, although there is now the option of a 1-day sightseeing tour out of Australia. Here’s what to expect from an expedition cruise around Antarctica and how much it might set you back.
Most cruises leave from Ushuaia, also known as the area “The End of The World” in Argentina. From there you can cruise around Antarctica for around 12 days or more depending on how much of this continent you want to see. Expect to budget around $7,000 or more for this.
What You Will See
Drake Passage, the Shetland Islands, the Falkland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula will be some of the locations offered for your cruise. Most cruises will focus on just one or two of these areas as it takes quite a bit of time to navigate around. There will be icebergs, glaciers, LOTS of penguins and other wildlife, and sites of historic import such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave.
Every ship is different and these are not giant cruise ships such as those that are seen going around the Caribbean or the rivers of Europe. They are designed to withstand the harsh Arctic climate. The cabins are fairly utilitarian but with a modern edge, there will not be any luxury spas on board, think more like comfortable bunk beds in a Nordic aesthetic a la Ikea. Some cruises offer an optional camping experience where you will get to camp on the continent itself but this means you will need to pack the proper gear to withstand those cold blustery nights.
There are many companies that purport to be the best but after careful investigation, these three appear to provide a top-notch service and access to some of the most beautiful places on this wintery continent. Check out Hurtigruten which has been operating cruises in this area for over 125 years, Lindblad Expeditions which works in conjunction with National Geographic, and Ponant who has been working on providing ships with zero-emissions. Do not forget to bring a camera!