An Antarctica Cruise is most likely one of the most passive adventurous things you can do in your lifetime. Think of it: traveling to the most remote part of our world, which just happens to be the coldest on earth, encountering penguins, spotting enormous whales and remembering for the rest of your life how lucky you are to have had this opportunity.
WHAT TO EXPECT
There are several things you should expect as you consider an Antarctic cruise. First, this is not necessarily the place with the most diverse array of animals or birds in the world. Less than 20 species of birds live here and no land mammals. However, you will likely see lots of penguins, especially if you travel in November or December (early Spring in Antarctica), when most of the penguin species lay their eggs on land. Whales, including orcas and humpback whales, as well as seals will also entertain
Second, you should know that you will be in the coldest place on Earth. The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was here, in July 1983 – -89.2 degree Celsius, about -129 degrees Fahrenheit: too cold for most living things to survive. Because it is so cold, the only period of the year during which people are able to cruise is from November to March. But you’ll still need to bring plenty of warm clothes.
Third, it is really about the scenery. Yes, there is ice and snow everywhere, but this is different from the ice and snow you may know from home. Here, the ice and snow are moving actors in the landscape, breaking away and strolling across the sea or simply standing still, jutting out of the water as majestic guards of the overwhelming views. You will go ashore during your cruise, so you will be able to directly interact with all this and see the animals up close and personal. Just remember your ice-hiking boots to protect you from the cold and from some potentially nasty slips and falls on the icy terrain. On your journey you will likely pass through the Drake Passage—between Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the American continent, and the Antarctica Peninsula—at 500 miles is the narrowest part of water between Antarctica and any other land. For many, this is a rite of passage and you should embrace it as such, thinking of the explorers who passed through there at some point or another, albeit during a much more dangerous time.
HOW DOES IT WORK
Obviously, as this is a cruise, you will travel by ship. But there is great flexibility when it comes to the length of the cruise, with many around 8-10 days, but some as long as four weeks (Antarctica’s Far East cruise, from Quark Expeditions, takes from December to January and takes the visitor along the east coast of the continent). Most of the cruises are around the Antarctica Peninsula, but the actual route taken will depend on whether you leave from Latin America (in Latin America, you will start from the Southernmost town in the world, Ushuaia) or Australia.
There is something for everybody there, but you will expect to pay at least $7,000 for an 8-day cruise. Depending on the number of days and the conditions on the ship, it can go as high up as $35,000-$40,000.
BOTTOM LINE: Splurge or Save? If you want to take an Antarctic cruise we would recommend you go with the less expensive cruise options rather than splurging on a $30,000+ cruse, as you’ll enjoy the same cold weather and the same amazing sights (whales, penguins, ice bergs, etc.) at any price point, but maybe with a bottle of sparkling wine rather than French champagne.