What is it that feeds our fascination with Antarctica? Perhaps it dates from the heroic adventures of those who first sought to “conquer” these inhospitable lands, such as Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen. Or maybe its the possibilities offered up by this vast, uninhabited continent of encountering slumbering leopard seals and chattering emperor penguin colonies or even spending a night camping out on the frigid ice. However the seventh continent captures your imagination, here’s our list of the absolute highlights of an antarctic cruise.
1. Navigate past huge icebergs
In Antarctica, part of the adventure is sailing through waters filled with colossal icebergs that block the narrow passageways and provide unbeatable photo opportunities of blue-tinged ice mirrored by glittering seawater. To get even closer, embark upon a kayak expedition. The navigation may be in your hands, but the experience of being meters away from antarctic wildlife remains breathtaking.
2. Post a postcard at Port Lockroy
Once a top-secret base station of the British government, Port Lockroy is now a museum and base staffed year-round by English-speaking members of the UK Antarctic Trust. Browse the museum here, chat to the staff about the center’s operations and even make use of the southernmost post office in the world to mail a postcard back home.
3. Visit the photographer’s dream – the Lemaire Channel
The spectacular scenery of the Lemaire Channel is responsible for its three nicknames: the Fuji Funnel, Kodak Canal and Agfa Alley – three brands of camera film. This narrow waterway is certainly awaiting your camera: icebergs and unblemished snow caps line the shores and contribute to it being considered one of the most beautiful highlights of an antarctic cruise.
4. Penguin watching
Antarctica is a penguin-lover’s paradise, with no fewer than five different species inhabiting the continent, so expect your cruise to Antarctica to include a visit to a penguin colony. Waddle amongst the Adélie penguins at Petermann Island or snap photos of the gentoo penguins in the colony at Paradise Harbour.
5. Swim in Deception Bay
Yes – we’re being serious. Warmer waters from the active volcano here make Deception Bay the perfect (well, less freezing) spot for swimming when on an antarctic cruise.
The best time for taking an antarctic cruise
Antarctic cruises depart only during the austral summer months, from November until March. During winter, pack ice makes it impossible for ships to enter the waters surrounding Antarctica, temperatures rarely reach above freezing and daylight hours are almost non-existent.
Which other cruise destinations are for intrepid adventurers?
While an Antarctic cruise is the only real way of venturing to the legendary White Continent, Patagonia is home to other cruise ship voyages, many of which follow in the similarly heroic footsteps of other famed explorers.
- Australis’ expedition cruises from Punta Arenas pass through the fabled Straits of Magellan into the Chilean fjords and Alberto de Agostini National Park. They track the route of the HMS Beagle – on which Charles Darwin was the most famous passenger – and embark upon the once-dreaded act of “rounding the horn” before landing on the legendary Hornos Island to peer off the cliff at Cape Horn.
- Cruises to view the Northern Lights within the Arctic Circle are another way of finding the world’s most adventurous places. Amongst those most lauded for viewing the spectacular Aurora Borealis include Norway’s northernmost city, Honningsvag and Ittoqqortoormiit, the northernmost community of east Greenland.