About Antarctica Cruises
Antarctica is currently an ecotourism hot spot; this unsettled land sometimes seems to exist on a different planet. Except for a few hardy researchers, there are no permanent residents of Antarctica and tourist traffic is controlled in an effort to protect this fragile continent. Most of what visitors see is limited to views from the deck of a passing ship. The scenery is breathtakingly surreal and leaves visitors spellbound.
An awe-inspiring landscape awaits where prisms of light bounce of giant icebergs that have been sculpted like cathedrals by the wind. Snow-capped peaks, sheer cliffs, icebergs and ink-blue water are occasionally punctuated by a hot spring or volcano. An Antarctic cruise may not provide ideal conditions for sunbathing on deck, but there is nothing quite like it for adventurous souls who yearn to experience the beauty and spectacle of Earth's most remote and unspoiled place.
What can I do on an Antarctica cruise?
Travelers aboard a cruise to the great "White Continent" take on the role of amateur researchers and naturalists. More an expedition than vacation, a trip to Antarctica becomes an educational experience because it provides unique opportunities for face-to-face encounters with the wildlife that dwell in this icy realm. Nesting colonies of penguins and other birds dot the vast whiteness, seals languish lazily on ice floes and humpback or killer whales occasionally surface from the frigid water. All along, experts in their field offer interpretive guidance to offer the most enriching experience available.
Where does an Antarctica cruise go?
There are no actual ports of call on the continent of Antarctica, but the ship is usually able to find safe anchor in locations originally designed to accommodate naval research vessels. From these locations cruise passengers can usually disembark the ship to view the colonies of wildlife nearby. The exact itinerary depends on ice conditions, weather and wildlife, and disembarkation is not guaranteed, so it's best to travel to Antarctica with an open mind. These locations can include:
- Cape Evans and Cape Royds
- Deception Island
- Lamaire Channel
- Half Moon Island
- McMurdo Station
- Paradise Harbor
Most ships that sail to Antarctica are less than 23,000-grt and were built as icebreakers or have a hardened hull able to withstand the freezing, ice-filled waters. Antarctica treaty laws require that no more than 100 passengers participate in a landing at one time, which is possible via Zodiac landing craft (sturdy, inflatable boats specifically designed for exploration use) and weather permitting.
When can I go on a cruise to Antarctica?
Typically, cruise ships visit Antarctica between December and February, when the temperatures range from 20 - 50 degrees Fahrenheit. These months also fall into the category of high summer, when there is 20 plus hours of daylight. Antarctic voyages require a minimum of 11 nights and can take as long as three weeks.
How do I get there?
Most Antarctica cruises will depart from and return to Ushuaia (Argentina), Port Stanley (Falkland Islands) or to a lesser extent from Punta Arenas (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina) or Puerto Madryn (Argentina). Orient Lines and Celebrity Cruises Xpeditions series offers itineraries.