Has Anyone Been On A Cruise To Antarctica?

Filed Under: Travel

This probably isn’t the time to be planning a once-in-a-lifetime cruise, though I think it’s the perfect time to be dreaming of taking a trip at some point, even if it’s not going to be in the next year or two.

And yes, I realize a cruise to Antarctica is in the news right now for all the wrong reasons, as more than half of the people onboard have COVID-19. Like I said, I’m not planning this right now. 😉

Yesterday on our OMAAT happy hour we were joined by Stephanie Zito, and I asked her what her favorite place is that she has ever been — she said Antarctica, and talked about the cruise she took there. Well, suffice to say that I spent much of last night looking at cruises to Antarctica…

Collectively you guys know everything, so I’d love to hear from any of you who have been on a cruise to Antarctica.

Our two cruises this year aren’t happening

Ford and I aren’t big cruisers — he has never been on a cruise, while I used to be obsessed with them when I was a little kid, but I haven’t been on one in 20 years. However, we were supposed to go on two cruises this year:

  • My mom really wanted to do a European cruise, so we were supposed to take a Celebrity cruise between Italy and Spain next month; the cruise hasn’t been cancelled, but at this point we’re definitely not taking it, so I hope they cancel it
  • We were going to take a Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection cruise, but our sailings have been cancelled twice now, due to the ship being delayed

We were supposed to take a Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection cruise

To be honest, we’re not too bummed about this. The thought of taking cruises to various port cities that we could also visit directly doesn’t excite us all that much, and I think we’d both be fine never taking a cruise.

However…

Going to Antarctica sounds amazing

Ford and I both love nature and adventure travel. Not, like, jumping out of planes, but our favorite trips have been those that have involved endless hiking and other nature activities, from Easter Island to Svalbard to safari in South Africa.

We loved visiting the Arctic Circle

Antarctica is the only continent neither of us have been to, and suffice to say that going there sounds like a dream come true. Even as non-cruisers, it sure seems like the best way to visit is on a cruise.

Taking a cruise to Antarctica almost sounds like an ocean safari. The way Stephanie explained it, you get off the ship a couple of times per day, as the ship is constantly moving around.

What’s the best option for an Antarctica cruise?

This is where I’m hoping for advice from anyone who has been on a cruise to Antarctica. Not because I’m ready to book a cruise right now, but rather because I’m ready to start thinking about it (even if it only happens in a couple of years).

It looks like cruises to Antarctica mostly leave from Ushuaia, and last anywhere from 10 days to several weeks. While that sounds like a long time (especially since we’re usually fast travelers), it takes at least a couple of days in each direction to get to Antarctica, so it makes sense that the cruises aren’t shorter.

I guess my initial questions are:

  • Is a 10-14 day cruise sufficient, or is there some great incremental value in doing longer ones?
  • Just how rough is it going through the Drake Passage? I’ve heard many people get seasick, so is it consistently terrible, just sometimes, or…?
  • With Wi-Fi technology being better across the board, is it possible to stay connected consistently on an Antarctica cruise? It’s obviously much easier to justify this if I can work while traveling, rather than not.

And then that brings me to the question of whether there’s a “best” option for an Antarctica cruise. Historically these cruises were mostly done on much smaller ships, though it seems like the major cruise lines are now sending mega-ships there as well, which I’m skeptical of.

My initial inclination is to go with Lindblad Expeditions, since you can earn World of Hyatt points with them. Members earn points with Lindblad at the same rate as they would staying at Hyatts, which is tempting.

Lindblad also has a brand new ships, the Endurance, which looks pretty nice.

The new Endurance ship, part of Lindblad Expeditions

But I know there are lots of other cruise lines as well — Silversea, Seabourn, etc., so I’d be curious to hear if anyone has any tips. I know a lot of the smaller ships are rather old, so I’m not sure if there are some new ships on the horizon that are worth waiting for, if one cruise line does a significantly better job than another with actually seeing more parts of Antarctica, etc.

Bottom line

I’m endlessly fascinated by Antartica, and while this isn’t the time to take a cruise to anywhere (in my opinion), it can’t hurt to start thinking about one. Antarctica is a destination that seems best explored by ship, so I’d love to hear from anyone who has been on a cruise to Antarctica, anyone who has done a lot of research on this, etc.

Anyone else fascinated by the concept of a cruise to Antarctica?

Comments
  1. I suggest you watch the YouTube travel series from Kara and Nate. They just did a 14 day cruise from Patagonia to Antartica and did a very good job filming the experience. Always wondered how these cruises work and it really helped out.

    Might be embarking on this adventure once life goes back to normal.

    Cheers !

  2. Lucky, somewhat related. On your celebrity cruise – if you’re able to cancel and outside of any penalties, might I recommend doing so now. Celebrity is playing games with this of us who are entitled to refunds (cruises cancelled due to halt in sailings) and very few people have been issued any refunds. I requested a refund, and as of today it has been a month without any communication or refund. I opened disputes with Chase (deposit) and AMEX (balance) and have received temporary credits. The big CC companies can play the games with the cruise lines.

  3. Antarctica was great we went on an itinerary that included South Georgia and it is the most spectacular place on earth. Imagine colonies of 500 penguins on the Antarctic peninsula compared to colonies of 50,000 penguins on South Georgia.

    No one should cruise to Antarctica without going to South Georgia.

  4. I recomend the Hurtigruten hybrid ships, Amundsen or Nansen.
    Newbuild and as sustainable as one can get it.

  5. i went with Antarctica 21 this season. While i went on one of their older ships, they have a new ship called the Magellan explorer that just went into service this season. the perks of going with them are that they fly into Antarctica rather than doing the dreaded 2 day each way sailing across the drake passage. 2 hour flight from Punta Arenas Chile directly to marsh airbase on King George island. Worth every penny. It’s a charter flight on Antarctic Airways which for you could be quite a interesting view for your blog. I believe Quark and also National Geographic has a fly and sail cruise as well. But for people who A. Get seasick and B. don’t want to spend minimum 10+ days on a ship this is your best option.

  6. I’ve been twice – once when Regent used to charter a ship from A&K and once on Silversea. My advice is make sure the itinerary includes South Georgia.

    Antarctica is still my favorite place that I’ve been lucky enough to visit.

  7. At this point going on a cruise is like getting into a petri dish ….

    Strange thing to envision at present, at least for me.

  8. WiFi is not super reliable on board based on the vloggers who’ve covered Antarctica before. Kara and Nate on YouTube just did a fairly comprehensive series on their travel down there. You might get enough to post a photo here or there but the bandwidth isn’t conducive to uploading more than that. If you go, this is a trip to have contributing writers pick up the news and a pile of pre-canned content ready to go in the background from yourself as you’ll probably not be very productive.

  9. Lindblad is the way to go! Full disclosure, I am a former employee. It’s been 12 years since we went, but still ranks as one of our best trips ever. Yes, 10-14 days is the minimum amount of time you’ll want to give due to the long crossing to get to the continent. If I get to go again one day, I’ll definitely do a longer voyage and include South Georgia Island. The naturalists and staff working with Lindblad expeditions are fantastic. I would go anywhere with them.

    The small ship experience was phenomenal. We were never more than 10-12 guests per naturalist. We kayaked. We hung out with penguins. We swam in warm waters. We walked on pack-ice and hiked to the top of mountains. We sledded down massive hills – my absolute favorite memory!

    I can’t speak to what the technology is like now, but I recall it being decent 12 years ago. I’m sure it’s improved.

  10. I just came back from a cruise this past February. It’s very important to choose a smaller ship because they are allowed to do zodiac landings meaning you’ll actually be able to step on the Antarctica continent. This is due to some guidelines restricting no more than 100 persons onshore at a time.

  11. I visited Antarctica back in 2010 so my knowledge is outdated. Whichever cruise you plan to take, definitely take a look at the planned itinerary and map. If you’re going to go through the dreaded Drake passage, you might as well go all the way and cross the Antarctic Circle too (most Antarctica cruises don’t cross it but a few do and most are priced the same.) Also, if you guys go, definitely partake in the polar plunge! My understanding is most cruises offer the opportunity for you to swim in the southern ocean for less than 10 seconds or so from the ship. You’ll see plenty of youtube videos online about it for sure. Either way, good luck and hope you guys go!!!

  12. Ponant, the “luxury expedition” French cruise-line is currently building a new all electric ship exclusively for Antartica. It’s in the same class as many of the ice breaker ships used down there, just with luxury suites and fine French cuisine! (They take the dining very seriously). Ponant is similar to Ritz Carlton Cruises in the categories of their ships, they have sleek yacht like boats, but they focus more on the expedition part (they have a few smaller boats that can be launched off the rear of the ship which is great for the Antartica cruises).

  13. Done it twice, both times on smaller expedition ships (Silversea Expeditions). Landings by zodiacs are a must; don’t do a “drive by” cruise. Landings on South Georgia were the highlights of both of my trips. Tens of thousands of King penguins on the Salisbury Plain. Also visited Shackleton’s grave there. Try to visit the Falklands too. Ten to 14 days are adequate.

  14. The absolute best way to visit is with White Desert: https://white-desert.com/

    Now THAT is how to visit Antarctica. I have been fascinated ever since I met the owner a few months ago. You get to see inland Antarctica, and possibly the actual South Pole, depending on whether. Plus – you can do a “hotel” review. Obviously it is crazy expensive though…

  15. I went to Antartica this past season. There are few things that you might need to keep in mind:

    1) Cross Drake Passage is not fun at all, and you have to cross twice (to and from Ushuaia), so basically you will do nothing other than feeling sea sick for 4 days. I would suggest you to go to Antarctica for at least 12 days in order to have a fun experience.

    2) There are many cruises going to Antartica Peninsula but only few crossing antarctic circle. I would rather focusing on the cruise who are planning to go across antarctic circle.

    3) Also many large size cruise (200+) could not let you do continental landing everyday, because transporting 200+ people from the cruise on small zodiacs to the landing site will take a long time. You might end up having much better experience of having wet-landing in Antartica everyday rather than trapping in the cruise all the time.

    4) I had wifi on my cruise, it’s not fast but more than enough to update social media.

  16. Lucky, on flyertalk, you can read about a recent detailed report under the title ‘Trip Notes: Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia’ by “lax_esq”. Their cruise was ‘Polar Latitudes’.

  17. I booked Oceanwide Expeditions for my Antarctica trip, which was a year ago. They have several sailings to Antarctica. Everyone had 100 MB free, but that isn’t much if you load pictures. Being out at sea, internet is spotty.

    The Drake Passage is usually rough – it is nicknamed Drake Shake for a reason. Most people took anti-nausea medicine or wore an ear patch. However, when I sailed Ushuaia to Antarctica the seas were calm, a phenom called Drake Lake – doesn’t happen often.

    Antarctica is beautiful, and worth visiting. Lots of icebergs, mountains, penguins, whales, and seals. Our activities were either hiking or a scenic zodiac ride.

  18. I am booked to go in December this year. I have chosen to go in a 21 day trip that includes South Georgia and falklands. I am also doing sea kayaking. I spent a lot of time researching this. Key priorities for me where (1) must include South Georgia and Falklands (2) must be smaller boat but not too small as they need to be able to break through the ice (3) must have a balcony (4) must not be your typical cruise crowd as I am not into cruises (seriously someone complained about having to wash their boots them self). (5) must have a balcony (6) wanted a new boat (7) had to cater for food allergies. Ultimately you need to work out your criteria and select based on what is important for you.
    Lindblad and Hyatt Partnership was not around when I booked. I discounted them as for the same trip
    I was doing it was 10,000 more and an older boat. I believe they have a new boat ready to launch.
    My other advice is to check the solvency of the company you are going with. Someone I know was booked to go on One Ocean explorer and lost 40,000 AUD when the company encountered financial difficulties. Most people (across multiple countries) have not got their money back via insurance or chargeback. These was pre COVID 19. I struggled to find insurance companies that would insure for this. As a risk mitigation I paid for a credit check on the company I am traveling with. Given the current environment this is probably more important.
    Fingers crossed this trip goes ahead.

  19. Hapag Lloyd recently got a class of three new expedition ships – the Hanseatic Nature, Hanseatic Spirit, and Hanseatic Inspiration. If you’re not familiar with Hapag Lloyd cruises, they are a luxury German cruise line which isn’t anymore affiliated with the shipping company and is now owned by Tui. Besides the three new Hanseatics, they also have the Europa and Europa 2, which have been awarded as among the best cruise ships in the world (just for context, the Europa has a new restaurant exclusively devoted to caviar), although the ships have maintained somewhat a low profile in the broader travel industry. Hapag also has a smaller and older expedition ship, the MS Bremen. Hapag also has their own 757, much like the Four Seasons jet, which goes on a couple of world tours a year. I’ve personally been on one of their ships (not an expedition cruise) a few years back, and to put it in avgeek terms, it’s essentially like 24/7 Lufthansa First Class.

    The three new Hanseatics look extremely modern and are all less than two years old, and their Antarctic cruises do seem to leave from Ushuaia, though they also seem to be very expensive, although most to Antarctica are.

  20. I agree with Nolan. This is once in a life time trip, so you want to make the most of it. Due to regulations, maximum number of people allowed on shore is 100. So with a larger ship they split passengers into groups of 100 i.e. you spend a bit more time on the ship. Smaller ships allow you to spend More time on shore. Also South Georgia is a must in any trip to Antarctica. I’d also suggest adding a stopover to Iguazu Falls.

  21. Go with lindblad. The experience was phenomenal. You must go to South Georgia, which imho is more impressive than the antarctica continent itself. Also make sure there are zodiac landings AND the smaller the boat the better. We went on the NG Orion last Nov and would go again in a heartbeat. Do research early vs late season (and look at pictures from st Andrews Bay in South georgia)

  22. I spent Christmas 2019 in Antarctica and absolutely loved it, best trip ever. I sailed from Ushuaia with Hurtigruten on MS Midnatsol. Vessels that carry more than 500 pax are not allowed to disembark in Antarctica, they are more of a drive by scenic cruising type of thing. So if you go defo choose one of the smaller shops. We spent a couple of days each way crossing the Drake and I’d been dreading it. On the way out the Captain sped up a bit to out run a storm – it was a bit bumpy but nothing too bad. On the way back we got the Drake Lake and perfectly still waters. Once in Antarctica we were off the ship in zodiac type boats each day, either scenic cruising in them (epic!) or using them as tenders to explore on land. So many penguins to watch, it was magical. Did the polar plunge in Deception Island on Christmas Eve…. something I’ll never ever forget.

  23. Honestly I think it would be awesome if you don’t purchase the wi-fi, even if it is available onboard. I don’t recall you ever taking over a week between posts, and I think it would be a great luxury to take a bit of a sabbatical to unwind, let Tiffany take care of the blog, and then post some incredible trip reports when you return.

  24. Antarctica is also the only continent I have not been to, and it’s on my bucket list together with some other places like Iran and North Korea (I’m curious and probably partly mad). If I were you I would definitely go, and as to the WiFi part: you can still do blog posts and upload them once you’re back on shore. Enjoy the trip and have a holiday. I know many Americans don’t understand why, but I promise you it will do wonders for your health. It will also help your productivity- just have a look at how much more productive Europeans are compared to Americans. Those compulsory paid weeks actually benefit us 🙂

  25. We did an antarctic cruise with the french company PONANT and can recommend it absolutly. Yes to the others: take a trip that includes SouthGeorgia aswell and of course a ship with zodiac-landings and a max of 200 pax.
    We had a very calm drake-passage on both ways but you never know before.
    Wifi speed on the sisterships Soleal/Lyrial/Austral/Boreal is limited but okay. E-Mail and Messengers are working well same as Skype/whatsapp video calls.

  26. As much as I want to see Antarctica, I also feel like the planet needs somewhere that can’t be overrun by tourists, disrupting nature. I just can’t justify an trip there.

  27. I have been to Antartica and would be happy to answer questions. There are several considerations

    1) fly or cruise via Drake passage? (It’s fly/cruise vs only cruise)
    2) do you wish to see Emperor Penguins? ( that requires a trip to the Ice shelf which maybe a whole separate thing)
    3) do you wish to see the Falkland Islands?
    4) Do you wish to stop at Tristan Da Cunha, St Helena and mid Atlantic Islands?

    Ultimately it will come down to time and budgets. But shoot me an email if you wish to discuss any of the above

  28. To your question, no, no plans to book a vacation in a Petri dish, but each to their own :). I’m told it’s wonderful and you have a fair chance to lose weight while addressing norovirus and other lovelies.

  29. Pick a small cruise ship. Note that they limit the number of people at one time. If you’re in a ship with hundreds of people, landings will be limited (the time that you spend and it will be rushed).

  30. The longer trips include South Georgia, and I would highly recommend one of these — It was the best part of the entire trip in my opinion. Drake crossing was rough but it’s totally worth it (and sometimes it’s totally smooth… luck of the draw). Best trip ever!

  31. I wasn’t at your happy hour but I was doing the exact same thing and looking at Lindblad’s website. Looking forward to your trip report if you decided to go!

  32. I have been a contract worker for the USAP for years, so I’m fortunate to be an insider.
    The peninsula cruises (from Ushuaia and Punta Arenas) are the best ways to see wildlife. You want shore excursions, zodiac access, and lecturers on board. Look at proposed lists of station stops if you want a glimpse into life on the Ice. Small ship size is key, sacrificing size and amenities for access and intimacy.
    On my side of Antarctica, cruises for the Ross Sea leave from Hobart, Australia or a few port towns in NZ (South Island). These cruises offer a chance to follow in the footsteps of the heroic age explorers. Check out Heritage Expeditions, and google Antarctic Heritage Trust. These cruises are longer and more expensive, and see less wildlife in the massive concentrations of the peninsula. Stops at McMurdo Station and Scott Base are possible, sea ice permitting.
    Of course the best way to see the Ice is to come work with us. Usap.gov will link you to the companies that hire the seasonal positions.
    WiFi will always be spotty. If you are okay with texting only, look at inreach and iridium. If you need to work on a website, it’s going to be hard or expensive everywhere.

  33. Don’t miss South Georgia and the Falklands! the cruises that include them are longer, but they are a must…besides, the itineraries that include them often pass the Drake only once (which is a plus, because you ‘waste’ 2 days on the passage)…I would suggest looking at either Silversea or A&K – they have a good balance between the size/number of passengers and comfort…I would save Lindblad for a shorter trip, like to Galapagos

  34. With the huge carbon emissions that you’re responsible for and an entire business model dedicated to encouraging others to do the same, how is it at all ethical to plan a trip to Antarctica? Haven’t you done enough to damage the ice caps to then take plan a carbon intensive trip there- and again, encourage others to do the same?

    Like a slave seller visiting a plantation to make sure they’re working hard enough. These climate crimes can never be forgiven.

  35. Definitely go on the smallest boat which I believe is the Orion with Lindblad (102 passengers). National geographic naturalists and photographers and luxurious ship (I thought). As some people have mentioned, they limit the amount of people on land at any one time so the smaller the ship and fewer passengers the better. I never once felt rushed or worried I would miss out on anything on the Orion. Made some great friends and we even got to visit a Ukrainian research base which hadn’t seen any outside people in over a year due to the icepack.

  36. Why not go for the real thing? In summer, there are weekly flights from Cape Town on a Russian plane to the Russian research station, and from there add-ons for additional trips like for instance all the way to the true South Pole to the American station. It is on the expensive side, but you get the real deal in very small groups instead of being on a ship with hundreds of people who only get to see the coast.

  37. We were booked on a cruise to Antarctic in January. However due to the fact that the Argentinians had a massive fuck-up in their visa processing (the AVE electronic ‘process’) the visas for us never came off. As afterwards we found many many other examples of the same it would appear that at best their e-visa process is of clumsy design and not working, or at worst just an organised rip-off to collect $50 per application without the slightest intent to actually process the applications and grant visas.

  38. The larger cruise ships like Celebrity don’t actually land in Antartica, it is a scenic cruise where you cruise thru different parts of Antartica. It would be too challenging to do zodiac landings with 2000+ people

  39. I second the idea of watching the Nate and Kara series – well done and gives you a very good idea of what it would be like!

  40. Hapag-Lloyd has extremely nice cruises there, with smaller yet very comfortable ships. Food on board is just amazing. It’s like eating at a Michelin star restaurant. A bit pricey, but worth every penny.

  41. I was there in December 2002 in the MS Nordnorge, back in the day cuises to Antarctica were not too common nor popular. It’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been. We visited several islands and also several places in the Antarctic Peninsula. The worst part was crossing the Drake Passage, where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern seas converge, it is they’re some of the choppiest ( if not the choppiest) waters in the world.

  42. @lucky I hope you like the ocean

    While your looking up all this info about Antarctica look up Drake Passage and the rolling 60s. You gonna have a hell of a time. Considered some of the worst currents in the world and there is no way to avoid them.

  43. As O.A.E. says, the “real” Antarctica is at McMurdo Station. You can see a small town set up for a population of 1,000 scientists and support personnel along with Admiral Scott’s original expedition hut. The New Zealand Station is just over the hill and the whole things sits on the slopes of an active volcano, Mt. Erebus. Extremely expensive to visit by cruise, but you can volunteer to work there for four months.

  44. I went on the new Hurtigruten ship, the Admundsen, in November and it was a incredible experience. Many of the larger cruise lines only pass thru Antarctica but do not make landings. The size of the ship is perfect so you have a nice gym and plenty of nooks and cranny’s for a introvert to hang out in. The whole experience felt as close as visiting another planet as I will ever get.
    Reading your blog has inspired many adventures for me, I hope I can return the favor.

  45. We have been on 11 cruises and prefer that form of general vacation to anything simply because we don’t drink or gamble (the top two revenue generators for cruise lines) and the value proposition is hard to beat.

    Antarctica is on my bucket list as well. I have been to every continent in the world but Asia and Antarctica (I know crazy!).

    If you haven’t, join Cruise Critic and follow the threads for the cruises. You can gain a lot of valuable insight.

    IMHO, the best there ever was in Antarctica adventure: https://www.expeditions.com/destinations/polar-regions/antarctica/the-experience/

  46. Hapag Loyd cruises seems to be tailored for you. Like someone else said: Lufthansa First Class at sea. Several trips are scheduled next year with the ‘Hanseatic nature‘. Check this out, it is a less than 20 days expedition during Christmas/new year 2021/22: https://www.hl-cruises.de/reise-fin-den/NAT2200#/. Language on board is English and German I guess, so you should be fine.

  47. In January of 2016, a friend and I did a unique Antarctica cruise expedition that didn’t require the dreaded two day sail across the rough Drake passage each way. Rather we did the expedition with a company called Antarctica 21: https://www.antarctica21.com/

    They offer an air-cruise adventure in which you fly on a BAE-146 jet from Punta Arenas, Chile across the Drake Passage and land on King George Island off the coast of the Antarctic peninsula. The flight is less than two hours long. Upon landing on the island, we walked over to our cruise ship and boarded there. A short sailing from the island that afternoon brought us to the peninsula coastline saving a lot of days at sea and no sea sickness either.

    The ship itself was no luxury liner, rather it is a converted Swedish icebreaker that holds up to 50 passengers plus crew. But the nice thing is that we could disembark to land twice a day via zodiac pontoon boats to go visit the penguin rookeries, science stations, snow shoeing, kayaking, etc.

    The cruise sailed down the the famous Lamaire passage over the course of four days and then started the journey northward back to King George Island where our plane waited to take us back to Chile. The cruise, the crew and sightseeing were outstanding and I would highly recommend this air-cruise option for anyone wanting to visit Antarctica.

  48. Been there. Loved it. Drake was fun! But there were some who threw up. I really slept well rocking front to back. 10-14 is enough, but would have liked to take 3-5 days more to cross the Antarctic Circle, just to say I did. I camped out on the continent itself (no food permitted, biological waste was collected in waste receptials). I woke that “morning” after a twilight of only being able to see 3 stars (it was November, 2 hours of nightfall) to the sound of thunder from the calving glaciers.

    The people on the good ship Quark Ocean Explorer were high maintenance. We had a elevator malfunction on the return flight from Ushuaia to Bueno Aries and had to land. People lost their sh*t because they booked tight connections back home. Buddy and me broke out the emergency snacks, watched Bill&Teds Excellent Adventure and by the time our calm tired butts lined up for the plane the handlers from Quark gifted our kind souls with a free Tango Night dinner the next evening. Which was stupendous.

    Lesson: give your self a few day’s padding on either side of the cruise … you are going to the edge of the world, expect issues and memories.

  49. Hi Ben,

    I’ve never been on a cruise to Antarctica, but like several others have said, I recommend watching Kara and Nate in Antarctica. They did a pretty good video series.

    Also, I have heard of some people flying to Antarctica on a cargo plane of some sort. I don’t think just anyone can do that, so it would take some sorting out, but would be a heck of an experience (& review)!

  50. My suggestion: go by all means. But, do the works: Antarctica, South Georgia island, and the Falkland islands – all in one cruise. Takes a bit longer than just Antarctica, but well worth it.

  51. I did it 4 years ago on a One Ocean boat that had 80 passengers. Small boat all the way! This isn’t luxury cruising; the entire thing is you’ll be transfixed out the window the whole time. It is unbelievable how interesting just watching the ice can be..and then you see a family of penguins hanging on one, or a seal, or a whale, etc. It is all about the nature and the quality of the nature staff you go with. Whatever you do, don’t opt for fancier accommodations over better staff and smaller boat.

    Also the drake is no joke but you get the medication where you do the patch behind your ear and you’ll be fine. Anyone who tries to tough it out with out meds ends up throwing up for 2 days straight. I get seasick and with the patches I was totally fine.

    I know from a planning perspective 10 days feels like way too long to be on a small boat but at least on the smaller boat I went on, the nature and the quality of the staff/guests was so high that I really enjoyed my 13 day trip. I would encourage in that timeframe. I suspect a 13 day would make me blow my brains out on a megaship in the caribbean but this is totally different.

    I would hesitate to say ‘trip of a lifetime’ because I am absolutely going to do it again 🙂

    Brent

  52. We are definitely planning one Ben! It’s been on our list for some time, and Lindblad is who we’re going with!

  53. Absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming/planning; I’ve been doing a lot of it. That said, while there may be some portion of the cruise industry left over when this is done, I’d bet it’s a pretty small one. It’s hard to say whether the surviving portion will be mostly cheap cruises on big ships or expensive cruises on small ships. My gut says that it’ll be the latter.

    I think it’s pretty likely that cruises aren’t going to set sail until after there is a vaccine (or reliable treatment). That’s likely 18 months away plus another 6 to get the vaccine distributed. I’d doubt that many of these cruise lines can last 24 months without revenue. And, as of now, it doesn’t look like there will be any significant bailouts from the US government (at a minimum I’d say let Panama and Liberia bail them out since they’re registered there).

    Anyone have a different viewpoint?

  54. Seabourn is the way to go. The cruises go Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires or vice versa. They also allow cushion in the schedule to ensure the best Passage of the drake both ways. You go ashore once a day and the rest of the time is pure luxury. On demand free caviar/champagne at any time. Lecture series happening all day. The Lowest category room is a mini suite with huge granite bathroom with shower and separate bathtub. They also have kayaking excursions which was unforgettable (I’ve never kayaked before).

  55. One more comment. On a small boat, you spend the entire day like 7-8 hours a day off the boat. You take zodiacs on shore twice a day or do a kayak tour where you’re basically right next to seals and penguins the whole day. So I never felt cabin fever being on a small one. Would’ve been great if the boat was a little fancier but I really don’t think the boat’s amenities can compete with the unbelievable nature.

  56. A journey to Antarctica is a once in a lifetime endeavor, so hands down select an itinerary that includes South Georgia. There are more penguins (colonies of +100,000), elephant seals, whales, and animals frolicking about than on the Antarctic Peninsula. Not only does South Georgia deliver with nature and wildlife, but it is integral with Shakleton’s exploration and history of the white continent. Just doing a 10 day cruise to the peninsula and back, is ‘Antarctica Lite’.

    Our 18 day sailing went Falklands to South Georgia to Antarctic Peninsula.
    Select a small, luxury operator with no more than 200 pax which allows for daily zodiac landings + exploration.

    The Drake Passage is either the Drake Shake or Drake Lake. Fortunately the seas for us, were moderate and not an issue at all.

  57. Kara and Nate would 100% answer you if you send them an e-mail or a DM about their experience in Antarctica.

  58. Sea Spirit via Posiedon, only 114 people (100 on land, 14 kayaking).

    10-14 day enough.

    They offered decent wifi for about $300-400/week which you can obviously afford

  59. I went last year with Quark on a 21 day trip and it was incredible. Everyone loves it regardless of what company they go with 🙂 Flying skips the Drake, however there are some situations where the flights are delayed for days due to weather (weather has to be better for the flights than for the cruises), so you do run the risk of waiting in Ushuaia for several days for the weather to clear when a ship could have left and been there. It’s not frequent but that does happen. Our crossings were very mild, but you know they can get rough when the chairs are all chained to the ground. Some of the newest ships have an “X Bow Hull” design (Aurora’s Greg Mortimer, Lindblad’s Endurance, Albatros’ Ocean Victory), this design is supposed to significantly reduce the choppiness of the Drake crossing- there’s some cool YouTube videos explaining the technology.

    If activities are important, I would choose the trip based on that. Some companies have an option to camp on the continent, some have kayaking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, stand up paddle boarding (I did this- pretty cool to end up so close to whales that you can smell their breath!), and then some of the new luxury ships (like Scenic) have helicopters and submarines allowing you to see Antarctica from a different point of view than most. Just because one company offers these activities doesn’t mean that they’re offered on every cruise, and even if it’s offered it may be fully booked (for example with Quark, for the kayaking it was the same 30 or so people that were able to kayak for the entire time, you weren’t able to go for just one day, you had to sign up for the entire voyage- I think some other companies allow you to go just once or twice which expands the number of people who can go). Since it’s such a big trip and nature is the main focus, that’s why I would choose based more on what activities you want to do and what are available than on the ship/company (there’s plenty of opportunity for luxury and service on other trips).

    I found the internet to be surprisingly decent, however very very expensive (they charge per MB and I spent $700 to do a bare minimum amount of emails and work during the trip). Another thing to note- there’s a difference between an “ice breaker” and an “ice rated hull”. Our ship got stuck in ice for several days and we were unable to make it to the Antarctic circle as planned. The vast majority of ships are only ice rated, so they can’t break through the ice. It was still an amazing time, but realize that itineraries in Antarctica aren’t followed as closely as on other cruises.

  60. We really liked Quark Expeditions.

    You can snag a decent discount with them (we got ours on a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale). As our first cruise we were spoiled by the excellent food and service. They were big on safety both on and off the ship.

    The Drake Passage can be rough in some spots – I popped some seasickness meds and chose to go to the gym and do some “hills” on the exercise bike and even got a massage. Many were not that lucky and were confined to their bunks and getting food delivered for a few days. Beware if you get seasick and be safe when moving about.

    A lot of these companies will have you fly into Buenos Aires as a rally point before putting you on a charter to Ushuaia. We heard from several people subject to distraction thefts in BA. Remain vigilant. Also enjoy my most favourite bar in the world: Florería Atlántico

    Choose a smaller ship and enjoy your adventure!

  61. YES! I have been and still reflect on that trip with fond memories. We went December 2016 after I did extensive research on the best time to go to see King Penguin chicks. THE MOST amazing place I have EVER visited even now having visited 112 countries and all 7 continents. It is so exciting you are thinking about it.

    You will have a lot to learn about prices, boats, destinations. I could probably write paragraphs upon paragraphs. And you could spend hours and hours on research on when to go, when penguin chicks hatch, what to see, what camera equipment to take, etc.

    I did years of research and kept putting it off because of the price and it always got bumped with cheaper and easier to get to places. But towards the end of my bucket list, we were quickly running out of new places to visit. We finally did Antarctica and Gorilla Trekking which were both on the it’s too much money category. Had no regrets on either.

    For me, an itinerary that included South Georgia and King Penguins was a must. You will see some itineraries that DO NOT go to South Georgia. PLEASE PLEASE do not skip SG if you are obsessed with King Penguins like I am. If you watch the Kara and Nate videos, they did not go to South Georgia. Honestly you will want itinerary with Falklands, SG and Antarctica. That will be more than 10 days.

    Our trip was 18 days on the Hurtigruten FRAM in/out Ushuaia. In my many years of research, I too wanted Lindblad and a Nat Geo ship but in the end, it all came down to price. To this day, this Antarctica is still the most expensive trip we have ever taken.

    When you are on land, only 100 people are allowed at one time. Nat Geo only has 100 people on board. That is the advantage. For our trip, we had 200 people so we had to take turns. In the end, not a big deal and it was half the price.

    Drake Shake – they call it the Drake Lake or Drake Shake. For us, it was the Lake both ways so we got VERY lucky. I did bring dramamine just in case and only took it once because it made me too drowsy.

    WIFI – we didn’t even bother. I actually really enjoyed being out of pocket for 18 days. It was a true vacation. I was SO relaxed by the time I got off the ship, I didn’t even want to check my e-mails.

    I can recommend Hurtigruten Fram. We had a good size – 200 passengers taking turns off the boat and in reality, it was plenty of time. There was even a lottery for camping overnight which we ended up getting picked. Never been camping and doing it for the first time in Antarctica was incredible.

    Antarctica is the one place I’ve been that lived up to the hype. It will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart. Every day there was the best day of my life. I hope you make it there soon.

  62. It takes at least two days to get from Ushuaia to the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, so count on four days of any itinerary being travel. You might get excited when you see your first iceberg or your first whale, but there is not a lot else to see. If you want to visit the Falklands and/or South Georgia, factor in how many days will be just (very expensive) travel. Most cruises offer lectures and activities, but consider how many will do before you might feel overloaded.

    The dreaded Drake Passage of seasickness fame is real. You can get the “Drake shake” (rough seas) or the “Drake lake” (calm seas). It is better to prevent seasickness (patches, pills, etc. but get medical advice and understand the side effects) than to treat it. I did not use anything and was fine, but more than half of the passengers used patches.

    If you like nature, look for smaller ships where everyone can tender in on zodiacs (inflatable boats) and stay under the 100-person limit. You will have more time on the continent and more “privacy.” With luck, you might even have whales come within ten feet of your zodiac. (Despite being 20-30 tons, they are gentle and curious. It is hard to describe how incredible it is to be that close to such a magnificent creature.)

    One of the highlights for me was camping for one night on Antarctica. The ship supplied the equipment and staff would help you set it up if you did not want to yourself. Going to sleep and waking up on Antarctica is truly special. Only some ships and tours offer this, but I recommend it. If you have at least some kayaking experience (e.g., can do an Eskimo roll to right yourself) you might be interested in ships that offer small group kayaking. It costs more, of course, but the people on my cruise who did it were ecstatic.

    I was fortunate to be on a cruise with Lucy Jane Bledsoe as a passenger. You might enjoy her books on Antarctica. She has been three times and had a fair warning: Antarctica will break your heart. It is achingly beautiful, unlike anything else. If you have not already, visit Alaska, the Arctic, Greenland, Patagonia, etc. first. As amazing as they are (I have enjoyed all), nothing you do afterwards quite compares with Antarctica.

  63. Echoing @Droundtheworld we went with Seabourn (this year) and highly recommend it as a luxury experience. With 400 passengers we were limited to one landing a day (enough in my opinion) but the bulk of the time you are onboard and the amenities, cabin, food all become important. To us, it felt like the cruise equivalent of luxury African safaris we’ve done. They are rolling out a new purpose built ship (the Venture) that will start doing Antarctica in the 2021-22 season. It will only carry 200 passengers – therefore allowing two landings per day. In any case, definitely make sure the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Islands are included.

  64. I realize travel is your bizarre little addiction, but you really ought to consider NOT taking this one particular trip. You’re not a scientist, or a filmmaker. You have no connection to that place. You only want to go because it’s there, and because it will feel neat to tell people you took a luxury cruise to Earth’s only uninhabited continent. You want to cross it off your list.

    Antarctica has a fragile, and endangered, ecosystem. It’s already being harmed by carbon emissions (of which airplane flights like the hundreds you take each year are a part), and it’s also not suitable for large-scale human visitation. To paraphrase a Jurassic Park quote, Antarctica requires our absence to survive, not our help. By flying down there, taking a noxious boat ride, and walking all over the shore, you’re taking actions that will hasten the destruction of the ecosystem you find so interesting this week. Go against your base impulse this time, and stay home.

  65. Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer vessel has gone viral !!!!!!
    Trip reports everywhere, even on mainstream media.

    I just can’t help my self, so one more time.
    This cruise to Antarctica has gone viral.

  66. Surprised that nobody mentioned Antarpply, I guess it is because of the crowd here.
    I did the cruise with them for a few reasons, and some points to share.
    1. I think most cruises to Antarctica are woefully overpriced. Not much competition, and the explosion of demand, especially from Asia, recently, means that price tags have been climbing rapidly, while most companies struggle to build ships to catch up. They use the “once in a lifetime” tag to price a very well-practiced route into something ridiculously exotic. On a good day in peak season, at least 4 ships depart Ushuaia! Antarpply, which I went with, was the cheapest option and I definitely do not feel like I want to pay 12000USD extra just to have a fancier lounge or a better landing pad. They are a small local Argentinean agency that has their own ship and full of locals who have been seafaring in the iceberg territory for decades, so you not only get on the best but also support local economy. Every staff is Argentinean, except some lecturers who have to speak other languages.
    2. Small.ships.matter. There are strict regulations about ships heading there, so the biggest you can get is about 200+ passengers, and that is not that big comparing to the behemoths running around in the tropics. As a result, no matter what happens, you are gonna get tossed around like a salad in the Southern Ocean. My ship, 70+ passengers, probably just shakes about 10% more than a 200-passenger one. But at the continent, it makes a huge difference. Due to 100-person-per-landing restrictions, once the ship reaches 100+ passengers, folks have to spread out, or wait, so an 8-hour day will become 4-hour waiting onboard, and 4 hours actually in paradise. And since most ships have only 1 landing pad for zodiacs, it takes forever to take people on/off, even for us, a 70-person ship. Unless you go flying, you will suffer Drake Passage, then why not make it worth your while? In fact, since our ship is so small, when a dense fog was sweeping through eastern South Georgia, the expedition leader devised two plans and let us vote on which one we prefer! That is how we ended up in South Orkney Islands, somewhere almost nobody goes. There are also 40+ staff for the 70 of us, so the service was definitely personal, as by the end, we basically remembered every single person’s name on board. I do not care about amenities, as I am like Lucky, who just do not like the lifestyle on large cruises. I just needed a quiet room, decent food, friendly crew, and as much time as possible off the ship, and I got that on a small ship. Heck, I would pay extra next time if I just get a private yacht!
    3. Seasons matter. Decide what you want to see before you plan the trip. October-November, you are going to see penguins mating and courting; December-January, you can see eggs being hatched like in documentaries; February-March is time to see cute little baby penguins yearning for nutrients. What do you want to see? What kind of penguin do you want to see? How much do you want to pay for that? Normally October and March are much cheaper than December, not because they are less gorgeous, just because more people are free during holiday season. I personally never recommend any of my friends to go in holiday season because it is extremely crowded (by Antarctica scale) and it is just not worth the extra 5000 dollars.
    4. Forget about those vanities, get the true experiences. Polar circle is a stupid idea. You spend an extra day rocking in the waters just to cross it on the ship, and an announcement comes on the ship, telling you that “we have crossed the circle”, and you go to the bar using it as another excuse to grab a mimosa for 40 dollars. No thanks, I will pass. Do not go to Antarctica just to say you have been to Antarctica. It is the wrong mentality. Go for the natural magnificence, animal activity, pure environment, and historic age of heroes. I initially went for the sake of going, and quickly revised my attitude so that I got to enjoy it more, otherwise I will forever sulk about never being able to go to Drygalski Fjord, or reaching the polar circle, instead of being appreciative of the opportunity. Life in Antarctica is very unpredictable, all the itineraries are just the best case scenario.
    5. As others have commented: GO TO SOUTH GEORGIA. It is practically the better Antarctica, but most people just want to say they have been to the 7th continent, not caring about what they see. Colonies in South Georgia is 100 times bigger than on the continent, and it actually has colors that is not blue and white. It also has a whopping 8 residents, so I got to interact with the governer’s wife in town. Also Falklands are very interesting as well, as it will be the only time you get to see an actual human settlement at the edge of the world, and everyone wants to learn something about their unique history, right?
    There are much more I want to write down, but I have already talked about my feelings of the trip with a 30000-word 300-photo journal series on my blog. Feel free to check it out!
    https://beyounged.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/voyage-south-antarctica-pt1/

  67. We did it about 10 years ago and I’d like to go again.

    I wouldn’t care much about the luxury of the ship, the key thing is that it’s small enough so that you can go on shore everywhere. Join all the activities possible (kayaking, staying in a tent overnight, etc. etc).

    Our ship (with One Ocean Expeditions) was an older Russian ship with Russian crew, the ship was built in Finland though who know how to build them. Everything on board was top notch and it was great to be able to stay on the bridge when passing the Drake Passage and watch waves hit all the way up to the bridge windows. Night was more like the bed scenes in The Exorcist though and the sea wasn’t really rough..

    As it’s way more popular now than it was 10 years ago, I will be looking for a cruise that doesn’t go the most common routes the next time.

  68. Been there three times on three different ships. First of all: it´s amazing for anyone intrigued by nature. I could tell hours and hours about the trips as they were completely different even when visiting the same places. So just a short statement to your questions:

    Is a 10-14 day cruise sufficient, or is there some great incremental value in doing longer ones?
    Depends on what you call sufficient. The short cruises will only visit the Antarctic peninsula. Almost every ship will visit the highlights like Paradise Bay or Lemaire Channel and then other places depending on weather, ice-situation and so on. Make sure your cruise has at least 6 full days in Antarctica to make sure you see everything even when one or two day get cancelled due to weather, waves or ice.
    Personally I´d recommend going on a longer cruise and visit South Georgia as well, maybe even South Sandwich. These places a totally different but at least as amazing as Antarctica. Best routing would be 6 days in Antarctica, 4 days in South Georgia, and 2 days on the Falklands.

    Just how rough is it going through the Drake Passage? I’ve heard many people get seasick, so is it consistently terrible, just sometimes, or…?
    It can be really rough. If you get seasick you want to prepare. But it is nothing to be afraid of. The ships are safe even in storms and it is just 1,5-2 days. On the positive side: crossed Drake 4 times. 3 of them hat absolute calm seas and one was a little rough, maybe a 6 out of 10.

    With wifi technology being better across the board, is it possible to stay connected consistently on an Antarctica cruise? It’s obviously much easier to justify this if I can work while traveling, rather than not.
    If you go with a modern ship yes. But it can´t be guaranteed. On my last cruise we had a solid connections almost 24/7. It´s like on an airplane. Sometimes its great, sometimes its slow, sometimes its no existent.

    My advice: go there, go sooner than later! Greetz from Germany

  69. Lucky,

    Look up a company called White Desert. I hate the phrase once-in-a lifetime but their itinerary is truly that. Fly a semi private G550 from cape town and you get to land on the frozen runway in Antarctica. It’s very pricey but it cannot be beat. Plus you don’t have to deal with the awful waves in Drakes passage (that would make your Cala trip look like an afternoon on the lake). Up close with penguins and have the option to go to the South Pole.

  70. Did not read all comments so sorry if repeating:

    Went in November ‘19 on Hurtigruten Fram, 182 passengers but we had 2 landings daily. A smaller ship might be better but it was fine.

    Wifi was not good.

    We went to Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. Agree that South Georgia is a must, both historically and for wildlife (mainly penguins and seals).

    We only had to cross the Drake once (returning). I’m usually prone to motion sickness but I took medication the first night and I found the crossing ok. Others were sick though.

    Food was good. Crew was excellent. Overall I’d recommend it. They have some insane specials, especially for a double cabin. (I was booking a triple.)

    I paid under $16k for 3 people, 21 days, including flights from BA to Ushuaia.

    It’s a lot of down time, especially if you’re used to being online a lot. That being said, there are lectures if you’re interested in nature topics.

  71. I visited Antarctica and would highly recommend 14 days – and better yet, if it includes South Georgia. It is a trip of a lifetime, and though I’ve traveled pretty extensively, I was amazed, all my senses were engaged.

    As for the passage, our Ushuaia – South Georgia passage was rough, but not unbearable. Our return from the Antarctic Peninsula to Ushuaia was “Drake’s Lake” – flat, with barbecue in the fantail cruising gently off Cape Horn. Yeah, that doesn’t happen often.

  72. Hi Ben,

    I did an Antarctica cruise a few years ago. A few tips:

    1). Try to go on a ship with less than 150 people. The authorities limit how many passengers can land on the continent or peninsula to that number. That means that if you’re on a ship with more than 150 passengers, you have to rotate landings.

    2). When I went we actually flew one way and then sailed the Drake passage back the other way. Yes, you can fly to Antartica. It didn’t honestly cost that much more and allowed us to shorten the trip by 2 days and avoid the misery of the Drake Passage twice. The flight departs from Chile and returns to Argentina.

    3). We used Quest Expeditions. They were awesome!

  73. Hi Ben,

    We have been to Antarctica twice, first with Seabourn which was a fantastic experience and secondly with Scenic onboard Eclipse equally as good, of course anything that is all inclusive is the only way to go and of course knowing who the guides and expert lecturers onboard makes a great difference. I hope you attempt it snd enjoy the experience (14-21 days)

  74. Since you have visited most of the easy to get to countries. Now it’s time for you to explore. I’m waiting for your trip reports to Peru, Greenland, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, and Antarctica!

    For Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, I’d recommend you not going with Ford and perhaps with some friends of yours from the region. For your comfort of course 😉

  75. Thanks for this escapism. Have never really considered Antarctica as a destination but have added it to the bucket list. Such a unique place, travel is a human right.

  76. We just did it. Our favorite. Azamara. Not too costly, all inclusive, amazing crew. Round trip Buenos Aires. Drake passage was actually smooth, we had much rougher seas off the coast of Argentina. Ships are smaller. Will do it again. Internet was slower than dial up.

  77. I just completed a sailing to Antarctica this past Christmas on the Scenic Eclipse. Couldn’t recommend it enough. Ship has free wifi that is spotty but enough for email. There were days we were able to stream videos on YouTube but don’t expect to do so daily. I have also been on the Silversea Silver Cloud. Although refurbished it was no where close to as nice as the Eclipse. Crystal is launching a new expedition vessel as well called the Endeavor that will be going to Antarctica from the other side of the world (New Zealand). That is a much more rare routing and I’ve heard Crystal does not plan on doing that itinerary again soon beyond the inaugural year. The boat was already positioned there which is why they’re doing it this one time. Personally I thought the 12 days was plenty. After a while you are seeing the same animals with varying scenery. However it is very weather dependent how good the voyage will be as the first time on Silversea the weather was terrible and we missed a lot of days on land and got held up in Argentina for a few extra days before being able to cross the passage. Speaking of which Drake’s passage is rough but the technology on the Scenic Eclipse is really high end with great stabilizers. I would not recommend going in a small boat if you get seasick easily. If on a budget, Silversea isn’t that much more expensive when compared with the more hard core expedition ships when you consider you’re in a suite vs. bunk room and all the food and beverage is restaurant quality with variety rather than cafeteria food. Best reason to do Scenic or Crystal though are the helicopters. The vantage point from the sky was unbelievable. Submarine experience was a gimmick though. Water clarity in Antarctica was really poor when we were there. The submarine is better in tropical climates.

  78. As some have mentioned, The White Desert Excursion from Cape Town is the Ultimate way to visit Antarctica, and the one which allows you to visit the South Pole (weather permitting)—something only a handful of people are able to have been fortunate enough to do. The price tags of over 90k per person for the 8 day jaunt is, however, clearly not for everyone.

  79. Lindblad sounds nice but if it were me, I’d totally go with Hertigruten because I love the non-glamour, the Norwegian-ness, and the efficiency and I’ve long dreamed of this trip with them, or any of their expedition trips.

  80. Your boat will be limited to 100pax visiting shore at a time and this is why you go, so take a small boat. On a small cruise, you can go ashore twice a day and on a large ship, twice the entire cruise! Make sure the cruise has stabilizers which reduces the rocking. On our cruise about 75% were sea sick within 24 hours but just about everyone felt ok after the second day. Look for a boat with an ‘open bridge’ where you will want to hang out once in a while.
    I agree with others that a stop in the Falklands is worth the extra few days. Our cruise had numerous speakers (history, geology, birds, sea life, photography) which were very good.
    We snagged a cruise for 2 plus airfare and hotels in BA and Ushuaia for less than the price of 1 cruise fare by using an auction site.

  81. I second Antarctica XXI. We did a trip over a year ago, and it was spectacular! Like Aaron said, you fly directly to King George Island. We took the 10 day trip on the Ocean Nova, and I cannot say enough good things about the crew and the whole experience in general! The ship holds only 67 passengers (I believe only 63 people on our cruise), so we were able to get closer and all go ashore at the same time. It also helped that the weather was great. Even the food was amazing. We did the kayak excursions which were incredible – it’s serene and you get much closer to the penguins, seals and whales (if you’re lucky). I get quite seasick, so flying to Antarctica made all the difference. I even got a bit seasick cruising around the islands, so I can’t imagine sailing the Drake…

  82. My wife and I went for our honeymoon in 2016 with Quark Expeditions and highly recommend them. They have a lot of experience and really know how to ensure passengers get the most experience they can during their limited stay there.

    As a former navigator on oil tankers I thought the Drake Passage was pretty rough, but it’s also inconsistent and there are times when it’s calm. I would guess well over half of the passengers were sea sick on our ride home which was the rougher of the two passages. (I have video I can share of the waves if you’d like.) BUT, the Drake Passage is an integral part of the trip to help you realize how isolated Antarctica really is. Flying over it almost seems like cheating and will lessen your appreciation of the isolated, tranquil beauty when you get there. And I believe a Chilean flight to Antarctica crashed in December with no survivors, so there’s that…

  83. Do not forget that one of the perks of an Amex Platinum is a $300 shipboard credit, a bottle of Dom Perignon and an invite to the bridge and galley for each Silversea cruise booked with Amex travel. They have several ships going to Antartica including a small expedition ship, a larger one (250 passengers) and one of the classic fleet (350 passengers). I am not a travel agent, just a loyal Silversea guest.

  84. Best trip we have ever done still all these years later. Hard to describe the scenery in word other than surreal.

    We did NatGeo/Lindblad (their new ship looks awesome). By 5* standards it’s nice but it’s not a Four Seasons don’t get me wrong. I would describe the room more like a nice Hyatt Place than a luxury hotel. It’s very comfortable, but you don’t go for the rooms. Service (both hotel and naturalist staff) were all great.

    I would also recommend the larger ship. I have done one of their smaller ships in the Galapagos and found it to be too small. Yes, as others have pointed out that means less time on shore but some of the most fun we had was on the zodiacs getting up close to the ice and the animals offshore. And truth be told even sitting on the deck or up on the bridge (yes, it’s an open bridge) is almost just as fun.

  85. We went to Antarctica over the year-end holidays in 209-2020 onboard Seabourn. Here are some considerations for making your decision:

    1. Be sure that your ship has permits to allow passengers to actually go ashore on Antarctica. Some lines claim that they sail to Antarctica, which I suppose is technically true, but their passengers only get to do zodiac rides close to the continent, which is definitely not the full Antarctic experience.

    2. Decide whether or not you want to go only to Antarctica itself or whether you also want to include Falklands and/or South Georgia Island. The advantage in going to South George, particularly in November, is that you get to see loads of newborn penguins and seals.

    3. If you want to go only to Antarctica, then you can choice of departing from and returning to Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina (7-10-day cruises) or in departures/returns from Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile (24-30-day cruises). If you decide to leave from Ushuaia, note that the domestic terminal for internal Argentinian flights is a 1-2-hour taxi ride from the international airport in Buenos Aires.

    4. Smaller ships can go into Antarctic passages that the larger ones cannot; however, the smaller ships (unless they are the newer ones like the ones Seabourn is launching in late 2021 and 2022) tend to pitch and roll more when the Drake Passage is rough.

    5. In my research, the top contenders were the National Geographic/Linblad collaboration and the Seabourn line. We took the Seabourn line since we had close friends who were high-level Seabourn travelers and wanted to go along to Antarctica with us, which meant we got some to take advantage of some of their high-status perks.

  86. @Ben I experienced an amazing cruise to Antarctica with PONANT on their ship Le Boreal. PONANT has more experience in Antarctica than any other cruise lines, their ships are modern and deluxe, they have the best naturalist guides and the best reputation for respecting the environment. Honestly I would not consider any other cruise line for Antarctica adventure cruising (and being French flagged and owned, the food is superb). I had been recommending that you and Ford go on an Antarctic cruise from your first post about Ritz Carlton. https://us.ponant.com/destinations/antarctica

  87. My husband and I took the expedition with Linblad/NG to Antarctica, South Georgia, and Falkland Islands in 2016. Absolutely the most amazing lifetime travel experience. A few suggestions:
    1) Don’t miss South Georgia- it is otherworldly and absolutely a wild life paradise while Antarctica has spectacular ice scapes. Here are links to my pictures taken during the expedition:

    https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157678455911775

    https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157678455597365

    2) I highly recommend the NG/Linblad expedition. Take the expedition that starts after Thanksgiving and ends before Xmas if you want to have less families with kids
    3) If you are also interested in the Arctic
    expedition, it is better to do Arctic first, then Antarctica. Don’t wait too long, ice is melting at alarming rates

  88. While Antarctica sounds amazing, I totally agree with the comments of tourism going to this pristine area. Just one ecological incidence would cause so much harm. Off subject, cruise ships should also never have been permitted in Venice, am amazed they have still been able to visit.

  89. I just did the “Antarctica Express: Fly the Drake” trip with Quark Expeditions this past February. Well run operation. Best part was not wasting time doing the extremely rough Drake Passage crossing. The trip was 8 days which was plenty of time to see whales, penguins and seals plus all the beautiful glaciers. Because there are no more than 150 or so passengers, it is possible to go on zodiacs to the shore twice a day. Pretty awesome to be within a few meters of the penguins and to watch them up close. Also very interesting to be able to get close to where the seals are as you cruise around in the zodiac. Daily kayaking excursions are an option as well for those who want to partake.

  90. Ditto to watching the Kara and Nate series. Fantastic!
    Nate is also a bit of a miles and points geek, so some of their other vids might be of interest also.

  91. I went in December, 2018 with Silversea 10 days 9 nights. It’s enough time. It’s a bucket list, rich peoples trip, half the ship was checking off their 7th continent.

    I flew MIA-SCL on AA 777-200 on business class award, stayed o/n, then SCL-USH on LATAM A321 charter. The first night through the Drake Passage as a bit rough, but after that it was fine. Many people wore the patch.

    After the first day, wifi was literally non-existent. I’m not a cruiser so I considered the trip an expedition. We had a stretch of bad weather, mainly wind, so at one point we were on the ship 2 straight days. I heard of other voyages that had it worse.

    It’s definitely a schlep, we did a hike around a volcano on Sunday night, from that point on I was traveling home until I arrived in Miami on Thursday morning after taking the red-eye Wednesday night from SCL. Two days back to Ushuaia, then back to SCL and a 6 hour wait for the flight to MIA. The One World Lounge at SCL is nice.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, but I wouldn’t go back. Total cost, about $13,000 for the cruise, included night in Sheraton Santiago and the LATAM charters SCL-USH-SCL plus about 80,000 Aadvantage Miles for MIA-SCL-MIA. I flew back on a 30,000 award and sat in MCE.

    Here’s the best example of the people you will be sailing with:

    I met a couple from Singapore and was chatting with them. I asked them how they would be flying back to Singapore from South America. The woman’s response, “Oh, we’re only going to Spain from here, we have another home there.”

  92. I went on a cruise to Antarctica last year over Christmas/New Year’s and it was incredible – truly the best thing I have ever done. It had been something I wanted to do for a very long time and I ended up going with my aunt since her husband and my fiancé weren’t really interested. She had a lot of friends who had gone and everyone she knew strongly recommended Silversea, so we ended up going with them. Although I’m probably not the target demographic for Silversea (early 30’s), I still had a great time and the people we met on that trip were incredible. Everyone there had been EVERYWHERE and done everything and all had so many interesting stories to tell. The truly spectacular scenery and wildlife and experience were one thing, but the people you meet were quite another. I liked Silversea – it was definitely more luxury than I would have picked myself, but having luxe accommodation and top notch service made the experience even more over the top. They also had an excellent expedition crew who would lecture every day on various topics of interest related to the Antarctic.

    Some important things when planning the trip:

    – Pick a small ship (150 passengers or less) so you don’t have to trade off too much on shore landings. Silversea had two different ships to choose from and we chose the smallest (which still required two separate “waves” of shore landings).

    – You MUST visit South Georgia. I had been told this before I went and it’s some of the best advice I got. It was the best part of the whole trip. The wildlife there was absolutely incredible. Visiting South Georgia requires a longer trip, but it’s worth it. We did an 18 day cruise and it was great. I’m not a big cruiser and neither is my aunt – we were a little worried about being on a small ship for so many days, but it truly was not bad at all. We made sure to get out on every excursion and always participated in the hikes. There was also a gym onboard just in case.

    – We got the “Drake Lake” on our trip, but there was a couple of days outside of the Drake with bad seas. It happens and there’s no way to know what you’re going to get. I brought Sea Bands along with some seasickness medication and I never needed anything other than the Sea Bands.

    – Silversea had unlimited wifi included for everyone (you could purchase a premium package as well, but it was absolutely not needed). I was able to use the wifi pretty much the entire trip for anything I wanted.

    Good luck with planning! I can’t wait to hear what you end up booking.

  93. Ben, I would definitely go with Hurtigruten. I’ve sailed with them before in Norway and cannot say enough good things about them. The ships are very comfortable and elegant in that oh-so-Scandinavian way without being the slightest bit pretentious. They are Norwegian after all! The crew, service, and food are all wonderful. I’m sure you will enjoy your time with them.

  94. I have researched it and decide to go to the Galapagos again in 2022. Two weeks there I will see more variety of wild life plus go snorkeling with penguins and sea lions. I went in 2017 during the last week of March and first week of April. Blue footed boobies are trying to get mates. The whole world’s population of the Waved Albatross is there for mating season. It seems I would get penguin and seal overload in Antarctica.

  95. National Geographic Expeditions. Take the flight there and Drake passage on the way back (or vice versa) for sake of reviews.

    also on my bucketlist. 🙂

  96. Not for me…cruises are like floating penitentiaries ,only the food and wine is better. And don’t get me started on the jogging trail…40 laps on the deck and the view never changes. But at least you can eat, and eat, and eat…oh, and did I mention that you can eat?

  97. I have been to Antarctica on a cruise, but it was an active adventure cruise. Raced a marathon there, raced in kayaks, sea plunge, camped a night on the continent, etc.

    Some have been many times, but most can and do go to Antarctica only once. It is pricy. So almost no one can give you a broad perspective unless they worked for several cruise lines.

    Many get sick during the Drake Passage. I did not. I sat in the bar on the top level and drank myself silly while watching the world go by. You can judge your own susceptibility.

    I loved the many zodiac landings and the unreal wildlife that sometimes even threatened. Definitely unlike unlike other trips. Not my favorite trip, but certainly special.

    Don’t go with high expectations- let the wonders of nature prove themselves. Too high expectations can only lead to letdowns and Antarctica is special and different.

    Consider taking a satellite phone. That was the only items others had on the ship that I felt might have been a nice addition.

    Enjoy!

  98. In 2019, I did it with albatross expeditions for a single room for $7100, midship porthole. 11 days on a 120 passenger ship. Used freestyle expeditions to book bargain rate for a single.

    U should combine it with 10 days in Argentina to see iguazu, el chalten and Buenos Aires.

    Antarctica itself is boring and full of penguin pee. Make sure your ship is small and has zodiacs If you actually wanna make landfall.

    The “Cruise” part is so sucky and motion sicknessy, that I feel I should have forked over $16,000 and done it with National Geographic to hang out with more interesting people on the five days spent on the drake passage and not with 25 year old purse string budget backpackers.

  99. We went back in 2013. It is my favorite vacation I have ever been on.

    I did a lot of research and a few things I found that were important to me.

    1. We wanted to make sure our tour operator was an IAATO member and would follow those rules
    2. We wanted to be on a small ship with less than 100 people because landings were limited to 100 people per ship and we wanted to be able to do every landing.
    3. I wanted the option to camp out one night and sleep on Antarctica.

    After that it became a matter of finding the ship that fit all of those and our schedule. We ended up going with One Ocean Expeditions. We did save some money by bringing a friend and being in a triple cabin with a shared bath. That meant it was a lot like being back in the dorms. But for 10 nights it was fine. One Ocean was great, they had excellent staff with naturalists that were very knowledgeable. I would go back with them.

    We did not buy the wifi, but our friend did and it was really just usable for sending email. That said, on landing days there wasn’t a lot of free time as between landings you are eating and getting some rest, or enjoying the scenery.

    As for the Drake’s passage. We were lucky it was just light swells of 1-2 meters. My wife did get sick but I think that was because some of the information sessions were in a room with no windows. We did hear though that the sister ship came through a couple of days after us and had 10 meter swells and everyone was confined to their rooms. It is just luck of the draw on that.

    At 10 nights it felt like enough, although when (not if, I really hope) we go back I think we will go with a longer trip to see more than just the peninsula. That was 1 night leaving Ushuaia, 2 nights in the Drake (although on night 2 we could see Antarctica), then 5 days of landings, followed by 2 more days/nights at sea. The landing days were full days with a morning landing and an evening landing.

    For me I would not choose a bigger more luxurious ship. This trip is about being able to get off the boat and see the wildlife and for that you need to be on a smaller ship.

  100. We did Ponant all inclusive cruise (including Wi-Fi) for our honeymoon. Due to the price and nature of cruise, there are only three couples under 65 years old, the other being honeymooners as well. Absolutely great experience, fine French cuisine.
    Don’t expect great Wi-Fi in the first few days crossing Drake as the captain set QoS, limiting everyone’s speed and access to ensure they have the best real time iceberg images, after you get close to the continent, speed will restore. Keep in mind the antenna is pointing almost horizontally northward for signal, so just a bit of clouds would affect the speed.

  101. Hi Ben,
    I’m an assistant expedition leader (3iC) for a few antarctic cruise operators so I’m free to chat if you wanted an overview of the different operators, the ships, experience, etc.
    Few things from me:
    – go mid-summer (ie Dec/Jan) if you can. Peak penguin breeding & hatching season, whales, seal activity. There’s nothing that compares to the 260k penguins you see at some places down South.
    -small ship (ie <150 pax) makes a huge difference. Smaller ships means more time off the ship (simply easier to organise logistically), you also manage to get into more niche spots etc. Makes it all the more special. Would recommend Aurora Expeditions, Lindblad, Scenic for this
    -more modern ship=better seasickness & technology. Aurora, Lindblad and Scenic would be my picks. All modern ships with strong wifi connection & all new ships so seasickness is reduced. Honestly makes a difference having spent half my career on the old Russian icebreakers that most companies used to operate
    -go to South Georgia if you can. More expensive, (21 day trip vs 10) but wildlife is out of this world. I mean it…some places have over a million king penguins nesting.
    -some operators (Antarctica21, Quark, Aurora Expeditions) operate fly/fly's. So you skip both sea crossings (saving you 4 days of sea time) and you fly in and out of a Chilean Base on one of the islands down there.

  102. Just checked out a link shown in one of the earlier comments:
    You should do a review on National Geographic’s “Private Jet”, i.e. their 757.

  103. to rich for my budget 🙁 Would like to go though! If you want to avoid drakes passage you can fly to Punta Arenas, Chili. flight to king George Island (approx 2 hours) and from there you take a cruise 5-6 days. There is a local travel agency here who offers this kind of experience. Mybe that’s something you for you? It’s not cheap though. (I can come with you to carry your Luggage 🙂 )

  104. I went To Antartica in February of this year with Seabourn. I am a travel advisor. I cruise a lot and Antarctica has been my favorite cruise. I had no problem with wi-fi. I did a 21 day which included stops in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. A shorter trip would suffice. There was 6 days of landings. Each day was different. I get motion sickness. There was only one day I didn’t feel so great but I never actually got sick. Book this trip. You will be so happy you did.

  105. Ben,
    I highly recommend that you combine an Antarctica cruise with a superb view of a total solar eclipse. There is a total solar eclipse occurring December 14, 2020. The path of totality crosses southern Chile and Argentina.
    If you have never experienced a total solar eclipse I can only describe it with superlatives such as: gorgeous, awesome, fabulous, unbelieveable!!
    Seeing a total solar eclipse instead of a partial can be compared to a step function. Unless you are in the path of totality you cannot believe the beauty of the solar corona; the sight of a “diamond ring”; the unique feeling the and the hush that falls over you and your surroundings.
    We have seen four total solar eclipses.:Hawaii 1991; Austria 1999; Australia 2012; and Wyoming in 2017. They have been incredible.
    Unfortunately health no longer will alow us to go to the one this December. I guarantee you that if you see it and combine with an Antarctic cruise you will remember the experience as long as you live.
    Here’s a link to the NASA webpage for the eclipse in December. It would not surprise me at all if one or more of the “expedition” type cruise / travel companies have a combination trip for this December.
    Don’t miss it!

    https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEplot/SEplot2001/SE2020Dec14T.GIF

  106. We’ve been on 2 Antarctica Expedition cruises, each was approximately 2 weeks on Silverseas which I highly recommend (all inclusive, luxury with top notch guides)
    My advice:
    1) make sure it’s an expedition cruise with zodiacs, not a larger drive by cruise
    2) Only choose an itinerary that includes South Georgia, that’s been the highlight of both our cruises.
    Anytime in January is the best time to go in my opinion. You’ll see eggs hatching and lots of baby penguin chicks.

  107. I traveled to Antarctica in 2005 on a small ship and our crossing of the Drake passage was a bit intense. Gale force winds (9 on the Beaufort scale) and 25 foot waves going down and 90% of the people on the ship were seasick. Coming back the passage was as smooth as glass so it is hit or miss as far as what you will experience during the crossing. I’m looking at going back again and I found one company that flies you from Punta Arenas to King George island so you avoid the Drake Passage. You board their ship much closer to the peninsula so you spend more time cruising the South Shetlands and the peninsula. Here is a link to their website:

    https://www.goway.com/trip/arctic-and-antarctica/air-land-and-seas-antarctica/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=SoAm-Antarctica-Cruise-US-PR-T&utm_source=Envoke-American-Agents-Final

  108. I went to Antartica on a small boat for 14 days in January. Did the fly-in and fly-out option. Still got seasick for 2 days, but amazing otherwise. Met others who did not make it down on the fly/fly option due to fog-in, so need to be lucky on this option.

    Antartica is super expensive — plan to budget at least $1,000 per day. Best boats sell out a year in advance.

    I saw Kara/Nate’s vlog and while there is some good stuff there, it really doesn’t portray a real picture — they were comp’d on a $3,000 a day room with balcony — that just is not realistic for most of us. They cropped out the 100 other guests on landings to make it seem like they were the only ones there. You only get that on a smaller boat.

    Netflix has an interesting documentary on Antartica that I would recommend — scan through the parts that don’t apply (living there in winter), but most of the scenery, wildlife and stations are what I observed.

    It’s definitely worth it, but you need to find a boat/vendor that fits your needs.

    Wifi is sketchy everywhere, even when promised. I would not count on it.

  109. Kara and Nate’s video’s about their trip to Antarctica was great. They went with Polar Latitudes. I’ve traveled with them in the past too and they are the best in my opinion. I’d highly recommend a trip with them. Their ships are small side, right around 100 passengers on board so you can get out for two excursions per day. I would choose Polar Latitudes over the rest.

    Antarctica was incredible, such a wild place to go and every day is like being in a National Geographic magazine. The wildlife will either ignore you completely or come in for a closer look. I’ve been a lot of places and this was one of my favorite trips of all time. If anyone has the opportunity to visit, it’s a trip worth taking!

  110. My wife and I went on our honeymoon to Antarctica in November/December 2017. It was by far the best travel experience we both ever had. Granted it was our honeymoon and we spent time in Buenos Aires then hiked Torres del Paine on the way to Ushuaia.

    To answer your questions:
    10-14 is definitely sufficient but the more time you can spend there, the more value you can get out of the experience. The reason for this is because the ecosystem and wildlife go through various stages throughout the spring and summer (Nov-Mar). It would be like visiting New England only from April 5 – April 15; you would see a glimpse of its nature only during that part of the season and not later in the season, summer, or fall. But Antarctica offers landscapes and wildlife that you would not see anywhere else. We had a 10 day excursion and saw plenty of penguins for example, but never chick penguins because of the time we were there. 10 days more or later and we would have seen them.

    My wife and I got pretty seasick, but only during the Drake. I was completely out of commission for 1 full day on the way there. My wife had the same experience but on the way back. The boat staff said it was 2 on a scale of 10, with 10 being the worst. Point is, there is no avoiding it. But it is absolutely worth it.

    Our WiFi situation reminded me of 1999. During down time, it was so slow it felt like I was fighting with my brothers over who can use the computer/internet. We also had “internet cards” that limited us to 100 minutes during the whole trip. I used 90% of my wife’s time and 100% of mine for work e-mails and checking news. There were writers and bloggers on our boat though and they seemed to get by.

    Link to our boat below.
    https://www.swoop-antarctica.com/cruises/ships/hebridean-sky

  111. If there is something we can learn from this pandemic and quieting of the world then I suggest that cruise ships be banned until they can improve their environmental footprint. The seas are quieter and I am sure the wildlife less stressed from humans constant need to be “fulfilled”. We need to be willing to sacrifice our wants for our planet to flourish. Maybe, our own lives will flourish as a result. Watch Go Further South. Incredible slow 12 hour journey through Antarctica. It is almost like being there. It may be my only opportunity to experience the Antarctic and that’s ok…but it really made me want to go…maybe if there is an electric ship someday….

  112. I have done Antarctica twice, both several years back once on the Marco Polo (long time ago) the other 3-4 years back on Silversea Expeditions. One was a 10 day Ushuaia RT the other was Falklands, South Georgia, Antarctica 16 days. I would to the South Georgia, Falklands add on again, but the highlight was being on the Ice. It is critical you do a trip with Zodiac Landings as that is the true experience. Doing the sail by is really no different than some areas of Alaska (MHO).
    The experience on a small expedition vessel was second to none. The animals close up and the sailing around the Icebergs is fascinating.
    I must say that the Drake Passage can be tough. In one direction we had a very very smooth transit, on the way back we paid for it in spades as we we outrunning a large storm and had 30 ft seas…Not very fun but it was just a few hours.
    Bottom Line is it a trip of a lifetime and would do it again anytime.
    Plan on the trip you will not regret it!

  113. First, I’m so excited for you, Lucky! This really is a trip of a lifetime. Spending time with the penguins and seals and whales, oh my, was even more magical than I expected, and I was shocked at how deeply moved I was by the landscapes. This trip has stayed in my soul.

    As with most of the rest of your commenters, I cannot recommend South Georgia highly enough. Standing on a beach with a hundred thousand(!) king penguins, while baby fur seals wobbled across the sand, bleating as they found their mothers (who were returning after leaving their babies on their own for a week, to get fish to feed them with) left me grateful to live on planet Earth.

    A couple of important points that I don’t think were covered, earlier:

    1) If you can be on an itinerary that puts South Georgia at the end, do it. Antarctica will be a disappointment, in comparison.

    2) My wife and I went on the Seabourn Quest, and though it was wonderful (amazing food, brilliant service, great expedition staff, and bathtubs…important for getting warm after a day in the cold) we’ll be going on a smaller ship, next time. Being on a ship small enough to allow everyone to do two zodiac landings every day is vital.

    3) Make sure the ship is a purpose-built expedition ship, not a converted one, with a top-rated ice-hull. Being able to break through the ice to get to the best landing sites is important.

    4) The Scenic Eclipse is easily the most spectacular ship currently sailing the continent (all balcony, helicopters, a submarine, gobs of specialty restaurants, etc.) though they are reportedly still working out some service and design kinks, and you might want to wait for one of her planned sisters to be launched.

    5) For the best combination of expedition experience and luxury, I would go with Hapag-LLoyd. Their operation is a finely-tuned masterpiece (go on one of the English speaking itineraries, if you’re not comfortable with a German one.) We’ll probably be going with them, next.

    6) National Geographic and Quark are tops with their expedition prowess, but they’re not as luxurious, nor is their food as good.

    7) All of this is about to change…for the better. Virtually every current expedition cruise line is launching new, top-of-the-line ships in the next few years, and some — like Crystal Cruises — are entering the game for the first time.

    Do your research, then take the leap…and please let us know how it goes.

  114. I have returned from a trip to Antarctica with Hurtigruten in Dec’19 and thought of putting together some photographs and some impressions of my trip.
    Actually it was not just a trip.
    It was a journey to the “End of the Earth”, it’s beauty, it’s wildlife and the mighty krill.
    It’s about history, and expeditions- old and ongoing.
    It’s about why we need to save the South Pole.

    I have never written an article before, but I decided to try my hand at it.
    I could email you the article
    Aseena
    p.s
    I have some nice pictures too! Of penguins, seals, and of course, lots of ice and snow
    More on Instagram

  115. I went on the Scenic Eclipse – Antarctica in depth tour. It was 12 days and departed from and returned to Buenos Aires. They organise the chartered flight down to Ushuaia. It was amazing. The accommodation was 4 to 5 star and the hotel staff were friendly and efficient. The only extras I paid for were the helicopter and submarine trips. Highly recommend the helicopter. The expedition crew were full of knowledge and had a passion for the area.

    The trip down through the Drake Passage was uneventful but on the way home the swirls got to 8-10 metres. The crew and expedition team worked tirelessly to ensure daily zodiac trips – usually at least two went ahead despite the weather. For their maiden season the cruise was absolutely amazing. This review does not do the cruise justice as it was a once in a lifetime experience that didn’t disappoint. The incredible natural wonders of icebergs and wildlife (penguins, seals and whales) really made the trip.

    If you are after luxury then Scenic Eclipse is it.

  116. Hi, I just back from Antarctica in Dec 2019. It’s a 14 days cruise by Ponant.
    I had my best time then. Choose the small ship less than 200 people that promise you twice on shore every day. I choose Ponant because it’s French shipping line with all including drinks and Wi-Fi. If you like a bit of luxuries, cross over Antarctica with style, that’s the one.

    Cheers Sherry

  117. Did the next best cruise for a fraction of the cost of an Antartica cruise : an Australis cruise around Cape Horn from Punta Arenas (Chile) to Ushuaia (Argentina) on Stella Australia. We were fortunate to have picked a date in December (summer) and had very mild weather. The zodiacs could be deployed for all the planned landings and we had calm seas everywhere. It’s a 5 day cruise on a a small ship (100 passengers) with many interesting land excursions (a.o. Cape Horn lighthouse, several gletchers, Penguin Colony Island in the Maghellan Strait, …) excellent on-board lectures, good food and out of this world pisco sour (all included)! Paid less than $ 1000 p.p. in 2013.

  118. I went to Antarctica in March 2020 on a Hurtigruten ship.

    1.Wi-fi was available but quite expensive (around 20 euros per day) and very very slow. I would not recommend for working. It took me almost 1 day to book a couple of airline tickets (kept timing out).
    2. I did the 12-ish day tour, I thought it was enough. Not sure a longer trip is worth it.
    3. Drake passage was very calm, we probably got lucky. I heard a few people got seasick. I felt a mild discomfort on the way there, and nothing on the way back.

  119. We spent Christmas 2019 on an Antarctic cruise…absolutely spectacular!!

    We travelled with Quark Expeditions on their new (2019 build) ‘World Explorer’. The small (approx 200 capacity) ship has all outside, balcony suites. The food was FANTASTIC, the crew & expedition staff included world class explorers & naturalists, the lectures in the dedicated theatre were informative & fun. The landings & exploration cruising in the Zodiacs were the highlights. Seeing penguins, whales, seals, glaciers & ice fields was truly amazing.

    Our crossing of the Drake was smooth on the outward trip, but on the return crossing we faced strong winds, with seas of 7 to 9 metres…let’s describe it as ‘exciting’! We ‘only‘ had a day & 1/2 of the rough seas & the ship & crew handled it well.

    The ‘World Explorer’ has a super efficient hybrid propulsion system, the best decontamination methods for passengers doing landings on the continent, superb dining facilities & a dedicated crew & staff. I can’t say enough positives about our experience, truly ‘THE trip of a lifetime!!’

  120. Ben, I hope you and Ford will pursue your trip to Antarctica. My wife, a biology professor, had longed to see Antarctica for many years. We took a small-ship cruise there last January, the last trip before she lost her struggle with cancer. The trip was spectacular! It is not actually considered a cruise; it is self-consciously styled and presented as an expedition. Nevertheless, we were by no means roughing it. We went with Tauck, which had reserved a block of rooms with Ponant, a French line. The crew was outstanding and the food what one might expect from a French kitchen. World class naturalists on board gave lectures but also led all trips off the ship. By the way, the only way to get there is by ship; there are no airports or hotels on this extremely fragile continent. We left from Ushuia across the infamous Drake Passage. I have a picture of the elevator with barf bags hanging from the handrails! But it was uneventful both ways. I didn’t meet anyone who got sick, and neither of us took any medication along. So don’t obsess about that. The scenery is like nothing I have seen, even in the far north. Walking among the fearless penguins was so much fun!

    And while you are in the area, look into staying at the Singular Hotel in Puerto Natales, Chile. It is by far the most unusual (“singular”) and truly amazing hotel I have ever experienced. It was built in an old sheep processing plant (the historic economic basis of Patagonia was, and to a large extent still is, sheep raising.) The hotel includes a museum and many of the huge machines and refrigeration units involved in sheep processing. These are actually integrated into the layout of the hotel. Sounds a little weird, I know, but it is fascinating. And the beautiful dining room! The locally sourced steaks, racks of lamb, and above all the king crab from the icy waters are exquisitely prepared.

    These two places – Antarctica and the Singular – are like nothing I have seen. And then there’s Torres del Paine National Park. Okay, it bears resemblance to the Swiss Alps and the Canadian Rockies, but it is also spectacular and worth trying to work in. While you’re thinking about it, watch The Motorcycle Diaries again to whet your appetite for an extension to Patagonia!

    Now after that, for your next adventure, I highly recommend a total contrast, a small-group trip organized by Atlas Obscura into the Amazon Rainforest. It begins in a delightfully funky and artsy hotel, small but quite comfortable, in Lima, heads downriver to eco-lodges open to the jungle, and includes two hikes each day and one at night. Take your best cameras and your worst clothes!

    Chris

  121. For those that are curious, lack of bandwidth is due to most (if not all) high-speed communications satellites being in a geosynchronous orbit – which requires them to be in an equatorial orbital plane. Ships (or research stations for that matter) in the Southern Ocean/Antarctic region are able to catch a trickle of data at the sharp angle of their dishes pointed just above the horizon.

    The Australian bases just upgraded their Internet access to a *speedy* 9Mbps to be shared by over 100 people. More info here if you’re keen… http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/station-life-and-activities/telecommunications/satellite-systems

  122. I would also recommend to choose a small cruise ship. They are not constraint to the big ports and can reach with their zodiacs even very remote islands and destinations.
    On board of small cruise ships the focus is on the destinations, nature and culture. You don´t have this round the clock hustle like on the big ships. You get your input on the daytrips on land and afterwards on board you just have a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. Just classic cruise-experiences without Disney-land and shopping-malls onboard.
    Another advantage of small ships is the very short time embarkation and disembarkation takes. With 150 passengers you are done easily in 15 minutes, with 3000-6000 passengers i takes up to two hours. Therefore usually you have more time to spend on land and excursions.

    For Arctica and Antarctica I would recommend either Hapag Lloyd or Ponant cruises. Ponant is actually building a hybrid LNG-electric ice-breaker going into service summer next year.
    Like the other six new explorer yachts it is built in Norway by Vard-shipyard. They did not have any issues with ships beeing delayed. Their only “problem” was that Vard had some of their ships finished earlier than sceduled.
    With the ice-breaker “Commandant Charcot” Ponant will be the first cruise line to offer a cruise to the geographic north-pole. They will cut their way through the ice.

    I have been on a cruise on one of Ponants Explorer-ships and liked a lot the exellent cuisine and excursions as well as the discrete french chic and the yacht-feeling.
    They also offer several cruises in cooperation with national geograhic.

    No matter what ship you will choose, I wish you a nice cruise.

  123. I went on a Antarctica Cruise 10 years ago.On the Marco Polo. It was awesome.
    I am going again this coming January, 2021. (I hope). Taking my wife this time.
    We are booked on a Princess Cruise.

  124. As you can tell from the above comments, nearly everyone (perhaps everyone) loves Antarctica…. so that is not a problem.

    EVERY Tour operator is listed on IAATO’s website.

    You need to ask yourself a few things that will then help determine the right boat for you
    Why do you want to go?
    – Are you a photographer and want smaller groups? do you want a photo guide? extra time to make sure you get the best light
    – Do you want to see a few penguins, see a few icebergs and tick the box that you’ve been?
    – Do you want more adventurous offerings – mountaineer, kayaking, camping?
    – Do you care enough about penguins, ice, etc to stay a few extra days now that you’ve made it that far
    – Do you really want to cross the Antarctic Circle (its a day + sail from everything else and its just an imaginary line…. but it might be important, but might not)
    – Do you want to sail across the Drake (2 days each way) or fly across the Drake
    – Do you also want to visit South Georgia and the Falklands?
    – How Important is luxury?
    – How badly do you want to be ashore all the time?
    – re think the internet bit….. one of the best parts of many guests’ experience is the lack of connection with the outside world and total focus on Antarctica.
    – does getting points outweigh other factors.

    Answer some of those questions….

    At most landing sites 100 passengers are allowed at a time. Thus if your boat has 200 people.. then 100 are on shore and the other are either onboard listening to a lecture, or out in kayaks, zodiacs, some other activity other than on land during that same time.

    NO VESSEL with more than 500 passengers can make landings. Thus the larger cruise ships sail through and around antarctica, but do not land.

    Answer the above questions, then find a travel agent who specializes in antarctica, as there are ships for everyone with different price points, different levels of service, different passenger profile.

    I work within the industry, feel free to follow up.

  125. As with most of the rest of your commenters, I cannot recommend South Georgia highly enough. Standing on a beach with a hundred thousand(!) king penguins, while baby fur seals wobbled across the sand, bleating as they found their mothers (who were returning after leaving their babies on their own for a week, to get fish to feed them with) left me grateful to live on planet Earth.
    I had my best time then. Choose the small ship less than 200 people that promise you twice on shore every day. I choose Ponant because it’s French shipping line with all including drinks and Wi-Fi. If you like a bit of luxuries, cross over Antarctica with style, that’s the one.

  126. We went in December 2017, on the just refurbished Silversea Silver Cloud ship. It was a great mix between the luxury of a ship with options and benefits of a ship small enough that everyone got ashore twice a day. I wrote a Cruise Critic review, including about 30 photos, if you want to know more about the experience. https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=603669 The logistics worked out fine, including chartered flights between Santiago and Ushuaia, though the instructions for how to start the journey were minimal.

  127. DO NOT book with Quark! I was booked with Quark Expeditions for March 2020. They have been such a disappointment and they don’t care about their clients. They are refusing to give us a refund even though their terms and conditions clearly state that we are entitled to a refund. They take weeks to respond to emails and they are not being helpful. I tried contacting them prior to the departure date when it became apparent that Covid-19 was becoming a worldwide problem. At that point most cruise companies and other tour companies were cancelling their trips. There had already been a number of Covid infected cruise ships, most of which were under quarantine. Quark said they were still going to do the trip. I voiced my concerns, knowing that many people would be traveling from affected areas and boarding the ship. Quark didn’t seem the least bit concerned. It was only when Argentina put very strict entry regulations into place that Quark finally canceled the trip. But then the real nightmare started as they have refused to refund. Terms and conditions are a legally binding document yet Quark is refusing to follow them. It’s sickening to see where their priorities lie. Customer service and satisfaction is an unheard of concept at Quark. Instead, it seems they are only after the money (obviously, that is also why they waited until the very last minute to cancel the trip despite knowing there would be many people coming from abroad which would pose a huge health threat to all the passengers and crew onboard). While I understand that this pandemic has hit the travel industry hard, it has also hit us travellers hard. I am now loosing all my money from this trip, not to mention the extra costs of extraordinary expensive flights to get home. Quark on the other hand must be making millions off from the cancellations. At first I didn’t want to believe Quark – a company with what looked like a very good reputation – was behaving in such a selfish and non-transparent manner. I booked with Quark because of their apparent “excellent” reputation. But alas, it was all just an illusion and the reality leaves me sad, bitter and disgusted.

  128. Hey Ben,

    I know this is 4 months late. I want to highlight a cruise enthusiast similar to your endeavors with flights, have spent hundreds of nights on cruises to be able to distinguish between cruise lines and offer insights into what works for certain cruises.

    Here’s Gary Bembridge’s playlist on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99HANPY2TSU&list=PLs3662YkgOgqC8J6vA0WF8rQvwL1rTsUi&index=2

    There’s a bunch of other playlist that might also interest you. Have a look.

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