Only a decade ago, visiting Antarctica was only for the uber-rich. With more cruise companies equipped now with the right vessels, visiting this pristine location has become more accessible to travellers.
With Covid generally now in the rear vision mirror, at Traveloso we have seen a marked increase in Antarctica enquires, with travellers keen to tick off another item on their bucket list. Put simply, Antarctica is a hot destination!
Cruising Antarctica, the world’s southernmost continent is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that promises astonishing landscapes and encounters with some of the most extraordinary wildlife on the planet. For those who seek to elevate this already awe-inspiring journey, luxury cruises to Antarctica offer an unparalleled experience. The aim is to have our clients gliding through these pristine waters getting up close and personal with amazing wildlife and viewing mesmerising scenery but all with world-class amenities. It doesn’t get much better.
When to go?
The best time to go to Antarctica is November through February, sometimes stretching into October or March. During these months, summer is in full swing, and the temperature is relatively mild, making it more comfortable for visitors looking to make the most of their time there.
Additionally, Antarctica experiences what they call Polar Day, where the sun never sets in seemingly endless days, lending ample time to explore and participate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences, with shore excursions for up-close views of the wildlife, icebergs and glaciers.
The Antarctic summer months offer amazing opportunities for wildlife sightings and outdoor adventures. This is the time when the many species of wildlife are most active.
Penguins, the icons of the Antarctic and sub-antarctic region, waddle across icy shores in vast numbers. From the regal Emperor Penguins to the Adelie Penguins, these flightless birds have evolved to thrive in extreme environments. Many travellers describe penguin watching as hours of pure entertainment as they flap-shuffle about with their hatchlings.
Giant seals and seabirds like the graceful Albatross, with a wingspan of up to 3.5 meters, are abundant as they stake their breeding and feeding grounds. If you’re keen, the activities range from visiting scientific research stations for a unique educational experience to kayaking, paddle boarding, camping, mountaineering and even scuba diving in some areas, becoming one with the landscape and the wildlife.
Who to travel with?
Antarctica is a challenging environment with rapidly changing weather and other logistic considerations. As luxury travel specialists, we select only the most reputable tour operators that prioritise experiences, comfort, safety and sustainability.
Our luxury operators are Silversea, Ponant, and Seabourn. With opulent staterooms and suites, their purpose-built expedition ships provide an intimate atmosphere whilst easily navigating the spectacular polar waters, with an expert Expedition team onboard.
They focus on luxury sailing and offer all-inclusive exclusivity. From the various gourmet dining events and full butler service, the ships are small enough to visit hard-to-reach destinations yet large enough to cater to your every need.
To help ensure the conservation of Antarctica’s unique wildlife, no operator is allowed to land with more than 100 passengers at any one time. These luxury ships generally carry around 200 passengers or less. Whilst 100 passengers are ashore, the other passengers will be involved with other water or ship-based activities. They will then swap over, with the other passengers heading ashore when the others are back aboard. Water-based activities can include kayaking or paddle boarding in the freezing waters.
There are smaller operators accommodating under 200 guests where access to even greater exclusive outdoor experiences take the place of the uber-lux amenities on board.
Be aware also that there are some very large cruise ships that sail through Antarctic waters that don’t offer shore landings. They just sail through.
Ponant – Le Commandant Charcot
With constant technological advancements, operators like Ponant have taken the helm, offering the world’s first Luxury Icebreaker, a PC2 hybrid-electric, LNG-powered ship providing luxurious comfort and support for scientific missions on trailblazing itineraries.
But what does all that mean? Ponant describes this new technology as the epitome of more responsible and sustainable sailing. It powers its newest fleet member with liquified natural gas to create safe, low-impact polar navigation. The all-inclusive expedition offers a generously sized environment, including two restaurants, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a brazier, bar, gym, spa, lounges and more. The exquisite suites and staterooms with private balconies or terraces, create the feeling of sailing on a private yacht.
The deep polar expeditions are expertly led by highly skilled expedition leaders who confidently supervise and coordinate a team of naturalist guides and scientific mediators. They prioritise the safety of all organised activities and are adept at tailoring and adapting those experiences to their guests, showcasing the full richness of those fascinating ecosystems.
South Georgia Island – A wildlife wonderland
Visitors to Antarctica sometimes extend their trip to take in South Georgia islands. South Georgia and the smaller islands surrounding it are a remote and inhospitable scattering of islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Visiting these islands is an immersion into a wildlife wonderland.
The island’s shores are alive with the calls of countless bird species, while its beaches are populated by massive elephant seals and fur seals, creating a mesmerising scene of rugged coexistence. The real stars, again, are the penguins – from the striking king Penguins in regal procession to the energetic Macaroni’s with their unmistakable crests. You can usually expect to witness penguin colonies in the thousands, each bustling with life as chicks hatch and adults tend to their young.
South Georgia’s dramatic landscapes provide the backdrop for this spectacle, with snow-covered peaks and ice-blue glaciers framing every view. Exploring the island grants encounters with history, too, as old whaling stations and explorer outposts dot the landscape, offering insights into human exploration in this remote realm. Nature’s grandeur and wildlife’s resilience converge to create an unforgettable experience, offered with the various cruise routes or added on as an additional stop when planning your trek south.
Antarctica cruises typically travel from Ushuaia in Argentina or Puerto Williams in Chile, crossing the infamous Drake Passage, a 48-hour, sometimes bumpy passage.
For those travellers unwilling to cope with potentially rough seas, or juggling tight timeframes, there are ways to fly across, saving some days of sailing. Cruise operators, such as Silversea, offer a fly-cruise program called the Antarctica Bridge, where passengers are flown from South America to the White Continent to meet up with the cruise.
Additionally, operators like Ponant offer cruise itineraries departing in New Zealand. There’s no shortage of ways to experience Antarctica and the surrounding area.
For something different – Exclusive Flight and Tour Departing Cape Town with Chimu. Luxury Antarctica, Small Group Adventures
Another unique operator flying directly to the White Continent is Chimu. Their premium offering is a 12-guest, 8-day itinerary adventure. It odes though come with an extra-extraordinary price tag but this is unique.
This ice-land-based tour, through our partnership with Chimu, starts with a 5-hour flight from Cape Town, in their Gulfstream 550 or Airbus, soaring over icebergs and landing on the blue ice of Wolf’s Fang Runway.
Guests settle into Chimu’s flagship retreat at Whichaway Camp or Echo Camp, which consists of space-age pods complete with a lounge area, en-suite wash area and toilet in a heated 20-foot diameter fibreglass dome. The itinerary will take you through penguin country to experience the sheer isolation of the South Pole, a feat that very few people have achieved. Where South, East and West melt away, and every direction points North, all from the lowest point on Earth.
The remaining days on the continent are tailored to your needs, be it adrenaline-filled abseiling into camp, fat-biking, skiing, and ice climbing or relaxing, taking in the unforgettable landscape, and enjoying the various wellness facilities at camp. You are truly a world away.
Make the most of your time away.
Choosing your cruise is just part of the adventure. We recommend bookending your tour by tacking on a stop in Patagonia, South America.
A visit to Patagonia after Antarctica is a must-do to appreciate the beauty of diverse landscapes and experiences. The rugged mountain ranges, lush forests, and azure lakes of Patagonia contrast the vast white expanse of Antarctica, making the journey even more fulfilling.
Travellers can immerse themselves in the local communities, learning about their traditions, lifestyles and history and gain a deeper understating of the human aspect of this remote and diverse region and the intricate connections between the different ecosystems.
Tailored Luxury Travel
With so many options, the best way to start your journey is with a conversation with the Luxury Travel Specialist at Traveloso. Travellers generally only go once to Antarctica and we want our clients journeys to the White Continent to be unforgettable for the right reasons.
Email us at Hello@Traveloso.com.au or call 1300 747 100 to arrange an appointment