Jo-Ellen Robilliard, Corporate and Leisure Supervisor at Four Corners Travel recently did some Antarctic Cruising. This was what she thought…
Over 30 years in the travel industry, it’s fair to say I’ve spent a large part of my life travelling. Of all the travel experiences I have had, nothing compares to Antarctic cruising.
In February this year, I got to experience the southernmost continent. Cruising the Antarctic waters for 10 days offered a great mix of awe-inspiring natural beauty, education, socialising and just the right amount of reflection time. The wildlife, the landscape and the feeling like we were truly the only people on earth was completely surreal.
The first two nights were spent sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula. During these days, we could relax in our incredibly comfortable cabins, take in the view of the vast and open sea or attend the lecture series.
This is where our journey began both physically and educationally. As we crossed the Drake Passage, the informative lectures began. Topics throughout the journey focussed on the animals, sea and birdlife living in the Antarctic. Lectures also covered the continents history and the interesting work undertaken at the various research stations.
These lectures were optional and definitely worth attending. I found it interesting to learn about how some of the animals we saw live and survive in the coldest continent on earth. I also enjoyed hearing about the continents early explorers and what happens at the research stations.
On board each day began with a delicious buffet breakfast, complete with hot and cold options. The made to order smoothies were a highlight but without a doubt my favourite were the waffles!
The evening prior to reaching the peninsula we all attended a briefing session. In groups we found out where we would be going and what activities we would be doing. Everything is weather dependant so we were as well prepared as we could be and ready to change the plan if Mother Nature wasn’t going to play her part.
Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to dress on the first couple of days… I completely underestimated how long it would take to dress with so many layers to consider. By Day 3 I had it down to a fine art in a timely manner.
Once our ship reached the peninsula, the real adventure began. The morning and afternoon activities alternate between on shore and touring in the zodiac boat. This is a precaution all voyages take to ensure Antarctica remains as beautiful as it is now, in the future. Furthermore, keeping preservation top of mind, you have to step into a tray of disinfectant before stepping off and on the ship. When you return to the Ship, you are also required to clean your boots in the mudroom to ensure there is little to no cross contamination on the ice.
Seeing icebergs up close is something I will never forget. Walking on the ice was like nothing I could have imagined; it felt like a real privilege to be in such proximity to penguins, seals and the other wildlife we saw. Given the limited amount of people on my tour the ice meant there was an element of isolation that I’ve never experienced on tour anywhere else in the world.
The morning excursions conclude on board with a hearty morning tea. Trust me, you will never be hungry on an Antarctic cruise.
Prior to lunch there’s time to take in some more education, or simply relax and prepare for the afternoons adventure. The afternoon activity follows a generous buffet lunch. If you went ashore in the morning you will stay in the zodiac and enjoy whale watching and the other water based activities on offer.
Each evening before dinner we attended a briefing session where we shared our experiences from the day and planned for tomorrow’s exciting adventure.
Tips….. Ensure you have thick socks and thermals (More packing tips can be found here). Most importantly, don’t overpack. Sure, it’s cold outside but it’s always warm inside the ship, keep your jacket with you at all times. You never know when whales or other wildlife might pass by, you don’t want to miss out on the action just because you’re too cold.
Finally, this “Trip of a lifetime” is full to the brim of unforgettable sights. Make sure you have your camera nice and close. The changing landscapes and wildlife on and in the water offer a multitude of photo moments you won’t want to miss.