For most who have a goal of visiting all seven continents, Antarctica is typically left as the last due to the high price and struggle to get there. At least those were my excuses. Every time I looked into going, I choked on the idea of spending thousands of dollars since I typically book budgeted trips. However, I kept coming back to it and I had a friend that wanted to go to which helped me push take the plunge.
How To Get To Antarctica
While flights do fly to Antarctica, it’s usually reserved for researchers or people trying to do crazy voyaging to the South Pole. The main way to get to Antarctica is by cruise ship. There are many different companies and at first I thought I would find a smaller ship with fewer people on it. The more I read about the Drake Passage the more I decided on a larger cruise ship and ultimately, Quark Expeditions. When booking through whichever agency you decide to go with, make sure you are signing up for the cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. Many cheaper cruises stop at the different islands, but bypass Antarctica. I booked mine July 2017, the cheapest room for a two person occupancy, 10 day cruise with one night stay in Bueno Aires, Argentina and Charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina came to a grand total of around $8000/person. This price does not include your round trip flight from home to Buenos Aires. The trip is cheaper if you choose to find your own way to the cruise ship in Ushuaia, Argentina. It takes about 2 days on the cruise ship to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. There are also cruise ships that leave from New Zealand, but it takes much longer to get to Antarctica and they are significantly more expensive.
What To Pack
Cruises to Antarctica run weekly from November to March. Depending on where you live, you might think, “Antarctica in December? It must be freezing cold!” But those are actually the summer months! Nevertheless, it’s not shorts weather in the least bit. I was exploring the Antarctic Peninsula from Dec 3-Dec 11. The weather changes quickly from snow storm and high winds to clear skies and blazing sun. The average temperature while I was there was around -2°C or 30°F.
I went with @quarkexpeditions who provided us with super warm waterproof coats that we got to keep and waterproof boots… Everything else we had to bring ourselves or purchase from their on ship shop– which wasn’t actually too expensive like I was expecting.
Head/Face: Winter Hats, Scarfs or anything that can cover your face from the wind, sunglasses (the sun can actually be pretty harsh and the glare from the white snow was a bit blinding). .
Upper Body: Non cotton thermals, expect to get wet in the small Zodiac boats that take you on shore from the ship. The coat Quark provided was waterproof, but it’s always a good idea to stay away from cotton.. if it gets wet it will suck the heat from you. I brought a thermal coat to wear under the coat they provided and wore extra thermals under that coat.
Hands: Waterproof gloves, liners, hand warmers
Lower Body: I had brought water-resistant pants thinking that would be enough, but was lucky that my friend had an extra waterproof shell that could go over my pants or I would have been soaked. I wore thermal leggings, water resistant fleece lined pants with the waterproof shell over everything
Feet: Double your wool socks and think about warmers that go in your boots. The boots will be provided, but I suggest bring a pair of shoes for the everyday ship days.
Misc: Waterproof Bag especially if you don’t want your camera to get wet. I’m really glad I brought my GoPro to get a good look at icebergs under water. Sometimes you can’t get very close to wildlife, so a camera with a zoom lens or binoculars are helpful. scopolamine Patch for Sea sickness. They hand out Dramamine and Phenergan pills which can cause severe drowsiness… I took them and slept most of 24 hours. The dining staff was surprised when I didn’t show up for a meal.
What Do You Do On The Cruise Ship?
Since it takes two days to get down to Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina, you might be wondering what there is to do on the ship? It isn’t like a typical Caribbean Cruise where there are performers, but more educational. During the days at sea, you will be introduced to your expedition team. They are made up of people from all over the world, most of which have their PhD or have multiple years of experience in their fields and present information on the different animal species, icebergs, history of Antarctica, etc.
If that isn’t something you are interested in doing, there is a spa on the ship, sauna, library with books, games, and DVDs to borrow, or you can stay in your room at watch TV (which I will admit I did a time or two when I was feeling a bit sea sick). You can stand outside and watch for sea life or bird watch, or walk around in the gift shop.
On the way back to Ushuaia, we had a Karaoke night and a dance party night. Karaoke isn’t something they typically offer, but enough of us requested it so they brought the machine up from the crew area and both passengers and crew members participated.
Where Do You Stop On The Antarctic Peninsula?
The itinerary is very vague because the weather is unpredictable. This mean even if you are told you will be stopping somewhere the night before, it can always change even an hour before you are suppose to and if they notice the wind changes, you could have some early mornings to get yourself out there before the weather makes it impossible.
During my trip we stopped at:
Half Moon Bay
Are There Any Excursion Activities?
Each day you will be able to get on a Zodiac boat and take a tour of the waters and step onto the peninsula to explore the wildlife on land for free. However, if you are interested in trying something different there are options. Excursions are an extra fee, but definitely worth it. I personally did a One Day Kayak Excursion through giant icebergs and passed swimming penguins and seals. It was an incredible experience. Here are some of the other activities that Quark Expeditions offer:
–Cross Country Skiing
-Stand Up Paddle Boarding
-One Night Camping On Antarctica
Is It Worth The Price?
100% Every Penny! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but wanted to go just to be able to say that I went. Antarctica blew my mind from start to finish. From the beautiful sights, adorable wildlife, educational lectures, delicious food, unlimited wine, and friendly staff, I couldn’t have had a better experience. Between the 24 countries I have visited in the last three years, I have to say Antarctica is now ranked #1 Favorite Place I Have Traveled To.
*This blog post is NOT sponsored by Quark Expeditions. I just really enjoyed the cruise I took with them and would highly recommend them to everyone looking to go to Antarctica!*