|Antarctica, The Great White Continent|
A cruise to Antarctica - the "White Continent" - is, for most travelers, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Cruising in Antarctica gives you the opportunity to see abundant wildlife, including whales, 45 species of birds, Weddell and fur seals, and, of course, everyones favorite, the Emperor penguins. Seven of 17 species of penguin can be found in Antarctica! Imagine thousands of penguins, hilariously awkward on ice, surrounding you as you walk the beach or swimming by you as you kayak around the icebergs.
The Antarctica cruising season is very short - five months - and when you go depends on several things:
November: early summer when the ice is melting and the birds, especially the penguins, are courting and mating
December/January: height of the summer season when warmer temperatures and up to 20 hours of sunlight each day. Penguins are hatching their eggs and feeding their chicks.
February/March: late summer when whale-watching is at its best. Penguin chicks are becoming more independent and beginning to fly and the adult penguins are ashore molting. Late season (from mid-February on) is less crowded and less expensive, but the later you cruise the less wildlife you will see as the wildlife is now heading to sea.
Big ship or small ship? The best way to really experience this natural wonder is to enjoy a smaller ship. This way you will be provided with opportunities to view the glacier landscapes and the Arctic wildlife up-close on zodiacs. The larger ships usually offer a shore excursion that includes a flight over the continent. These flights, however, are often cancelled because of poor weather, so keep this in mind when selecting your Antarctica adventure. One plus of large-ship cruising is that you will feel less movement in heavy seas and can cross the Drake Passage more quickly.
An Antarctica cruise takes a big commitment on your part in both terms of costs and time needed to visit the continent. From the US, most travelers will take an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile, stay a night or two in Santiago, then fly to Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia is the southern-most city in the world and the starting point for most Antarctica cruises.
From the southern tip of South America, you pass Cape Horn and cross the spectacular Drake Passage on the way to the Antarctic Peninsula. Depending on your ship and itinerary, you may visit some of these South Shetland Islands before reaching Antarctica: Elephant Island, Deception Island, Half Moon Island and Yankee Harbor.
Then onto the Antarctic Peninsula and possible expeditions by zodiac to:
Paradise Bay Lemaitre Channel
Petermann Island Neko Harbor
Port Lockroy Wilhemine Bay
Some Antarctica cruises will depart from Buenos Aires, Argentina and include stopovers in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and/or the South Orkney Islands before sailing on to Antarctica.
This is one destination that takes a lot of research and planning. Call Carolyn at 888-769-7245 to make sure your dream Antarctica adventure exceeds your expectations. Then pack your long-johns and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!