SHIPS sail to Antarctica this month for the continent’s short summer cruising season from November to March when passengers hope to sight sculpted icebergs, courting penguins, spouting whales, soaring albatross, and lazy seals lounging on floating ice.
But as Alex Burridge, of the Antarctica Travel Centre, says every cruise is different and ship captains need to bow to the vagaries of the weather as he has experienced on a number of cruises that have taken him to this extraordinary white wilderness area, antarcticatravelcentre.com.au
“A traveller may book a cruise to land at a certain place in Antarctica, but a sea of solid ice or a wild swell will prevent this and the cruise ship has to change the itinerary. Sometimes the substitute landing may even be better than expected.”
Alex should know as he has been on several cruise ships in Antarctica and is still passionate about the destination.
This great white wilderness known as Antarctica is the world’s southernmost continent, and rated the coldest, most inhospitable place on earth. It is also the
most peaceful as the 46 members of the Antarctica Treaty have all pledged to use the continent only for peaceful purposes.
According to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), almost 34,000 visitors, representing over 100 nationalities, took a cruise there last summer. Over 14,000 travelled on large ships that did not make landings on the polar ice, while the rest arrived on small expedition ships with landings by onboard zodiacs or helicopters. IAATO imposes a daily landing limit of 100 passengers and allocates the sites for each cruise ship.
Cruises in Antarctica last about two weeks and leave from the port of Ushuaia (Argentina) at the southern tip of South America. The ships cross the Drake Passage which can be a “wild ride” so some passengers prefer the more expensive option of a flight to join their ship on King George Island in the South Shetlands.
australiancruisingnews.com has not cruised in Antarctic waters, but has flown over the white continent on a charter flight. That was a magical experience with passengers eating ice cream as they looked down on pristine icebergs and an ocean that really was sea blue, antarcticaflights.com.au
Must do: At cocktail hour in Antarctica cruise passengers add glacier ice to their whisky for future “bragging rights”.