There are your typical cruises, and then there are adventures. Antarctica cruises definitely fall into the second category.
So what’s the difference between an Antarctic adventure and your everyday cruise sailings? Well, if you’re in the mood for overcrowded tourist towns that are barely distinguishable from each other no matter what country you’re in then an Antarctic cruise is definitely not for you.
Antarctic adventures are exactly that – an adventure. You’re not paying to move from one tourist t-shirt shop to another. Instead, you’re taking a trip to explore one of the most remote and pristine regions left on the planet. Not only that, but Antarctica is the only place you won’t find mosquitoes.
Of course, taking a cruise that pushes further means that you’re going to have to be a little more prepared than you would have to be for your typical tourist-trap sailings. Let’s take a quick look at some Antarctic cruise tips that will help you make sure you’re going to get the most out of your expedition.
What will I see?
Antarctica is a huge region, claiming some 14 million km2 (5.4 million miles2). It’s simply too big to take it all in during one cruise, especially when you consider that A) some of its interior is pretty unreachable due to distance and B) various Antarctic voyages have different/alternative/additional stops along the way (e.g. the Georgian Islands, the Falkland Islands, etc.).
Your best bet is to list out what draws you the most to an Antarctic cruise. Some of the biggest draws include:
- Bird watching
- Meeting penguins
- Antarctic landscapes
- Camping out
- The Aurora Australis
- Various activities (mountaineering, ski trekking, etc.)
And so on. Even within these points you’re going to have sub-categories. For example, if you’re looking to check specific birds off in your bird book you’re going to have to choose between different destinations.
So don’t pick an Antarctic cruise at random. Sort your list until you know what’s most important to you, and then do a little reading to make sure you choose the cruise most suited to what you’re looking to experience.
Will I get seasick?
This depends on both you and your destination. If you’re taking a cruise to Antarctica itself (as opposed to one that visits the remote island regions of the southern oceans) then you’re going to cross the Drake Passage.
Sometimes the Drake Passage is completely calm, but you shouldn’t count on it. Instead, prepare as if you’re fully expecting the Passage to be at its roughest. If you’re prone to seasickness then visit your personal physician ahead of your trip and get him or her to hook you up with some Dramamine (or other motion-sickness drug).
Pro tip – Motion sickness drugs are not cures, they’re preventative. You take them ahead of time and they build up in your system, preparing you for rougher days at sea.
Are Antarctic cruise ships like regular cruise ships?
Antarctic cruise ships run the gamut from luxury-oriented (including spas and hot tubs) right down to simple sailing vessels. It’s really up to you to choose which kind of ship you want to board. Keep in mind though that the more meat-and-potatoes ships have the advantage of being geared towards pushing into bays and fjords that the more luxurious ships can’t reach.
What activities can I participate in?
Just like with your list of things that you want to see, you should take a moment to figure out what kinds of activities you want to participate in. Some cruises won’t have certain activities because of their routes. Or they may have a variety of activities that you have to pay for individually. And some activities require previous experience and log-books/certifications (i.e. diving, mountaineering).
Some of the activities you’ll be able to book include:
- Hikes of varying difficulties
- Ski treks
- Camping out
- Shoreline and iceberg exploration via a Zodiac (a small outboard-motor boat)
- Visiting historic sites
If this is your first time heading to the Antarctic then you might want to see what cruise-lines offer “basecamp cruises.” These cruises tend to offer a wide variety of activities suitable for beginners under one blanket price, allowing you to try a little bit of almost everything.
Do I have to be in good shape?
You don’t have to be an athlete to take part in an Antarctic cruise, but you should at least be mobile and in good enough shape to enjoy easy hikes. Aside from the onshore activities, you’re also likely going to have to be limber enough to get in and out of Zodiacs in order to get from ship to shore.
How should I dress?
Most decent Antarctic cruise lines will send you specific information about what kind of clothing you should bring when you sign on with them. The short version of that information is to bring layers, with back-ups for when your clothing gets wet.
Layers help trap air between them that gets warmed by your body, which in turn helps keep you warm. Also, it allows for much easier temperature control if you’re heating up thanks to taking part in a hike or a kayaking session.
Depending on the cruise, you might be provided with rubber boots. If that’s not the case, you’re going to want waterproof rubber boots with good grips on the soles and a high enough top to keep water from sloshing in as you make your way to and from the Zodiac while on shore.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. If you’re looking for a trip that’s going to truly push into regions not seen by the vast majority of the human race then an Antarctic cruise is the way to go. Yes, it does take a little more prep-work than tourist cruises, but it also comes with a much higher level of satisfaction and adventure. Checkout some ideas to get your trip and traveling sponsored.