If you ever wanted to be an astronaut and visit distant, ice covered planets, but you just missed the final cut, you can still redeem yourself and partially fulfill those dreams by taking an expedition cruise to the "White Continent," ANTARTICA. And the best part about it is; you won’t have to do it in one of those cramped, little old space capsules. Unlike the early Antarctic explorers, these days, you can combine luxury with adventure.
Antarctica is one of the most pristine wildernesses on this planet. Table shaped ice bergs of all sizes, ten thousand foot peaks rising out of the sea, brilliant turquoise glaciers, and long summer days with brilliant colors as dusk quickly turns back into daylight. And unlike those planets in deep space, the continent is filled with an unbelievable amount of wildlife. There are penguin colonies with tens of thousands of breeding pairs, under the watchful eyes of albatrosses, whose 10-13 foot wing spans allow them to soar and glide over hundreds of miles of ice covered landscapes. You can find colonies of Elephant, Weddell, Leopard and Fur seals, basking on the edge of an ice flow. Humpback , Minke, and Orca whales can be seen breaking the surface of the water up to their full lengths.
Ushuaia, Argentina is the typical departure point for Antarctica cruises. These 10-21 day journeys include a two-day crossing of the Drake Passage. Peninsula trips always include the Shetland Islands, while the longer trips (18-21) days include South Georgia and the Falkland Islands and add more time at sea. Trips primarily go to ice-free coastal zones from November to March, during the continent’s summer. Day light can extend up to 20 hours plus and temperatures can occasionally climb into the 40’s along the peninsula.
Basically, you will be sailing across a lot of water to your first destination. Although the accommodations and food service are excellent on most of the ships, you can forget the fancy disco, gambling casinos and glitzy floor shows. These cruises are about the wildlife, scenery and meeting new friends. So, during the passage, educate and entertain yourself by attending onboard presentations on topics such as seabirds, whales, seals, geology, glaciology, history taught by shipboard experts on Antarctica, such as naturalist and scientist. Your particular cruise line may even add courses in photography, because your camera may be the most important part of your personal gear on board. Weather and time permitting, the crew transports passengers from the ship to land in Zodiac landing craft. These are large rubber boats with motors from which you can get close up and personal with a lot of the wild life in the area. Landings are typically geared toward the large penguin colonies, but may also provide great views of resting seals. Always remember that weather and ice rule! Plans and itineraries can change at any given time.
Your return trip to the embarkation port may not be as exciting as a fiery reentry at 25,000 mph, but it will be quite and comfortable, leaving you time to reminisce and share memories with new found friends about all of the glorious adventures you have just experienced.