What you will see on an Antarctic cruise

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A cruise to Antarctica is more of an experience than a holiday! It’s action-packed so you will need a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy it all. Here’s what we got up to and what you will see on an Antarctic cruise.

Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica

Day 1 – Embarkation 22.11.19

After a speedy embarkation and a quick orientation of the ship, we got fitted with our wind-cheater coats. You get to keep this coat so make sure you get the right fit – big enough to house your ample thermal layers but not too big so that it comes to your knees!

The sea was smooth whilst we enjoyed dinner but before bed, we knew we’d be reaching the Drake Passage during the night. So for prevention we started to wear our Boots Adult Travel Bands – highly recommended!

In the middle of the night, we woke to find the sea getting very choppy and things were starting to fly across the room (remember to put everything away or on the non-slip mats!), so as precaution we took a couple of anti-sickness tablets. Brilliant things!

There’s more on embarkation day, on our cabin, food and facilities post.

Day 2 – Crossing the Drake Passage 23.11.19

The crew deemed that the crossing should have been called the ‘Drake Lake’. I beg to differ. But, those anti-sickness tablets were brilliant as they just sent me to sleep! When I did manage to rouse from my slumber, we attended mandatory IAATO briefings, fitted for snow boots and did that all-important bio-security vacuuming (you have to ‘hoover’ anything you plan to take on a landing, so that’s hats, gloves, scarves, bags, camera cases etc.

Tender Boat Groups – To get to land, you head to deck 3 to be transported by small tender boats. Your groups are usually split by nationality (or language), so we were with Australians, Americans and Canadians. The tender boats are small – holding no more than 16 people. They are easy to get in and out of (plus you get instructions on how and where to grab). Each day you have timed landings, so some days you’ll have a morning landing, another day in the afternoon. This means that you’re not waiting around in thermals and only need to head down to the tender pit once you are called for on the tannoy.

Day 3 – Arriving in Antarctica 24.11.19 – Half Moon Island

Because of the (apparent) smooth crossing, we arrived in Antarctica ahead of schedule. And, it was here we managed to tick another thing of the bucket list. We saw our first penguin. A Chinstrap to be precise. We also gave snow-shoeing a whirl. A great experience and real calorie burner.

Day 4 – Strong winds hampered plans 25.11.19

The weather is unpredictable in the Antarctic. One minute glorious sunshine, the other a blizzard so severe you can’t see anything. The weather had plans for our day today. We didn’t get to visit Deception Island due to wind and Mikkelsen Harbour was a no-go because of ice. But we did see Humpback Whales so all was not lost.

Day 5 – Chiriguano Bay / Orne Harbour & Epic Meltdowns 26.11.19

It was a good job the tender boats are good in ice as they navigated the frozen waters and icebergs in Chiriguano Bay. In the afternoon there was a landing up quite a steep hill to see a chinstrap colony. But, I had a complete meltdown halfway up the hill. Perhaps it was a panic attack? I couldn’t walk! Mr P made it to the top though whilst I felt guilty that he’d had to go it alone.

Top Tip: Don’t overthink things, relax your body, don’t be tense and then walking in snow is a doddle!!

Day 6 – Danco Island & seeing Gentoos 27.11.19

My meltdown from the previous day was forgotten and after having strong words with myself and putting my big girl pants on, we both managed to hike up the hill to a Gentoo Penguin colony. What was I playing at yesterday?

Day 7 – Lemaire Channel / Flandres Bay 28.11.19

We rose early as the scenery was absolutely breathtaking – so much so we got up as soon as we woke (and it was serious – I didn’t put on any make up). We had planned to get as far as Port Charcot, but although this being early summer the ice hadn’t quite melted enough! But, we didn’t mind as we got to travel back up the Lemaire Channel and head north to Flandres Bay to enjoy time cruising in the tender boats under bright blue skies – and spotting some very cute looking grey seals.

Grey seal in Antarctica, the image was captured using a decent camera - just one of the packing essentials for Antarctica

Day 8 – Neko Harbour / Port Lockroy Calving & Kayaking 29.11.19

This gloriously sunny day and bright blue sky meant that the ice was starting to melt. You hear the cracking and next news the ice comes away – or ‘calving’ as it’s technically known!

In the afternoon it was another first – kayaking! Words can’t describe what this is like, but I’ll try: peaceful, beautiful, relaxing, phenomenal, unforgettable. We were kayaking in amongst the icebergs for almost 2 hours. What really struck us is the colour contrasts. In some ways, you’d just expect the Antarctic to be white and blue – but you’d be wrong. The spectrum of colours and tones was more than we could ever imagine.

Day 9 – Damoy Point – 30.11.19

I never thought that there would be fog in Antarctica – wrong! But luckily and unsurprisingly, the weather soon changed so we could land. After a small hike to the top we saw fantastic colonies of chinstrap penguins. Finally we saw a penguin sitting on an egg! This trip was only the second expedition of the season and coincided with penguins coming to land to breed (and boy, did we see lots of penguin porn) and laying eggs – and lots of stone pinching for nest building.

Now it was on our way home …

Day 10 – Drake Passage (again) – 01.12.19

Thanks must be made to the makers of the Boots anti-sickness tablets. But what I did find out (after reading the instructions) was that they don’t really mix with red wine as they make you extra sleepy zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The travelling did get easier, the sea swell dissipated so it was great to enjoy our second gala dinner with (you guessed it) Reindeer Steak on the menu. Poor Rudolph.

Day 11 – At sea on the Drake Passage (still) – 02.12.19

Finally the sea was calm and be sailed by Cape Horn in the morning before entering the Beagle Channel on our way back to Ushuaia. We arrived in the early evening to spend our last night on board.

Day 12Disembarkation & Homeward Bound – 03.12.19

We left the boat and headed back to the airport for our flight back to Buenos Aires staying overnight at Hotel Emperador.

Each evening you had a daily briefing so you knew what to expect the following day. We also sat and listened to lots of really interesting and informative lectures. So we’re now great on a quiz team as long as the questions are how penguins keep their feet warm or what’s in a whales tummy.

You may think that we’re super-organised and have a travel journal to remember everywhere that we went. Sorry to shatter your illusion but about a week after you return home, Hurtigruten send over a very handy travel journey which details all the places that you visit!

If you have any questions or want to know more about what you’ll see on a cruise to Antarctica, then do get in touch.

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