Antarctica: An Unforgettable Journey
Satisfy your wanderlust with an ultra-luxury cruise to an otherworldly destination where icebergs churn, mountains tower, and glaciers reign.
It was like a dream. A couple of years ago, I received a phone call offering my wife and me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Antarctica at a vastly discounted rate, provided we could travel 30 days later. Fortunately, my wife and I had the flexibility to say “yes,” and we did. Wow, to this day, we remain thrilled by the experience!
Embarking on a Great Adventure
In a matter of weeks, we were on a plane traveling to one of our favorite cities, Buenos Aires, Argentina home of some of the world’s best steaks and pizza (yes, pizza). It’s also where we were mugged a few years ago, but that’s a story for another day.
Following our one-day stopover in Buenos Aires, we traveled to Ushuaia, the southernmost city on Earth, also known as “The End of the World.” I was somewhat familiar with Ushuaia for two reasons — Leonardo DiCaprio had filmed The Revenant there several years ago. And in a bestseller written by Daniel Silva, one of my favorite authors, the world’s most wanted terrorist chose Ushuaia as his hiding spot!
Enough said about Ushuaia, which was our embarkation point for our 10-day cruise aboard Silversea’s Silver Explorer. Soon enough, we were off towards the famous or infamous Drake Channel for our 48-hour sojourn into Antarctica.
We had studied up on the Drake Channel and felt prepared with every type of seasickness concoction you could imagine. And, honestly, we got lucky, the two days cruising through the Channel were not bad at all, perhaps a bit bumpy here and there but very bearable, even for novices like my wife and me.
Navigating a Frozen Wilderness
And all of a sudden, we arrived on the magical continent of Antarctica. It was stunning — icebergs the size of skyscrapers, our ship navigating around islands of ice. Our captain was uncertain where or how far they would travel, which would depend on the weather, his navigation skills, and where the ship could fit.
I remember the captain announcing that he was able to navigate further than he had on any other cruise that season. Hours later, a second announcement followed. We would be turning around as we had reached the point where there was nothing but ice further ahead.
Each day, in between our gourmet meals aboard ship, we donned our complimentary bright red parkas overtop several layers of clothing. We then made our way towards the bottom of the vessel, where we would put on our knee-high boots and headed out into the freezing weather to board our zodiacs. For those of you who feel this might be a bit difficult, don’t worry, there’s plenty of assistance, and it’s easier than you might think.
An Icescape Teeming with Life
We eagerly took our first steps on this wild and rugged continent. Each day was greeted with anticipation and ended with celebrating the day’s experience. We visited islands inhabited primarily by crowds of Adélie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins, often walking within a matter of feet, without any humans in sight. We felt like we were invading their space, exploring their habitat, enjoying their unique antics. It was a lot of fun and didn’t get old.
Other days, we would travel in zodiacs, exploring the incredible grandeur of glaciers and icebergs, learning about seals, birds, occasional whales, always safe, always a phenomenal experience. We were accompanied by seasoned professionals whose expertise brought our adventure to a whole other level. Each day, we would witness stunning sights and up-close visits with penguins, seals, and the occasional human being.
One day, we disembarked our zodiacs to visit Port Lockroy, the southernmost post office in the world, run by British volunteers that also houses a small museum and gift shop. Another day, we visited the Ukrainian research lab, manned by eleven scientists who spend their time researching (naturally), hosting visitors, and sharing shots of homemade vodka!
Yet another day, we were traveling in our zodiac when we noticed another zodiac, seemingly requesting assistance. As we got closer, they magically unveiled bottles of champagne and flutes, and we toasted each other in the glassy waters amidst the sparkling ice surrounding us.
As Sea Billows Roll
Too soon, it was time to return to Ushuaia, and this time the Drake Channel was not so friendly to us. For the next 48 hours, we rocked, we rolled, chairs in the dining room were falling, it was pretty ugly. For the professionals and staff aboard, it was just another day. For us, it was anything but that. I stayed on my bed for those two days, where I felt safe and escaped the dizziness and seasickness that many others experienced. The staff brought us room service, and everything went just fine!
Finally, finally, after 48 hours — 3,600 minutes — 172,800 seconds, we were back in Ushuaia, soon on our way home. What stuck in our minds the most was the sheer majesty of raw nature, so massive and powerful, so awe-inspiring, it made us feel tiny and respectful. It was a fabulous trip, a great experience, our sixth continent visited, leaving only Australia on our continental bucket list.
Thanks to Silversea Cruises for a wonderful trip to a wonder-filled place that we hope you have the opportunity to visit one of these days. We wish you a hearty bon voyage on your journey!