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Antarctica: What to expect from a polar cruise

Nothing can really prepare you for an expedition in the white continent. It really is a destination quite unlike any other. It’s not just the cold of the poles, or the brightness of the sun reflecting off the snow and ice. Perhaps it’s the unexpected silence, the apparent emptiness, and the curious feeling of being so far from signs of human habitation. Finding such peace is rare.

To reach Antarctica you’ll have to set sail, usually from Ushuaia on the southernmost tip of Argentina. We call it a polar cruise, but the ships have little in common with those cruising around the Caribbean or through the Mediterranean.

Firstly, polar ships are small, often with only a couple of dozen passenger berths onboard. There can be as many crew as guests! The expedition ships are usually purpose built for polar use, with reinforced hulls to protect them against ice bergs. The observation decks are glazed in to protect you from the wind chill, but on bright days you can still go outside to feel the wind in your hair and watch pods of whale with absolutely nothing between you and them.

With a small number of people of the ship, you’ll get to know the crew and fellow guests well during your sailing. You will, of course, have your own cabin and enjoy suite bathroom, but meals tend to be communal affairs. The onboard lecturer — usually a respected naturalist or polar explorer — will socialise with you, and will also join you for shore excursions.

There are some stops where it is possible for the ship to dock; elsewhere you’ll go ashore by kayak or Zodiac. These smaller craft can access the narrowest, shallowest inlets and also enable you to quietly approach colonies of penguin and other wildlife.

Activities in Antarctica are varied. Many of our guests are keen to see and photograph the birdlife; others want to hike, ski, or camp, and tick it off their bucket list! You’ll have a certain amount of flexibility in your programme, and can always remain aboard if something doesn’t appeal. The polar plunge is one activity which does definitely divide opinion: would you pull on a wetsuit and dive off the ship into the icy waters? You have to be very brave indeed!

You can sail to Antarctica between November and March, though high season is from December to February. This is the Antarctic summer, so there are very few hours of darkness and the days tend to be bright if not warm. The temperatures are extremely cold but you don’t have to worry too much about what to wear as nearly all the ships we use will lend you polar clothing for the duration of your voyage. These outfits may not be getting catwalk space at Paris Fashion Week anytime soon, but they will keep hypothermia at bay.

A polar cruise is not for everyone. But if you do have a passion for adventure and want to explore the last unspoilt wilderness call us and we will create a trip that you will never forget.