Almont Travel Inspiration

Eight Things to Know Before a Cruise to Antarctica

“Antarctic cruises are true expeditions,” says Helen McCabe-Young. Virtuoso’s senior vice president of marketing visited her seventh continent in December on a six-day cruise, flying across the Drake both ways – a great option for travelers seeking to experience Antarctica on a compressed schedule.

“Conditions and weather are unpredictable and can change by the hour, so come mentally prepared to lean into the adventure,” she notes. She recommends that ocean and river cruisers adjust their expectations for Antarctic voyages: “They require a good deal more physically, especially if you hit weather.”

Here are her tips for White Continent explorers:

  • If your ship offers sea kayaking, sign up. It was one of the biggest highlights of my cruise, and well worth pushing yourself, even if you’re a novice like me.

  • Flights between Punta Arenas and King George Island are subject to weather conditions, and the airline calls the shots.

  • Dress prepared for the 1.3-mile walk between the airstrip and the Zodiacs, which ferry passengers to and from the ship. You’ll be exposed to the elements and carrying your pack on a gravel path. A van transports checked luggage and those who need assistance, but everything else is your responsibility.

  • Resist the temptation to over pack: Weight limits on the flights to the South Shetlands are strictly enforced; if your bag is overweight, you’ll be leaving things behind. Even on luxury lines Antarctic cruises are casual – no heels or dressed-up evenings.

  • This is a great excuse to upgrade your cell phone for one with a better camera. And get a waterproof sleeve for Zodiac rides, so you don’t end up with it sitting in a bowl of rice back on board.

  • Read up on the early Antarctic explorers. I loved sitting with my husband in the comfort of our stateroom, looking out across our balcony and learning about early expeditions – while snacking on caviar and sipping Champagne, of course! Two recommendations: Alfred Lansing’s Endurance, about the Shackleton expedition, and Julian Sancton’s Madhouse at the End of the Earth, about the 1897 Belgian expedition – the first to winter on the continent.

  • Schedule spa treatments before embarkation. For the most part, passengers are on or off the ship at the same time, so availability is limited.

  • If you have the opportunity to take the polar plunge, do it!