Antarctic Cruises: What Can You Do?

We recently wrote an article about cruises to Antarctica, wherein we discussed some of the general features of antarctic cruises. What we concluded is that antarctic cruises (sometimes called “Antarctica cruises” because of the relative rarity of the adjectival form of “Antarctica”) are kind of like a two-for-one deal because you get to go on a cruise vacation while simultaneously pursuing a specific end: visiting the antarctic region of the world. Since an antarctic cruise is vastly different than a standard cruise vacation offered through one of the major cruise lines (e.g., Carnival), we also concluded that a trip to Antarctica is best undertaken by a particular type of person, a person who enjoys adventure, exploration, and the sights of nature. In this article, we’ll focus specifically on some of the things you can do on an antarctic cruise, which we were only able to touch on briefly in our last treatment of this topic.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories under which the activities of an antarctic cruise may fall. The first primarily concerns observation, the second winter sports. Of course, these are not wholly separate categories, and an activity that falls into one may easily bleed into the other. Still, we will address each separately for organizational convenience.

By observational activities we mean activities that are fundamentally about enjoying the sights of nature, and not directly engaging with nature, which is the province of the “winter sports” category. Many people take an antarctic cruise simply because it allows them to see parts of the world that are rarely seen by other humans. Antarctica has a stunning landscape that is entirely covered with a thick layer of ice. Large mountains are also a part of the continent, and they are all the more staggering to behold because some rise as high as 10,000 feet even though their base is near sea level. The antarctic region also abounds with glaciers of virtually every conceivable size and shape. Some are enormous blocks of ice, while others are intricate ice formations. Finally, there are a number of unique animals in the antarctic region that are difficult if not impossible to see anywhere else. Perhaps the most iconic animal of Antarctica is the penguin, and you will almost certainly see plenty of them if you go on an antarctic cruise. Some species of penguin in Antarctica form into enormous colonies (in part to stay warm), so if you see a penguin, there is a chance that you will soon see hundreds (if not thousands) of his friends. Other animals you may see include seals, which can also gather in great numbers, whales, including the largest-animal-on-earth blue whale, and a number of sea birds, including the albatross, which has the largest wingspan of any bird. (Lots of superlatives are called for when describing Antarctica and its inhabitants.)

With respect to winter sports that can be engaged in while on an antarctic cruise, there are several, but the three main ones are probably sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, and ice climbing. Clearly, none of these activities are limited to Antarctica, but they become manifestly more extreme when undertaken on the coldest and windiest continent on earth. If you want to cross-country ski, you’ll need to dress a lot warmer than usual. You can also theoretically hike on an antarctic cruise, but this may quickly develop into a full-blown ice climbing session. And as crazy as it sounds, people actually camp – as in, pitch tents and spend the night – when they go on antarctic cruises.

The best thing to do on an antarctic cruise is to blend the snow sports with some quality observation. Ice climb to get a good view of the ocean, sea kayak to check out a glacier up close, or ski to a colony of penguins. Such is the stuff of cruises to Antarctica, and also why serious adventurers are best suited for these types of vacations.

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