Antarctic cruises are one of the more radical cruise vacations that an individual can take. Given Antarctica’s placement on the globe (it’s the southernmost continent), a cruise to Antarctica will be a fairly lengthy undertaking, although this of course depends on where you will begin your trip. More likely than not, you’ll have to book a flight to a port that is far south of the equator – a port like the one in Ushuaia, Argentina, to which two British cruise ships were recently denied entry – and once you arrive to port, your journey to Antarctica is only beginning. However, when you do finally arrive to the Antarctic region of the world, you’ll be rewarded with views that are rarely seen by human eyes.
What precisely can you see in Antarctica? Since Antarctica is so far removed from civilization, you will not see many traces of human activity. Antarctica has no permanent residents, so the only people who live there are government researchers from countries all over the world. However, there are only a few thousand researchers at most on the continent at any given time (there are fewer in the winter for obvious reasons), so it’s not like Antarctica is a thriving community of researchers akin to a university town. What you can see in Antarctica is nature in its purest form.
First, there is the landscape itself, which is completely covered in snow and ice. Actually, this understates the situation: Antarctica is blanketed by a layer of ice that is on average one mile thick. To look at Antarctica is to look at a vast expanse of white land that stretches as far as the eye can see. However, Antarctica is not a mere ice field. Mountains are scattered about the land, and although they are by no means the tallest mountains on earth, they tower above you because their base is near or at sea level, but their peaks can be as high as 10,000 feet. In Antarctica, you will also find glaciers of all sizes and configurations. Some are huge blocks of ice, with sides that look like smooth cliffs, whereas others are far more craggy and intricately patterned. The landscape is extreme, but beautiful. It is a “Winter Wonderland,” just like the song, but in order for the song to match Antarctica, it would need to be covered by Metallica.
There is also plenty of wildlife to see in Antarctica, both on land and at sea. Many travelers seem particularly enthusiastic about seeing penguins, which can often be observed in enormous groups. (Penguin colonies in Antarctica can have thousands of members. You can also find large colonies of seals on and around the continent.) Bird enthusiasts will also find much to observe in Antarctica, as there are a number of different seabirds that live in this part of the world, including the Wandering Albatross, which has the largest wingspan of any living bird. In the ocean, you will find the largest animal on earth, the blue whale, and there are several other species as well (like fin, humpback, and killer whales). The whales share the ocean not only with the aforementioned penguins and seals, but also tons of fish, which play an important role in the Antarctic food chain. Despite the climate, Antarctica is filled with wildlife.
So, if you make it all the way to Antarctica, you’ll be richly compensated by all that you will see.