Antarctic cruises are often thought of as cruises to Antarctica, and, of course, they are. But “Antarctic cruise” is actually a broader term, covering cruises that sail to areas like South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, not just voyages to the continent of Antarctica. For those considering cruises to this remote part of the world, this is important to keep in mind – there are more Antarctic cruises than you might imagine from which to chose.
Regular readers of this site might have noticed that we’ve been particularly preoccupied with cruises to Antarctica as of late. There is just something awesome about converting a cruise vacation, which is normally filled with relaxation and leisurely pursuits, into an adventure to a remote part of the globe that few people will ever visit. We’ve investigated both what you can do on an Antarctic cruise and what you can see on an Antarctic cruise (there is some overlap between the two, as one of the main things to do on an Antarctic cruise is merely observe), and now it seems appropriate to talk about where you can go.
We’ll start with the continent of Antarctica itself, the obvious place you can go on an Antarctic cruise. However, when you sail all the way to this part of the world, you don’t just approach Antarctica from any random angle; you (generally) go to the Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost part of the world’s southernmost continent. Here you will find all the staples of an Antarctic cruises: towering mountains, countless glaciers, and several species of penguins and seals, among many other things. It’s quite an accomplishment to reach Antarctica, but if you really want to push the envelope, you might consider crossing the Antarctic Circle, which requires you to go beyond a certain latitude (66.5622° south of the Equator) before returning. (Yes, there are cruises that actually cross the Antarctic Circle.) In terms of scenery and wildlife, passing the Antarctic Circle is much the same as reaching Antarctica, but if you accomplish the former, you are truly in an elite group. Few people have traveled this far south.
Reaching the actual continent of Antarctica or traveling into the Antarctic Circle might have appeal to a certain type of adventurer, but these are by no means your only options when you visit the Antarctic region. You could go to South Georgia, a British Overseas Territory with a particularly robust concentration of wildlife (penguins, seals, seabirds, etc.), and you could also go to the Falkland Islands, which is also (controversially) a British Overseas Territory teeming with wildlife. The Falkland Islands are especially known for their penguins (they have five different species), which are one of the main wildlife attractions of Antarctic cruises. Also in this region of the world are the New Zealand subantarctic islands, a collection of several islands that are essentially untouched by humans. There is an enormous amount of biodiversity on these islands, and many of the species of plants and animals in this area can be found nowhere else in the world. These are all distant areas of the globe, about as far south as you can possibly go, but several cruises go to every one of these places.
As you can see, Antarctic cruises are more diverse than you might have thought, taking you not only to Antarctica, but also to several surrounding areas that have their own unique appeal!