Appropriately enough, the idea of a holiday to Antarctica
polarises opinion; it is undeniably expensive and involves a large
amount of travel, yet for those keen to go, it is simply one of
those 'must do' once in a lifetime experiences.
Cruises operate during the summer season from November to March,
when the sun barely sets, and ice-strengthened ships provide much
more comfortable accommodation than many expect.
If cruising all the way, as opposed to taking the fly-in option,
the journey begins in Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina.
From here, set sail across the Drake Passage to the South Shetland
Islands, and then on to the mainland to spend several days
exploring the coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Navigating between fjords and channels, the ship passes
landscapes of breathtaking beauty - cliffs, rugged mountains and
glaciers calving huge icebergs into the sea - with the ice
formations reflecting a kaleidoscope of colours as the light
Passengers can expect to encounter wildlife including sea
elephants; sea lions; Weddell, crab-eater and leopard seals,
gentoo; chinstrap and Adelie penguins, and a variety of seabirds
including the ocean-going albatross, storm petrels, skuas and
Antarctic terns. Orcas, humpback and minke whales are also spotted
at close range occasionally.
The specialised ships have a team of lecturers and guides on
board to explain the wildlife, geology and the epic history of
Antarctica's exploration by the likes of Amundsen, Shackleton and
Scott. The ships are also equipped with inflatable boats for
excursions to shore.
At King George Island, the largest of the South Shetlands, there
is an opportunity to visit the Argentine scientific base, and at
Deception Island the ship sails into a huge flooded crater where it
is even possible to take a dip in Antarctic waters heated by an