Each day in Antarctica is an adventure where anything can happen. No two days are the same and each experience unique. Weather and wildlife may alter your itinerary slightly; for instance the expedition leader may interrupt a presentation to advise guests there are whales breaching beside the ship or the ship may need to take an alternate route due to excessive ice or perhaps glorious weather may inspire the chef to arrange a barbeque out on deck. It is all part of the fun. Some of the best parts of your trip will be ones that are not planned. If there was a typical day onboard it might look something like below:
Many guests will rise some time before breakfast to soak up the views from the bridge, the lounge or out on deck (the more time you spend looking, the more you will see). Take a stroll around the deck taking in the cleanest air you are ever likely to experience and the incredible surroundings. Coffee and tea are always available in the lounge.
Breakfast is normally a buffet set up with a with large range of options. At some stage you’ll be advised about the day’s activities and can then relax before preparing for your activity. A day in Antarctica has begun.
Armed with the knowledge of what to expect, you’ll be given adequate notice to get ready and, once the ship is anchored, it’s time to climb into the Zodiacs and set off. Excursions vary in duration and type. Some will be ‘Zodiac cruises’ where you spend all of the time in the Zodiac cruising past icebergs, seals and penguin colonies, occasionally accompanied by whales. It’s important to dress warm, as you’re not moving around too much. Please pay particular attention to your hands (waterproof gloves – as if they get wet then wind chill can make them very cold very quickly).
Other trips will be landings (wet and dry) where the zodiac takes you to shore and you climb out. ‘Wet’ being you’ll be stepping from the zodiac into water. You’ll always be advised. Options at each landing site will vary depending on the site and IAATO guidelines and the ship you’re travelling on. On a dry landing you will have a few options of activities such as going for a hike, taking an easier walk or spending time onshore perhaps near curious wildlife or finding the perfect angle for your many photographs. Some voyages offer kayaking as well which must be booked in advance.
Note: All sites in Antarctica allow a maximum 100 passengers ashore at one time (an IAATO regulation to minimise site impact). Ships with more than 100 guests will have some guests waiting whilst the others go ashore, once the first visitors return the other guests can go ashore.
Ice can sometimes block the entrance, particularly on early season voyages, please take a flexible attitude as the weather is something the captains don’t control.
After exploring either by Zodiac or on foot, it’s back to your floating hotel, perhaps for a shower, then a warming drink and later lunch. Depending on the locality of the next site, there may be time for an absorbing presentation, time to socialise in the ship’s lounge, or to review your images taken on the morning’s excursion.
NOTE; It’s possible that ships with up to 200 guests will make just one excursion in a day due to the additional time it takes to get everyone ashore, i.e. the first 100 guests go ashore, the other guests wait (or perhaps take a zodiac excursion), and when the first group returns they go ashore – this all takes time. There are some places on the Antarctic Peninsula where it may be possible to anchor the ship close to two sites and all guests can explore at the same time, albeit at different sites.
The above is why it is worth considering the size of ship when selecting your voyage, as it will have an impact on your experience, how much time you spend exploring and, as a result, what you see.
With batteries recharged (your own and your camera’s), if the next site is not too far away, you’ll don your gear once again and venture out in the mid-afternoon or early evening for further exploration. Maybe you’ll cruise past thousand-year-old icebergs, or visit penguin colonies that number in thousands; on another day it could be an impromptu stop to enjoy humpback whales spy-hopping (where they raise their heads straight up out of the water to check out their visitors). Excursions can last anywhere from 1-3 hours.
Back aboard ship, with time to change and warm up before dinner. Onboard any of our Antarctica voyages you do not need to worry about ever being hungry. The cuisine offered is exceptional and plentiful, satisfying even the most ravenous appetite after a day of exploration. The experienced chefs onboard take pride in their work and love seeing satisfied guests
After dinner the time is yours – simply to take it easy, chat with your fellow passengers, review your images from the day’s activities, or to join some of the expedition crew in the bar or lounge for a relaxed but informative discussion about Shackleton, or whaling, or albatross conservation…
These luxurious ships combine more traditional-style ‘cruising’ with an Antarctic adventure. They offer large, very comfortable cabins with en-suite facilities and many have private balconies. The experienced expedition team enable you to explore the Antarctic Peninsula with Zodiac dinghies and come home to an exquisite ship with superior comfort and excellent cuisine options.
Expedition ships have a greater emphasis on maximising time off the vessel or out on deck. The expedition team works closely with the ship’s captain and crew to get you out exploring on the Zodiac dinghies and on shore as much as possible. Most voyages also offer kayaking and sometimes camping. Cabins are simple and comfortable, the food excellent. The ships are stable, fast and manoeuvrable.
These voyages utilise a flight from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island (the largest of the South Shetland Islands, close to the Antarctic Peninsula) or to Mount Pleasant airport on the Falkland Islands where you board the vessel allows guests to avoid lengthy sea crossings. These flights also allow for more time in destination and a visit to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia in a shorter period of time.