Antarctica is the last discovered continent where wildlife and nature exist without excessive pressures of man. The dramatic mountains, glaciers, icebergs and ocean provide a backdrop to the lives of the wildlife who have adapted to living here. During the brief summer months of light, an astounding abundance of life returns to crowd the headlands and beaches. Many varieties of penguins and seals as well as a huge number of bird species can be seen during your visit. Watching whales is a great bonus. The "heroic age" of Shackleton, Amundsen and others a hundred years ago opened Antarctica to the world.
There are two very different cruise types to Antarctica – firstly the larger cruise ships that visit here are restricted to scenic cruising through the area and generally include a visit to the region with longer cruises around the South American coast.
However the majority of cruises here are provided by smaller specialty ships that allow passengers to disembark onto the Antarctic islands and the continent itself. These ships tend to be sturdy expedition style ships and do not offer all the extras associated with modern cruise ships. These cruises are dedicated to the experience and feature experts in the region and the wild life who give lectures and lead shore excursions. Visits to the Islands are usually by Zodiac inflatables.
The contrasts in temperature are striking as summer in the Falklands and Ushuaia can sometimes be quite warm, while summertime in Antarctica hovers at the freezing mark.
Cruises here operate from October to March in the southern summer months when the days are longer – there are up to 20 hours of daylight in high summer.
Larger cruise ships tend to depart either Valparaiso or Buenos Aires and include an Antarctic experience within their ‘round the horn’ cruise.
Specialty ships generally depart from Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world located on Tierra del Fuego. These cruises often combine visits to Port Stanley in the Falklands with visits to uninhabited islands to enjoy the remarkable sea and bird life.
Weather in the sub Antarctic islands is cool but pleasant in the summer months but the temperature on the continent itself rarely gets above freezing. The nature of the area means that the weather can and does change quite quickly, so if you plan a cruise here take good note of the cruise lines advice on clothing. Again remember that island visits are by zodiac inflatables so you need to ensure you are properly dressed for these trips.