Encounters with penquins and other
are highlights of the Antarctic voyage.
My first step onto Antarctica seemed surreal. Of all the places
I’ve traveled to, this was by far my biggest adventure. By the
looks on my fellow passengers’ faces, they shared my sense of awe.
As the unexplored travel frontier gets smaller, and the topic of
global warming heats up, more travelers want to experience the
threatened continent at the bottom of the world. Cruising the
Antarctic is increasingly popular, although the big ship versus
small ship debate continues. Discovery World Cruises (recently
renamed Voyages of Discovery) has carved out a market for itself in
the mid-size ship category.
During my recent trip aboard the 650-passenger mv Discovery, the
others onboard hailed from the U.S., the U.K., as well as Australia
and New Zealand. The average age was 65, and most were experienced
travelers and cruisers. Few passengers had taken a cruise like this
before and weren’t looking for a vacation but a journey. In fact,
just getting to Antarctica from the departure point in Ushuaia,
Argentina, is an adventure. The 30-hour trip across the Drake
Passage features some of the roughest waters in the world, with
waves as high as 30 feet. It’s not unusual for passengers to get
seasick in droves on this leg of the trip.
Luckily, our crossing was relatively uneventful, which made
stepping foot on the continent even more enjoyable. The landings
were the highlight of the cruise. Traveling via zodiacs to
different parts of the continent, we spent a few hours walking
among different species of penguins and spotting seals, whales and
While clients won’t spend much time on Antarctica itself, they
can opt to spend most of the cruise learning about it. The cruise
line has tapped some top-notch speakers and researchers who lecture
on a variety of topics. The cruise marked expedition leader Dr.
Peter Carey’s 65th trip to Antarctica. The popular lecturer and
zoologist continues to research animals of the Far South, including
penguin behavior, fish physiology, seabird ecology and the social
behavior of seals. Carey is also the director of the SubAntarctic
Foundation for Ecosystems Research (SAFER), a nonprofit
conservation organization, and he eagerly shares his findings with
passengers during lectures or even over a breakfast.
Other onboard perks include two outdoor Jacuzzis, which proved
to be a great vantage point for spotting whales and icebergs; three
lounges and five bars; a cinema; Internet center, as well as Wi-Fi
hot spots, which offered slow connections at best; a small spa and
fitness center; and two restaurants, the Seven Continents and Yacht
Discovery offers two dinner seatings, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30
p.m.; most clients onboard preferred the earlier seating. Many
passengers found the food to be average. But again, clients weren’t
coming for the food but the chance to chase icebergs, have penguins
walk across their toes and explore one of travel’s final
The 20-night Antarctica and Chilean Fjords cruise starts at $5,250
and includes a two-night stay in Buenos Aires, pre-cruise; a
two-night stay in Santiago, post-cruise; and the charter flight
from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. For an added cost, clients can opt
for a four-night pre-cruise extension in Iguassu Falls.
The cruise line has several added Antarctica sailings for the
2007-2008 season, including Antarctica, Falklands and South
Georgia, which departs Nov. 26; Antarctic Peninsula and South
Georgia on Dec. 21; and Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia on
Jan 14. Several sailings offer free air from western gateways.