Antarctic Discovery

Cruising to the bottom of the world

By: Jamie Wetherbe

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Encounters with penquins and other wildlife
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.

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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 other wildlife.

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 Club.

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 frontiers.


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.