Antarctica Cruises: The Big Chill
Antarctica is a world away from your typical tropical cruise in the Caribbean or South Pacific. The coldest and driest continent on earth, it is not so hospitable as the rest- but it is a fascinating place to explore and discover. Cruises are a great way to become acquainted with the cold continent, as there are certainly no hotels!
Antarctica Cruise Ports: What to See, Where to Go
There are limited ports in Antarctica, and a lot of cruising that takes place is scenic cruising. However, expedition ships equipped with Zodiac boats can take passengers ashore in several places.
Deception Island is an Antarctic Island in the South Shetland Islands chain, a caldera with a narrow gap allowing access into the inner bay. Passengers can go ashore here on zodiac boats to explore the island, and also to swim. Yes, swim in Antarctica! There is a section in Pendulum Cove where the water is heated by volcanic activity.
Another island that ships often call in to is Elephant Island, known as the island where Shackleton and his crew were stranded during their Antarctic misadventures. It is also in the South Shetland Islands, covered by ice and home to elephants- elephant seals, that is. Penguins and whales can also be seen in the area. Zodiacs are used to get ashore.
Port Lockroy is a sheltered Antarctic anchorage, on Wiencke Island just off the Antarctic Peninsula. It was once a whaling port, and huge bones can be seen onshore as a grim reminder of those days. It was once a British weather and survey station, established during World War II, and the buildings are now a registered historic site and museum.
Scenic Antarctica cruising often happens in the Lemaire Channel, a strait between the mainland and Booth Island. It is hemmed in by steep cliffs and usually full of ice floes and small icebergs. With icy mountain peaks in view and seal spottings, it is nicknamed Kodak Gap due to the picturesque nature of the channel.
Cruise Antarctica: The Lines, The Vessels
Antarctica cruises can only be undertaken by specialised ships, built for the rough waters and ice that can be found in the Southern Ocean and around the Antarctic continent. These are generally smaller luxury expedition ships, sailing for the luxury lines such as Orion Expeditions, Silversea, Celebrity and Seabourn.
Argentina and New Zealand are both kicking-off points for cruises to Antarctica. Many leave from Ushaia, and some from southern New Zealand ports such as Dunedin and Christchurch, which is the home of the International Antarctic Centre. Those departing Christchurch should definitely visit and learn a few things at the centre first!
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