Antarctica Cruise Ports: What to See, Where to Go
When you embark on a voyage to the frozen continent, there won’t be any cities to stop in at or cultural excursions ashore. This hardly matters though, because the experience of gliding through a stunning blue ocean amidst massive icebergs is awe-inspiring enough to make you forget all about the attractions of the world’s famous ports.
Stepping onto dry land isn’t out of the question though. While some Antarctic cruises only allow you to sightsee from afar, other expedition focused cruises are equipped with inflatable Zodiac craft which can ferry passengers from the cruise ship to intriguing points of interest on or near Antarctica.
One of the standout sites for those cruising the bottom of the world is Deception Island. One of a chain of islands in the South Shetlands, Deception Island is a volcanic site - there’s just enough leeway for zodiacs to negotiate the caldera and enter the inner bay. Exploring the island is part of the attraction of course, but the main thing that draws cruise ships to Deception is the fact that you can swim here! Before you recoil in horror at the thought of taking a dip in Antarctica’s icy waters, it’s worth noting that there’s a spot on the island in Pendulum Cove where water is heated by underground volcanic activity. This is great for bragging rights - just imagine your friends’ faces when you tell them about how you braved Antarctic waters.
Another top site you might visit in the South Shetland Islands is Elephant Island. This is where the intrepid explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew made landfall after losing their ship and enduring a harrowing journey on drifting ice floes. The name comes from the elephant seals which call the island home, and cruisers might also spot penguins and whales on or around Elephant Island.
There’s not much in the way of visible history amidst the southern ice, but Port Lockroy is an exception to the rule. Set on Weincke Island just off the coast of the Antarctic continent, Port Lockroy was used both as a whaling port and a weather and survey station. To this day giant whale bones lie exposed in a wordless testament to the port’s grim past, and the survey buildings have now been converted into a historic site and museum.
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 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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