Many nature lovers who have a longing to see the stark beauty and wildlife of Antarctica are put off by the idea of taking so long to get there on a ship. Especially since that ship is crossing notoriously rough waters in the Drake Passage. There are a few companies that offer a way to skip all that—for a price of course. Our latest tour story features a trip on one of them: Antarctica XXI.
Getting to your touring ship via a flight from Punta Arenas, Chile means you can shave several days off your trip. (The one our writer took was eight days, though there are shorter ones not counting transit time to get there.) You avoid the waves that send many a hearty traveler to the rails or the bathroom on a regular basis to empty their stomach. This is not one of the towns with lots of high-end hotel options like you’ll find elsewhere in the country, but it’s a means to an end and you can always hit some of Chile’s best hotels by touring Patagonia afterwards.
Your eventual ship won’t exactly be a luxury cruise either, despite a trip price tag that hits five digits. If a normal cruise ship tried to ply the waters of Antarctica, it would be chewed up and spit out like an aluminum can. The vessels that ply these polar waters need to be hearty icebreaker boats, built for strength and stability. This one used to operate around Greenland before being retrofitted for tourists. There’s not a huge crowd jammed onto the Ocean Nova though: on this trip there were 68 passengers.
People don’t book these tours for pampering of course. They can get that 1,000 other places. They come to Antarctica to see miles of penguins turning a hill into a pincushion of bodies. They come to get up close with all kinds of penguins and sea lions, to see whales on a daily basis through the glass of the observation deck with bar.
You don’t have to see it all from the boat deck though:
Antarctica XXI tours get you off the ship every single day if the weather cooperates, and you can go on guide-led hikes, check out different stations or shipwrecks, or meander among penguin colonies. Guests over the age of 16 wanting even more action have the option to sign up for additional activities—sea kayaking or snowshoeing.
If you’re going to take a bucket list “trip of a lifetime” to the end of the world, you might as well go all out. This is a big budget adventure, but one that’s not like any other you could experience. If you’re not prone to seasickness and aren’t in any hurry, there are many great companies we would recommend. This one is a great option though for shaving off some transit time and avoiding some unpleasantness. See AntarcticaXXI.com for more info or read our detailed tour story here: Antarctica Without the Rough Passage.