FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Antarctic Cruises

Oct 1, 2015
2015 / September 2015

For many, Antarctica, the pristine Seventh Continent, ranks as the ultimate cruise destination — the Kingdom of Ice (stronghold of 99 percent of the world’s frozen water) teeming with marching penguins, elephant seals and albatross but devoid of an indigenous human population as well as shopping ports, trendy cafés and beaches for sunbathers.

The sailing season is brief — December and January are the prime months — and the journey long, arduous, chilly and expensive. The typical Antarctic cruise entails a substantial international flight to Buenos Aires or Santiago; a charter flight to tiny Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost town; and finally an open-water cruise lasting upwards of two days both coming and going through the storm-lashed Drake Passage that separates the White Continent from the rest of the civilized world. It’s a cruise for the hearty and adventurous, more an expedition to the literal ends of the Earth than a casual holiday. Tourists didn’t begin making landfall here until the 1960s, and Antarctica remains a rare cruising destination. Even its polar opposite, Alaska, sees 30 times as many cruise visitors annually. Nevertheless, several cruise lines have begun to provide luxurious passage to the planet’s southernmost extreme, even if wool hats, parkas, thermal underwear, waterproof packs and high rubber boots figure prominently on the must-pack list.

Seeing Antarctica in relative comfort and style is now possible because of companies like Silversea Cruises. Its Antarctic vessel, the Silver Explorer, carrying just 137 passengers, undertakes eight voyages annually, round-trip from Ushuaia between November and March. Silversea’s shorter 10-day expeditions require four days at sea crossing and recrossing the Drake Passage, with six days spent exploring points along the Antarctic Peninsula. Here, passengers take inflatable Zodiacs, setting foot on the ice at scenic coves, islands, research stations and former whaling outposts. Exact locations always depend on weather and sea conditions. Silversea’s longer 18-day cruises add stops in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), where penguins far outnumber people, and South Georgia, where passengers visit famed South Pole explorer Ernest Shacklelton’s grave and a whaling museum at Grytviken. The Silversea cruises include charter flights to and from Buenos Aires, complimentary parkas, cold-weather gear rentals, butler service, onboard gratuities, naturalist guides and Zodiac drivers.

The 450-passenger, all-suite Seabourn Quest also makes a trip to Antarctica a luxury experience with four round-the-Horn cruises between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Valparaíso in Chile in November, December, January and February, each lasting about three weeks. The Antarctic portion takes up about a third of these voyages, which also visit the Falkland Islands, Strait of Magellan and Chilean fjords. Seabourn boasts a large team of exploration leaders, photographers, lecturers and naturalists and provides passengers with parkas, backpacks and Zodiac landings.

The 960-passenger, high-end Crystal Symphony plies a similar route to that of Seabourn on an 18-night cruise setting out Jan. 27, 2016. Note that under international guidelines, however, vessels with more than 500 passengers are not allowed to conduct shore excursions in Antarctica, meaning guests can see a stunning array of icebergs, glaciers, penguins, seals and whales but not touch shore. The same restriction applies to the 2,170-passenger Celebrity Infinity — replete with food and wine pairing workshops and a Canyon Ranch spa — which makes a 14-night voyage beginning Feb. 14, 2016, that includes Paradise Bay and Elephant Island along the Antarctic Peninsula.

For a fuller immersion in the Antarctic experience, more adventurous cruisers favor expedition-style voyages featuring smaller ships and fewer onboard amenities, such as those offered by Quark Expeditions, Abercrombie & Kent or Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic. Lars-Eric Lindblad delivered the first band of ecotourists to Antarctica in 1966, and his son, Sven Lindblad, has teamed up with National Geographic to continue that tradition. Employing the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer and the 102-passenger National Geographic Orion, Lindblad’s fleet features an onboard National Geographic-certified photographer, an undersea specialist and a roster of expert naturalists and lecturers, giving voyages an educational focus. There are two cruises monthly from November through February. The 12-day cruise from Ushuaia crosses the Drake Passage and devotes six days to exploring the Antarctic Peninsula’s wildlife, history and terrain, while the 24-day cruise adds two days in the Falklands and five days in South Georgia, home to tens of thousands of king penguins.

A penguin encounter with Quark Expeditions

A penguin encounter with Quark Expeditions © Quark Expeditions

Abercrombie & Kent, with 175 Antarctic expeditions under its belt over the last quarter century, now charters the 199-passenger Le Boreal for 12- and 17-day cruises in the region. Le Boreal is quite luxurious for an expedition-style vessel, equipped with elevators, private balconies and a theater. There’s even butler service in the suites, but don’t expect specialty restaurants, climbing walls or a full-service spa. The 12-day cruise sailing from Ushuaia spends five days on the Antarctic Peninsula, with two Zodiac excursions daily, while the 17-day cruise adds the Falklands and three days in South Georgia.

Norwegian-based Hurtigruten employs the 318-passenger MS Fram to explore Antarctica from its base in Ushuaia and targets Norway’s former whaling sites in the region. In 2016 it will add a second ship, the MS Midnatsol, which will make 10 Antarctic cruises annually from Punta Arenas, Chile. Both of Hurtigruten’s ships, where English and Norwegian are spoken, offer optional “extreme excursions” including kayaking, glacier skiing, camping and snorkeling.

Adventurous shore excursions are also a hallmark of Quark Expeditions, a polar specialist offering a wide range of expedition-style cruises in Antarctic waters on two ships, the 117-passenger Sea Adventurer and the 189-passenger Ocean Diamond. Quark’s fairly economical 11- and 12-day cruises from Ushuaia have multiple departures November through March and take in both the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Quark also provides 13- to 15-day voyages that cross the Antarctic Circle, the geographic marker at 66° 33’ S that circumscribes the southern Frigid Zone. Most Antarctic cruises do not go this far south. Quark also offers an ingenious if expensive time-saver, the “fly-cruise,” which erases the usual 600-mile, 36- to 48-hour crossing of the Drake Passage that begins and ends many Antarctic cruises. Employing special three-hour charter flights from Punta Arenas, Chile, directly to King George Island, Quark’s fly-cruises give passengers plenty of extra time to try overnight camping, kayaking and snowshoeing on the White Continent, where the ice underfoot can be as deep as two miles.

Finally, not to be overlooked if you are already traveling Down Under, are cruises from New Zealand that explore the far side of Antarctica. The sailings, with stops at “forgotten” subantarctic islands, are lengthy, but eastern Antarctica has some staggering attractions, including McMurdo Sound, the Ross Ice Shelf (the world’s largest body of floating ice) and the preserved huts of legendary polar explorers, including Scott and Shackleton. Heritage Expeditions operates such voyages in January and February out of Invercargill aboard the 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby, an oceanographic research vessel with an ice-strengthened hull, a Russian crew and an Australian and New Zealander staff of cooks, guides and lecturers. Requiring a full month at sea, these expeditions feature accommodations ranging from bunks and shared bathrooms to full-service suites, with fares starting at $20,000 per traveler.

By whatever ship in whatever style, cruising the pristine, ice-laced waters of Antarctica is a primordial experience, sweeping passengers as far from the madding crowds as one can sail.

Newsletter sign-up

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Jan 21, 2022

Reasons to Visit New Orleans This February and March

New Orleans has a full roster of activities, events and festivals enticing guests throughout February and March.

Seabourn: It’s Not an Escape, It’s an Arrival

Go ahead, take a nice, deep breath. Because a Seabourn voyage is all about this moment you’ve come so far in life to embrace. It’s not an escape, it’s an arrival.

Daily
Jan 20, 2022

5 Remarkable South African Women Changing the Travel Industry

With Black History Month and Women’s History Month right around the corner, it’s time to highlight and recognize South African women working hard to make the travel industry better.

eFlyer Reviews
Jan 19, 2022

Cheval Blanc Paris Review

Since Cheval Blanc, an extraordinary, newly designed and refurbished 72-room hotel owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, launched in September 2021, it has been the talk of the town. Le Tout-Paris remarks about its WOW factor … and the hard-to-get reservations for the 30 seats at Plenitude, the intimate, first-floor gastronomic outlet headed by chef Arnaud Donckele, who earned three Michelin stars at Cheval Blanc Saint Tropez. Reservations are also recommended for Limbar, the ground-floor bakery/café/tea shop/bar where we watched Pastry Chef Maxime Frédéric preparing desserts and an absolute must-have for dinner at Le Tout-Paris, the 7th-floor, all-day brasserie. This brightly colored space, with its raised seating and Fauve-like floor tiles and the adjacent Milanese restaurant, Langosteria, both have access to terraces facing the Seine River, with amazing views encompassing Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower.

IHG® Business Edge: Working Together with SMEs

IHG® Business Edge: Working Together with SMEs for a smarter way to manage travel

eFlyer News
Jan 19, 2022

New Specials at Well & Beings’ The Spa at Red Rock, The Spa at Green Valley Ranch

Nevada-based The Spa at Green Valley by Well & Being and The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being celebrate the start of 2022 with new health, wellness and spa treatments available through March 31. Both spas offer an array of treatments for guests wanting to relax and unwind before 2022 kicks into full gear.

Daily
Jan 19, 2022

“JEOPARDY!”, Lindblad Expeditions Announce “Explore Alaska Sweepstakes”

Now through Jan. 28, JEOPARDY! and Lindblad Expeditions team up for a viewer promotion, the JEOPARDY! Explore Alaska Sweepstakes. The contest will award 10 winners and their guests with an eight-day, small-ship cruise of Alaska’s coastal wilderness.

 Reconnect with the world in The Islands of Tahiti

Located in the South Pacific, The Islands of Tahiti are just eight hours by air from California. Surrounded by pristine, crystal-clear blue waters, the 118 islands and atolls offer natural beauty, authentic island culture and unique French Polynesian style. The Islands of Tahiti are world-renowned for white-sand beaches, stunning turquoise lagoons and varied landscapes ranging from coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. Privacy comes naturally in The Islands of Tahiti and offers visitors the space to relax and reconnect and to be Embraced By Mana. Mana is the life force and spirit that connects all things in The Islands of Tahiti.

Seabourn: It’s Not an Escape, It’s an Arrival

Go ahead, take a nice, deep breath. Because a Seabourn voyage is all about this moment you’ve come so far in life to embrace. It’s not an escape, it’s an arrival.