Antarctica is a continent without a country, here are some Antarctica facts;
- Antarctica is a desert so it rarely rains or snows
- It’s the coldest place on earth
- There are only 2 seasons – Summer and Winter
- Antarctica has no trees or bushes
- It’s the world’s 5th largest continent
- Penguins live in Antarctica
- The Andes mountain range starts in Antarctica
The easiest and most economical way to visit Antarctica is on a cruise ship. I chose Celebrity Cruises and this is my Antarctica cruise review.
When is the Best Time to Visit Antarctica?
Firstly, you can only visit Antarctica during their Summer which is from October to March. If you visit at other times the days will be incredibly short there’ll be no daylight at all!
You don’t just appear in Antarctica, you must start the trip from either Buenos Aires or Ushuaia. I flew to Buenos Aires and took a Celebrity Cruise from there to Antarctica. The luxury cruise spent 3 full days in Antarctica and with the unpredictable weather down there, only 1 day was clear. On the clear day the views were worth the long trip down and the cruise cost of around $6,000 for an ocean view cabin. There are lots of mountains, glaciers, snow, icebergs and penguins. Finally, you have to see Antarctica to experience it, a photo cannot project its beauty.
Whilst sailing through Antarctica you’ll pass lots of icebergs. What is hard to comprehend is that only 10% of the iceberg is visible. Imagine how big the iceberg is as there’s another 90% of it hidden under the surface. I did not see any animals in Antarctica but there were lots of penguins. Those black dots on the iceberg pictured above are penguins taking a free ride north for the winter.
Whilst cruising between Antarctica and Cape Horn you’ll see lots of Penguins swimming north. I guess the ones that are swimming weren’t lucky enough to find an iceberg floating that way. The penguin swimming style is to constantly propel themselves out of the water as they’re moving forward. They swim pretty fast as they were keeping up with the cruise ship! Lastly, if you’re lucky you’ll see humpback whales or leopard seals.
For your photography requirements during Antarctica cruises it is not about the camera you take. The most vital piece of equipment you need is a zoom lens. It is not safe for the cruise captain to take the ship close to glaciers (remember the Titanic?!).
The number one choice camera would be a high end DSLR with a minimum 800mm+ zoom lens. This would produce crisp pictures of your once in a lifetime trip to Antarctica. As I was starting a journey from Antarctica to Alaska by land (and sea) I could not bring a DSLR camera with several huge lenses. For this reason I took a small bridge camera which has huge zoom and takes good quality pictures. Check out the Only By Land Store for the latest bridge camera I’m using. Furthermore, these bridge cameras are also a much cheaper option than a huge lens.
What to wear on an Antarctica Cruise
Whilst on the deck of the cruise ship it can be quite cold and windy. You’ll need to wear enough clothes so that you can enjoy the amazing views without feeling cold. A good basic cruise packing list for being on deck would be;
- Thermal underclothes – long johns, 2 pairs of socks, Nike pro thermal top
- T-shirt, jeans / pants
- Merino wool half zip base layer
- Nike Therma Sphere Hoodie (my Antarctica coat)
- Hat, snood and 2 pairs of gloves
With this selection you don’t make yourself immobile with huge thick clothes. You’ll be able to move around the deck freely taking photos and enjoying the views. If you wear 2 pairs of gloves try a thick pair over the thin pair. You can take off the thick pair when you want to use your camera without your fingers freezing. When the cold starts to bite you can put the thick pair back on.
Cruise Ship Route – Visit Antarctica
From Paradise Bay the cruise ship sailed through Schollart Channel & Dalhan Bay heading towards the northern tip of Antarctica and Elephant Island. I was lucky in Paradise Bay with the weather but whilst cruising northwards it became misty. In fact due to the misty weather conditions I did not see any of Schollart Channel & Dalhan Bay or Elephant Island.
From Elephant Island the cruise ship headed towards Cape Horn, Chile on the way to Ushuaia, Argentina. Whilst sailing from Antarctica to Cape Horn I was able to enjoy steak dinners, watch shows, drink cocktails and go to the gym. This is a pretty good way to start my trip which will take me all the way to Alaska.
Cape Horn, Chile
The cruise ship passed Cape Horn which is the southern tip of South America. Located on Hornos Island in Tierra Del Fuego, Cape Horn is a very windy and cold place. The albatross-shaped Cape Horn Monument is there to commemorate all the boats that have sunk and sailors who have lost their lives in the area. Fortunately the cruise ship sailed around Cape Horn without any problems and headed safely to Ushuaia.