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Antarctica: the coldest, quietest and arguably the most magical place left on earth is a once in a lifetime travel destination for certain, but getting there is no smooth ride.
The ride in question? Three days aboard a 100-strong passenger ship, bobbing (seasick) like a cork amid ten-metre high waves and crashing winter storms in temperatures that can freeze your eyelashes solid.
So is it worth it? It hasn’t been a tourist destination for long, it’s not cheap, and it’s not for the faint-hearted – but take it from a traveller who has just returned: this is a destination worthy of a place at the very top of your bucket list.
The planning stage for any trip is important, but none more so than with Antarctica.
Do you want a luxurious ship? Do you want an adventurous itinerary? Do you want to trek up snowy peaks with a bunch of 20-something foreigners, or do you want to float past the towering icebergs from the comfort of your jacuzzi?
I went for somewhere in the middle – organised by Abercrombie & Kent and courtesy of Polar Latitudes – which operates a sturdy five-deck icebreaker ship carrying 200 passengers named the Sea Explorer, and while it provided above-average levels of comfort, it was decidedly an expedition and not a cruise.
I shared a cabin with a charming Argentinian mother.
The 12-day voyage around the Antarctic peninsula cost £6,825 for a 14-day trip to Antarctica via Argentina, including international and internal flights.
My journey, as per the flights package, started in London, hopped over to Amsterdam, then to Buenos Aires, landing finally in Ushuaia – the southern most city in the whole world, clinging to the tip of Argentina.
It didn’t really begin, of course, until I embarked the Sea Explorer, greeted Titanic-style by rows of grinning staff brandishing champagne, and was ushered into the ship’s belly, the ‘lounge’, where I would spend much of my time.