If you are looking for a cruise that is a bit more unusual rather than the typical Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise, plus a destination that’s a bit off the beaten path, consider Antarctic cruises.

Even though Antarctica is not the easiest place to get to, more and more people are visiting every year and their visits are often via expeditionary cruises.

Specially Equipped for Expeditions

There are about 20 ships that carry from 45 to 280 people each that are responsible for most of these Antarctica cruises. The ships are ice breakers, meaning they are specially equipped for expeditions through polar waters, mostly to the area of the Antarctic Peninsula. The cruises take place mainly in the ice-free zones of the Antarctic Coast during the warmer summer months, which are November through March.

At the peak of the summer there are 20 hours of daylight in this region. During the summers here the high temperatures average 50 degrees F or 10 degrees C. In November and early December the ice pack from the winter will be breaking up and the scenery is pristine pack ice and enormous icebergs.

Penguins and Seabirds

This is the season when the penguins and seabirds mate and you can be witness to their amazing rituals of courtship. If you go in mid-summer, which is the middle of December through January, the long days make for perfect photo opportunities. You will be able to see the seal pups that have recently been born and thousands of Antarctic chicks.

Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia in Argentina, which is the nearest landmass to Antarctica. Cruises that leave from anywhere else will be much longer and more expensive. A typical cruise goes first through the Drake Passage, then to the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Shetland Islands.

The things you can see include a variety of different whales and seals, penguin rookeries, and seabirds like the famous albatross. The midnight sunsets you will see during your cruise in Antarctic are spectacular.

Cruise Guides Onboard

Many cruises have experienced cruise guides on board who are well informed about the history and wildlife in the area. They will periodically give lectures or just be available to answer questions. Guided Zodiac excursions ashore are a highlight of an Antarctic expeditions.

When shopping for Antarctic cruises make sure the tour company you choose is a member of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

This organization establishes and enforces rules regarding things like the size of the cruise ships that are permitted in the waters of Antarctica and their conduct when landing. One of these rules is that only 100 passengers at a time are allowed to go ashore at any one spot in Antarctica. If your ship is larger than this, you will have fewer opportunities to experience the adventure on shore.

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