Luxury Expedition Ship
I knew Antarctica would be beautiful. I knew it would be dramatic. I knew it would be amazing, but what I didn't expect was the irresistable spell it would have on me, and how deeply I would be affected. The stunning beauty, the remoteness, and the otherworldly feeling of Antarctica overwhelmed me. Equally powerful was the laughter and joy of the people I met who shared in the experience, from the expedition staff to my fellow travelers. It was like nothing I had experienced in all my previous travels, and I will forever yearn to return.
I couldn't have asked for a more perfect ship to explore Antarctica. The ship had large lounge areas and many expansive and easily accessible decks for viewing the scenery from every angle imaginable. My favorite was the wrap-around deck that circled the ship. It was easy to get quickly around the ship and to get to know the other travelers onboard.
The cabins were extremely spacious and comfortable; the meals were varied, international, and delicious; and the lectures were entertaining and informative. Above all of this, I would have to say that the captain, the crew, and the expedition staff were what really made the voyage special. They were uniformly friendly and professional, and worked tirelessly with a sense of humor to make sure we all had a remarkable trip.
We arrived a day earlier than scheduled, and on the afternoon of our third day onboard, we set off for our first landing at Aitcho Island, South Shetlands. Here, we encountered the most curious gentoo penguin chicks that nibbled on my pants and jacket and swatted me with their wings as I sat on the beach. We all returned to the ship elated, a feeling that lasted for the remainder of our journey.
The next day, we cruised the Antarctic Sound and into the Weddell Sea, something that was not originally planned in our itinerary but was made possible by our early arrival in Antarctic waters. We had a glorious day cruising near massive tabular icebergs and watching humpback whales breach.
Over the next two days, we crossed back over to the South Shetlands to explore Livingston Island and take the polar plunge at Deception Island. We then traveled back over to the Peninsula to Cuverville Island and Port Lockroy on Wiencke Island where we mailed postcards to family and friends and got our passports stamped.
My favorite memory of all was later that evening back aboard with newly-stamped passports: After an early dinner, we all piled out onto the decks as we cruised through the narrow and dramatic Lemaire Channel until we reached Pleneau Bay. As the evening light turned everything a glowing shade of pastel, we loaded into the Zodiacs to enjoy a twilight ride in the midst of an iceberg "graveyard" in search of leopard seals, crabeater seals, and Weddell seals. The setting sun cast a mystical light on the reflective, flat, and calm water, which was interlaced with large quantities of enormous, floating sculptural icebergs that were like frozen works of avant-garde art. The mirror-like reflection on the water illuminated the often strikingly blue icebergs and mirrored the snow-topped peaks in the distance. These tranquil conditions, coupled with the glowing sky, and the variety of wildlife found around every berg was simply magical.
Our official continental landings were done on the last day exploring the region. This was an exhilarating day filled with a long morning hike to a glorious viewpoint and a snowy Zodiac cruise in Paradise Harbor. Later that afternoon, we did another spectacular hike in the sun at Neko Harbor. We were immersed in the immense silence, which was only interjected by the shocking boom and roar of nearby calving glaciers. I was enthralled by dazzling visuals left and right, and every moment was full of wonder and excitement.
As we began our departure from Antarctic waters, I spent as much time as possible out on the outdoor decks trying to absorb the feeling of being there and already comprehending how much I would miss it. The entire experience engulfed all of my senses and has forever changed me. Antarctica will remain in my heart, and I know I will find a way to return again and again.