I have travelled to all seven continents and extensively visited more than 75 countries in the past 18 years working in Tourism, so as a Tour Leader I regularly get asked where my favourite place is. I usually reply that there are many places I have loved for different experiences, but I suppose if I am made to choose outright, then my cruise with Tucan Travel to Antarctica would be right up there.
I was working a season in Patagonia when I suddenly found that I had three weeks off due to a cancelled tour, so as my parents had both been on my Patagonia tour previously and we had commented on reaching Ushuaia that we should visit Antarctica someday, I called up my Dad to invite him along. Patagonia by the way is one of my other very favourite places on Earth. The scenery is simply stunning, and the blueness of the Glaciers there actually beat any seen in Antarctica, this is because the Glaciers in Patagonia are many thousands of years old and as the ice is compressed, that’s when the blueness shows through.
Anyway, my Dad’s response was ‘your mother wouldn’t like it’. That I already knew as she gets sea sickness and the Drake Passage is known as the roughest crossing on Planet Earth. That’s why I was inviting my Dad, the only other one in my family with a cast iron stomach like mine. My Mum was happy to stay home alone, so my Dad flew out to meet me in Buenos Aires and we took the short flight to Ushuaia to board our boat, the MV Ushuaia. Previously a research vessel, MV Ushuaia which now takes small groups of up to 68 guests and something like 35 crew at a time on a ten day trip to the Antarctic Peninsular between December and March.
The cabins are basic, but all you need and you get a choice of cabin depending on how much you are willing to pay. We were in the middle class which was a bunk room with a private bathroom. I would recommend having your own bathroom as the lower cabins share one between two bunk rooms, but if there is a chance that the crossing is going to make you feel ill for two days you won’t really want to share a bathroom. Equally, if like my Dad and myself you can handle the crossing, then you certainly won’t fancy sharing a bathroom with someone else who can’t handle the seas!
The boat has plenty of room with a large lounge, social dining room with long tables so that you mix with everyone else, and a huge deck on top to enjoy the wildlife and the views.
During the two day crossing of the Drake Passage, for those who are feeling up to it (By the way, most of the crew wore sickness patches on their necks which can apparently be obtained from the States) the four Expedition Trip Leaders give extremely interesting lectures in the Lecture Theatre on-board on various subjects such as the History of Antarctica and the many Explorers, Antarctica today and the work of the research stations, the Antarctic Treaty, the Ozone Hole over Antarctica and of course a lot of information about the wildlife in the Antarctic area. The four leaders all had their field of interest and were brilliant at what they did. Below is a photo I got with 3 of the 4 Expedition Leaders.
Once arriving at the Antarctic Peninsula, you then get six small expeditions, usually at least two a day, weather dependent when you will go out in feeder boats called zodiacs, sometimes cruising around to look for the many types of seals such as crab-eaters, fur seals, even Leopard seals found on icebergs, or perhaps a sunset cruise around the tips of the amazingly huge icebergs which have broken off. Other trips will take you to land where you’ll get a brief guided tour before being allowed time to roam freely, observing the penguins, taking thousands of photos if you’re me!
Other trips include soaking in the warm waters of the old volcano, whilst still surrounded by ice! And we had a trip out to visit the Chilean research station.
The trip is extremely well run and I am desperate to get back there someday.
Travel to Antarctica with Tucan Travel. Browse their tours and cruises here.