When you first arrive in Antarctica, you might be at a loss for words.
This destination is all about the scenery and images, the wildlife, nature and colorful history of the rough and rugged region.
It’s hard to conjure a proper description that tells the proper story of your expedition. So, bring a good camera and be ready to snap away — like I did. That way you can look at your pictures to properly reminisce about the life-enriching experience.
This was just one of the many things revealed to us during our trip with Abercrombie & Kent, which offers an excellent expedition through the luxury travel outfitter’s partnership with Ponant.
Antarctica Expedition Cruise
Cruise Addicts was invited to sail on A&K’s epic 21-day voyage, an itinerary that includes time in on the White Continent and at South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands. I’ll note here right away that we didn’t get to stop at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands because of extremely high winds and waves that forced us to divert from the stop. Even so, during our journey, the 170 passengers onboard were overwhelmed with sights and sounds you won’t find anywhere else on earth.
Here is a recap of the voyage.
The trip starts in the capital city of Argentina, where we enjoyed three days at a luxury hotel, Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt, located in the bustling Recoleta neighborhood of the city. A&K offers a pre-cruise extension that allows you to explore the city for four days before you take a flight to Ushuaia to embark on Ponant’s Le Lyrial expedition ship for your Antarctic sailing.
The hotel is located in an area filled with restaurants and shops. You’re also close to some of the city’s numerous pretty parks. We enjoyed our time in Buenos Aires, which included our own independent touring of the city to see the city’s famed Le Recoleta Cemetery, a stunning public burial place that is filled with above-ground tombs that are ornately carved works of art.
We also introduced ourselves to the fantastic Argentinian steaks and empanadas that we had heard so much about.
We also enjoyed an Abercrombie & Kent tour of the city, which stopped at Plaza de Mayo in the heart of the city to see the Pink Palace residence of the nation’s president, as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral and other iconic buildings that face the square. The excursion also took us to the colorful San Telmo neighborhood.
Sailing to Antarctica
It took two days at sea before we reached Antarctica. The expedition guides onboard gave enrichment talks and offered sessions on what to look for when it comes to wildlife in this part of the world and how to create lasting memories by taking your best pictures.
We saw quite a few species of seabirds during our journey south, including terns, petrels and albatross. Several times, we also we encountered pods of feeding humpbacks, orcas and fin whales.
Three Days on the White Continent
We had arrived. The ice-capped mountains and floes drifting in the channels past our balcony had been a clue that we were getting closer. Now, we were in Antarctica. The Drake Passage was calm during our crossing, and we were well rested and ready to head ashore to greet the locals.
We had daily excursions ashore or in Zodiacs that put us up close with penguins and seals.
Regulations limit landings to no more than 100 passengers at a time, and Abercrombie & Kent brings no more than 199 travelers on its cruises on Le Lyrial. Our cruise had 170 passengers, and we were divided into two groups that would take turns each day going out on an assigned excursion time.
One group heads out while the other gets to sleep in a bit or just hang out and enjoy the amenities and views from the ship. Le Lyrial features a heated swimming pool that we were able to splash around in while anchored amid snowy mountain peaks on a sunny day in Antarctica.
There also is a steam room, fitness center and spa offering massage treatments onboard. The ship also has two restaurants, a large lounge, theater and Observation Lounge with outdoor deck area at the front of the ship on Deck 6.
South Georgia Island
After our visit to the White Continent, we sailed to South Georgia Island. This place was perhaps even more stunning that the White Continent. We spent three glorious days stopping at various spots around this British overseas territory, which is home to huge colonies of King penguins and fur seals.
One of our destinations during our time in South Georgia was the town of Grytviken, a historic former whaling station. Grytviken owns a special place in history. This British Overseas Territory was founded and settled in the early 1900s and is the final resting place for famed Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackelton and other adventurers and residents of the island.
We visited the cemetery and Shackleton’s grave before taking a scenic hike over the top of the village, which also has a comprehensive museum that details the whaling industry and the operations that took place on the island. There is also a pretty church and a post office/gift shop from which you send a postcard back home to commemorate your visit so far south.
Overall, it is an incredible journey and one best done on an expedition cruise so that you get a real feel of what the explorers were seeing so many decades ago as they traveled through the rugged area. The wildlife and nature scenes are stunning, and Abercrombie & Kent puts on a wonderfully informative program operated by extremely knowledgeable expedition leaders.