Could This Be the Ultimate Bucket List Trip?

Could This Be the Ultimate Bucket List Trip?

From North Pole to South Pole

What if you could visit Antarctica and The Arctic in the same trip?  

Uh-uh, not possible.

With the Antarctic expedition season being from November to March and the Arctic season from May to September, it does seem an impossible feat. 

There is no way you could survive either Antarctica or the Arctic in the depths of their winters.  Ernest Shackleton and his team may have done it over 100 years ago, but let’s get serious, no one in their right mind would do it for fun, would they?

So let’s now imagine sandwiching those two destinations with the likes of Easter Island, South Pacific, The Kimberley in Australia, and the Suez Canal.  Let’s also add in the Acropolis and Greek Isles, sailing under Tower Bridge into London, and culminating with an almost complete circumnavigation of Iceland.

All in one trip.

Now you have my attention.

What if you could take the term “expedition cruise” to a whole new level?

Silversea is planning to take on this very adventure in 2021.  

A 167-day expedition world cruise. 

Your wildest dreams all rolled into one exhilarating bucket list experience.

The first ever expedition world cruise

Kicking off in Ushuaia in January 2021, Silversea’s Silver Cloud will enter uncharted waters and be the first expedition ship to undertake a world cruise:  30 countries, 167 days, 107 ports of call and 6 continents:

Antarctica

South America

Australia

Asia

Africa

Europe

Begin your journey sailing some of the most infamous waters on earth – The Drake Passage.

Step foot on the 7th continent and surround yourself with hundreds of pairs of cacophonous penguins, seals lounging on ice floes, and being within arms’ reach of multiple species of whales.

Visit the untouched islands of the South Shetlands, Easter Island and the Marquesas. Go out on zodiacs to the remote islands of French Polynesia, the Society Islands, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

Cruise the iconic Northwestern Coast of Australia, often completely missed by anyone who visits this vast and diverse continent.

See Indonesia at its’ best:  Java, Sumatra, and Krakatoa.  

Set your sights on the spectacular India, Oman and Egypt.

Fall in love with the non-touristy side of Greece: Symi, Naxos, Folegandros, Itea, Nafpaktos and Ksamil.

Do Sicily and Sardinia like you have never done before.

Get off the beaten path in Spain, Portugal and France.  

Make your grand entrance into London sailing right up the Thames and under Tower Bridge.  

And on the final leg of your epic journey, complete the ultimate expedition to Svalbard, land of the polar bears.

The All-inclusive expedition cruise

 This kind of trip doesn’t come cheap, and for many of us it will forever remain on our bucket list.  However, for those lucky few, here is what you will find included in the cruise fare:

  • Business class airfare from select gateways to get you there  – and home – in style.

  • Charter flight from Santiago to Ushuaia, overnight accommodations and all transfers – Because the last thing you want is your flight to be late and the ship leaves without you!

  • A bon voyage reception – Kick off your cruise in style

  • $2,000 on board credit – Can you say spa day?

  • All excursions – Yes.  ALL EXCURSIONS

  • Special commemorative expedition gear – to keep you warm and dry in Antarctica and the Arctic – and bragging rights when you get home too.

  • Laundry service – because who has time to do it yourself?

  • Unlimited wifi – to share all those epic photos and make all your friends and family jealous back home

  • Medical services – expect the unexpected (this is NOT an substitute for real travel insurance)

  • Visa package (for citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Germany) – Because that’s a lot of specific details to remember.  

The complete bucket list experience

If your are like me, and have a ton of places on your bucket list, then this cruise might be one way to get a lot of those places checked off your list.  

Antarctica?  Check.

The Arctic?  Check.

Easter Island, the Kimberley, French Polynesia?  Check, check and check.

This cruise is open for sale right now, so if you want in let me know, and I’ll save you a spot.  🙂

’til next time

Explore. Discover. Learn

Emma

P.S. If you are thinking about an expedition cruise to Antarctica or the Arctic, check out my other post:  What to pack for Antarctica.  

What to Pack for Antarctica

What to Pack for Antarctica

A Polar Packing List

I have three words for you:  Layers, layers, layers.

Layers is the name of the game when planning any winter outdoor trip.  You never know what the weather will be like.  Wet and warm or cold and windy, you need to be prepared for any kind of weather.  The list below can be used for any kind of winter trip.  From exploring the Northern Lights above the Arctic Circle, or an Antarctic expedition cruise, the following guidelines will insure that you stay warm and dry in any kind of weather.  Be sure to read to the end and download the checklist to use for your next polar adventure!

You can buy everything you need at Outdoor Adventure stores such as REI, or Patagonia, or online on Amazon.  

If you are taking an expedition cruise to Antarctica, or the Arctic, check with your travel adviser or cruise line as most will include a fabulous warm waterproof parka in the cost of your fare.  True expedition cruises (where your only means of transit is by zodiac) will generally have it included.  If you are doing a hybrid cruise where you will be docking and visiting local communities, in addition to zodiac landings, you may find it is not included.  

 

Base Layer

The Base Layer is probably the most important layer.  You want something that wicks away water (aka: sweat), dries quickly and also keeps you warm.  You fail here and you will be cold all day.  Merino wool is the best option, which is much softer and breathable than other types.  If you happen to be allergic to wool, Capilene is a good alternative.  This layer should also be thin and not bulky since you will be wearing it underneath two other layers.

Insulation Layer

Stretch tops and bottoms that fit over your base layer and under your waterproof layer. It can also double as your outer layer in warmer temps.  You can choose to wear two sets of a base layer, if you prefer.  Just make sure that whatever you wear as your second layer fits comfortably over the first and isn’t too bulky to wear under your waterproof (top) layer.

Socks and Sock Liners

Even with socks, layers are key.  You still need a base layer to wick away moisture and add extra warmth, especially for those days where you are going to be out all day.  Regular socks should be heavy weight and made of wool or a wool blend.

Gloves and Glove Liners

Fingers are usually the hardest to keep warm, especially if you keep taking off your gloves or mittens to take photos!  This is why they invented touch screen gloves!  These are great.  I would recommend using these as a regular glove in warmer weather, but they can also be used as a liner in extreme cold temperatures.  If you need to take off your gloves to use your touch screen phone or camera, you can still keep your fingers (relatively) warm while fiddling with the buttons!

Make sure your outwear gloves are water resistant!

Balaclava Wool hat w/ flaps Infinity Scarf

Head Gear

80% of your body heat can escape from the top of your head.  It’s important to trap as much heat as possible.  There are a couple of different options:

All-in-one balaclava which covers your head, forehead, neck and mouth.  Probably the least bulky to pack and also wear

Hat with ear flaps combined with a neck gaiter. 

A gaiter is similar to an infinity scarf, which wraps around your neck but doesn’t have any loose ends to get trapped anywhere.  I don’t recommend a scarf at all, especially if you are climbing in and out of zodiacs or sleighs where they can easily get sat on or stuck in tight spaces.  Having your neck wear tucked inside your parka or coat will alleviate this problem

Waterproof pants - to go over your base layer(s)

Outer Layers

Waterproof jacket and pants are equally important when packing for a polar expedition.  Most cruise lines will include a fabulous warm, waterproof parka in the price of the expedition – but not all.  Please check with your travel advisor or the the cruise line you are traveling with to ensure you will receive one, and if not, plan accordingly.

Some cruise lines will also rent out waterproof pants for the duration of your cruise – again check with your agent or the cruise line to make sure.  

 

Waterproof Jacket – Lightweight,breathable and easily packable. For warmer days on land or up on deck when weather is wet.

Hiking Boots

Hiking Boots – For “sea days” when you are on the ship, or for land based vacations.  When at sea, most cruise lines will supply you with a pair of waterproof rubber boots for use while on your expedition voyage.  These are to be used for wet zodiac landings, especially in Antarctica to clean off penguin guana etc upon return back to ship.

 

Parka – Provided for you by the cruise lines and yours to keep.  Most cruise lines will provide one for you on all Antarctic/S. Georgia sailings.  Please check with your Travel Agent or the cruise lines to make sure you will have one.

Hand and Feet warmers

When all else fails, and you just cannot keep your extremities warm, there are always hot hands.  Need I say more!

Other Miscellaneous items to pack:

Swimsuit or swim trunks – You can’t NOT do the polar plunge!

A decent pair of UV sunglasses.  It may be cold in Antarctica, but the sun can be very bright, especially during the long Austral summers.  Eye protection is paramount for those extra sunny days when the bright sun reflects on the white snow.

Lip balm and sunscreen – Again, it may be cold, but the sun can still take its’ toll.

Binoculars – For birding and whale watching

Camera and all the accessories – An expedition cruise is a photographers paradise.   Come prepared to take some epic photos!

A waterproof bag/backpack – Essential to protect your camera equipment and binoculars as well as your hat, gloves etc.  Important when getting in and out of zodiacs, or putting stuff down on the snow while taking pictures.

Don’t Overpack

It can be easy to get carried away with packing for a trip like this, but honestly, aside from a couple of extra pairs of slacks and sweaters, you don’t need much else.  Evenings on the ship are laid back and relaxed.  No Captain’s Galas or formal wear required.

Full disclosure: Some of these items are affiliate links – I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase through that link. 

Grab the downloadable version of my packing list below.

Til next time,

Explore. Discover. Learn.

Emma

Ever wonder what it is REALLY like to spend time in Antarctica?

Ever wonder what it is REALLY like to spend time in Antarctica?

Three Travel Bloggers share their experiences

Alyssa Ramos of My Life’s a Movie

Alyssa went to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions in December of 2017. You can read her post on the 10- day trip she took and what she thought about traversing the Drake Passage, notoriously famous for its’ rough crossings. You can read her account here:

Antarctica is already a checklisters dream destination, Quark Expeditions can elevate your experience one step further by offering even more extreme experiences such as kayaking, paddleboarding, mountaineering and even a night of camping on the continent itself (additional fees do apply).

Alyssa took advantage of the paddleboarding option. I have to say, this looks like a lot of fun!

Dave and Deb Coulson of The Planet D

Dave and Deb also traveled with Quark Expeditions and chose the sea kayaking and camping options. Their stories about their adventures in Antarctica can be found here:

Sea Kayaking in Antarctica

Camping in Antarctica

Did you know you there is not an option to use the toilet on Antarctica? Not sure I could make it that long without using the bathroom!

Liz Carlson of The Young Adventuress

Liz visited Antarctica with Intrepid Travel (in partnership with Quark Expeditions). Her trip included visits to the sub-antarctic islands of South Georgia and The Falkland Islands.

Often overlooked when considering an Antarctic Expedition, usually due to cost and/or time constraints (a full trip can be upwards of 3 weeks!), there is plenty to see and do.

For those history buffs who remember the Falklands war between Argentina and the UK, there are many relics and sites available to see. This trip can be taken in and of its own, missing Antarctica altogether. Most expedition cruise lines do at least 2 trips a year, one at the beginning of the season, and one near the end.

Ernest Shackleton, arguably one of the greatest and bravest explorers ever to have lived, is buried on South Georgia, and you can visit his grave site.  Hear indescribable tales of survival during the cold, harsh and unforgiving weather of Austral winters in Antarctica.

Of course, there are some not so magnificent things to see on South Georgia as well.

Reality check: Whaling was a huge industry in the early part of the 1900’s, peaking in the mid-1920’s where as many as 40,000 whales were killed each year. Abandoned whaling stations, whale bones and carcasses can still be seen all over the island. Thankfully, this horrific industry was shutdown in 1965.

As a penguin lover, there could be no greater experience than to see and hear thousands upon thousands of King and Macaroni penguins on South Georgia. You have no idea just how many penguins there are down there until you see it yourself. You can see the photos and hear about Liz’s experience on her blog.

Antarctica Cruise Operators

Quark Expeditions and Intrepid Travel have a partnership whereby booking an Antarctic trip with Intrepid Travel will yield the expedition cruise portion of your trip with Quark. There are many qualified operators to Antarctica, including Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Silversea Cruises, Ponant and Crystal Yacht Expeditions. Each has their own dedicated and highly trained expedition team of naturalists, oceanographers, photographers, biologists etc. Each cruise and departure date offers something a little different for everyone.

You should consult with a knowledgeable travel profession (such as myself!) who can assist you with choosing the right expedition voyage for your travel style. It is definitely not a one cruise fits all mentality and when you are spending that kind of money, you want to make sure that you get it right!

Traveling to the White Continent is a dramatic awe-inspiring and life-changing experience.  I recently had the opportunity to meet Liz Carlson at a blogging conference.  Her recollections of the cacophony of thousands of king penguins littering the beaches of South Georgia and the extreme pungent odor of penguin guano was captivating.  An absolute must for any adventure travelers bucket list.

If your considering a trip to Antarctica, grab my free expedition cruise resource here.  If you know someone contemplating a trip, please share this with them.  I know they will find it as enlightening as I did! 

’til next time,

Explore. Discover. Learn

Emma

A New Expedition Ship for Lindblad Expeditions

A New Expedition Ship for Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is adding to its’ fleet with a brand new expedition class vessel setting sail in 2020.  The National Geographic Endurance is named in honor of Antarctica’s most intrepid and renowned explorer – Ernest Shackleton.  The Endurance was the ship which carried Shackleton and his men through the most grueling of sea conditions known on earth – The Southern Ocean.

In a recent press briefing, CEO Sven Lindblad, son of Lindblad Expeditions founder, Lars Erik Lindblad, revealed how they will be incorporating innovative technologies into their newest member of the family.

The National Geographic Endurance

Small and intimate at 126 guests, the National Geographic Endurance sports an innovative new X-bow design, setting the gold standard for future expedition ships. A PC5 category A vessel, she is capable of exploring deeper into the polar regions than any of its’ current fleet or its’ competitors.  The new bow design provides a higher level of comfort in the open seas.  It also increases fuel efficiency and stabilization during inclement weather.  Anyone familiar with the Drake Passage can attest to how mighty and relentless those waters can be.

Eco-friendly features include high capacity fuel tanks with the cleanest emissions and purification water tanks. The benefit?  Without the need to re-provision, the ship is capable of navigating longer, more dynamic expeditions.  Remote, unexplored reaches of the Arctic will become accessible for the first time. Itineraries such as Svalbard in Spring: Polar Bears, Arctic Light and Epic Ice and The Northeast Passage from Norway to Alaska are two incredibly fascinating and compelling itineraries slated for her inaugural season.

Innovative Technology

The ship is the most technologically advanced expedition ship of its kind with ice radar and hi-res night vision equipment.  The National Geographic Endurance will include Lindblad Expeditions’ standard cool tools for exploration:  ROVs (remote underwater vehicle), underwater cameras, hydrophones, kayaks, snorkeling gear, and wet suits.  All tools are standard on every Lindblad Expeditions polar sailing.

The Design

A sleek Scandinavian design complements the fire & ice theme throughout the common areas and staterooms.  The sauna and yoga studios also incorporates this element.  Imagine yourself performing sun salutations while witnessing the immense presence of icebergs a few hundred yards away.

The 270 room, the main dining room, has an unprecedented 270-degree view of the outside.  No matter where you sit, you will be afforded breathtaking views of the days’ landscape.  From the mountainous terrain of Antarctica to the vastness of the ice floe littered Arctic Ocean, the landscape is unparalleled.

The National Geographic Endurance has several outside observation areas, including forward-facing observation wings. There will be a state of the art mudroom with multiple zodiac loading platforms for a quick and efficient embarkation/disembarkation process.

Finally, each of the 56 outward facing staterooms has a command center mixing old and new technology. Historical analog instruments, such as barometers and incline meters, juxtapose against everyday necessities such as tablets, USB ports, wi-fi, and in-room TVs. Here is a rendering of a standard room:

What you can expect from the Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Endurance inaugural season:

A sampling of the 2020 itineraries

Northeast Passage: An Unforgettable Voyage from Norway to Alaska

Coastal Wonders of Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland

Svalbard in Spring:  Polar Bears, Arctic Light and Epic Ice

Arctic Exploration: A voyage to Iceland, East Greenland and Norway

Norway’s Fjords and Arctic Svalbard

Norwegian Fjords and Scottish Isles

Norwegian Discovery:  Svalbard and the Northern Fjords

East Greenland:  Wild Shores of the High Arctic

Did you know the Faroe Islands have a Michelin starred restaurant? It’s true! You can read about it here

I don’t know about you, but my bucket list just got a whole lot longer!

I am excited for what the future of expedition cruising is bringing to the table.  The next few years will be a spectacular journey as we watch it unfold.  Innovative new ships with inspiring destinations are just around the corner.  I can’t wait to share them all with you!  It would be my absolute pleasure to assist you in being one of the first guests on this innovative new ship!

So, tell me, where are YOU most interested in traveling to next?

‘Til next time,

Explore. Discover. Learn

Emma

What you can expect from a cruise to Antarctica

What you can expect from a cruise to Antarctica

A Cruisers Guide to the Ins and Outs of Traveling to Antarctica

So, you’re thinking about a trip to Antarctica…

Do you have ANY idea what you are getting yourself into?

Antarctica

AKA the White Continent.  One of the last unspoiled landscapes of our planet.  The allure of this frozen desolate land is twofold:

For some, it is the chance to see the native wildlife: Penguins in their rookeries, sitting on their eggs. Baby penguin chicks being incubated under their parents bodies. Leopard seals lounging on the ice floes and whales breaching off the side of your zodiac, a mere few feet from where you are sitting.

For others, it affords them the luxury of crossing off the 7th and final continent from their bucket list.

How to get to Antarctica

A trip to Antarctica is not for the unadventurous or faint of heart.  It is a journey in itself to reach the jumping off point for most cruises.  The majority of expedition ships will leave from Ushuaia, Argentina.  Arriving here, you will have already achieved something spectacular – the southernmost city in the world. 

Punta Arenas, Chile is also port of embarkation for cruises to Antarctica, but the majority will leave from Ushuaia.

Getting to either of these cities requires the better part of two days to arrive.  If you are departing from the US, most flights will be overnight flights into Buenos Aires or Santiago. There, an overnight pit stop and a chance to do some exploring are on the menu.  With only a 2 hour time difference from the Eastern Seaboard, jet lag should not be too much of a problem.

From there, another 4 ½ hour flight to either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas.  Most expedition cruise lines will incorporate this as a charter flight from Buenos Aires or Santiago and transfers to the port of embarkation.

The Drake Passage

Now the real adventure begins.  Will you experience the Drake Shake or Drake Lake?

Make no mistake about it, the Drake Passage is not something to take lightly. While all ships are equipped with stabilizers and all of the modern sonar, radar and technology, the Drake passage can get ROUGH! And at 800km, it is not a short stretch.  Be prepared for deep swells and plenty of pitching and rolling, maybe even a chance to start that diet you were talking about!  Dramamine will be your best friend – make sure to keep yourself well stocked.  Rough seas are the norm, not the exception, but you could get lucky and witness the great Drake Lake – but don’t put money on it.

The White Continent

So, you survived the Drake Passage. Now what?

One of the great things about being on an expedition cruise is the freedom and flexibility of the captain to choose where to go, when and for how long. It is nothing like a traditional ocean cruise where port times are rigid and inflexible and where being late might mean missing the ship.

Most cruise lines also offer the ability to connect with a professional photographer on board who can help you take the most amazing Instagram worthy photographs you will ever have the pleasure of taking.  The penguins are unafraid and insatiably curious of us humans and although we are not able to seek them out and touch them, we can sit and wait patiently for them to come up to us and check us out.  Have your camera ready for the best photo shoot of your life!

Zodiacs: Your Chauffeured Limo to Paradise

Your main method of transportation will be by Zodiac. You will soon become an expert at boarding and unloading on one of these, but it may take a few tries to get it right.  Depending on which expedition cruise company you choose, you will have about 2 zodiac landings per day on “sea days”.  A chance to see icebergs,  land on the “beach” or the Antarctic peninsula dotted with thousands of pairs of penguins.  There will also be opportunities to kayak, or hike/walk.

Wait, what?  Did I just say “kayak”? 

Yes!

Picture yourself kayaking in deafening silence amid icebergs, seals and even whales.  This is not a passive trip, this is an explorer’s trip, a do-ers trip. You can’t pay all that money to sit in a lounge chair and watch out the window.  You are an active participant in this once in a lifetime experience.

Back on board, the evenings are filled with lectures and discussions about the days events and what you can look forward to tomorrow.  No casinos, no Broadway shows here.

See the Rare Antarctic Undersea

Again, depending on which cruise line you travel with, some expeditions ships come equipped with their own undersea specialist, qualified to dive in polar waters.  The undersea specialist suits up and dives, or mans a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and films undersea life in real time –  no movies or edited footage.  The number of ships offering this technology today is limited, however, several top expedition cruise lines are building new vessels as I write and more of the companies are investing in these technologies for their ships.  Lindblad Expeditions is one of the few offering this now, but companies like Scenic, Ponant and Crystal all have new ships in the works that will offer this unique experience.

The Polar Plunge

What is the polar plunge?

Get ready for the most exhilarating 30 seconds of your life.  Jump off the ships loading platform into the icy, frigid waters of the Antarctic Ocean.  Brrrrrr!  Would you do it?  Not many people can say that they did.  Definitely something to put on your bucket list.  

 

Antarctica is a true once in a lifetime trip. And with the per person cost weighing in at the average price of a car, a decision that requires careful consideration. Despite this, these cruises book up fast – up to two years in advance. If you are dreaming about a life changing trip to the 7th continent, the time to start planning is now.  

What are you waiting for?

‘Til next time

Emma

Explore.Discover.Learn

P.S.  Download my free expedition guide to expedition cruising to get the down-lo on the cruise operators that sail to this remote and pristine continent at the bottom of the world.