In March 2023, I traveled with Atlas Ocean Voyages on an expedition cruise to the end of the world: Antarctica. There’s no way to tell you everything you could possibly want to know about Antarctica in just a few paragraphs. So I’ll start with answering the questions I got the most about my Antarctic adventure.
“You hate the cold - why would you want to go to Antarctica?”
Before I actually experienced the continent, my answer was simple: it’s on my bucket list to visit all 7 continents and the opportunity presented itself so I couldn’t say no. Sure, I don’t like the cold (despise it actually), but despite what people think it actually doesn’t get TOO unbearably cold during the Antarctic summer. We never experienced a day colder than a typical cold winter day in most states in the US. The cold actually didn’t bother me at all with the gear that I had and once I stepped foot on the continent, I didn’t even have a second thought about the weather conditions.
If you asked me the same question now, I’d tell you that Antarctica is the most beautiful place in the entire world. Its pristine and practically untouched landscape make it like no other destination you will ever experience, and the adorable wildlife brings life to an otherwise desolate environment. Seeing this great continent changed my life in many ways and I haven’t met a person yet who has disagreed.
“How do you even pack for Antarctica?”
As I mentioned, it doesn’t get nearly as cold as people think during Antarctica’s summer. For this reason, you’ll really just need to pack like you’re going on a ski trip (plus a few extras). I managed to pack everything I needed (and more) for a 10-day expedition (plus 2 travel days) in a personal bag and a carry-on – which made traveling SO easy.
Think of your layers: most Antarctic expedition cruise companies provide you with a parka and a pair of rubber boots, so you won’t have to lug these big items with you. Aside from these outerwear essentials, pack the most items for your base layer. I’d suggest thermal material, material that’s sweat-wicking, and packing both lined and unlined options (because despite what you may think, some days – like hiking days – lined thermals are a little much and the last thing you want to do is get too hot). I took a set of lined thermals, an extra lined thermal long sleeve, a pair of athletic leggings, 1 unlined long sleeve. and three unlined sweat-wicking shirts (sleeveless). For mid layer think a thin shell like a Patagonia or North Face pullover. For outer layer and warm accessories: snow or rain pants, 2 pairs of gloves (one thinner – for hiking, one thicker – for zodiac cruising), a warm hat, wool or thermal socks, and a neck gator to protect your face from the wind. To wear around the ship, I had one pair of jeans, one pair of nicer leggings, two sweaters and some workout shorts, and a bathing suit. I also took one pair of fur lined boots and one pair of sneakers. There are laundry services available on many of these types of cruises so look ahead and save on packing where you can!
“What do you get to do in Antarctica?”
On days that weren’t just designated for sailing (the first 2ish and the last one), we got to do one of two things. Some locations we took a zodiac cruise – we spent about an hour on the zodiac led by our expedition leaders getting up close to the wildlife, glaciers, and sometimes shipwrecks. Other times we would get to do continent landings – we would zodiac to the shore where we would land and explore the area. We saw penguin colonies, playing fur seals, old research and whaling stations, and surrounding mountain ranges. We could hike various trails laid out by our expedition leader or could stay closer to the shores and explore the wildlife areas.
There were opportunities to paddle board and kayak. There was also the opportunity to do the polar plunge in Antarctica (which we did!) and to camp on the continent (which we did!) – two of the coolest experiences of my life.
What I’ve shared is just a glimpse into this once in a lifetime experience - - if you have any questions or think that an Antarctic adventure is for you, please reach out! I hope to connect with you soon!