How to choose an Antarctic cruise
Deciding to embark on a journey to the furthermost corner of the world can be an exhilarating yet daunting thing, but the question of how to choose the right Antarctic cruise for you can leave you with a little anxiety. Antarctica isn't one of those on-a-whim destinations and the best way to pick a cruise you're going to get the most out of is by deciding on the time of year you want to go, the itinerary of the cruise you want to do, and how long you want to go for.
Once that's done, your Antarctic adventure to the icy wilderness awaits.
Decide on the time of year
One of the most important things to do when it comes to choosing your Antarctic cruise is to figure out the best time of year to go but you can't just go whenever you want to. The Antarctic season runs from October to March with each month promising unique sights, an abundance of wildlife, and life-changing experiences.
While both December and January are the most popular months to visit the white continent, they are often the busiest and most expensive ones too. If you want to avoid breaking the bank (as much as you can on a trip to Antarctica), then opt for a cruise that departs earlier or later in the season.
October is a great time to visit Antarctica but you should be prepared for extremely cold weather as temperatures drop to a freezing -2°C (30°F) during the month. But what the region lacks in warm weather, it makes up for in lower prices with cruises departing in October much cheaper than those departing during the peak season. You can also say hello to untouched sea ice left over from winter and watch as your camera roll fills up with image after image of white landscape-y goodness.
Temperatures start to rise in November as the region stumbles into spring with an average of 0°C (32°F)during the month. Another big draw card to visiting this snowy desert during November is both the animals and vegetation that come to life - we're talking about hatching penguins and blooming flowers found on the Sub Antarctic Islands. We know you might be cold but if the sight of hundreds of tiny, fluffy penguins experiencing snow for the first time doesn't instantly warm you up then absolutely nothing will.
Summer really gets going in December (and by that we mean you'll be treated to temperature highs of around 10°C - 50° in Fahrenheit) so it's little wonder why travellers flock to the region during this time. Not only is it warm enough to wear one layer of clothing instead of two, but December also enjoys around 19 hours of sunlight per day, ensuring that there's plenty of time to see and do everything.
Following on from the high temperatures of December, January also basks in warm sunshine for most of the day (18 hours to be exact), giving you the opportunity to spot fascinating wildlife wherever you go. From wriggling seal pups to flocks of mating birds, the abundance of Antarctic animals is astounding and by travelling in January, you've bought yourself a front-row seat to the best wildlife show in the world.
If you're travelling to Antarctica in February then you're in for a real treat as breathtaking pinks and purples dance across the sky during sunrise and sunset. While the weather may be starting to get cooler, there are still plenty of sunshine hours to see penguin chicks start to come into their own, marvel at snow algae in full bloom, and spot elephant seals returning to shore to begin their annual moulting ritual.
The ice buildup from winter has well and truly melted by March, allowing polar expeditions greater access to the South Pole and better opportunities to spot whales as they breach the water's surface. Crowd numbers are down (and so are cruise prices) due to lower temperatures and decreasing daylight hours but the whale and seal watching - especially around South Georgia Island - make travelling in March more than worth it.
Look at the itinerary
Whether you're dying to kayak your way around giant icebergs or you want to plunge into the icy depths of the Southern Ocean, deciding on your preferred itinerary narrows down which Antarctica cruise you should go on, and since this remote and breathtaking destination is a once-in-a-lifetime kinda place, you want to get it right.
Choose from wildlife-focused cruises, cruises over Christmas and New Years, or cruises that promise an in-depth look at Antarctica to get the most out of this unforgettable corner of the world.
Length of cruise
It's super important to think about how much time you want to be away for when choosing an Antarctic cruise that's right for you. Most expeditions don't offer itineraries of less than 11 days purely because it can take up to 48 hours to cross the Drake Passage and reach the Antarctic Peninsula from Ushuaia in Argentina (and then another two days back again).
While 11 days may be the shortest, some cruises can go up to 21 or even 28 days, so figuring out if you can handle being on the water for that long is a must before you pick an Antarctic cruise and start the booking process.