A cruise to Antarctica is a bucket-list event, and it's an unforgettable thrill to travel to such a remote location. It also has to be timed right. The Great White Continent is a stunning place to cruise in the Southern Hemisphere’s short summer: December through February. The longest itineraries are two to three weeks aboard expedition ships with ice-strengthened hulls and depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, to visit South Georgia, the Falklands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Shorter routes may focus only on the Antarctic Peninsula, while larger mainstream ships may include the Falkland Islands on a circumnavigation of South America. The true expedition ships carry Zodiac landing craft and a team of experts who escort passengers to remote islands and scientific research stations for close-up views of penguins, elephant seals, and whales.
What We Love
Shackleton’s Story: A big part of an Antarctica cruise is learning more about explorers like Ernest Shackleton, who had the guts to go there a century ago — with none of the fancy gear nor high-tech vessels available to today's visitors.
The Isolation: Few places in the world feel (and are) so far away from it all. There really are no Starbucks down there.
Best Known For
Massive Icy Landscape: The scale and color of the South Pole’s towering icebergs will take your breath away.
Penguins: The adorable waddling birds in their black-and-white tuxedos number in the millions and include Adelie, rock hopper, chinstrap, and the huge emperor.
Shop for Cruises
Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands: Green and pastoral like small towns in England, this is the place to see rock hopper penguins march along the cliffs.
South Georgia: This remote island is ideal for hiking and seeing birds of many feathers, hundreds of thousands of them, from numerous types of penguins to albatross, egrets, skuas, and petrels.
Devil Island, Antarctic Peninsula: The lower slopes of this desolate isle are the color of milk chocolate, and they're carpeted in Adelie penguins. Hike to the summit for jaw-dropping views in every direction — the iceberg bits-filled sea, snow-sprinkled rocky shoreline, brilliant blue sky (hopefully), and penguins, of course.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Drake Passage Is Choppy: This notorious waterway between Ushuaia, Argentina, and the Antarctic Peninsula has the reputation of being one of the most turbulent seas in the world.
The Price Tag Is High: Antarctica cruises — and the airfare you’ll need to get there — are not cheap.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.