An Antarctica Expedition Cruise
An Expedition Cruise gives you a up close and personal experience into a world that is unique, pristine, and truly awesome!
Susan and Bill Minter not only shared their pictures and video but took time to answer the questions below.
Read the account of one couple's amazing experience
CVT: First off, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and your generosity in general, sharing your pictures and tips!
I can’t think of any place that fits into the category of “once in a lifetime” experience, more than Antarctica. Since you both have traveled so extensively, would you agree, Antarctica is a once in a lifetime experience?
Susan and Bill :Yes--definitely!
CVT: Was this trip something you had always planned to take and on your “bucket list”?
Susan and Bill: No. In fact, after we went on our Christmas Market Cruise in December of 2011, Bill said that he never wanted to go on another cold weather trip. LOL! I can’t remember why I decided that I wanted to go to Antarctica—I must have seen an ad or something online. So, I looked online to see what Antarctica trip received the best reviews. The Silver Sea cruise had the best reviews on the various websites, so we decided to go on that cruise.
CVT: Did the experience meet your expectations?
Susan and Bill: Yes—it exceeded them! I had seen pictures of what we would see, but the actual experience was much more amazing.
CVT: What if anything surprised you the most?
Susan and Bill: The sheer numbers of penguins there and the fact that they weren’t afraid of us. Although they might come close to us, we were not allowed to touch them.
CVT: The ships that sail in the area are very different from a traditional cruise, including a much smaller size with few passengers. Did you miss the typical amenities that most cruises offer?
Susan and Bill:No, we didn’t because cruise amenities like big shows were not the focus of this trip. We did have lectures about what we would see. Our Silver Sea ship was a converted ice breaker. There were 120 passengers and 115 crew. All cabins had butlers assigned. The food was excellent, and all liquor was included.
CVT: Prices for these cruises, referred to as expedition cruises, are over-all significantly more than a traditional or typical cruise. Since virtually everything is included with the price of your cruise, do you think all the added value makes up for the additional upfront cost? Since you’re not paying for tours, drinks, activities and most cases tips, looking back, do you feel it was worth your investment?
Susan and Bill: Yes, because it was a very unique experience; and we were able to focus just on the scenery and the wildlife. It was absolutely a fabulous trip!
CVT: The wildlife you were able to see is striking, and your pictures probably don’t do justice to what it felt like being there. Is there something that you could say about your experience that is missing or unable to convey through the pictures?
Susan and Bill: No. The pictures, while representative of what we saw and did, do not convey the feeling of actually being there; but I think that’s true of every trip.
The small number of passengers allowed us to meet and interact with most everyone.
CVT: I look at your pictures and imagine a sense of peace and stillness plus silence. It’s one of the only places, or only one, where civilization has not moved in. How aware of this are you, being in such a pristine environment?
Susan and Bill: It’s not silent—penguins, birds and seals are very noisy. We were constantly reminded that it’s a pristine environment because we could not take anything ashore. There were no garbage cans, and there was no garbage anywhere. We were given metal water bottles to take ashore (and then bring back to the ship), but we did not usually take them ashore because there was no place to go to the bathroom. If people needed a bathroom, they had to be taken back to the ship via the zodiacs.
CVT: I sense that we (humans) are a visitor or guest on this continent and it belongs to the wildlife and all the species that are found there. It’s not only stepping back in time, it’s stepping back to a time before we existed. This must be a moving experience – was it for you both?
Susan and Bill: It was definitely a moving experience because of what we saw and experienced. It was very different from anywhere else that we have visited.
CVT: Looking at your pictures, there seems to be a varied age range. Did you see many families or multi generations? Was the intimacy, being in such a small group, something that added to the experience?
Susan and Bill: I didn’t remember many children, but Bill found a picture of a girl who appeared to be 10 or 11 years old. There were several families of parents with adult children.
As I said above, the small number of passengers allowed us to meet and interact with most everyone.
CVT: What was one of the best moments of your trip?
Susan and Bill: It’s very difficult to say. The beautiful scenery was fabulous. Cruising among the icebergs was amazing. Seeing all the wildlife—penguins, whales, seals, birds, etc.—was wonderful.
CVT: If your friend asked you about the trip, what tips would you give?
Susan and Bill: Research online what to take to Antarctica. Silver Sea did give the passengers heavy red coats to wear outside. The staff wore the same coats, but they were blue instead of red. Silver Sea had a really good list of what they recommended that we bring. They also had groups of clothing that we could purchase online. All passengers had to have Antarctic boots. We could rent them or buy them. We bought them because there was no guarantee that they would have our sizes and because it wasn’t much more expensive to buy them than to rent them. (We used them later on our recent Norway trip.)
CVT: Time of year:
Susan and Bill: Visitors can only go to Antarctica in their summer months, which are November to March. Evidently, prices may be cheaper at the beginning or at the end of the season; but there’s less to see in the way of wildlife. We went in late January, and it worked out well for us.
CVT: Adding on in South America either before or after?
Susan and Bill: We would highly recommend spending a few days in Buenos Aires—one of our favorite cities.
CVT: Is there one thing that you did you would say is a must or is there something you didn’t do that you wish you did?
Susan and Bill: We did everything that was provided by the cruise line, and the experiences were just wonderful!
CVT: Were all the tours done using the zodiac?
Susan and Bill: Yes. All tours were done using the zodiacs. We were split into groups for the whole cruise. Since only a certain number of people could go ashore at any one time, some groups went ashore during the morning and the others went in the afternoon. The times and groups to go ashore were rotated daily.
CVT: When you’re going on the Zodiac, is it physically challenging?
Susan and Bill: Yes. Actually, most of the tours ashore were physically challenging. Getting in and out of the zodiacs was not simple, and some tours involved wet landings (which is why we had tall boots). We would definitely suggest taking hiking (trekking) poles to assist with walking in the snow ashore.
CVT: What are some of the tips and advice you would have for someone who’s thinking of booking now?
Susan and Bill: Look online at the various Antarctica trips to ascertain which one would be best for you (price, activities, difficulty, etc).
Book early—if you can. Many of the trips sell out quickly since only a certain number of people can go to Antarctica each year (November to March).
If you're interested in booking an Expedition Cruise, including one like this to Antarctica, call 877-36-I-TRAVEL
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