When contemplating a cruise to the Antarctic, it is vital to think carefully about your personal priorities. Do you want a luxurious voyage, or are you in search of a wildlife adventure? Is it the quality of the lecturers and naturalists, or that of the food and wine that is of primary importance?
Having been a frequent passenger on Silversea ships, I can attest to the high levels of service that they provide. The appointments are more luxurious than those on Lindblad, and butler service is included. A culinary partnership with Relais & Châteaux ensures on-board cuisine of a high standard. Journeys to the Antarctic are on the Silver Explorer, a purpose-built expedition ship — originally called the Prince Albert II and last refurbished in 2014 — that accommodates 130 passengers. Its ice rating of 1A is not quite as high as that of the Lindblad ships. A team of 11 experts accompanies the expedition, which includes naturalists, anthropologists, geologists and historians. A fleet of Zodiacs takes passengers on land excursions, which are accompanied by the expedition staff. Antarctica itineraries are scheduled from November 2016 to early March 8, 2017 (the final journey lasts 22 days and ends in Cape Town). The other cruises are 10 or 18 days. In late 2017, Silversea’s newest expedition ship, the Silver Cloud Expedition, will begin making trips to Antarctica. This ship was originally the Silver Cloud and will be repurposed as an ice-class ship and reconfigured to accommodate 260 passengers, down from 296, with just 200 passengers on Antarctic journeys so that the ship can visit restricted-access sites (limited to ships with 200 or fewer passengers).
Veranda Suite for 10-day trip, $32,970 for two; Veranda Suite for 18-day trip, $52,410 for two. Tel. 888-978-4070.
Seabourn puts a premium on luxury. The company has made a transition from smaller vessels to “Odyssey” class ships, which accommodate up to 458 passengers. The newest, Seabourn Quest, launched in 2011 and was reinforced in 2013 to give it an ice rating of 1D, lower than the other ships covered here. And with a complement of 458 passengers, the Quest will not have the same access to landing sites in Antarctica as the others. However, its Antarctic cruises have a full expedition staff of lecturers, naturalists and photo instructors. Two cruises at the end of 2016 follow a 21-day itinerary from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, with six days in Antarctica and numerous stops in Patagonia.
Veranda Suite on the November 28 cruise, from $25,998 for two; Veranda Suite on the 24-day trip departing on December 19, from $31,998 for two. The same prices apply to the two 2017 trips, scheduled for January 12 and February 2. Tel. 855-545-7619.
This French company has made its mark in recent years with sleek vessels that look more like mega-yachts than conventional cruise ships. The three ships that sail Antarctic itineraries — Le Boréal, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial — limit the number of passengers to 199 so that they can visit restricted sites. All cabins have balconies. The décor is “stylish contemporary,” and great emphasis is placed on comfort. The ships are all equipped with up-to-date safety devices and have ice ratings of 1C, not as high as the Silversea and Lindblad vessels. Ponant has a fully qualified expedition staff. Antarctic cruises are scheduled from mid-November to early March. Generally, itineraries are 11 or 16 days; the final March sailing is 22 days and ends in Cape Town.
Deluxe Stateroom for 11-day voyage, $24,920 for two; Deluxe Stateroom for 16-day voyage, $26,840 for two. Tel. 888-400-1082.
A&K charters Le Boréal and Le Lyrial for its two Antarctic itineraries of 12 and 17 days, respectively. The special Family New Year program departs on December 28 for a 12-day trip. A&K’s own highly respected expedition teams are on board for these cruises.
Deluxe Stateroom for 12-day trip, $28,990 for two; Deluxe Stateroom for 17-day trip, $43,990 for two. Tel. 888-611-4711.
As well as the voyage we took, Lindblad offers a 24-day itinerary that includes Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island. Cruises are aboard either the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer, which we took, or the 102-passenger National Geographic Orion. Trips begin in November 2016 and run through February 2017.
Category 3 Accommodation, $54,260 for two. Tel. 800-397-3348.
Many Harper subscribers have expressed strong interest in travel to the opposite end of the world. Whereas Antarctica is a continent surrounded by ocean, the Arctic is frozen ocean surrounded by continents. Most of the inquiries I get about the Arctic focus on polar bears. Read about the detailed options that will address this passion.
Expert staff in the Andrew Harper Travel Office will be delighted to discuss the merits of all the ships above. Contact us by email at [email protected].