Antarctica21: Embracing the Frozen Wilderness

Navigate the Antarctic in Luxurious Style with the Groundbreaking Antarctica21 Adventure Cruises

Breaking through the silent and icy wilderness, the onboard public address system comes to life. “Hello explorers, on your starboard side at three o’clock, there’s been a sighting of two humpback whales.” No matter where they are or what they’re doing, guests aboard an Antarctica21 cruise drop everything to witness the spectacle. The majestic creatures spouting water into the frigid air – an unforgettable sight and sound – just inches from the boat, offers a glimpse into the raw beauty of the Antarctic region.

This is the daily spectacle on an eight-day Antarctica21 adventure cruise, the journey of a lifetime to the earth’s final frontier, the seventh continent. Established in 2003, Antarctica21 now has a fleet of two ships designed solely for boutique-style wilderness adventures in the Antarctic region.

The flagship of their fleet, the Magellan Explorer, carries a maximum of 73 guests on an intimate voyage through the Antarctic Peninsula. Their most popular trip is the eight-day Classic Antarctica air cruise. The voyage navigates between the South Shetland Islands and the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, offering breathtaking views of the rugged icy wilderness and its unique wildlife, including whales, penguins, and seals.

Apart from the awe-inspiring explorations, guests enjoy the comfort and luxury onboard the ship. Exceptional meals, high-quality amenities, and top-notch service complement the posh accommodations, creating a harmonious blend of wild exploration and comfort.

Yet, the journey to Antarctica is no easy feat. The harsh and remote landscape is quite literally at the bottom of the world, presenting an arduous two-day voyage through the infamous, storm-ridden Drake’s Passage. However, Antarctica21 pioneered the concept of flight and sail to circumvent this challenging part of the journey. Instead of enduring two days of turbulent sailing, guests are offered a three-hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city, to Frei Island in the Antarctic peninsula. From there, a brief boat ride delivers guests to the awaiting ship.

Antarctica21 promises an unparalleled journey, blending high-end comfort with thrilling, icy exploration. From the moment you hear the words, “Hello explorers,” you’re invited into an experience that stretches the limits of adventure, offering a glimpse into the untouched and mesmerizing beauty of our world’s final frontier.

Once ashore explorers go on adventures through the wilderness, hiking to gorgeous lookouts, and exploring the abandoned whaling factories, as well as the cabins of the early explorers.  One of the highlights is the chance to walk amongst penguins all types from Adelie, Gentoo, and Chinstrap. You’ll explore their rookeries, some of the largest in the world with an estimated 700,000 birds.  There you’ll see the young at various stages of their furry development as they aggressively chase their parents for food. The explorers get so close to the penguins that they can see, hear, and yes, smell them. Encountering the pungent smell of guano,  which is their ammonia-odored poo,  is not a delightfully fragrant experience. However, it is s conforming to know that it serves its purpose as food for the krill which is the foundation of ecosystems feeding wildlife from small fish to mammoth-sized whales.   

Antarctica is an untamed icy wilderness but is also an unaccommodating place. The saying goes there is no bad weather, only bad gear so the intrepid explorers come prepared for the at times brutal weather conditions. Layers of coats, thermals, and most of all waterproof clothing are essential to brave the elements.  But once prepared and in the environment, the wonders encountered are beyond imagination.

The cruise explores the islands, bays, and inlets of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are no ports of call there so forget the t-shirt shopping. However, destinations include Paulet Island, Hope Bay, Port Lockroy, Petermann Island, Paradise Bay, Deception Island, and the Lemaire Channel, all known for their beautiful landscapes, penguin and seal colonies, or historical significance.

Explorers on this expedition must be flexible and learn to go with the flow. Based on Anartica’s unpredictable weather and condition, plans for the day may change in an instant. A trip ashore may turn into sightseeing along the coast or one landing spot may be quickly replaced with another. It all just depends but the safety of the guests is always the first priority so decisions of where to go and what to do on a daily basis are made with that in mind.  

During an entertaining conversation over dinner, we experience a loud thump, the sound and vibration, and the boat sways a bit. We are dining with one of the guides with seven years of experience in these waters.  He nonchalantly shares,  yes,  we just hit an iceberg.   Thoughts of the Titanic come to mind but alas, no damage was done as this ship is made for navigating these waters, and ramming a small iceberg is of little concern.  With that, dinner goes back to normal.

The vessel is specially made for this area, with a reinforced hull, and a fleet of inflatable zodiacs.  The bridge looks like a scene from a NASA control room with so many computers, screens, and high-tech monitors to count.  Beyond functionality, the ship is simply beautiful. The navy blue exterior is broken up by a white geometric pattern in the shape of icebergs. Indoors is just as sleek and contemporary with natural wood finishes and neutral color patterns and plenty of large windows to take in the surrounding surreal landscapes.

The ship is much smaller than most other Arctic cruise ships. There are only 50 staterooms and the air cruise trips max out at 73 passengers. Exploring the Antarctic is complicated and highly regulated. Part of that regulation dictates that no more than 100 passengers alight the ship at the various sightseeing destinations to reduce the impact on wildlife. With a ship filled with only 73 passengers, this is never an issue while other larger ships need to rotate groups to meet the criteria. 

The ship includes all of the creature comforts that guests would want during their adventure including a lounge and bar, a sauna a library with a collection of  Antarctic-themed books, and of course plenty of open decks and observation areas. No need to discontinue your workout schedule, the ship includes a state-of-the-art fitness center built by the professionals at Anytime Fitness.

The staterooms are ideal for this Antarctica adventure and range in size and features from the port hole rooms to the two-bedroom 480 ft² Grand Suites. All are spacious, well-appointed, and tastefully decorated and include a comfortable sitting area, plush beds, and a private bathroom with a shower and heated floors. Included with the staterooms are snacks and a mini-bar with beer and wine which is replenished daily. Rooms do not have TVs but why would they with the mesmerizing views just beyond. Speaking of which, most of the rooms feature a private balcony for taking in the exquisite outdoor vista and offering close contact with the Antarctic environment.  

Photo by Anais Afrika

 The dining experience is as exceptional as the excursions. All meals are included as well as premium Chilean wines and beer. The service is genuine and friendly and the staff knows your name after the first day as well as where you like to sit and how you like your tea or coffee in the morning.

Sitting is open with romantic couples taking a table for two while others dine a the larger tables. The guest gets to know each other during the excursion and tend to come together over convivial dinners that last long into the evening with hearty conversation.   

Breakfast and lunch provide an extensive buffet while dinner is served with a formal menu service. The top-notch gourmet meals are exquisite with dishes that range from Caribbean lobster to juicy Chilean steaks with meals that cater to all dietary requirements. During the trip, based on weather conditions, an alfresco bbq is served on the rear deck. It’s a party at sea with lively music and meats and chicken grilled and a full spread of side dishes and desserts.

Antarctica21 Cruise Manager Ragnhild Granfeldt

The Antarctic adventure is a holistic enrichment for the mind, body, and soul. The voyage is filled with intrepid travelers who want to not only see and experience the white continent but also understand it a bit more. There are interesting daily lectures, to feed the mind giving insights by their knowledgeable guides. The guides are experts, scientists, and academics who provide presentations covering a range of interesting topics from geography, wildlife, ice berges, and how climate change has impacted the region.

As far as interaction with other guests, the cruise starts out like the first day of summer camp. Guests start as strangers and with each excursion and encounter around the ship throughout the cruise, strangers transform into friends.  Meal time in particular as well as time at bending the elbow at the bar, turn into long and often hilarious chats, especially with a glass or two of delicious Chilean wine added to the mix.  All and all it’s a convivial gathering of kindred spirits and curious travelers sharing in one of the most amazing experiences on earth.

Few experiences have such a profound impact on the traveler.  Antartica21 offers more than a cruise. It is an Antarctic voyage sharing the most fascinating wildlife, ice formations, and adventures on Earth that guests will cherish for a lifetime.   

Derek Oyen – Unsplash

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