Sherry is here to amaze you with her many stories on her trip to Antarctica in a multipart series.
My husband and I went to Antarctica for our trip of a lifetime. I can honestly say I know only two other people who have been to the Antarctic. It was an extraordinary journey. If you haven’t had your trip of a lifetime, my biggest wish is that you get this experience at least once. It will be that vacation you talk about years later and to anyone who will listen. It will be that vacation you have to pull out the pictures from every once in a while, just to make yourself smile. It will be that vacation you would give anything to do again, but know in your heart it can’t be relived and has to stay that “once-in-a-lifetime”.
What started out as a discussion over dinner with our travel agent about her most favorite trip ever, ended up with us booking our adventure two days later. We chose Lindblad Expeditions, as she did, aboard the National Geographic Explorer.
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Here’s why we chose Lindblad:
- Okay, c’mon, you’re with National Geographic! Aboard the ship are NG photographers, naturalists, and under water specialists, who conduct classes both on the ship and on land. On this voyage we also had scientists from Oceanites, doing penguin inventories.
- The ship is small, only 148 passengers, so it’s not overwhelming. We tend to like boutique hotels, so this was our perfect cruise.
- The ship has ice cutters, so it can pretty much go everywhere.
- You are encouraged to hang out on the bridge with the captain and crew at all hours.
- The food and service are known to be exceptional, with a gift shop, fitness center, and spa on board.
- They take advantage of natural conditions and the unexpected, so no two trips are the same. Should there be the rare siting of an Emperor penguin, they will make sure you get to see it. Should Orca whales be sighted, you can watch while the scientists attempt to get DNA samples. You get the idea.
With nearly 24 hours of daylight at the time of year you travel, you have ample opportunity to explore the Antarctic Peninsula. You can hike, take polar dips, and go out on Zodiacs and kayaks through ICEBERGS. Ever have a penguin dive bomb over your kayak? We did. Ever have a juvenile whale playing with you as it dives under your Zodiac and is so close you can touch him, but don’t of course. We did. The opportunities for close encounters with the native wildlife abound. We saw sites we will never see anyplace else nor will we ever see again.
Lindblad is great in making sure you are well prepared for the trip by sending you packing lists, education materials, and travel documents. You travel during our winter as it’s their summer or as warm as it gets there! We were quite fortunate, as it was in the 30’s and sunny for most of the trip. If you live in a cold winter climate, trust me, invest in a pair of Muck Boots. They have proven to be a stellar investment. While the rooms on board are small, they are very modern and well-appointed. We chose a cabin with a balcony and it proved well worth the extra expense, just for the photo opportunities.
There weren’t many children on our trip, but it was early February when kids are in school and you need 2 weeks of vacation time. I would say, however, that these expeditions are great for family travel, with tons of activities to keep everyone occupied, plus the educational opportunities are priceless.
The Adventure Begins
We start the journey with a flight to Santiago, Chile and two days at the Grand Hyatt Hotel* with our fellow passengers. We soon learn most everyone is VERY well-traveled and we suddenly feel like novices. Next, we depart for Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city in the world, so we literally are at the end of the world. Of note, I was the only one in our group who still had phone service! Here we take a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park and a catmaran ride through Beagle Channel, which separates Chile from Argentina. We see our first penguins and seals, lounging on the rocks!
We finally board the Explorer that evening and settle into our rooms. We have cocktails and dinner, meet the crew, have a photography lesson, and woohoo, set sail for the Antarctic. And then, it’s off to bed, but seriously, who can sleep? When we awake, a whole new world will be off the bow, off the starboard, off the stern…
*If you go to Hyatt and book this hotel, Traveling Mom will receive a referral notice.
Next Up: Will we be lucky or not through the Drake’s Passage?
For additional reading on Trips of a Lifetime:
Traveling With Kids to Ireland – A Trip of a Lifetime