We Truly Had An Antarctica Cruise Trip To Remember
We started our year with an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember. Words are quite inadequate to describe our Silversea Cruises trip to the deep south in Antarctica. Each day was filled with yet more stunning Antarctic sights. And we had the most amazing sunny and calm days for much of our 20 day cruise.
The Silversea team was determined that we have the best Antarctic experiences possible. Our expedition adventures took us on zodiac cruises, hiking on land and we even kayaked. The expedition team was experienced and brought all disciplines. We learned so much from this highly engaged team.
Each day we got new wildlife sights. We saw Adélie, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. And while we searched for the elusive Emperor Penguin we left without a sighting. Leopard, Weddell and Crabeater Seals lazed on the ice and occasionally put on a show. The bird watchers found much to see at every stop. And whale sightings even included some close encounters.
The Silver Endeavour cruise ship bridge team led by our experienced Captain Peterstam met every challenge thrown at them. They successfully navigated narrow ice waterways at Lemaire Channel and the Gullet – twice! And we cruised deep south to areas not yet well charted.
On our trip south we celebrated landing on our 7th Continent and crossed the Antarctic Circle. We then travelled to the furthest south point just off the Wordie Shelf that most cruise ships never reached. It was amazing to spend 6 days south of the Antarctic Circle. We turned back north on day 13 with still many days to slowly explore new sights.
This visit to the 7th Continent was truly everything we wanted it to be. This is a long post that details everything you might want on an Antarctica cruise when you start your planning for this incredible experience.
Heading To Puerto Williams
Our cruise to Antarctica started with a short stay in Santiago in Chile. From Santiago Silversea Cruises flew us by private charter down to Puerto Williams in the south of Chile. The charter plane and experience was great. We had lots of leg room. Despite worrying about the baggage weight constraints, we had no trouble at all.
The 3.5 hour flight down gave us some lovely views as we flew south through Chile. Our early afternoon departure from Santiago got us on the ship at about 5pm. Our trip back was a little longer with a fuel stop in Puente Arenas. With a 6:30 am departure from the ship, we arrived back in Santiago and were at our hotel before check-in time. Easy and painless transfers.
As we flew into Puerto Williams we got our first view of the Silver Endeavour cruise ship waiting for us. We picked up our carry-on bags and our checked bags were automatically transferred to the ship. A short shuttle bus ride took us to the ship. Sadly we had no time to explore Puerto Williams before the ship departed. But we heard there was much to draw us back for a return visit.
We were excited when we finally got onboard for our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Checking Out The Silver Endeavour
It was a quick check-in process to the Silver Endeavour and we were off to our suite. Since this was our first cruise with Silversea Cruises, we reviewed a lot of videos on the ship and the cabins so we knew what to expect.
In the cabin we found some basic provisions. Silversea provided a good jacket with an inner puffy coat. There were two water-resistant backpacks and two thermal water bottles for us in the room. If people ordered more clothing like waterproof pants, this was also in the cabins. When we packed for Antarctica, we bought our own high waterproof boots. But others got their boots later that first day.
Our checked bags showed up and we proceeded to unpack. We found lots of spaces to hang and store our clothes and electronics. But we were a bit disappointed when we learned that the cupboard used to store our outer gear was not heated like we expected. Wet gear coming back to the cabin became an issue on a few very wet excursion days.
Once we were unpacked, we headed off and explored more of the Silver Endeavour. Our lovely luxury Silversea Cruises ship was the perfect way to enjoy our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Cruising The Drake Passage
As we cruised out of the Beagle Channel we headed out on deck for the sunset. We said goodbye to South America as we headed south into the Drake Passage.
When we planned our cruise to Antarctica, we had to decide whether we would cruise the Drake Passage or fly into Antarctica. The Drake Passage was often referred to as either the “Drake Shake” for very rough crossings or the “Drake Lake” when the seas were calm. The captain’s weather briefing for the next day on the Drake Passage was favourable.
Overnight we were warned and put breakables away. But we only felt a slight roll with the swell through the night. When we opened the curtains in the morning, we saw bright blue skies and flat seas. For the two days we cruised on the Drake Passage we had the best weather that many onboard saw this season. It was great to wander on the outer decks as we explored more of the Silver Endeavour.
We were very spoiled with the flat seas when we crossed the Drake Passage to Antarctica. But we knew it could be much different for the return trip. When we got our weather briefing for the return trip we were warned. We had a 5 out of 10 experience for about 24 hours. But with proper preparation for rough weather, we had no issues.
Despite a bit of rough seas for part of our return, we remained very happy we chose to do the Drake Passage crossing on our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 3 – Day First Zodiac Tour At Point Wild On Elephant Island
Our great Captain Peterstam and expedition leader Jamie Watts wanted to make sure our 20 day cruise to Antarctica was indeed a trip to remember. This longer cruise gave us lots of time to explore. With only 100 people on a ship that held 200, the team had flexibility in planning expeditions. And when the weather forecast was favourable, we got some amazing stops that many other vessels missed.
When we were briefed for our first stop in Antarctica it was noted that most ships did nothing more than cruise past this point. But our ship headed to Point Wild on Elephant Island. The seas on this outward point in Antarctica were still rough so the plan did not include a landing. But we were briefed for our first zodiac cruise.
We joined the crowd on the bow of the ship as Point Wild emerged in the mist. It was an exciting first view of Antarctica.
The seas were calm enough that the captain pulled the ship into a quiet cove. We excitedly watched the zodiacs being lowered into the water. Bundled up in our multiple layers we waited for our group to be called. And made it safely onto our first zodiac boat.
It was not a perfect day for a zodiac tour. But we loved our first close-up glimpse of the shore. The Endurance expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton camped on this island for 4 months after being shipwrecked in 1916. And were rescued by the Chilean Navy team led by Captain Pardo. On the shore we saw the sculpture of Captain Pardo. This was the first but not last glimpse we got into the history of Antarctica.
After our morning zodiac trip, we cruised through a zone filled with prospering fin whales. We did not get a close view but the multiple spouts we saw at sea showed us our escorts at sea.
Day 4 – A Glimpse Of History At Snow Hill Island And Paulet Island
From Elephant Island we headed through the Antarctic Sound to the Weddell Sea. This was another spot that many cruisers missed. When we woke in the morning we were amazed by our first view of icebergs as they passed close to the ship. But these sights only got better as we cruised in Antarctica.
As we approached Snow Hill Island and then Paulet Island we learned about the early Swedish expedition (1901-1904) that arrived on the SS Antarctic ship and spent 2 full winters in this area. Many said this group endured greater hardship than Shackleton’s team.
The landing zone for the zodiacs on Snow Hill Island provided us with our first wet landing. The sand beach entry was a perfect spot for this first experience. We saw a large area with no snow ahead of us with peaks rising high. We climbed higher and higher for amazing panoramic views from above.
On one mound we explored the Nordenskjold Hut. This was the spot where the 6 member Swedish team spent 2 winters. Entry to the hut was gated with 10 people on the platform and only 5 inside the hut at any time. We learned much about what it was like to survive the frigid winters in Antarctica.
After our landing, we headed out for a zodiac cruise. We got close up views of the amazing icebergs formed by the wind, water and sun.
Antarctica history and stunning ice formations were a great introduction on our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 5 – Our 7th Continent At Brown Bluff Made This An Antarctica Cruise Trip To Remember
As soon as we opened the curtains in the morning we got an clear view of the inverted volcano that was Brown Bluff. We were excited when we headed down to the zodiacs for our formal first landing on the Antarctica Peninsula. This was our 7th continent visited!
At this landing spot we took our first hike up along the glacial moraine. I was very thankful that I had my hiking poles with me. The rocks were jagged and rough to walk on. But when we hit the ice, the poles were the only thing that kept me moving up. And saved me from falling on the way back down.
We were greeted on land by a large group of Adélie and Gentoo Penguins. We moved slowly around the penguins and stayed well back from the advancing curious ones. Once we even had to quickly shuttle backwards when a large lazy seal moved our way.
But the excitement was not yet over. We saw a couple of zodiacs just offshore and we heard there were Leopard Seals in the water. And when we saw blood we knew that the seal found food. When we finally got on a zodiac and went to that area, we just saw the Leopard seals as they lazily swam around.
But our view of wildlife sights was not done for the day. As we watched we got our first but not last view of porpoising penguins. We knew that penguins could not fly. But we sat enthralled as they leaped out of the water as they went by.
We got an amazing first look at the wildlife in Antarctica at Brown Bluff. And explored the fascinating geology too.
Fun On The Kayaks At Paulet Island
For the afternoon excursion we had our first kayak tour. Fully dressed in our dry suits we boarded a zodiac to the kayaks. And managed to climb from the zodiac into our kayaks. Getting out was a little less graceful!
The sea was calm and kayaking was pretty easy. We were sure glad we packed lots of sunscreen. The 12 kayaks followed the leader along the shore. Penguins and seals lazed on the beach and a few seals even drifted close in the water.
It was a lovely day to paddle along the shore and get a view of Paulet Island at water level. Yet another of the fun adventures in Antarctica.
Day 6 – A Great Variety In The Sights At Cierva Cove
We headed back through the Antarctic Sound and out of the Weddell Sea for a slow cruise down the Antarctic Peninsula along the Gerlache Strait. That area was a known whale zone. Out on deck, people watched as whale spouts were spotted out at sea. Those with good binoculars or a big zoom lens actually saw whales breach. But we were excited when we caught sight of a whale right under our balcony!
In the afternoon we arrived at Cierva Cove. Our zodiac driver first took us to the small island offshore. As we moved along we got our first close-up look at Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins all over the rocks. They kept us amused as they lined up for swim time and then clambered back in from the sea. But we were sad we missed the Minke whale that other zodiacs saw.
After we saw the penguins, the zodiac headed out into the bay for a long cruise to see the icebergs caught in the cove. We were amazed at the shapes and colours of the ice. And occasionally we saw the iceberg deep below the surface. In the back of the bay we caught sight of the Sikorsky Glacier.
As our zodiac ploughed through the ice in one bay, we passed a series of red buildings on the shore at Base Primavera. This was an Argentine base and scientific research station.
As a final treat on our day in Cierva Cove we were met by the supply zodiac. They handed over glasses of champagne or hot chocolate to toast this perfect day in Cierva Cove on our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 7 – History And Wildlife At Mikkelsen Harbour On D’Hainuit Island
On the next day we backtracked a little and headed to Mikkelsen Harbour on D’Hainuit Island. We had a zodiac landing planned with lots to see on shore.
As soon as we did our wet landing we walked right into a whaling graveyard. A large number of Blue Whale bones were scattered over the beach around the remains of an old whaling boat.
Standing guard over the bones was a large group of Gentoo Penguins. We first saw Gentoo Penguins on our cruise around South America when we visited Bluff Cove Lagoon on Falkland Islands. This group included a large number of cranky molting birds. We stayed well back.
From the beach we walked up onto the soft snow. The path up was slippery but manageable. When we reached the top we looked down and saw the deserted red Argentine refuge hut on the shore. There were many of these small buildings around Antarctica that offered short term shelter. There was no path down the hill to the hut. With each step our feet sunk and without hiking poles it was a rough walk. So we took in the panoramic view from above.
When we cruised around on our way back to the boat our zodiac driver was so happy when we found the first Crabeater Seals lazing on the nearby rocks.
We had such an interesting morning in Mikkelsen Harbour with views of history and wildlife. Just some of the things that made this an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Whale Sightings At Hughes Bay For An Antarctica Cruise Trip To Remember
With all the whale sightings we had during our transits, we were excited when we headed out after lunch on the zodiacs in Hughes Bay in search of whales. The weather deteriorated through the day. But even the cold and wet day did not deter us. When we planned our trip to Antarctica, the timing was partly driven by the best time for whales. So we were not disappointed when the whales put on a show for us that day.
Whales came right by our zodiac several times. We sat still until they moved on. They swam in pairs before they dove and gave us a tail flip. We were intrigued when we regularly saw white and pink as the whales rolled on their side and opened their mouths to eat. It was a fascinating sight.
Our first close up sighting of whales from the zodiac sure made it an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 8 – Enjoying The Sights At Paradise Harbour
We vowed when we started this 20 day Antarctica cruise to take some downtime. So this morning we enjoyed a lazy day onboard. Those what went ashore at Cuverville Island reported seeing Gentoo Penguins with their chicks. And a hike provided a great panoramic view. We were just fine with the tradeoff we made. We enjoyed the sights go by as we sailed away from Cuverville Island.
In the afternoon we headed out and explored Paradise Harbour on the zodiacs. With grey moody skies, the ice and mountain scenes were stunning.
As we slowly moved around the floating ice the seals yawned at us or slept on as we passed.
After we returned to the ship, the sun returned and shone around the beautiful bay until we got a lovely sunset from our balcony. A great end to another day cruising around Antarctica.
Day 9 – Causing Through The Lemaire Channel To Pleneau Bay
We started our cruising day early and headed down the Lemaire Channel as the sun came up on this icy waterway. The Lemaire Channel was a 7 nautical mile narrow geological fault between the Antarctic Peninsula and Booth Island. We stood on the bow of the ship at 7am in the cold katabatic winds that swept down from the heights. The rocks rose high above the ship on both sides. It took us about an hour to slowly navigate. Such a stunning way to start our morning in Antarctica.
When we cleared the Lemaire channel we went through the Penola Straight to Pleneau Bay. We were again blessed when the blue skies and sunshine returned. It was a perfect day for our zodiac cruise through what was considered to be an iceberg graveyard. The massive pieces of floating ice were often grounded in the shallow water. As we cruised the bay we admired the ice sculpture gallery. And the lazy seals as they enjoyed the sunshine.
On our outings we always learned a little more of the history of Antarctic exploration. Our zodiac driver found us rock cairns on the shore. And with an eagle eye he found us the graffiti “F” carved into a rock for “France” by the antarctic explorerJean-Baptiste Charcot. We continued our search but did not find the “PP” carving for “Pourquoi Pas” (“why not”). But we later explored the shore in front of Pourquoi Pas Island.
We stopped for lunch while the captain moved the ship for our afternoon expedition.
Visiting Wordie House In The Argentine Islands
In the afternoon we headed off for a zodiac ride for a landing in the Argentine Islands. Our zodiac driver manoeuvred the boat around the narrow rock channels. He slowed as we found seals on the ice and penguins on the rocks.
We passed slowly by the Ukrainian Vernadsky Base. This base was originally the British Faraday Station (Station F). Covid restrictions were still in place at this deserted spot and we were unable to visit the base. But our expedition leader dropped off some fresh provisions and picked up the keys for our stop at the deserted Wordie House. As we moved into the sheltered bay for our wet landing, we were surprised when we saw sailboats moored in the bay.
We successfully made it over the slippery rocks and headed up to the Wordie House (named after the chief scientist on Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-17 expedition). This example of an early British scientific research station was established in January 1947. We wandered through the house and got another look at living in Antarctica.
After we visited Wordie House we walked around the sheltered cove. There was a viewpoint high on the snowy hill so we headed up in the snow. We found no path and each step sunk us up to our knees in soft, wet snow. I must admit that I gave up halfway up the hill but David continued to the top. He was rewarded with great panoramic view. While I got the view from a slightly lower altitude. But I did catch the ice wall calving on video!
When David got back down we made it over the slippery rocks and into the zodiac for our return to the ship. We were stopped in a calm and sheltered bay so the captain kept us there for the night. Navigating in icy waters was never the choice when we had such an amazing long cruise in Antarctica. And the calm bay was the perfect backdrop for another stunning sunset.
Day 10 – Crossing The Antarctic Circle On Our Antarctica Cruise Trip To Remember
When we got our briefing for the next day, the expedition leader and Captain knew that the weather was not going to be great. So no promises were made for a stop as we cruised through the deep south inner passage. We continued to move through waters that many ships never visited.
It was great to get an unexpected day at sea. We enjoyed a few lectures on-board. High on deck 9 in the Explorers Lounge we watched the amazing icy scenery go by. As the morning advanced the sky cleared and the sunny blue skies gave us beautiful reflections. The icebergs we passed were bigger and seemed much closer to the ship. It was funny to think back on how excited we were with the first small icebergs we saw close to the ship at the beginning of the trip.
We were aimed for Hanoose Bay and the team kept watch on the weather. But ultimately decided there was no good and safe spot for an afternoon expedition. We were content as we kept watch on the latitude readings going up as we headed south. We knew we would cross the Antarctic Circle in the early evening.
At 6pm we headed to the Explorers Lounge. The entertainment team provided a distraction with a Trivia Challenge and then we were serenaded by the piano player. When the expedition leader Jamie came to the lounge we knew we were close to the Antarctic Circle.
The team provided some background and explained that the Antarctic Circle was defined at the point at which the sun does not set on the summer solstice (Jun 22). But that latitude was not a fixed point due to both the path of the Earth around the sun being pear shaped at times and at other times the Earth wobbled on the axis. But on this day we crossed the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes and 49.428 seconds South.
We had a drink and celebrated crossing the Antarctic Circle. And went out on the deck as we passed what people called the “dotted line”. Heading south past the Antarctic Circle sure made this an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember!
Day 11 – Heading Through The Gullet
The plan for this day was to do two exploratory zodiac trips in Hanusse Bay at the Bennett Islands and in Shumskiy Cove. When we woke in the morning the captain and expedition leader felt the winds were too strong to lower the zodiacs. But they wanted to try the southbound transit through the narrow ice-filled channel known as the “Gullet”.
As the experienced team planned our transit, they were undaunted when they talked to another ship that turned back in the Gullet. The newer Silver Endeavour had the ice rating to handle the icy straight. And the advanced handling capability allowed the team on the bridge to manoeuvre with precision turns. The Captain was confident this ship could travel through the Gullet when most others would fail.
Even with grey skies and a strong wind coming down the channel, we headed to the outdoor decks at the very front of the bow and watched the transit through the Gullet. When the ship lined up for the channel, no one on the bow could even see an opening. As we got closer we finally saw a narrow entrance and the adventure began.
By this point we were used to icebergs floating close to the ship. But we had steep land on both sides and floating ice too as we sailed through the narrow straight. It was amazing to watch the Captain and his team weave us through. All along the sights were magnificent.
When the channel opened up we headed to the back of the ship and got a view as we left the Gullet. The path forward was still not open water but it left a little room on the sides of the ship! At the nightly wrap-up session, the Captain and his team got a standing ovation from the passengers for their skill and determination in getting us safely through the Gullet.
A morning transiting through the narrow icy waters of the Gullet definitely made this an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 11 – Stonehouse Bay Was A Perfect Peaceful End To An Exciting Day
As we cruised south from the Gullet, the weather steadily improved. By the time we reached Stonehouse Bay, the waters were calm and the blue skies started to peek through. It was an amazing afternoon for a long zodiac cruise.
We headed out and explored the large bay. The calm waters provided amazing reflections. And colourful icebergs were everywhere.
Several times the keen eyes of our zodiac driver spotted seals on ice shelves. We approached slowly and watched the seals. Once we found a mother seal protecting her pup. Another time we found 3 seals playing in the water. And occasionally the lazy seals acknowledged us with a look.
Our calm and peaceful stop at Stonehouse Bay was the perfect way to end the day that started with the exhilarating transit through The Gullet. But our excitement was not over for the day. With such perfect conditions, the expedition team planned our polar plunge well south of the Antarctic Circle. And yes, we both met the challenge and jumped in the ice cold waters!
Day 12 – Exploring Stodington Base In Marguarite Bay
The Captain headed the ship steadily south overnight towards Marguerite Bay. The weather forecast gave us a plan for the day that included a zodiac cruise for a view of Red Rock Ridge and then a landing at Stodington East Base. But when we woke the katabatic winds whipped down from the heights and created conditions that were unsafe to lower the zodiacs.
We sailed back and forth along the shore and watched as the winds died down. So we were not surprised at all when the Captain tucked the ship in close to shore. It was now a short calm 200m zodiac ride to the shore and Stodington Base. After a quick survey of the area we were cleared for a landing.
After we landed we walked up the hill and through the Stodington Base. We got another view of what living in the Antarctic looked like. There was a wall of novels on one wall that kept those on the base entertained. A quick look at the titles showed clearly that only men stayed at this spot!
From the buildings we walked along the rocks and got another view of groups of Adélie Penguins. And close up views of even more Crabeater Seals.
While we walked around the island we kept hearing the loud bang sound we knew meant that ice was calving somewhere. People crowded along the shore of the inner inlet and caught sight of two different drops of ice and the small waves produced. Hoping for a bigger cascade and tsunami, people stayed glued to the spot until it was time to head back on the zodiacs.
We were happy the weather settled down and the Captain got us close enough to enjoy an afternoon at Stodington Base. We finished the day with yet another colourful sunset. And since we had calm and clear conditions overnight, we even got a good look at the night sky.
Day 13 – As Far South As A Cruise Ship Goes
As soon as it was light, the Captain set sail south. We cruised steadily towards the Wordie Shelf. This was the ice shelf that recently broke off from the Antarctica Peninsula. And most of this waterway was uncharted. So the ship moved carefully with all eyes on the bridge on the lookout for any ice concerns.
At 9am the Captain stopped the ship and using dynamic positioning kept the ship hovering in place. We reached the most southernmost point of our Antarctica cruise at latitude 68 degrees 46 minutes 35 seconds south. The passengers all gathered on the bow and champagne was served. We were all proud of how far south we travelled on this trip. It was the furthest south that any Silversea vessel reached.
We enjoyed some time on deck in the sunshine as we stayed at our southernmost point in Antarctica. The Captain kept watch on the large icebergs floating in the bay off the Wordie Shelf. Off in the haze on shore we saw the Antarctic Peninsula. It was a stunning spot to just take in for a few moments.
Having made it as far south as we went on this trip, the Captain turned the ship around and we began the slow trip back north. We were only on day 13 of 20 and we knew there were still many more adventures to be had in Antarctica.
Cruising Around Jenny Island
Later that day we cruised into the bay at Jenny Island and got a great view of the fascinating geology of this island. Much of what we saw was bare but snow still cascaded down to the shore in places.
As our zodiac moved slowly down the coast we saw such great wildlife. Seals and birds lay on the rocks. But it was the Elephant Seals that were the main attraction. They littered the beach and lazed in the sun. Occasionally we caught one out for a swim. And when we disturbed one on his swim, he made his displeasure known.
The Silver Endeavour expedition ship was outfitted with a Marina deck at water level on the stern of the ship. In warm waters, this was used as a water sports platform. We were delighted when we saw the Marina open on this afternoon in Antarctica. This was a measure of the calm seas and bright sunshine we continued to get. When we got back to the ship we headed down and had a drink on the Marina deck. Special events like this to finish our day truly made this an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 14 – Wandering On Horseshoe Island
We settled in offshore of Horseshoe Island on another sunny morning. It was a short zodiac ride into a small sheltered cove for a wet landing. We walked up the short rocky slope and explored another abandoned base (Base Y). We were surprised to find this base in good shape. Even if we needed flashlights to explore in places.
From the the base we wandered inland over the rocky path. A small lake provided a tranquil setting to wander on Jenny Island. As we walked around the lake we encountered a small group of Adele Penguins that largely ignored us. But then one small penguin made his presence known with persistent screeching.
We climbed up the rocks and stopped regularly when we saw brilliant green veins in the rocks. These Malachite veins were a copper carbonate hydroxide mineral. The path wound its way to a high point on the island. At about halfway up we decided to stroll back down. We wanted to enjoy a short zodiac cruise before we returned to the ship.
Our zodiac driver took us to see some of the fascinating icebergs in the bay. We found more lazy Crabeater Seals. And on the rocky shore one loud penguin squawked and ran around a group of seals. We were glad these seals weren’t interested in penguin for a snack!
We were delighted with the wildlife we found on this Antarctica Cruise.
Cruising Bourgeois Fjord And Pourquoi Pas Island
In the afternoon we cruised slowly down the Bourgeois Fjord. We got amazing view of the fjord from the ship. After we went as far as was safely navigable, the Captain turned the ship back around and found us a sheltered bay to unload the zodiacs.
With bright sun and low winds, we were off for a long zodiac exploration. We faced Pourquoi Pas Island and with a name like “Why Not” we were drawn well away from the cruise ship.
We continued to be enamoured with the stunning ice shapes we saw. And on land we admired the glacier coming down off the land and recalled all we learned on our lecture about “ice”. The calm waters gave us some amazing reflections.
When we found a few Crabeater Seals on an ice flow we got excited as we sat quietly and watched them stretch. But then we found another flow with more seals. And were called over to an ice flow that had more than 40 seals on it. It was truly a great day for seal watching on this Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 15 – Ryder Bay And The Leonie Islands
It was Sunday and the expedition leader gave us all a bit of a break. The zodiac tours started a little later than normal. When we woke to grey skies we felt it was time to take a relaxing morning onboard. We settled up in the Explorers Lounge for panoramic views. And when we saw the whales playing in the bay, we were in the perfect spot to get some pictures from the ship. The Silver Endeavour maintained position, not by anchoring but using high-tech dynamic positioning. With some simple adjustments the ship moved so the whales passed almost immediately beside the vessel.
As the morning progressed we started to see pockets of blue skies and sunshine that lit up the view around Ryder Bay And The Leonie Islands. As we turned to head towards the Gullet the Captain took us for a second pass by the fully manned British Rothera Base. We saw the construction going on around the airfield. And several people came out and waved as we passed.
Back Through The Gullet
As we cruised towards The Gullet we had fascinating views. We cruised through ice fields and in the silence of Antarctica we heard the ice bubbles as they popped. When we looked far ahead on the horizon, we again saw the evidence of the katabatic winds as they whistled down the mountain slopes.
We got to the opening of the Gullet and again were not sure there was a channel northbound to transit. But as we turned the corner, we saw that the right hand side of the channel was mostly open with floating ice.
We stood in the cold winds on the bow of the ship again and wondered if the Captain and bridge team would choose to continue. And then as we started to crash through the ice-filled channel we knew we were pushing forward. It was an exhilarating hour as we transited the Gullet for the second time. When we finally hit more open water, we all turned and saluted the team on the bridge.
Not many people who visited Antarctica travelled through the Gullet. We were so fortunate to make this amazing trip twice! Definitely yet another reason this was an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 16 – Exploring Detaille Island
After we successfully exited the Gullet we sailed to the waters close to Detaille Island in the Lallemand Fjord and found a spot for the night. This meant that early the next morning we sailed into the ice-filled bay. It was yet another stunning cruise with ice passing close to the ship.
Detaille Island was rarely visited on Antarctica cruises. A landing on this island off the Arrowsmith Peninsula in Graham Land was planned. But there were stricter limits on the number that could be on the land and inside Base W at any time. So our group started with a long cruise around the ice before our wet landing.
Even after 14 days of looking at Antarctic ice, we continued to be amazed with the shapes and colour of the icebergs we passed on our cruise. We saw a few seals and penguins. But the ice was the big draw on this zodiac trip.
When it was our turn, our zodiac took us to the landing spot. We grabbed hiking poles when we landed and climbed the snow stairs up. Our first stop was at Base W of the British Antarctic Survey. This base was constructed in 1956 but was abandoned in 1959 when it no longer became possible to get supplies to the island. The evacuation was so tough that the men could only take the most basic possessions with them. So we found Base W almost intact with supplies, clothing and open magazines just as they were left on a hasty exit. It was a station frozen in time!
As we cruised we saw people high on the snow covered slopes as they explored the island. After we exited the base, we followed the icy paths to various high points on the island. The sun started to come out. And it was stunning to get panoramic views over the ice filled bay from the heights. We saw Base W below us and the Silver Endeavour out in the bay.
After a good hike around the island we re-boarded the zodiacs and headed for the ship. We slowed as we passed the kayaks returning to the ship. And were entertained when Morgan did a roll in his kayak for us.
Exhausted but happy we returned to the ship. We enjoyed the cruise back out of the bay in front of Detaille Island. We were so fortunate to visit rare sites like this on our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Crossing Back Over The Antarctic Circle
As we cruised north for our next destination we passed back over the Antarctic Circle. We had an amazing 6 days south of this defining point on this trip and this passing meant we were on our way back.
The plan for the afternoon was to visit the Barcroft and Scholander Islands. But as we got close the weather deteriorated. Visibility dropped and the swell increased which meant a zodiac cruise really was not possible. So the ship kept heading north for a calm spot for the night. And a movie about Antarctic was put on for those not napping the afternoon away.
We watched the movie “With Byrd At The South Pole” made in 1928. It was one of the first “talkie” documentaries and it chronicled Admiral Byrd’s trip to Antarctica and first flight over the South Pole. We visited so many of the exploration bases on this Antarctica cruise and saw the state that people lived in. But this movie made it a far more visceral experience.
Some days it was just nice to relax on our luxury Silver Endeavour cruise ship. It added more great memories on our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember.
Day 17 – In The Snow At Prospect Point
The ship was moved to the Fish Islands and we spent a calm night in a sheltered bay. We had amazing weather in Antarctica for over two weeks. So we were not really prepared when we opened our curtains and found snow on the balcony railings. David did not miss the opportunity to write “Antarctica” in the snow and was up for a challenge to make his snow angel on deck.
The team made the decision to move closer to the mainland at Prospect Point. And a zodiac cruise was planned for the morning. But the sight of snow covered zodiacs caused us to re-consider our plans for the day. As Canadians who spend much of the year in snow, we were not tempted to do an expedition in the snow. It was a great day to catch up on writing and pics as the snow fell around us.
When the excursions were done for the day the ship headed north. The captain wanted to get further north to calmer weather and the bridge team wanted daylight to return through the narrow ice-filled Lemaire Channel.
It was a lovely transit north through the icy waters. We recognized sights as we streamed past the Argentine Islands and Pleneau Bay. The Lemaire Channel was again a fascinating trip with large ice floating right by the ship.
Transits both ways through the Gullet and the Lemaire Channel were thrilling. They tested the skill of the Captain and his team on this great ice breaker Silver Endeavour. But those transits left us with an immense sense of awe and a recognition of the power of the icy waters of Antarctica.
Day 18 – Last Landing Ashore With The Gentoo Penguins On Useful Island
The Captain found a calm spot for our stop at night. We woke as we approached Useful Island. The seas were calm but the skies were grey. Tucked in very close to the island we were cleared for a landing and short zodiac tour.
We boarded our zodiac for wet ride on bumpy waters but got out of the zodiac in a sheltered bay. After we climbed up over the rocks, we found Gentoo Penguins all around us on the rocks. They entertained us as they waddled about. From the landing site we made our way across the snow past the penguins. And found some fur seals lounging.
At this landing site there was a two stage climb up for a panoramic view. The expedition staff carved steps into the hill to help us climb up. At the first stop we got an amazing view out over the bay and the whole landing process. The continued climb up from here was up a rocky path. We decided to descend slowly and saved time for a short zodiac cruise.
When we got to the water, we re-boarded our zodiac and headed out into the calm waters. We pulled up close and watched fur seals as they posed and played in the water.
We had a good day for our final zodiac landing in Antarctica. We waved to the penguins and seals as we moved further up the Gerlache Strait. As we headed north the Captain announced a change in plans. The sister ship the Silver Cloud was nearby and required a medical evacuation since we returned to Puerto Williams 3 days earlier than they did.
But we had one more rescue mission for the morning. A White Snow Petrel landed on the ship and was trapped on a balcony. The onboard ornithologist Peter Harrison took the bird out on the back deck and with a group of observers successfully released the bird back to the sea.
We had an exciting morning on the Silver Endeavour on this Antarctica cruise trip to remember. The plan for the afternoon was to do a zodiac expedition in Fournier Bay in an area known for whale sightings. But when the ship was moved deep into Fournier Bay the winds were high and there was limited wildlife in the area. So with the weather deteriorating, a decision was made to head right out into the Drake Passage. We knew we were not in for a Drake Lake crossing. But it was wise to put some of the crossing behind us during daylight hours.
We waved to our last sight of Antarctica land. And marvelled at the amazing Antarctica Cruise trip to remember we experienced.
Day 20 – Heading Back To Puerto Williams
After our rather rough return cruise across the Drake “Shake” Passage, we were happy when the seas settled own a bit. The Captain got permission to approach to the 3 mile limit around Cape Horn. The land moved in and out of the mist as we passed by. Having circumnavigated Cape Horn on another cruise around South America, it was a bit less exciting for us.
The ship slowed and picked up the pilot as we cruised into the Beagle Channel. The bird enthusiasts were all out on the deck watching our approach. We even managed to catch sight of a bird or two. And occasionally seals or dolphins cruised by.
We landed in Puerto Williams late in the afternoon of our last full day. The officials came onboard and cleared the ship. And we settled into a final night of packing and great food onboard. The expedition team took us through a recap of this Antarctica Cruise trip to remember. For many of them, this was a cruise with many firsts and an experience they too would not quickly forget. We finished the official program with the Captain’s goodbye and a chance to thank all the staff for the amazing trip we had.
An early wake-up call at 5am started our last day. But it was a quick and efficient transfer process back for a short stay in Santiago.
Special Celebrations On An Antarctica Cruise Trip To Remember
Our first sight of Antarctica was at Point Wild. While we did a zodiac ride, we did not land. But when we landed at Brown Bluff on the Antarctic Peninsula we were on our 7th Continent. We even got a special cake and champagne onboard to celebrate this day.
With all the active expeditions, we needed to be fed regularly. And there was a great variety of food onboard the Silver Endeavour in many different venues and formats. We cruised in Antarctica for Valentine’s Day and wanted to celebrate in style. Our dinner at the exclusive white-glove La Dame gave us our first taste of dining in a speciality restaurant with Silversea Cruises.
As we sailed south we watched for the point where we crossed the Antarctic Circle. Everyone gathered in the Explorers Lounge and waited for the Captain to signal the crossing. When we crossed everyone raised a glass to toast this major milestone. And we got a certificate to commemorate the crossing.
One of the most anticipated things we did on our Antarctica Cruise trip to remember was a polar dip. While many ships did the polar plunge early in their Antarctic journey, our expedition leader challenged us to take the plunge well south of the Antarctica Circle. The flat calm seas in Stonehouse Bay provided the perfect spot. We joined 30 passengers and 33 crew and jumped from the zodiac into the frigid waters for our Polar Plunge. And then after a warm-up drink headed straight for the hot tub on the bow of the ship. The next day our Polar Plunge certificate was delivered.
Our final celebration happened when we hit the southernmost point off the Antarctic Peninsula. Of course we celebrated again with champagne and some spiked hot chocolate.
When we sailed into the deep south seas of Antarctica, we found many reasons to celebrate our accomplishments.
Great Days From Sunrise To Sunset To Night Sky
In February we had long days with the sun rising before 6am and setting after 9pm. But they were still short enough that we got to enjoy the views from the ship from early morning to late at night.
The sunrises woke us. On the many clear and calm days, we got amazing sunsets. And when we were patient, we saw the skies all filled with colour after the sun sank.
We have been very lucky with great weather on almost all the cruising we have done. But we were delighted with the number of sunny blue-skied days we got on this trip and this surely made it an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember. We crossed the Drake “Lake”. And many days there was barely a ripple on the vast open bays we travelled. We got some amazing reflections and saw through clear waters to the ice below the surface.
On many nights the Captain found us calm bays to shelter in for the night. One of the big advantages of our very long visit to the 7th Continent was that we did not have to hurry. The Captain and expedition leader spent hours looking at charts and checking weather and moved us to just the best spot for the next day. And when it was a clear night, a trip out on deck brought amazing night sky views.
We enjoyed our cruise to Antarctica for every minute of the days we were there!
So Many Reasons This Was An Antarctica Cruise Trip To Remember
We truly had an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember. Our visit to the 7th Continent was a longer cruise and went much further south than most Antarctica trips. The Captain and our bridge team delivered exciting and challenging icy transits both ways through the Lemaire Channel and the Gullet. We had such amazing weather and saw Antarctica shine for us. Expedition adventures showed us all that Antarctic had to offer. We had so many great wildlife adventures. And learned much about the exploration of Antarctica.
This was our first cruise with Silversea Cruises. We booked our trip on the the Silver Endeavour with Tully Luxury Travel and we knew what to expect. We understood that an expedition cruise was slightly out of the normal experience for Silversea Cruises and for other lines that took expedition trips to remote places like Antarctica. But we got the amazing expedition experience we wanted.
This long post provides a great look at our cruise in Antarctica. Detailed posts on the wildlife, daily excursions and sights we explored will also be posted. And we are working on a series of amazing videos! If you are planning a cruise to Antarctica, you will want to see it all!
We returned to Santiago fully amazed at all we saw. But we were not done with stunning sights. We still had much more time to explore South America and had an exciting adventure planned in Iguazu Falls. What a trip this was!
Have you done an Antarctica Cruise trip to remember? What was your favourite part?
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