Cruising the Antarctic Peninsula…A Visit to The White Continent

Why would anyone want to spend a week cruising the cold turbulent waters of South America ’s Drake’s Passage and the Antarctic Ocean ? While the answer might be to view penguins in their natural habitat, or to watch million year old glaciers calve into the deep blue waters of the Antarctic Ocean, the answer for many is simply the opportunity to step foot on Antarctica and successfully achieve a lifelong goal of visiting all of the world’s seven continents.

Icebergs float lazily in the waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
In the past, Antarctica has been the last continent visited by most of those with such a desire. However, this may change as “The White Continent” has become easily accessible to other than the myriad of scientists who explore the world’s highest, driest, and coldest continent. Ships from Orient, Holland America , Norwegian and Princess cruises lines, as well as a number of smaller exploration type vessels, now navigate the waters around the slender thread of Antarctica known as the Antarctic Peninsula .Each December through February, during the Southern Hemisphere’s austral summer, ships leave from Ushuaia , Argentina , the world’s southernmost city, and head south to the Antarctic Peninsula . It is there, among thousands of chinstrap and gentoo penguins, that curious travelers and adventure seekers are able to visit nature’s refrigerator freezer.

Typical penguin rookery on the
Antarctic Peninsula

If you wish to visit “The White Continent,” and do so in comfort while enjoying excellent food, service and outstanding lectures given by highly qualified lecturers, take a cruise. If stepping foot on the continent is a must, book your cruise on Orient Lines’ Marco Polo as this classy and comfortable ship is the only major cruise ship providing the opportunity to actually set foot on the
Antarctic continent.

The 22,000 ton Marco Polo is very sea worthy and that’s a major consideration when plying the waters around South America’s Cape Horn. Although seas can be as calm as a swimming pool in your backyard, it is also possible to encounter 40 to 50 foot swells, and 80 to 90 mile per hour winds.

The Marco Polo normally carries 850 passengers but on Antarctica cruises, the number is limited to 425. This reduced number is necessary as environmental concerns limit the number of cruise passengers allowed on the continent to 100 at any one time. A full compliment of passengers would make it impossible for all to go ashore at all locations. This limited number also makes for a very enjoyable and relaxed cruise.

The Marco Polo at anchor in the Antarctic Ocean

When cruising to the Antarctic Peninsula on the Marco Polo, you will be able to enjoy cozying up to wildly sculptured icebergs. You will skim over the waters of the Antarctic Ocean in 15 passenger zodiac rafts. You’ll see hundreds of Charley Chaplin look-alikes as they waddle past you headed to the family nest, or to the ice covered beach for a swim in water hovering in the low 30’s. You’ll be able to take a dip in a section of geothermal heated Antarctic Ocean , or possibly walk in balmy 30+ degree weather on a desolate, black lava beach.

Cruising the Antarctic Peninsula , and a visit to “The White Continent,” is a trip to be considered. It’s certainly one I will remember forever. For more information on how to visit one of the most interesting and intriguing places on earth, call you local travel agent, or visit the Website of your favorite cruise line.

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