Having traveled on 6 continents, setting foot on the 7th, Antarctica, was high on my personal bucket list. The opportunity came in 2023, with Atlas Ocean Voyages.
Over Spring Break, our group of 13 flew to Buenos Aires, to begin this Bucket List Voyage By Jeni. Atlas Ocean Voyages charters a flight to simplify the logistics of getting guests from Buenos Aires to the waiting ship in Ushuaia. Sailing on these intimate, luxury yacht-style ships is an elevated experience right from the start. Check-in consists of mingling at a cocktail reception until a crew member is able to verify your documents and escort you to your stateroom.
The atmosphere on Atlas is friendly and welcoming. There are fewer than 200 guests onboard, so there are opportunities to meet and get to know other passengers if you feel social. At the Captain’s welcome party, Captin Dimitriy Ashanin explained that one crew member would be in charge of the weather for the entire voyage. Kyle Watters, Kayak Guide, was selected. Per Captain’s orders, any questions or complaints about the weather should be taken directly to Kyle. Kyle and the weather became a light-hearted topic of the entire cruise, and Kyle did a brilliant job, as most of our cruise was sunny and mild.
Life onboard World Traveller became quite routine. Guests were divided into six expedition groups, and the crew tried to make sure each group were on two expeditions each day (morning and afternoon). To protect the delicate ecosystem of Antarctica, all cruise lines are limited to only 100 people on a landing at once. World Traveller’s size means that Atlas guests are able to have multiple landings and expeditions each day. The Atlas team planned landings on islands as well the main continent itself, and I (along with others), had tears in my eyes the day I set foot on the continent of Antarctica.
With the first group starting around 8 AM, we were either at breakfast, getting ready to go on expedition, on expedition, or just back from an expedition and quickly getting a lunch before the next one started. Every evening at 5:30, the expedition team led a briefing to recap our day and discuss plans for the next day. They prepared a slide show with photos from our day and maps of where we might land tomorrow. As soon as it ended, we headed for Porto, the ship’s main restaurant, for a wonderful four or five course dinner. The days passed far too quickly.
We spent most of our time wearing only our base thermal layers: long sleeve shirts and leggings with slip on shoes. When your expedition group was called, you first went to the Atlas Lounge to gather your group. Next, your group would be called to the Mud Room. Pop dance music was usually playing inside, leading to the affectionate nickname, “Club Mud”. Your parka, boots, snow pants, and life vest could be stored in an assigned cubby. We learned to keep our gloves, goggles, sunglasses, hats, cameras, and other accessories in a bag, so that they were always ready to grab and go. As soon as we entered Club Mud, it was a flurry of activity to get out to the waiting zodiacs as quickly as possible. After each expedition, crew would be waiting for us in the Mud Room with warm beverages. After our last expedition of the day, they met us with a bottle in hand to spike our hot beverages! Hence, Club Mud.
The Polar Plunge was a highlight of the voyage for many of us. Guests eagerly lined up in bathrobes in Club Mud waiting for their turn to jump. The Expedition Team were there to assist me getting out of the water after the jump. I was surprised at how little I felt the cold. The air temperature was warmer than the water, so after emerging from the sea, standing in the air felt warm, even dripping wet. Many of the crew enjoyed the plunge as well, and the falling snow made it truly surreal.
Our week onboard World Traveller was truly an adventure of a lifetime. We bonded with our fellow explorers as each new day brought more surprises and magical experiences. I was unprepared for the breath-taking beauty of this region, and I would happily go back to do it all over again.
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