Celebrity Travel & StyleInterviewsJet Set PetLuxury VoyagesSuite Dreams - The World's Best SuitesTime TravelerLuxury Travel TrendsWeekend Away
Destination WeddingsFamily Vacation PackagesSpa & Wellness PackagesRomantic & Honeymoon PackagesGirls GetawaysFall Travel PackagesWinter Getaway PackagesChristmas Travel & PackagesNew Year's Eve Packages
ArticlesThe Best Hotels, Resorts & Villas Around the World
Beach & Island Resorts5-Star City HotelsAdventure Lodges & Eco EscapesBoutique City HotelsCountry House HotelsRomantic RetreatsLuxury Guest RanchesLuxury Safari Camps & LodgesGolf Resorts & LodgesSpa Resorts & Wellness RetreatsSki Resorts & LodgesWine Country GetawaysLuxury Family Travel & ResortsNew HotelsHot Hotel Openings
Beach, Coastal & Island VillasCountry VillasGolf VillasSki VillasLuxury Villas & Vacation Rentals Around the WorldHotel Branded Residences
Luxury Cruises & YachtingLuxury Car RentalTravel Tips & AdviceAirline NewsUltimate TripsBusiness TravelFamily TravelLuxury SafarisPrivate Jet TravelRail Journeys: The World's Most Scenic Train Rides
Events
RestaurantsBars & NightclubsAfternoon TeaCoffeeCooking ClassesCulinary TravelWine Travel
Spa & Wellness RetreatsYogaGolf GetawaysTennisSki Vacations
Gift GuideBeach and ResortwearBeauty and FragranceBooksFashionHome StyleLuggage and HandbagsLuxury Autos & Driving ExperiencesMen's StyleTravel EssentialsWatches & JewelryWine and SpiritsWorld's Most Expensive
Back to:  Home > News > Luxury Voyages

Luxury Voyages

To the Ends of the Earth in Antarctica

November 1, 2009 - By Deb Abraham

What does it mean to travel to the ends of the earth? Is it a matter of distance, difficulty, or something more? Who will be one's fellow travelers? What is there to discover? I only knew I was headed for terra incognita.

No one contemplates a trip to Antarctica lightly. It requires flights first to Buenos Aries and then to Ushuaia on the tip of Argentina, southernmost city on the planet. It requires the purchase of crampons for walking on ice and two and a half days of motoring across the Drake Passage, arguably the most notorious stretch of sea in nautical lore. Where does luxury fit into the picture? It begins and ends with the choice of a ship.

It is late afternoon when my husband and I board the Corinthian II, one of five luxury vessels among the twenty or so ships that challenge the world of glaciers and ice. We drop our carry-on bags in our oversized, wood-paneled suite and hurry back on deck. Several fellow passengers sport seasickness patches behind the ear, but the sea is tranquil and the air barely chilled. Ushuaia, nestled into the Andes, gradually fades behind gathering mists, and we retreat to the cozy cheer of the ship's lounge.



The first event is an informational meeting. We are introduced to the Corinthian's staff of first-rate naturalists who will offer lectures at sea and guide us ashore. International rules allow only 100 visitors per landing. Corinthian's small size (only 50 cabins recently expanded to 57) mean that each passenger will be able to disembark at every stop. There are no customs agents in Antarctica. No need for passports or visas, but the protocol for getting off and on is exact. An ice shelf is no place to be left behind!

We also meet our Swedish captain who looks reassuringly suited to life in the higher latitudes. (The resemblance to a certain St. Nick perhaps?) He offers a bottle of champagne as a prize to the first passenger to spot an iceberg. A few appraising glances are exchanged among the more competitive (myself included), but we are by in large a seasoned group more interested in pedagogy than playing. After a buffet dinner, the standard cruise variety show is replaced with a talk on penguin varieties (Chinstrap, Gento, and Adelie) and an opportunity for serious stargazing.



After twenty hours at sea, the first iceberg is sighted and the champagne claimed. Initially the berg appears as no more than a speck, and binoculars are needed for confirmation. Then another is spotted and another. The adults are as excited as the two youngsters aboard. A couple from Israel has brought their twelve-year-old daughter, and a French girl about the same age is accompanying her grandparents. Both are interested and engaged, but soon they go back inside along with the adults. What began as a prospect of near mythical scope becomes an hourly occurrence. Imagine not getting out of your chair for an iceberg whose visible tip is larger than a football field!

Every Antarctic itinerary changes with the weather. Our passage is so smooth we arrive early at Nelson Island in the Antarctic Archipelago. This is our first opportunity to try out our new gear (expedition parkas are provided) and ride the inflatable zodiacs to shore. Agility more than fitness is required. About a quarter of our fellow passengers are seniors, and they set a high standard with their spirit of adventure and uncomplaining attitude. Once on land, we can follow one of the staff or set out on our own. Seals lounge on the beach, and penguins hop along in their strange gait. They show little interest in us until we get close to their offspring -- that sets off an immediate and harried move in the opposite direction.



Our next stop is Elephant Island. Here in 1916 British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew survived the dead of winter and near starvation after losing their ship in the ice. Inevitably we think of the Corinthian's reinforced hull, bountiful meals, and elegant décor. Today brilliant skies are paired with stiff winds. The shore landing is cancelled and instead we pile back into the zodiacs for a closer looks at the elephant seals that give the island its name ... and the ice that only breaks free at the height of summer.



Petermann Island is also on our itinerary, and here we wake to that most rare of Antarctic phenomenon -- a warm, sunny day. My husband and I join a climb to an extraordinary outlook, shedding layers as we go. The continent has appeared in many guises over the past few days, from hauntingly mysterious to majestically desolate. In these few hours, it becomes our wonderland. I'm pondering the descent when our guide suddenly sits down and with feet out in front begins to slide down the slope. Who could resist following? No man-made ride compares! Back on the ship I take a final photo of the small research station that now serves as a museum / post office / gift shop. Behind and above it loom two million years of glacier.



Our final stop, Deception Island, is popular with cruise ships small enough to pass through the narrow entrance into Pendulum Cove, the island's protected anchorage. We wait our turn while another vessel finishes its shore excursion. This extraordinary island is the tip of an active volcano. We are invited to bring towels and wear bathing suits under our parkas (which have returned along with the clouds.) When we land, shovels are used to dig along the water line. Geo-thermally heated water seeps up into the indents creating (we are told) a jacuzzi. For those eager to swim in the Southern Ocean, the moment has arrived.

Wind and waves rise as we begin our return passage, but then it is over and we are safely back in Ushuaia. As we prepare to disembark I find myself along side our expedition leader. His seniority permits him to choose trips all over the world, yet he returns again and again to Antarctica. I ask him why. "The sense of awe is unrivaled," he replies. Now having been there, I agree.


 

Featured Luxury Hotels

 


 

LUXURY PARTNERS

 

Springtime in Tuscany, 25% off
Relais San Sanino is a charming, unique resort in Tuscany, near Montepulciano, offering 4 Exclusive Luxury Suites in the Countryside.

 

 

The Abaco Club on Winding Bay
A private, international sporting club and residential community situated on 453 acres in the Bahamas. The Abaco Club offers a world of relaxation with pristine white sand beaches, world-class Scottish styled links golf and a spectacular offering of other water, leisure and sporting activities.

 

 

Carneros Resort and Spa - Napa Valley, California
The resort features 86 charming private guest cottages and suites and nightly private luxury home rentals, each furnished with casual elegance and nestled in a lush garden courtyard with private deck.

 

 

 

2018 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix Luxury Cruise and Driving Tour
Only a few spots left! Autobahn Adventures' Formula 1 Grand Prix VIP Tour is a combination Mediterranean luxury cruise and Porsche driving tour.

 

 

 

WEALTH MAGAZINE
The luxury lifestyle - how to spend it on autos, jets, yachts, real estate, travel, shopping, wellness and all the best in life.

 

 

 

Anse Chastanet - St. Lucia
Set amid a lush 600-acre estate with two soft-sand beaches and breathtaking views of St. Lucia's iconic twin Pitons mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

Eden Roc at Cap Cana - Punta Cana
Offering exclusive luxury in the Dominican Republic, Eden Roc at Cap Cana, the only Relais & Chateaux hotel on the island, features 34 freestanding suites with private pools and stunning views.

 

 

 

ULTIMATE ADVENTURES
Explore the world outdoors - discover the best travel adventures, glamping, activities, gear, apparel, vehicles, and more.

 

 

 

Primland - Meadows of Dan, VA
A pristine Blue Ridge Mountain resort offering 12,000 acres of space, sky and shifting moods. Primland is the ultimate getaway for world-class golf, refined dining, and outdoor activities in an environment of rare natural beauty.

 

 

 

Rawai VIP Villas - Phuket, Thailand
A brand new family community and kids' park that epitomizes modern Thai luxury. Each of the 40 villas boasts a private pool in terraced courtyards.

 

 

Private Villa Rentals - Caribbean & Mexico
In the realm of world-class luxury private villa rentals, we know that the exceptional experiences our guests deserve are about much more than just the villa itself.

 

 

SUPERYACHT MAGAZINE
Living the dream - the world's best yachts for sale and charter. See the latest trends in yacht design, tech, toys, destinations and lifestyle.

 

 

Mountain Shadows
The new resort features timeless modern design, 183 guestrooms, a restaurant with an exhibition kitchen, two pools, a high-tech fitness facility, a fully revamped short golf course, a golf grill and lounge as well as 37,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

 

 

Jade Mountain - St. Lucia
Jade Mountain is an exclusive luxury 'resort within a resort' with 24 suites at St. Lucia's famed Anse Chastanet Resort, in a truly romantic and magical setting poised high overlooking St. Lucia's Piton World Heritage site and the Caribbean Sea.

 

 

Hotel Valley Ho - Scottsdale, AZ
Escape to the sun in Scottsdale! A hideaway for celebrities, this Downtown Scottsdale resort features generously sized guest rooms with all-glass walls opening onto airy patios or balconies, many with views of Camelback Mountain.

 

 

JETSETTER MAGAZINE
Luxury travel and lifestyle - discover all the best destinations, hotels, resorts, nightlife, adventure, shopping, safaris, villas, spas and much more.

 

 

A.M.A Selections
A.M.A Selections offers a portfolio of hand-picked villas on the French Riviera, Tuscany and Umbria, complemented with an exclusive range of concierge services such as private jet and yacht charter, private chef, car service, and more.

 

 

BINA - Luxury Yacht Charter 142'
Offering remarkable quantities of luxury for a yacht of her size category, nothing but unadulterated bliss awaits you on board BINA. Sleeps 10-12 in 5 cabins.

 

 

 

VOYAGES MAGAZINE
Exploring the World in Style - cruising, yachting, expeditions, family adventure, luxury, river cruising - all to the best destinations in the world.