Antarctica: Visiting The Great White Continent On Scenic Eclipse II

Step into a realm of untouched wilderness, where icy landscapes stretch endlessly, and the air is crisp with the purity of the southernmost continent.

Welcome to Antarctica, a land of extremes and mysteries waiting to be uncovered. As one of the most remote and pristine regions on Earth, traveling to Antarctica is not just a journey; it’s an expedition into the heart of raw nature.

Antarctica, with its vast glaciers, towering icebergs, and abundant wildlife, offers an unparalleled adventure for the intrepid traveler.

Whether you’re drawn to the ethereal beauty of its frozen landscapes, the thrill of encountering penguins and seals in their natural habitat, or the sheer awe inspired by its sheer remoteness, Antarctica promises an unforgettable experience.

But embarking on a journey to this icy continent requires careful planning and a spirit of adventure. From navigating through treacherous seas to braving the elements in one of the harshest environments on the planet, every moment in Antarctica is an opportunity for discovery and self-reflection.

In this guide, we will dive into visiting Antarctica, from choosing the right expedition to understanding the experience. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or a curious adventurer seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience, join us as we unlock the secrets of this icy realm at the bottom of the world.

Welcome to Antarctica – where the adventure begins beyond imagination.

 

Antarctica: Visiting the Great White Continent – the Ultimate Bucket List Experience 

When to visit Antarctica 

The best time to visit Antarctica largely depends on what you hope to experience during your journey. Here’s a breakdown of the two main Antarctic seasons:

  1. Summer Season (November to March):
    • Peak Season: November to February is considered the peak tourist season. During this time, the weather is relatively milder, with temperatures ranging from just below freezing to around 41°F.
    • Highlights: This period offers the best opportunities for wildlife encounters, including witnessing penguin colonies, observing seals, and spotting whales as they migrate south. The landscape is also at its most dramatic, with icebergs glistening under the extended daylight hours.
    • Activities: Summer is ideal for activities like kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, and camping on the Antarctic Peninsula. You can also visit research stations and historic sites, and enjoy photography opportunities in the stunning scenery.
    • Advantages: there is ether 24 hours of daylight or 21+ hours, depending on where you are, giving you more time to explore.
  2. Shoulder Seasons (Late October and Late March):
    • Late October: This period marks the transition from winter to summer, with increasing daylight hours and the arrival of wildlife to their breeding grounds.
    • Late March: Towards the end of the season, wildlife activity peaks again as animals prepare for the approaching winter. Additionally, this time offers the chance to witness spectacular ice formations before they start to melt away.
    • Advantages: While the weather may be slightly colder compared to peak summer, the shoulder seasons offer fewer tourists, providing a more intimate and serene experience. Additionally, expedition prices may be lower during these times.

Ultimately, the “best” time to visit Antarctica depends on your personal preferences for potential wildlife sightings and of course, the weather conditions.

Whether you choose the 24 hours of daylight in the summer months or the quieter shoulder seasons, each time of year offers its own unique allure in the frozen wonderland of Antarctica.

How to get to Antarctica 

This trip to The White Continent I went on was with Scenic aboard the Scenic Eclipse II, which is a 6-Star Expedition Yacht. 

Starting in the USA, all passengers had to get to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the trip officially started. The flight out of New York (JFK) was about 11 hours. 

Once in Buenos Aires, Scenic had an overnight stay arranged in the city. The next morning, by charter bus, all guests were taken to the domestic airport where Scenic chartered a plane to Ushuaia, Argentina where the ship was. 

The flight was about three and a half hours to Ushuaia. From there, all guests boarded the ship and we took on Drake Passage for the next two days to get to Antarctica!

Navigating Drake Passage

As you embark on your journey to the pristine landscapes of Antarctica, there’s a legendary gateway that stands between you and this icy wonderland – the Drake Passage.

Widely renowned as one of the most exhilarating and challenging maritime crossings on the planet, the Drake Passage sets the stage for the adventure of a lifetime.

Stretching between the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake Passage is a narrow body of water that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Named after the famed English explorer Sir Francis Drake, whose historic voyage in the late 16th century marked one of the earliest traverses of this formidable passage, it has since captured the imaginations of explorers, scientists, and adventurers alike.

As you embark on your Antarctica cruise, the Drake Passage serves as your gateway to the frozen continent, offering a rite of passage like no other.

Its notorious reputation precedes it – with unpredictable weather patterns, towering waves, and fierce winds known to test even the most seasoned seafarers. Yet, amidst its tempestuous nature lies an undeniable allure, drawing travelers from around the globe to experience its raw and untamed beauty.

For some, the crossing of the Drake Passage is a thrilling adventure, filled with anticipation and excitement as they prepare to step foot on the seventh continent.

For others, it’s a test of resilience, a chance to confront the elements and embrace the spirit of exploration that has captivated humanity for centuries.

But beyond its formidable reputation lies a realm of unparalleled natural beauty. As you sail across the Drake Passage, keep a keen eye out for the abundant marine life that calls these waters home – from majestic albatrosses soaring overhead to playful pods of dolphins dancing in the ship’s wake.

Take in the endless expanse of the Southern Ocean, where the horizon merges seamlessly with the sky, and feel a sense of awe at the vastness of our planet’s last great wilderness.

Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time adventurer, prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey through one of the most iconic passages in maritime history: the Drake Passage – where the adventure begins and the spirit of exploration reigns supreme.

Quick facts from our trip:

  • I never got seasick, I know a few people did. Not sick, sick, but took medication or wore the bands to help them feel better. 
  • At the worst of the weather, waves were 20 feet high with 40mph winds and 70 mph wind gusts. Water never came across any of the windows of guest floors starting at floor four. All guests stay above it. 
  • The stabilizers on Scenic’s yachts are twice the size they need to be for the ship, creating incredible stabilization. 

Cruising with Scenic on Eclipse II – the 6 Star Discovery Yacht 

This was such an unreal experience and a longer trip (15 days), so, I am going to go through everything to help manage expectations and share how incredible this trip was. 

One thing I want to say upfront is that Scenic, in my eyes, is the most incredible cruise line. I have been on nearly 40 cruises of all different types, around the world, and nothing has even come close to the experience Scenic provides. 

Scenic prides itself on being a 6-star discovery yacht. This is a fully all-inclusive yacht where you don’t have to pay anything extra for food, drinks, excursions (except the helicopter and submarine), or even tips. Once you pay for your trip, you could not spend another dime and still come away with the most life changing experience. 

Most importantly, a lot of cruises that go to Antarctica are not designed to let you off the ship. This is not the experience with Scenic. Please make sure to do proper research before planning a trip down there. This will make all the difference in your experience. 

Our itinerary through Antarctica

This Antarctica expedition was 15 days in total. The thing about this type of cruise, is that there is not a set itinerary, which is great! The captain picks the stops for the day around weather and what we can do during those stops. 

For example: most days we did both a landing, where we would get off the ship, into a zodiac boat and then onto land. This could be an Island or continental landing, and we also would do a zodiac cruise to explore wildlife and scenery. 

However, no two days were the same at all. Weather was different every single day, the landings were all unique, as were the cruises. 

Here was our itinerary (and unique for each voyage):

Started in Buenos Aires overnight (we could explore the city) and then we all flew together in a chartered plane to Ushuaia to board the ship!

We spent two days crossing Drake Passage (very exciting) and then we arrived. 

Day 1 in Antarctica: we went to Detaille Island in the morning where we were able to get off the ship and had our first penguin sightings! In the afternoon we were at Hanusse Bay and we did a zodiac cruise and saw seals and incredible ice!

Day 2 in Antarctica: we went to Horseshoe Island in the morning and did a landing where we saw massive malachite rocks. They have this cool green coloring. 

In the afternoon we were at Bongrain Point where the ship did a landing and there was a rockery of penguins. However, this my opportunity to take a helicopter over Antarctica and it was UNBELIEVABLE.

Day 3 in Antarctica: In the morning we did a landing on Stonington Island and there was a building and incredible glaciers in the backdrop!

In the afternoon we did the polar plunge in Marguerite Bay! The weather was so gorgeous outside. Cold, but beautiful. 

Day 4 in Antarctica: In the morning we went to Jenny Island and there were SO MANY seals beaches on the shore. It was such an incredible moment to witness. We also did a split landing and zodiac cruise. We were able to explore the ice, see the seals on the ice and the various icebergs.

In the afternoon, we went to Rothera Point. We did not get off the ship. This was just to view Rothera Research Station and airport from the ship. 

Day 5 in Antarctica: In the morning we did our first continental landing!! We were at Prospect Point. We also went to the Fish Islands on a zodiac cruise in the morning as well. SO MANY PENGUINS. So many cute Adelie penguins and their chicks!

In the afternoon headed towards Lamaire Channel, we saw several humpback whales bubble-net feeding. This was such a magical experience. This went on for about two hours. Several groups all in front of us. 

In the evening we went through Lamaire Channel and the sky was just so blue. Absolutely gorgeous experience. And the orange sunset that followed, insane. 

 

Day 6 in Antarctica: in the morning we did a zodiac cruise through Flandres Bay where we saw more incredible ice, mountains, seals, and humpback whales. 

In the evening, the people who are working at Port Lockroy this season came on the ship and did a presentation about the history and work they do there – which is The Penguin Post Office! It is open and operational. However, we could not get off the ship due to weather.

Day 7 in Antarctica: In the morning we did a landing and a zodiac cruise at Palaver Point. So many chinstrap penguins on this visit. 

In the afternoon, we did a two hour zodiac cruise around Spert Island and all I can say is UNREAL. The icebergs, the rocks, everything – outstanding day for scenery. 

Day 8 in Antarctica: this was our last day in Antarctica! In the morning we did a zodiac cruise at Fournier Bay, which was another win for humpback whales and incredible ice of all sizes. Am I obsessed with ice now? YES. 

 

In the afternoon, we did our second and last continental landing at Neko Harbour! THERE WERE GENTOO PENGUINS EVERYWHERE. Such an amazing moment to be in their presence and see them just living their lives. 

 

Life on board 

First things first, YES, there is Wi-Fi, in fact, Scenic offers Starlink. It was extremely fast and I could live stream videos some of the days. 

One thing I love about cruising with Scenic is that the experience is unlike any other. Each day is unique in its offerings on board but what you won’t find is a casino or nightclubs. 

When visiting Antarctica, the ship doesn’t take more than 200 passengers at a time, so you really get to know the other guests. Another fun fact, you can ask any of the discovery staff or officers to join you for a meal and really pick their brain about their specialty. They love this!

Some of the daily activities include:

Lectures – the expedition staff does a wide variety of lectures on all topics of Antarctica. From the ice, history, penguins, whales, seals, birds, etc. These usually last about 30-60 minutes and are packed with valuable information. 

Observation lounge – always open at the front of the ship with books, games, tea, a coffee machine, and this is where people come to access the front area for wildlife viewing. 

Critter club – this happens each night while in Antarctica and everyone can share their animal sightings for the day. 

Daily re-cap and plans for the next day – each night while in Antarctica the expedition leader goes over everything we did for the day with images or videos, talks a bit more about the destinations and activities plus what we saw and experienced. Then, walks us through the tentative plan for the next day and what to expect. 

Spa – you can utilize the sauna, steam room, ice room, etc during spa hours. You can also book spa appointments, hair and/or nail appointments. The pool in the spa and on the front of the ship are filed with warm water to enjoy when the ship is in Antarctica. 

Highly recommend getting a massage OR TWO after all the adventures you will experience. 

Trivia – each night there was a trivia that is so fun and this is also a great way to make friends in groups. 

Entertainment – the staff put on different things in the evening from singing, dancing, etc. 

Pilates and Yoga – classes are offered and you can book classes with the instructor as well. 

Gym – open 24 hours, you can workout whenever you like. 

Overall, this is not like a cruise that has 2000+ guests on it. You will know every person on this ship before leaving. I enjoy that because you are all experiencing the same incredible moments together and bonded together for life. 

Rooms:

I firmly believe one of the things that sets Scenic apart from many of the other cruises coming to Antarctica is their staterooms. 

First, they are very big, everyone has a butler, the bathrooms are equally gorgeous and large, incredible closet and storage, a minibar that your butler will stock with whatever you want (fully included), coffee machine, glassware, a TV packed with movies, tv shows and fun info, blackout curtains, and a balcony to watch everything, and last, but certainly not least, the worlds coziest bed and it can lift up and down both at the head and feet. 

I am fully convinced that even though you don’t spend all your time in your room, coming back to a place that is spacious, well appointed and cozy, can make all the difference. 

I stayed on floor six in cabin 620, which is classified “Deluxe Verandah Suite.”

And of course, the best part is the balcony to view Antarctica whenever you want!

Dining 

On board Scenic Eclipse II there are up to 10 dining options. 10! And best part – there are no add-ons or up charges. The food is all-inclusive for everyone on board. 

Through the dining alone, you often forget you are even on board a cruise ship. The dining at some of the restaurants is so creative, its a feast for the senses. Think Michelin level dining and experiences, but also lowkey dining as well.

There are not enough words in the world to express how exceptional the food is on board Scenic Eclipse II other than it sets a near unattainable expectation for other cruise lines to reach. It will be hard to cruise with anyone else after this experience – and that is not a bad thing. 

Dietary restrictions and special diets can likely be taken care of. My guest is Celiac (cannot eat gluten) and they took amazing care of him. He loved the food on the ship. 

Room service: 

You will have access to room service 24 hours a day. There is a wide variety of options on the menu and you can even request things that are not on the menu. If they have it, they will make it work. For example: I requested popcorn every single day and they brought it. My guest requested pizza a lot and they brought it. 

Koko’s Asian Fusion:

Think variety of Asian cuisine. The menu changes every few nights to keep it interesting. 

Elements Italian/International Cuisine:

No reservation required, menu changes daily with a variety of options that include a daily pasta and risotto.

Yacht Club:

The Yacht Club is a buffet style dining venue open for breakfast and lunch. There are several stations for both dining opportunities and at breakfast there is even a menu that you can order from too. 

At lunch everyday, there is a dessert bar and they have four new gelatos each day. 

Pro tip: if you see the macadamia nut gelato – eat as much as you can. It is the most incredible gelato in the world. 

Chefs Table:

This is an invite only, 10 course dining experience of molecular gastronomy. A true feast for the eyes and belly. 

Koko’s Sushi:

Requires a reservation as it has limited seating and only one seating per night. 

Night Market:

This is a small dining experience around a converted hibachi grill, where the chef does a tasting menu based off of a certain region. In my cruises I have done Indian, Filipino and an Asian menu (on my prior cruise) – they also offer a Middle Eastern menu.

Pro tip: these fill up, so book reservations early in your stay either through your butler or you can do it yourself. 

Azure Café:

Open pretty much all day (but not overnight)! They offer a menu service for breakfast, lunch and dinner, have easy to grab food in the deli counter, full coffee station, and more. 

This is where you go for something quick like burgers and sandwiches, salads, pizza, pasta, a quick dessert, coffee and a pastry, etc. 

Lumiere Modern French Cuisine:

Reservation required, open nightly, menu changes every couple days, and it is a tasting menu.

Chef’s Garden:

This is used for cooking demos. I did not do this on this trip but I did it on my last adventure with Scenic and the chef showed us how to make butter chicken and naan. I still use his recipes today. It was fantastic. 

Bars:

Scenic Bar:

Located on deck four and possibly the best bar (in my opinion). You will always see people hanging out here and the centerpiece of the bar is a tower of over 100+ whiskeys from all over the world.

There are also other liquors, wines, champagne, beer, etc. The staff will make you whatever you want. 

Sky Bar:

Located on deck 10, was a self serve bar open at all times. It is well stocked, but I never saw anyone use it. It sits right behind the outdoor pool, which is filled with warm water for Antarctica cruises. 

Excursions available in Antarctica on board Scenic Eclipse II

Each day is unique on board – so take advantage of the opportunities!

Zodiac cruises 

This was maybe my favorite part of the trip. Almost every single day we did zodiac cruises with up to 10 people in each boat around the areas we were in. 

I will never have enough words to describe the magic in these experiences. From seeing humpback whales, five types of seals, three types of penguins, icebergs of all sizes, glaciers, caves – it was all SPECTACULAR. 

I will let the photos do the talking here!

Landings 

Each of the eight days we were exploring The White Continent, we tried to do landings. If the weather was not favorable, we didn’t. But most days we either did a morning or afternoon landing. 

We would take zodiac boats to either an island or to do a continental landing. Each day was different! From wildlife, hikes, exploring different bases, beaches, and so forth. 

If your dream is to step foot on the continent, make sure you do not skip any opportunities! We only had two opportunities, the rest were islands. 

Polar plunge 

This is only offered once during the cruise, so you need to be prepared day one when you arrive as you never know when they are going to set up for it. They announced it with just two hours to prepare. 

The polar plunge is a huge event on board and everyone comes out to watch. Up to two people can jump off the platform at once and there are stairs on each side. 

Helicopter 

This is the most spectacular thing I have ever experienced in my life. Seeing Antarctica from above is breathtaking! This is one of two excursions that do have a cost attached to it. However, I would have gone twice if I could have. 

Paddleboarding 

This is an optional excursion that you need to sign up for and it is only available at stops with favorable weather. You will get a notice the night before and you show up the next day. This is such an epic adventure of landscapes and wildlife. 

Kayaking 

Same for kayaking as paddleboarding – you sign up on day two on the ship and they let you know when it is your turn the night before. The kayaks seat two and you can go with your travel companion or be paired up with someone else. 

Submarine 

Scenic Eclipse offers underwater exploration in Antarctica! 

Animals of Antarctica 

This is such a special cruise because you get the opportunity to see a variety of animals. 

I feel very blessed to have seen SO MANY penguins. We saw Gentoo, Adelia and Chinstrap penguins and when I say we all collectively squealed, I mean we were squealing hard at their cuteness. 

 

Seeing these animals, who are so unbothered by our presence, just existing, is rather remarkable. Penguins don’t view us as a threat, which is why they would walk up to us or close to us, but we always kept our distance. 

We are not allowed to touch or interact with the wildlife, but they are curious about us and unafraid. 

There were several times we saw whales (humpbacks and orcas) super close to the ship or even out on zodiac cruises, and again, an unbelievable experience. One day we even saw two humpback whales sleeping when we were out exploring. 

There was also no shortage of seals! We saw five species in all different areas. My personal favorite was the seals on the beach and the ones on icebergs just floating around. 

What to pack for Antarctica 

When you book a trip with Scenic for an Antarctica Expedition, they give you a polar rated jacket that is both waterproof and windproof, AND you get to take it home. It is yours forever. 

I love mine and its very high quality. Scenic will also provide you with Muck Boots for getting off the ship. These are waterproof and can go up to the knee. Great for walking on land and exploring. 

One thing that I LOVE about Scenic is that they offer a laundry room and you can do your own laundry, any time of the day.

Learn from me: pack less than you actually need. Half the stuff I brought I never wore and I could have easily gotten by with one suitcase, maybe even a carry-on suitcase and a personal item. 

These are thing basic things you need to bring to Antarctica:

Sunscreen – with there being almost 24 hours of daylight during the cruise season, I spent a lot of time outside and my face was fully exposed. 

Hand warmers – these are amazing and I would put these inside my gloves!

Merino wool base layer top – this I used for my base layer under my clothes that kept me warm and dry! (I wear them at home all the time now – so cozy!).

Merino wool base layer bottoms – these kept my legs warm and dry!

Wool socks – these are the exact socks I wore under the provided muck boots and kept my feet dry and warm!

Water resistant and windproof gloves – these are AMAZING!! You don’t have to take them off because they are easy to use touch screen on your phone or electronics. 

Waterproof pants – you HAVE TO HAVE THESE! Weather is forever changing and you can get wet. These kept me warm and dry!

Sea sickness pills – If you are prone to sea sickness, you should pick up non-drowsy sea sickness pills. 

Sea sickness bands – Some people on the ship wore bands with their sea sickness medication. I never felt sick or took anything. 

Sea sickness patches – You can also wear sea sickness patches. 

 

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Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Scenic USA. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.

This article has affiliate links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

 

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