Traveler Story: Nathan in Antarctica
Our guests come from all over the world to visit Antarctica. And every year, we are pleased to welcome travelers from different horizons and different generations. Today, Nathan Shah, freshman at the University of San Diego, tells us about his experience. He and his mother achieved their goal of visiting all seven continents on an Antarctica21 trip in December 2018. The trip was a high school graduation gift from his parents. This story was written by Nathan Sha in “Antarctica: Through the eyes of a Teen” on Kidtripster.
Antartica has been on my bucket list for years. In fact, I’m a fan of polar regions. I would choose a glacier over a sandy beach any day of the week, and Antartica has quite of few glaciers! It’s by far the most isolated place that I’ve ever visited and certainly the most difficult to reach. After five flights over three days, my mother and I finally boarded our Antarctica21 ship for a cruise of a lifetime.
If you’re wondering what an expedition cruise has to offer kids, read my top 5 favorite things.
1/Snowshoeing on the continent
While snowshoeing is an add-on activity with an extra fee of $195 per person, it’s well worth the cost. (You’ll thank me after trying to walk on the snow and constantly falling through without snowshoes.) The snowshoeing group – lead by a separate guide – gets to see the same sights as other passengers, but it has the opportunity to hike first in the fresh snow and hike farther up the mountainsides. I especially liked the hike to the top of Cuverville Island, an elevation gain of about 750 feet. We were treated to expansive views of the surrounding mountains, bay and penguin colony below. We took a shortcut down the hill by sliding on our backsides.
If you haven’t snowshoed before, don’t worry. The equipment – snowshoes and poles – are easy to use and provided; you wear the boots that are issued to all passengers. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. That being said, you should be in reasonably good shape to go, as the uphill sections can be tiring for some. Snowshoeing is only open to a limited number of people. If you’re interested, it’s imperative that you sign up right when you book your cruise. It will sell out.
hoto by Shellie Bailey
2/Food for foodies
The food on Antarctica 21’s Ocean Nova was the best of the four expedition cruises that I have sailed. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, which makes a lot of sense. I’ve been on other cruises where breakfast and lunch were table service, which always takes way too long. There are plenty of options for every palate, and everything is really good. All the passengers especially raved about the bacon at breakfast; the chef said it was imported from Germany. At dinner, you’re able to serve yourself a soup and salad; an appetizer will already be set at your seat. Then you choose your entrée: meat, fish or vegetarian. Each are equally good. Choices range from lobster or halibut to rack of lamb or roasted turkey. As good as the first two courses are, desert always steals the show. My favorite was the raspberry cheesecake.
Photo by Shellie Bailey
3/Spectacular wildlife viewing
The main reason to come to Antartica is to see the wildlife. Being a smaller, expedition vessel, the crew has the flexibility to adapt the ship’s schedule to the wildlife around it. On the first morning, some curious Orcas skirted back and forth on the bow of the ship. The ship slowed down to give all the passengers ample opportunity to see the spectacle. The bridge crew was particularly good at spotting Humpback whales and would reposition the ship so we could watch them breach.
However, when most people think of Antarctica, they picture penguins. And we saw penguins nearly every day! On one particular day, we were fortunate to have the right surf conditions to land at Baily Head, the site of Antarctica’s largest Chinstrap penguin colony. Total number? 106,000 penguins! Be sure to spend some time simply watching the penguins, as they do some pretty funny things. Over the course of the cruise, we saw four species that populate the Antarctic Peninsula: Adele, Gentoo, Chinstrap and one lone Macaroni penguin.
Photo by Shellie Bailey
Unlike the other expedition cruises that I’ve sailed on, this one had a more diverse group of people. The 68 passengers on our cruise came from 11 countries and five continents. There were plenty of opportunities to chat with people during downtime on the ship or over meals.
The crew, too, hailed from across the world. The captain was from Panama, the expedition leader was from New Zealand, and the hotel manager was from Switzerland. Most of the wait staff was from the Philippines; the housekeeping staff was from Central America. Guides came from the United Kingdom, Argentina, New Zealand, Sweden and Russia. All this diversity simply added to the experience.
Photo by Shellie Bailey
In my opinion, no trip to Antartica is complete without a dip into the icy waters of the Southern Ocean. (Know that my mom would have a very different opinion about this one!) The polar plunge was a highlight for me. You line up in the gangway, waiting your turn to be tethered to a rope, just in case there’s any problem when you go in. I ran down the ramp and jumped. Watch here. The water was frigid, but when you get back on deck, there’s a celebratory shot of vodka waiting (for those who are of age) to warm you up. On our cruise, about half the passengers took the plunge; my mother wasn’t one of them.
Photo by Joaquin Beccar Varela