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To The White Continent and Back: Highlights of Antarctica

This past November, I partnered with Hurtigruten Expeditions to explore Antarctica with one of my group getaways. This was an ultimate bucket list trip…it was my 7th and last continent to step foot on! With Antarctica being in such a remote part of the world and on many people’s bucket lists, I wanted to share my journey with everyone.


Day 1: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires was the kickoff point for all those taking this expedition cruise together. I came into Buenos Aires 4 days early to explore of course (be on the lookout for a future blog post on Buenos Aires). After checking in to the hotel, we had to check in with Hurtigruten and the hospitality suite. Inside the suite, there was a medical station set up to perform rapid COVID tests.


For 2022 sailings, Hurtigruten still required all guests to be tested and show proof of a negative test before boarding. Within 15 minutes, we had our test results. After testing, we met with a representative from the Hurtigruten ground team to go through the morning departure information and what to expect for the charter flight to Ushuaia.


Day 2: Buenos Aires, Argentina to Ushuaia, Argentina

Morning came early as the bus to the airport left the hotel at 3am. All our large luggage was packed on the bus for us and off we went. We arrived at the section of the airport designated for charter flights and went through check-in and security with pre-printed boarding passes.


When it was time to board our charter plane, we went out on the tarmac by bus and all the Hurtigruten cruisers loaded up. It was unique experiencing a sunrise while standing on the tarmac.


The flight took about 3.5 hours to arrive in Ushuaia. After identifying our luggage, we were met by more Hurtigruten representatives that welcomed us before setting us off on a bus tour of Ushuaia. This city is the capital of the Tierra del Fuego province and is set against a backdrop of the Martial Glacier. Nicknamed “The End of the World”, Ushuaia is the tourist center for this area and the kickoff point for many of the expedition cruise lines heading south to Antarctica.



After nearly 4 hours of exploring Ushuaia (try the king crab at El Viejo Marino), we were able to embark on the ship. The check-in process was very organized. Our new badges were scanned. We immediately went to our rooms where our luggage was waiting. Then we all went to an area that was set up to get our red water-resistant jackets that we’d wear on landings. I was impressed that Hurtigruten was prepared with every size that people requested…from the smallest to the largest!


Regarding our stateroom, my balcony room was fantastic. You must remember that this is an expedition ship, so you don’t typically expect very much from a comfort standpoint. Hurtigruten provided the exact opposite. Not only was my room sizeable but the bed was comfortable, I had a large balcony deck, the bathroom was of good size and the floors were heated in the bathroom!


They clearly gave a lot of thought to how to ensure people were as comfortable as possible on this type of adventure. I was definitely pleased!


Days 3-4: Crossing Drake Passage

It took about 2 days to cross the infamous Drake Passage. The first day was absolutely a version of the TikTok videos with crashing waves and the ship tilting from side to side! I literally had to lay flat for the entire day to keep my food down. The Drake Shake was in full effect! Some people around me were able to get through the day without major issues with prescription motion sickness medication or with the motion sickness patches. Medication couldn’t save the flying dishes in the restaurants, but it did help some to maneuver around the ship without major problems. Fortunately, the next day of Drake Passage was much calmer, and I was able to get out and do wildlife watching on the deck without wobbling or grabbing onto railings to stand up straight.



During the two days at sea, the expedition team filled the time mostly with lectures. There were various topics on everything from the early expeditions to Antarctica to the various penguin species we should expect to see while in Antarctica. The crew was filled with experts including historians, biologists, and botanists so we covered a wide range of topics that helped us to appreciate this experience even more. On my ship, Fridtjof Nansen, there was also a science center onboard. We were able to use microscopes to look at recent samples taken for research and engage in ongoing projects that the ship’s crew was supporting. During this time, we also made use of the massive observation space on Deck 10 while relaxing by the fireplace with hot chocolate. It literally was a scene from a Hallmark classic 😊


Days 5-9: Antarctica - The White Continent

Finally making it to Antarctica was breathtaking! After all the research and videos, nothing could quite prepare me for it. Being surrounded by glaciers and massive icebergs just filled me up with excitement. The most surprising part for me was the silence…a stillness that was only broken every so often by the penguins.


Photo Credit: Ronda Wright
Beautiful views in every direction.

Each day, the expedition team prepared a landing for us that would give us a chance to get off the ship and walk around and explore on foot. Some of the landings included hiking up fairly steep mountainside and on other days, it was more of a relaxed walk. No matter the terrain, we were always greeted by wildlife and the most picture-perfect views. Some of the landings that we made were Yankee Harbor, Orne Harbor, Petermann Island, Brown Station, and Deception Island.


In addition to the landings, we also had cruises by zodiac at each landing point. This was a cool experience to see icebergs up close and, in a few cases, to get closer to whales that were breaching nearby. Some chose to also do other excursions that were offered like kayaking, snowshoeing, and overnight camping. I really enjoyed going out on the science boat to collect samples and support ongoing research.



While in Antarctica, the crew continued with their lectures which really complemented what we were seeing at each location. While this could sound like being in school for some, this truly became an immersive experience which I gained a lot from.


Days 10-11: Crossing Drake Passage Again

This time I was ready! I was also able to get some of the medicated patches from another traveler ahead of entering Drake Passage to make sure I would be ok this time. I was prepared, but this time on the unpredictable stretch, we got Drake Lake for both days…which was ok with me! I spent these last two days speaking with the expedition team on various topics, whale watching, and relaxing in the onboard spa. We also got the unique opportunity to go into the captain’s bridge to see some of the equipment being used and understand more about the various technologies that enabled our amazing journey south.


Day 12: Ushuaia, Argentina to Buenos Aires, Argentina

We made it back into Ushuaia the night before our scheduled arrival (thanks to Drake Passage being so smooth). It was cool seeing this city lit up against the mountain landscape! The next morning was disembarking time. Since our charter flight back to Buenos Aires didn’t leave until the afternoon, I opted to do an excursion that went further into the Patagonia region. It was interesting learning more history about this area and going to a Husky Park in Ushuaia. We even got to walk over some marshes that felt super reminiscent of Lord of the Rings 😊



In the afternoon, it was time to take our charter flight back to Buenos Aires. Because my group all had an evening flight back to the US, we stayed in the airport and watched Argentina take on Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the World Cup but, that’s a story for another day!


Overall, this trip truly was magical. My story nor my pictures can really capture all that was experienced. But my hope is that my words will inspire others to have their own Antarctic adventure in the near future. Ice caps are melting…so you never know how long this opportunity will exist!


 


Hey, I'm Ronda Wright 👋🏽

I'm the founder of The Wright Getaway. I love all things travel and helping other people experience the world.


Let's chat about your upcoming travel plans!



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