Anticipating Antarctica with Swan Hellenic


Jennie Carr makes a chance remark about her wish list, then finds herself booking a trip to Antarctica. What excitement, and there’s much to think about.

Having made the decision to take an expedition cruise to Antarctica with Swan Hellenic rather quickly, I’m into planning mode as this will be no ordinary trip.  Here’s a list of what I am considering.

When is it best to visit this frozen wilderness?

This continent is in the southern hemisphere, so our winter, November to February, is the summer season.  And this is the only time to go as March to October sees the spread of sea ice which ships simply cannot get through, plus there is constant darkness and temperatures that can drop to -60C.  Only a few hundred hardy souls overwinter here for scientific research purposes.

What to take, clothing particularly

I am now officially a stalker of outdoor clothing shops online. Writer and ILM Richard Villar has been most helpful on the matter of down trousers (who knew) and their practicalities, such as a zip below the knees for removing said trousers without taking your boots off! Good to know. 

I’ve also invested heavily in merino wool base layers, in essence long-sleeved vests and leggings.  A buff or snood is recommended as are fleeces and heavy duty socks. Most cruise lines provide you with a waterproof, very warm parka, your outer layer, and special (muck) boots to wear on land excursions so no contamination is taken to the ice. 

We thought about actual cameras however have opted to upgrade our phones instead, so we benefit from their first-rate cameras.

How you get there

On a ship: it’s the only way unless you’re flying into the Antarctic Research Station. 

We’ll be leaving from Ushuaia, which is the world’s southernmost city, having flown down via Buenos Aires. There are 2 days spent crossing Drake’s Passage to the Antarctic Sound. You ‘live’ on the ship, and ours, Minerva, looks incredibly comfortable as well as being brand new. The crucial thing for me though is that the ship is Polar Class 5, well able to withstand all anticipated weather conditions and more. 

Importantly too, Swan Hellenic is a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, committed to responsible tourism in this region. We will be cruising but in an adventurous fashion – it is an expedition after all. 

Where you go

This journey will take us from the Antarctic Sound to the Antarctic Peninsula, through Lemarie Channel and hopefully to Petermann Island to spot elephant seals and penguins. Then we’re off to the South Shetland Islands to explore by Zodiac. Of course, there’s an element of flexibility inherent in any Antarctic voyage; it’s totally weather dependent. 

And why go, as my dear Ma asked?

On this I can do no better than to quote Andrea Zito of Swan Hellenic, to have ‘enriching memories and to create treasures in the mind’.  I like untamed spaces; I’ve walked in African deserts and camped out ‘wild’ there, so this freezing wilderness is a sharp contrast in some ways and similar in others. Creaking icebergs, dramatic colours, isolation and penguins in their natural habitat in one of the world’s remaining natural emptinesses get a yes from me.

Next Steps

To find about more about expedition cruises, visit To get a quote or to book your adventure, call 0800 412 5678.

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