From Julie Ritchie, Toronto
Where I went: Antarctica, specifically on a Butterfield and Robinson cruise there on the Orion (considered to be the most luxurious ship to venture there).
Why I went: I work as a guide/hostess for B&R.
Who was on the trip: 78 passengers (though the ship can hold up to 106). They were sophisticated travelers who had already been to a lot of remote places and were looking to achieve seventh continent status. Most were couples in their late fifties, which is slightly older than B&R’s typical clientele. In addition to the crew, we also had several naturalists and guides on board as well as Hugh Acheson, our own traveling chef.
When: December 2003
What to know in advance: The Drake Passage, which is a common route for Antarctic cruises, is dubbed the Drake Lake or the Drake Shake because it can be either eerily calm or incredibly rough. Luckily, it felt more like a lake on our trip, perhaps because the Orion is equipped with double stabilizers so turbulence is kept at a minimum. Also, the Orion has ten on-board zodiacs, which are smaller vessels capable of taking you ashore, as the ship itself is too big to get very close to land. Make sure whatever cruise ship you take has these zodiacs (not all of them do); otherwise, you won’t actually be setting foot on your seventh continent
Who it’s right for/wrong for: It’s not right for someone who likes a really active vacation with a lot of opportunities for exercise. Though the Orion did have a state-of-the-art gym, I felt myself getting a little stir crazy at times, as Antarctica is not exactly bustling with local culture or nightlife. Still this was the trip of a lifetime with the most spectacular, unique—so white it’s borderline strange—scenery.
What not to miss: The Lemaire Channel at sunrise. The tunnel itself is so narrow, boarded on each side by incredible glaciers and mountain ranges, so that when the sun rises it is truly stunning. Also, the penguin stations, where you can see about 20,000 penguins clustered together.
Trip highlight: Sitting in the natural hot springs on Deception Island. Our guide dug a hole along a black sand beach right beside the Antarctic Ocean, creating a gurgling, volcanic pool. The best part was going for a quick dip in the freezing cold ocean before running back to the thermal water.
EDITOR’S NOTE The Australia-based Orion, with its health spa, beauty parlour and spacious guest rooms (all of which have views and many of which have private balconies), as well as its turbulence-reducing technology, is one of the nicest ships to go to the great White Continent. Unfortunately, B&R, which previously had exclusive use of the ship, no longer hosts any Antarctica trips. To book a non-B&R-affiliated Orion trip visit www.orioncruises.com.au. Departures are from Australia so maybe you’ll end up with two new continents under your belt.
Read a member postcard from a member on the Antarctic rescue
Members read advice on the best ways to travel to Antarctica
Indagare members receive special invitations and offers on Abercrombie and Kent’s Antarctic expeditions. For details and to book, contact our bookings department by calling 212-988-2611 or sending an inquiry