“Polar exploration is at once the cleanest
and most isolated way of having a bad time
yet devised.”
 – Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1886 – 1959)
As part of Robert Falcon Scott’s infamous last expedition to the South Pole in 1910-13, Apsley Cherry-Garrard and his companions endured hardships that are difficult to imagine in this day and age.  No doubt his view of the great white land to the south would have been very different had he sailed to the region aboard Silversea‘s premier expedition vessel, Prince Albert II.

 Prince Albert II in Antarctic waters.
Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises
Traditionally, many voyages to the polar regions are lengthy, often between three weeks to a month in duration.  Recognizing that many people want to visit Antarctica but simply can’t spend that kind of time away from family or work, Silversea has devised a unique sailing schedule for Prince Albert II for the winter of 2010-11 and 2011-12 that aims to please passengers who prefer both. 
Their 10 and 11-Day Antarctic Voyages sail solely to Antarctica roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina and represent an excellent itinerary for those just looking to experience the southernmost continent. 

A typical sailing looks like this:

Day 01 – Ushuaia, Argentina – Depart 5:00 pm
Day 02 – Drake Passage
Day 03 – Drake Passage
Day 04 – Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
Day 05 – Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
Day 06 – Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
Day 07 – Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
Day 08 – Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
Day 09 – Drake Passage
Day 10 – Drake Passage
Day 11 – Ushuaia, Argentina – Arrive 8:00 am
Carrying only 132 passengers, the officers aboard Prince Albert II are able to tailor each individual sailing to provide the best possible cruise experience, regardless of weather, in a way that larger ships – or other expedition vessels – simply cannot.  Antarctica in particular is a region of constantly changing terrain and conditions; the ability to adapt to those changes allows for more time ashore at places of interest and a continued sense of being ‘off the beaten path.’  On a true expedition voyage such as this, the most memorable moments are likely to be the ones no itinerary could have predicted: those exciting moments of happenstance that leave a remarkable impression on you for years to come.

An Emperor Penguin in Antarctica.
Photo © Mari Ogawa 

Of course, if you have time to spend exploring this unique and mysterious region, their 17-Day Antarctica sailing is a must.  Voyage 7103, departing on January 25, 2011, is given as reference below; different dates may vary slightly.

 Day 01 – Ushuaia, Argentina – Depart 5:00 pm
Day 02 – Day at Sea
Day 03 – Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands
Day 03 – Carcass Island, Falkland Islands
Day 04 – Stanley, Falkland Islands
Day 05 – Day at Sea
Day 06 – Day at Sea
Day 07 – South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands
Day 08 – South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands
Day 09 – South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands
Day 10 – South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands
 Day 11 – Day at Sea
Day 12 – Day at Sea
Day 13 – Cruise & Explore Antarctic Peninsula
Day 14 – Cruise & Explore Antarctic Peninsula
Day 15 – Cruise & Explore Antarctic Peninsula

Day 16 – Drake Passage
Day 17 – Drake Passage
Day 18 – Ushuaia, Argentina – Arrive 8:00 am

Grytviken, South Georgia:
 the final resting place of Ernest Shackleton.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
 
You might have noticed this itinerary contains three days in Antarctica and four days in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  A remote, inhospitable collection of islands with no native population, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were once used as sealing and later whaling bases in the mid to late 19th century.  Despite their remote, rugged location, history hasn’t neglected them: famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton is buried in Grytviken, South Georgia where he died in 1922. 

Visits to the Falkland Islands round out the port selection on this unique itinerary, and of course, a healthy dose of sea days ensures passengers will be able to enjoy the comfort and luxury of their surroundings, even while cruising through some of the harshest environments.  Prince Albert II features all the elegant touches Silversea guests have come to love and expect, making it one of the only ships to offer genuine expedition voyages that concentrate on exploration and discovery, while adhering to the strict guidelines of a true luxury experience.

Up close & personal with the ice pack.
Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises 

This unique region of the world is host to its own special challenges, and Silversea does an excellent job of informing prospective passengers booked on their polar expeditions about these via their Setting Sail booklet enclosed with guest’s tickets.  Packing warm clothing would seem to be a no-brainer, but the line details the importance of ensuring that anything guests bring with them – from shirts to shoes – are thoroughly cleaned before joining your voyage so as not to accidentally introduce foreign species into the Antarctic ecosystem.

 Eight Zodiac rafts make going ashore in Antarctica possible.
Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Don’t worry about lugging a parka with you on several trans-continental flights; aboard Antarctic voyages (as well as Arctic and Chilean Fjord sailings) these are provided gratis, as are several shore excursions on each Silversea Expeditions voyage.  Prince Albert II carries several Zodiac boats that allow passengers to go ashore in remote areas that would otherwise be inaccessible by traditional ships tenders.  Zodiac craft are exceptionally stable, and passengers are given a thorough briefing on these versatile boats upon embarkation.

Ice, ice, everywhere: the ever-changing landscape
of Antarctica.
Photo © Mari Ogawa 

By definition, expedition cruises are taken by those with a thirst for knowledge and a love of adventure and exploration.  For this reason,  a team of naturalists, biologists, geologists and historians accompany every sailing, and these eminent professionals act as your dedicated guides both aboard ship and during the Zodiac landings.  They’re there to enlighten you, to teach you, and to ensure that you experience the same things that they are so passionate about.

A standard veranda stateroom aboard Prince Albert II – 
no compromises here.
Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises 

It’s impossible to embark on a voyage like this and come away unchanged from the experience.  That you can explore the continent that fascinated explorers and countries for hundreds of years, claimed dozens of lives, and held some of the hardiest men the world has known in its clutches, while dining on magnificent cuisine prepared exclusively by Relais and Châteaux is nothing short of astounding. 

The Age of Exploration as it was known in the days of Scott and Shackleton may be gone, but the spirit of adventure and the quest for the unknown live on nearly a century later in the unique offerings provided by Silversea Expeditions.

For more information, including pricing and full itinerary details, be sure to check out the newly-revamped Silversea Expeditions website, and be sure to check back here on Friday as we take you on a virtual ‘tour’ of all that Prince Albert II has to offer.

 

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