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Antarctica is often the last and seventh continent people visit. It is a land best described in superlatives: driest, coldest, highest, and windiest. For all these reasons, Antarctica is also one of the most remote, time-consuming, and expensive places to visit. And yet, for adventurous families, the allure is undeniable.
I’ve dreamed about visiting the White Desert, and Atlas Ocean Voyages has made this continent even more enticing with its Antarctica cruise offerings hosted on luxury expedition ships like the World Navigator.
In February of 2022, I fulfilled my dream of setting foot on my seventh continent as my 11-year-old daughter and I embarked from Ushuaia, Argentina, on this incredible ship, chock full of cozy amenities, for the Antarctic adventure of a lifetime.
Keep reading to learn more about our experiences voyaging to the veritable ends of the Earth.
Traveling to Antarctica on an Atlas Cruise starts with getting to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. For this reason, it has gained the affectionate title “the End of the World.” It requires a more than 12-hour airplane flight from the lower 48, which can feel endless, especially when your kids get restless.
Atlas Ocean Voyages is currently flying its guests from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and I highly recommend a stop for a few days in Argentina’s vibrant capital. Buenos Aires[a][b]. If that’s not a possibility, consider upgrading to business class. It is a long journey to Antarctica and the leg room, better food, and access to warm towels will prove well worth it.
No matter how you choose to make your way to Ushuaia, once you arrive, it’s time to prepare for your Atlas Cruise.
Ever since booking our travel and beginning to plan for Antarctica, our excitement had built about the adventure to come. This anticipation became downright electric as we boarded the World Explorer.
But the first leg of the journey was a tough one. To reach Antarctica, you must traverse the infamous Drake Passage, which takes two days. The passage sits at the tip of South America, known as Cape Horn, and is the spot where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet. Due to the differences in water temperature, this convergence can lead to powerful upswells and waves. At other times, it’s calmer and more pleasant. Predicting which version you’ll get is very difficult.
As a result, it’s earned two names: the “Drake Lake” and the “Drake Shake.” Unfortunately, we ended up with more “shake” than “lake” on the departure and return trips. For this reason, I highly recommend packing the remedies that help your family combat seasickness, whether acupressure bands, candied ginger, Dramamine, or all of the above.
Although the Drake Passage can feel intimidating, especially for those prone to motion sickness, it’s also a thrilling right of passage.
There’s nothing like sailing where famous adventurers and vessels have gone before, like Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle or Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance. One of the most exciting things you may see during this part of your trip are cyclones created by the warm waters of the Pacific as they mix with the colder waves of the passage. But, of course, the maritime technologies of today make this voyage safe, even though you should prepare for an adrenaline spike.
What did we think of the World Navigator? It is breathtaking. We enjoyed its plentiful amenities while marveling at how incredibly luxurious it feels for an expedition-style cruise. The ship holds just under 200 passengers, translating into roomy square footage with plenty of spots to mingle and gather.
We fell in love with the Dome, offering a delectable spread at tea time and 180-degree panoramas of the watery, icy world outside.
The gourmet food served on the ship generally tasted delish! There was plenty of variety, from Portuguese to Indian, but my 11-year-old opted for filet mignon every single day.
The staff was fantastic and the ambiance orderly and elegant. Besides enjoying a sit-down meal showcasing international flavors, you can stop by Paula’s Pantry throughout the day for beverages, snacks, and sandwiches. Julia had her fair share of their delicious hot cocoa and I enjoyed my daily cappuccino.
Moreover, the ship includes a room service “Anytime Menu” available 24 hours a day. (This is an excellent option when Drake’s Passage is choppy, and you prefer to remain in your room.) Because of the all-inclusive nature of the voyage, you’ll also have access to unlimited wine. That said, the flow gets cut off before land excursions as zodiacs and alcohol don’t play well together. (Get the full scoop on navigating zodiacs with an infant.)
Despite all the creature comforts afforded on an Atlas Cruise, the adventure vibe permeates every aspect of your trip. The ship remains agile and slender enough to navigate to some of Antarctica’s most isolated and rugged locales. Best of all, the vessel is designed to put sustainability first. It relies on quiet propulsion to avoid disrupting local wildlife and is fueled by hybrid power.
In terms of the itinerary, remember that it’s essentially a working document. Depending on the weather, things can change quickly, so your ship’s captain will always reserve the right to select the exact sites where you’ll disembark. As a result, you and your family must stay flexible. Did this bother me during the cruise? Not really, because each time we did go ashore, the experience was beyond words.
We had to don polar parkas and wear knee-high waterproof boots to get on shore and we were warm and toasty in them. These items of clothing are provided by Atlas Cruise, and you can even keep your parka as a souvenir. I also recommend packing waterproof pants that you don’t tuck into your boots. If you do, you could end up with soaked feet while making wet landings, something you must avoid when tromping around Antarctica.
The short answer is: it depends on the kid. The minimum age permitted aboard Atlas for their Antarctica expeditions is eight. At 11, Julia was by far the youngest guest.
The ship offers a few board games, but not much else in terms of entertainment. My polar-loving daughter was totally content playing UNO with me, sipping hot cocoa at the lounge, and taking in the amazing lectures from their top-notch expedition team about the history and wildlife in Antarctica (you can even watch them from your room on those shaky days). And, of course, the landings were incredible.
The main consideration when traveling with kids is whether or not any of your family members tend to get seasick. It’s a long journey to the Antarctica Peninsula through the Drake Passage and if one does not feel well, that can feel like an eternity.
Julia got seasick, but managed with Dramamine and motion sickness bands other fellow travelers graciously offered to her.
The highlights of our Antarctica cruise were varied and many. From the crystalline beauty of ancient glaciers and icebergs to the telltale trails of penguin colonies, you’ll never cease to be amazed by the landscapes, wildlife, and surreal nature of the location.
And nothing beats being surprised by a Humpback whale by your window!
At one point, we hiked to the top of a dome-shaped outcropping where we took in breathtaking views of a glacier and our ship in the grayish-blue ocean below. The fun part? We got to slide down the hill.
Other noteworthy spots included Petermann Island, which hosts the largest Gentoo penguin colony on the continent, and Cuverville Island, where you can slide down a glacier. Danco Island is another amazing spot hosting a Gentoo penguin rookery.
My favorite memory, by far, was our kayak outing around Danco island. The light had a mystical quality that morning and the scenery was just stunning. We saw penguins and crabeater seals. It was truly out of this world and one of the most magical experiences of my life.
Along with other adventurous passengers on our ship, we indulged in a polar plunge into the Antarctic’s 28 degrees Fahrenheit waters. We wore retrieval ropes around our waists should we pass out from the shock of the frigid waves. (Back onboard, shots of hard liquor helped the adults get the blood flowing again. Julia thoroughly complained about the lack of hot cocoa readily available for her. LOL.)
Tourists can visit Antarctica during the summer months, between November and March. During this season, temperatures average 32 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the Antarctic Peninsula. As the summer nears its end, wildlife head offshore to prepare for the freeze of the region’s bays. For context, the continent’s winter land surface is twice that of the summer due to the vast ice accumulations.
Remember that children must be at least eight years old before hopping on an Atlas Ocean Voyages cruise to Antarctica. (This is distinguished from the company’s age minimum of 12 months for other destinations.) Unfortunately, you can’t get connecting staterooms, but where available, rooms may be booked next to one another.
The World Navigator’s staterooms spare no expense regarding the small details: small-count Egyptian cotton linens, cozy terrycloth robes, and l’Occitane toiletries included.
It’s worth noting that the square footage is the same whether you opt for the Juliet-style balcony or the walk-out balcony. That said, more square footage is devoted to living space with the Juliet-style balcony, which makes it the better option. (There’s a limit to how much time anyone wants to spend outside while navigating the waters around Antarctica.)
If a luxurious cruise interspersed with exhilarating adventures — from penguin observing to glacier hopping, snowy walks to polar plunges — sounds like your family’s dream getaway, what are you waiting for? We can help you start crafting a meaningful, family-friendly itinerary now. One filled with wildlife observation, adrenaline-spiking experiences, and cultural enrichment.
Are you ready to find out more about an Antarctic adventure with kids? We’ve got you covered. We have the travel expertise, family travel know-how, and the best local connections to facilitate a magical family getaway.
Ready to get started? Let’s chat!
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