Why not visit Antarctica in five star luxury and takes shore excursions that soak you to the skin and make you give way to penguins.

Adélie Penguins Paulet Island

Adélie Penguins Paulet Island

If you don’t like the weather in Antarctica just wait a while and in about five minutes it will change. Even in summer we woke up to find that snow had fallen on the ship swiftly followed by blue sky and bright sunlight that lit up the snow covered mountains in all their magnificence.

Penguins frolicked in and out of the calm sea as if impersonating dolphins whilst seals stretched out lazily on ice floes soaking up the warm rays of the January sun. Even humpback whales snoozed on the water as we sailed by. Above all I can now place myself amongst that elite group who have walked upon the white continent and watched in awe as the albatross wafted serenely above the stern of our ship in the Southern Ocean.

PI had travelled here with Hurtigruten the polar specialists to join their specifically adapted vessel the Fram.   The ship holds a fleet of lightweight polar Kircle (that’s the correct spelling1) boats that hold eight people at time to enable you to land at certain islands or on the mainland to experience the wildlife close and what wildlife too! Thousands of penguins in their rookeries, leopard seals patrolling the shore in search of meal from a careless bird and killer whales haunting the ice floes looking for

The Fram carried about 300 passengers on our trip so we quickly get to know our fellow guests. There are no organised Broadway shows or films as you would expect on the larger cruise lines but you do get an excellent series of lectures on a variety of polar subjects from penguins to the history of the region’s exploration.

Adélie Penguins Paulet Island

Adélie Penguins Paulet Island

The lectures are planned so that the next day you can actually visit the places discussed and see the wildlife and on some islands huts where the early explorers and scientists lived and worked. One of these is the British base at Port Lockroy which is now run by The Antarctic Heritage Trust which operates as a museum here. It also has an excellent souvenir shop and post office with loads of goodies from bags to ties and sweat shirts etc. All the profits go to preserving historical huts in Antarctic.

The large lounge includeds free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and assorted pastries and cakes 24 hours a day. This lounge also holds the information centre where you can follow the ships progress with charts and get the latest information on activities and excursions. Adjoining it are the two lecture theatres and the Internet suite with six computers available, you can buy half, one and six hour sessions from reception.

Crabeater seals

Crabeater seals

Antarctica is full of surprises one day we even found ourselves tobogganing down a steep slope at a Chilean research base but no more so than at Deception Island where if you wish you can go swimming in the Antarctic Ocean. The island is actually the crater of an active volcano that the sea has broken into so the warmer water inside allows you to go for a very brief dip!  If you stay on land whilst you are walking on the two foot deep black volcanic ash to investigate the old whaling station steam rises up and drifts in front of you mixing with the gently falling snow.

Some our party did go for a swim but they were all under 25 whilst I with some of the more sedate members restricted ourselves to the two outdoor Jacuzzis on the ships upper deck. To sit in a hot Jacuzzi with South Polar Skuas and Imperial Cormorants flying above you with a cold beer in your hand looking down on penguins sitting on ice flows is quite an experience I can assure you

Crabeater seals

Crabeater seals

The trips to the islands and a walk upon the Antarctic mainland itself do you leave you spellbound. All of the pictures and films you see on the TV simply do not do this magnificent place justice, it is just awe inspiring. Do go, you will never, ever forget it.

Remember too that this really is an expedition and because of the wind and ice conditions landings can change. We had expected to visit Snowy Hill Island in the Weddell Sea but the ice was closing in so the captain had to take the ship back through the Antarctic Sound to the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and we explored other islands. It was great!!

Ice floe

Ice floe

Hurtigruten runs eight distinct Antarctic voyages, plus the classic Norwegian coastal voyage, expeditions to Greenland and Spitsbergen and some European cruises.

In the UK visit  www.hurtigruten.co.uk

Macoroni Penguins Hannah Point

Macoroni Penguins Hannah Point