I am pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Jen, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Jen is from the United States, and submitted the following report about her cruise to Antarctica.
Because Jen's photos didn't fit our format, I reached out to Adventure Canada, who operate small ship expeditions to Antarctica. They generously shared the photos in this post.
To round it all out, Janice provides 10 tips to help you make the most of an Antarctic cruise if you go solo.
Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo Travel Rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages Spoken: English
Costs at Destination: Expensive (local transportation, dining, tours, events, and attractions)
Jen's Solo Experience in Antarctica
Exploring Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime and ticks the 7th continent off any avid traveler's bucket list!
The prime way to travel to Antarctica is via cruise or expedition ship. While it is very expensive, it's ideal for solo travelers, because many ship operators offer shared cabins. I signed up to share a cabin with one other female; she was an older woman from the UK and we became fast friends!
Once aboard, all the logistics are taken care of, which makes things so easy. Passengers are all looking to meet and socialize which also makes it a perfect trip for a solo traveler. I actually met my partner on my ship to Antarctica!
Itineraries vary based on ship operator, but my trip was intended to be a 12-day cruise leaving from and returning to Ushuaia, Argentina. We got stuck on board an extra five days because the COVID-19 lockdown started whilst we were in Antarctica.
In any case, I selected an active itinerary where daily excursions included Zodiac boat tours to spot whales and seals, landings to penguin colonies, mountaineering, ice climbing, sea kayaking, and more.
I wouldn't expect fabulous food since you're far away from land and fresh provisions, but it wasn't bad at all. We even had a pirate-themed BBQ outside on the deck in Antarctica one night.
In terms of budget, while this is an expensive trip regardless, there is a wide range from ship-to-ship, from luxe rooms to small and standard.
Certain ships cater to more or less activity and adventure. Ensure you choose the ship that’s right for you. Given regulatory constraints in Antarctica, there are limits to how many people can disembark at each port. Smaller ships with fewer passengers ensure you'll actually be able to get out and enjoy each landing.
Solo Travel Rating
- Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
- Language – 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
- Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
- Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
- Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)
Ten Tips For an Antarctic Expedition Cruise Solo
The joy of a trip like this cannot be underestimated. But, as with all solo travel, you, alone need to be prepared. These tips will help.
- Pack for the climate. The weather can vary greatly depending on time of year and simply what the weather decides to do but it is not a warm destination at any time of year. You need warm and waterproof outer layers. Read this post on Antarctica packing for details.
- Sea sickness medication is a must. Even those who are not inclined to get seasick are challenged by the Drake Passage which takes about two days to pass through. Seasickness is easier to get ahead of than recover from so take any medication on the early side. You might want to use the transdermal scopolamine patch or over-the-counter tablets such as Dramamine or Phenergan. As always, check with a doctor before taking medication. Packing ginger snaps is a good plan as well.
- Sunscreen is important. During expedition months, the sun is present for up to 24 hours a day. But you don't just get the sun directly from the sky: as it reflects off the snow, it can add to a burn. Wear sunscreen and reapply often.
- Book early. Because the window to visit Antarctica is only five months long, from late October to early March, you'll want to book your cruise to Antarctica early. Try to book at least eight months in advance. Doing so can also save you money.
- You may prefer a small ship. Because the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has rules prohibiting more than 100 people going ashore at any one time, large ships may not make landings at all. Choose the ship according to the experience you want.
- Match the trip to your physical ability and health. Shore excursions are usually offered for different levels of fitness so there is something for everyone. That said, it's important to keep in mind that you can be days away from the nearest hospital so you will want to be in good health for this trip.
- Take some time in Ushuaia, Argentina. While you may be anxious to get started on your Antarctic cruise, plan to take some time in this beautiful city. There's Tierra Del Fuego National Park, the Martial Glacier, and the Esmeralda Lagoon to explore.
- Be flexible and responsible. The unpredictable weather in the Antarctic can change your itinerary. Be patient if everything doesn't go according to what was printed in the brochure. And be caring. The Antarctic is a fragile ecosystem with many protected zones and species. Follow all instructions from your tour operator to protect the environment.
- Shower when the sea is calm. It won't always be calm and two days on the Drake Passage likely means no showers. Plan to take advantage of a shower when you can.
- Live in the moment. While it can be incredibly tempting to take pictures all the time, slow down and live the moment as well. As for your camera gear, if you're not already using a digital SLR, this is not likely the time to start. Keep it simple. You may miss the occasional shot that's in the distance but, for the most part, a current mobile phone camera will be sufficient.