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What you need to know before boarding an Antarctica cruise

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This is some really interesting feedback from a recent client who travelled on board Antarctic Dream for her cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. I think this gives you a sense of the rough and the smooth of the  experience, and hopefully explains why we will not promote the 'fly cruise' options now coming on line whereby you simply fly over the Drake Passage.

Antarctica is an absolutely extraordinary experience, although mother nature definitely makes you work for it - the crossing of Drake's Passage takes 2 days and although it's known to be the roughest stretch of water in the world, we weren't prepared for 14mtr waves and force 9 winds!

R toughed it out much better than I did and managed, at least, to leave the cabin at meal times, whereas I spent the entire crossing either vomiting or passed out on sea-sickness tablets. At least we had a decent cabin, thanks to our surprise honeymoon upgrade :-)

Although the journey is hell, the rewards are so worth it - I've never seen anywhere so peaceful and vast and pure and savage all at the same time. Whilst it's stillness and beauty appears  unthreatening, it actually belies an incredibly hostile environment.

For starters, if you fell in the water, you'd need to be rescued within about 3mins if you've any chance of survival! Now, we've watched more than our fair share of David Attenborough, so were excited enough as it is to be seeing it all for real, but it's so much more impressive in the flesh.

The enormity of the glaciers and icebergs blows you away - we were lucky enough to make it into the Weddel Sea, where the pack ice stretches as far as the eye can see and the icebergs are all as large as apartment blocks. If even a small piece chips and falls to the water it makes a sound like cracking thunder and causes disturbing waves - when they split and divide, they cause mini tsunamis and I can only imagine the noise... when the ice below the water (usually 8x bigger than the ice that protrudes) has been eroded away, they flip, literally in an instant!

For me, the highlight was scooting alongside a group of humpback whales in a little zodiac - being up close and personal with these beasts in their natural environment was exhilarating. You'd hang over the side, camera in hand, feeling untouchable in your little rubber dinghy, then see their white bellies glide out from underneath you as they rotate and surface just metres away... gulp...wow!

The seals and penguin rookeries are also amazing to see. You can literally walk amongst hundreds of thousands of penguins on one island and, as long as you respect their 'highways' and nest, they won't even flinch. We ended the trip with a jaunt into the water filled crater of the volcano at Deception Island - where else can you do that!? Anyway, the pictures say a lot but really "you had to be there". Superb!

You should only visit Antarctica if you can face the crossing. It's a means of sorting the wheat from the chaff and making sure that only the most committed visit this most precious of places. It may be uncomfortable to make the crossing but it heightens the experience once you are there. If it was easy, visitors wouldn't value it as much. Secondly, most importantly, Drakes Passage keeps visitor numbers down. Increased flights down to Antarctica is not something we welcome as a positive development.

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