Travel Diary: New Year's Antarctic Cruise
Exclusive Resorts embarked on a voyage where few have gone before. In partnership with Lindblad Expeditions on the National Geographic Resolution, The Club explored the world's southernmost region — a place less than 1% of the population ever gets a chance to visit.
Hello from Santiago and our arrival day! Members arrived in Chile for a mix and mingle as people flew in from a myriad of locations. The group had the opportunity to join two tours — one to a small artisan market called Los Dominicos and then a city tour of Santiago. Members loved being able to support the local artisans and learn more about the city. In the evening, Members attended a trip briefing and cocktail hour, complete with Pisco Sours, and a three course meal featuring fresh seafood and local Chilean specialties. We even arranged for a traditional Chilean dance experience. In classic Exclusive Resorts style, every available moment is used to make an impression and bring the magic of the Club come alive.
Buenos días began with a 5AM wake-up call, not a minute to waste! Our first bus took off around 6AM to the airport for a private charter flight to the southernmost city in the world — Ushuaia, Argentina. Members were treated to a Catamaran ride and lunch through the Tierra del Fuego National Park, truly taking the group to the end of the world, and then a little further! That afternoon the group boarded the Resolution, the newest ship in the Lindblad Expeditions Antarctic family. She is an absolute beauty; lots of natural light, big windows, and tons of space for indoor and outdoor gatherings and enjoyment. Within just a few short hours onboard, the ship had entered the Beagle Channel and was heading full steam ahead towards the infamous Drake Passage.
Officially at sea, the day was spent enjoying various lectures and briefings including one from Nick Cobbing — a National Geographic photographer — titled How to Shoot Like A National Geographic Photographer. Later Members were treated to a different presentation on How To Take The Best Photos on Your iPhone and an informative course from a naturalist on board focused specifically on seabirds. After a calm and educational day at sea, and in true Exclusive Resorts style, the Club threw the most exclusive New Year's Eve party on the continent (with a very strict guest list!). Members started out with singalong sea shanties before things quickly escalated into a dance floor party, complete with party favors, a DJ, and a midnight champagne toast. Such a fantastic way to ring in the New Year!
We had a grand New Year's Day brunch with roasted meats, eggs, bloody mary's and mimosas, followed by an educational lecture from the two penguinologists on board (yes, penguinologist is a real title). We finally started to see land at the opening of the Lemaire Channel and the unique landscape kept evolving. With the sun never fully setting, the days here offer lots of opportunities for late night activities. In the evening, the group enjoyed stepping on land for the first time at Pléneau Island. Although our watches told us it was almost 10PM, the skies were telling our bodies it was closer to noon. We were greeted ashore by several rookeries (colonies) of penguins and even a few seals lounging in the sun. We continued on, officially crossing into the Arctic Circle. It is incredibly rare for the conditions to be pristine enough to enter the circle and most ships traveling for less than two weeks never even get the opportunity.
We celebrated crossing into the Antarctic Circle with a sunny outdoor BBQ lunch on the top deck surrounded by soaring views and flowing ice. In the afternoon, the ship settled into a scenic bay and the sea kayaks were brought out. Members loved navigating through the icy waters, saw a few swimming penguins, and even encountered a whale. Next the group participated in some polar plunges — a jump into the frigid zero-degree water. The crew welcomed everyone out of the water with warm towels and steaming mugs of spiked ginger tea.
This morning started off as one for the books. The Resolution was able to do something very rare this late in the season — she drove head first into a sheet of fast ice (basically a thick and solid layer of ice on the water). It was a very smooth experience on board and we were able to disembark the ship and walk right onto the ice sheet. In the afternoon we landed on Pourquoi Pas Island, home to a large colony of Adelie penguins. There were hundreds upon hundreds of penguins, including many recently hatched chicks.
Wednesday morning started off with a treat. Member Reeta Brendamour is a certified Yin Yoga instructor, and she led the group in a yoga class. It was an incredibly peaceful way to start the day. In the afternoon we beat another record by heading as far south as the Resolution has EVER been — 68'11 South! The captain and crew's excitement resonated through to the rest of us. Our ship continued on and made it to Red Rock Ridge, however conditions were too rough to disembark, so we headed just one hour over to Stonington Island, (an ex-military base for both the US and UK first established in 1940). The buildings are no longer in use, so the group was able to explore the abandoned facilities with flashlights.
After taking Zodiac cruises around the Yalour Islands — and enjoying a surprise of delicious hot chocolate delivered piping hot right to our small boats while out in the icy water — we headed out to Petermann Island where the group enjoyed a variety of short hiking options around the island including a few scenic viewpoints. Hundreds of penguins joined the march as very welcome hiking companions. There were even a few Weddell seals who hauled themselves out of the water and laid right on our path, giving the group a special chance to photograph them at an extremely close distance.
After another great day of Zodiac rides and time spent reading, playing board games, and enjoying great conversations with new friends, the group was incredibly excited for the night's festivities — a talent show put on by the crew. This show was a special production from the ship's staff and crew showcasing a collection of singing, dancing, and overall merrymaking. These performances kicked off a party that went into the night. Members filled the dance floor to the grooves of the crew band while tilting back and forth across the dance floor to the rhythm of the growing waves. A few conga lines even popped up throughout the night. After our New Year's Eve party, many Members had asked for another night of celebration and this evening brought just that.
Day 10 & 11
We started our trek back up the Drake Passage early this morning — a journey that would take nearly two full days. Throughout this time, we were able to enjoy many great lectures on board including, How to Live on Antarctica Year-Round. Our photo coaches also held several photography sessions and the on-board massage therapists were put to the test as both treatment rooms were packed all day. In the evenings the group enjoyed a popcorn movie night, a competitive game of trivia, and some wine tastings. The final evening's farewell was filled with smiles, lots of toasts, and merriment for the last week and half spent together.
Back in Santiago, as Members headed for their respective international flights back home, a final series of farewells trickled through the room, with everyone saying, "it's not goodbye, it's see you later!"