Voyaging to the penultimate continent Antarctica presents itself with a unique set of challenges, requiring a spirit of adventure and resoluteness different from, say, a jaunt to New York City or even another far-flung continent like Australia.
Visceral images of extreme cold and enormous plates of ice bigger than a football field will unnerve even the most curious traveler, but the cold is the last of your worries when choppy waters, utter lack of on-land transportation, wildly glorious (and large) animals, as well as no personal freedom to move about Antarctica with alacrity is the norm. A visit here is not a whim. It's a symphony requiring orchestral perfection few achieve as well as the preeminent luxury cruise company Seabourn.
During the festive holiday season, when it's actually summer in Antarctica and the ice hasn't formed solid like the other nine months out of the year, the impeccable Seabourn Quest spends four weeks in the tumultuous terrain of Patagonia, Antarctica and South Georgia to bring to life the images' of one's arctic dreams. Priced between $16,000 upwards to $36,000, this all-inclusive voyage (food, every kind of drink from cocktails to wine to gluttonous amounts of coke zero, dessert and enough buttery breadsticks to seemingly wrap-the-globe) most closely resembles a Four Seasons floating on water.
No detail is left unmet, not even on-board wi-fi (works even in Antarctica), plenty of movies and television shows, hot baths, Molton Brown products, and impeccably warm and gracious staff. The Captain would boom, "The Seabourn Quest your home away from home!!!," to intone the morning message was complete. Yet in reality, after four weeks on-board, the time flies by in the company of so many strangers who have become friends.
The journey begins in South America before embracing the challenge of crossing the Drake Passage into Antarctica. Seabourn plans daily expeditions for those who wish to land on the continent of Antarctica: Half Moon Island with its chinstrap penguins; Cuverville Island and its Gentoo penguins; Neko Harbor an inlet with stunning views of icebergs, glaciers and many species of wildlife; and Waterboat Point the Chilean outpost are among the special destinations on the continent while the animal sightings in green terrain of South Georgia, with seals interposed amongst the rustic machinery for 19th century whaling, provide a stark relief.
Of course, the Seabourn Quest itself has plenty of entertainment to keep one busy should the weather conditions prove to be too foreboding. Lectures; musical guests; dancing; a gym; a spa with the best blow-out I have ever gotten for my super thick hair; two jacuzzis; a heated pool; and of course the spectacular food program partnered with Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se fame.
While the amount of money spent seems imposing, when divided over the course of 28 days, the prices are just as reasonable as staying in a luxury hotel -- and what better way to capture the imagination then to be in Antarctica with the gracious hospitality of a floating luxury liner like Seabourn.