Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Like any travel writer worth his or her salt, one of my life’s goals has been to visit all seven continents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the price of Antarctic cruises…until a couple of years ago, when I discovered the secret to scoring a cheap fare. If you’re in the same boat (no pun intended), read on, because I’m going to tell you all the steps to take to find an affordable trip to Antarctica.

From the comfort of our Zodiac, we explore the wreck of an old whaling ship in Wilhelmina Bay

From the comfort of our Zodiac dinghy, we explore the wreck of an old whaling ship in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

What Type of Antarctic Cruises are Best for You

First and foremost you should decide which type of Antarctic cruise is best for you. They basically fall into four categories:

Luxury Antarctic Cruises

I’m stating the obvious when I say that luxury Antarctic cruise ships are, well, more luxurious. Luxury ships tend to be larger, which allows them to offer a wider range of amenities. Yoga and meditation classes, spas, swimming pools, fitness centers, multiple dining rooms with private seating, fine wines and champagne, movie theaters, 24-hour butler service, and free wifi are the norm. I even read about one that offers two seven-seat helicopters and a seven-seat submarine for eye-popping exploration of the Antarctic. On the positive side, larger vessels tends to be more stable in what can be very rough seas. But a larger ship also means more passengers, up to 500 in some instances. Read More

How I Scored a Deeply Discounted Antarctic CruiseHow I Scored a Deeply Discounted Antarctic Cruise

Dawn Sunburst at the head of the Lemaire ChannelMy time in Antarctica was coming to a close when the captain announced we would arrive at the Lemaire Channel early the next morning. Located on the western side of the Waddell Peninsula, between Graham Land on the continent and Booth Island, this narrow 6.6-mile long sea passage offers one of the most spectacular sights in Antarctica. Due to its sheltered location, the sea is almost always calm. The mirrored surface reflects the rugged cliffs on either side of the channel, providing stunning scenes that are a photographer’s dream come true.

The captain had tried to enter the narrow passageway two weeks earlier but the sea ice had not yet broken up. With clear, sunny conditions during the past week, there was a good chance that it would finally be open for the season. Knowing that the call over the P.A. would come early (the captain said about 6 a.m.), I snuggled beneath my thick duvet and went to sleep early. Read More

Antarctica. The coldest, driest, windiest, most severe place on the face of the earth. It’s hard to imagine that any creature can exist in such a harsh environment. But the animals of Antarctica not only survive, they thrive, like the tiny krill, which float through the seas in great masses, providing a vital food source for the great ocean mammals. Others are more visible. Eight species of penguin call Antarctica home, as do 15 species of whale and six of seal. These are what I had come to see and I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment I set foot on the Antarctic continent, I was surrounded by penguins and seals.

But mammals aren’t the only animals in Antarctica. Every spring, more than 100 million seabirds breed along the rocky coastlines of the Waddell peninsula and on the myriad islands that surround it. Cormorants, Cape Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Skuas, and Albatross were just some of the feathered friends I spotted. One Snowy Sheathbill even hitched a ride on the deck of our ship. Read More

VIDEO: Escapades with the Animals of Antarctica

Adelie Penguin on an iceberg at Brown Bluff in Antarctica

I saw hundreds of thousands of penguins in Antarctica. I saw thousands of icebergs. I even saw hundreds of penguins on icebergs. But this sole Adelie penguin on an iceberg in Antarctica was the most captivating of all. My jaw dropped. I’d been watching colonies of penguins at Brown Bluff make their way, hop by excruciating hop, up a mountainside to nesting grounds. They were ungainly. They often looked as if they were on the verge of tumbling back down the rocky scree. But maintaining their balance on an outcropping of rock is one thing; hopping to the top of a slick, near vertical iceberg is quite another. One of most intriguing mysteries of my trip to Antarctica will always be how this lone penguin made it to the top of this iceberg.

You may also enjoy:

Up Close and Personal with the Penguins of Antarctica
The Icebergs of Antarctica, A Story of Beauty and Despair
Humpback Whale Tail in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

There are several species of seals in Antarctica, but the Weddell seal is without a doubt the cutest

Deception Island, the first expedition of my Antarctica cruise, lived up to its name in every way. From afar it looked like a solid chunk of barren rock, but when we circled around to the back side its high cliffs fell away to the sea. A narrow channel led through the break in the cliffs. Within was a flooded caldera – an interior lagoon that had formed when this shield volcano blew its top. The channel itself was deceptive. It looked wide enough, but our captain explained that an enormous submerged rock lay just eight feet below the surface in the middle of the channel. Not to be deterred, he deftly navigated into the caldera with just a few feet to spare. The interior of the caldera was quiet and peaceful, with barely a breeze. Yet we were floating atop an active volcano that had erupted as recently as 1970…and 1969…and 1967! Gulp. Read More

Weddell Seals are the Cutest of all the Seals in Antarctica

In 2018 I was invited to be interviewed for Marc Miller’s very interesting Career Pivot podcast. The subject, “Repurpose Your Career,” might have been custom made for me, since I walked away from 36 years of corporate life to begin a life of travel and blogging. Recently, Marc contacted me to find out how I was faring. We did a second, briefer interview, where we discussed what it’s like to live in Thailand during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Career Pivot Podcast, Repurpose Your Career, with Barbara Weibel

I recently did an update interview for the Career Pivot Podcast, “Repurpose Your Career,” which addressed what it’s like living in Thailand during the times of Coronavirus.

Marc merged the two interviews into one and has made them available here. I just listened to the entire encore interview and was more than a little amazed at the breadth of subjects we covered – everything from Read More