Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

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The opportunity to visit my 7th Continent could not be missed, so an invitation to take a 13-day Antarctica expedition cruise with Seabourn was gratefully accepted. Read my Seabourn Venture review below.

Seabourn provided a very comfortable 5* overnight stay in Buenos Aires followed by the included charter flight which soon had us at Ushuaia where I embarked Seabourn Venture. My V1 Veranda Suite was ready when I embarked and my incredible journey was about to begin.

The two-day crossing of the Drake Passage was a little lumpy but manageable and I was not deterred from joining the parka and rubber boot fitting early on the first morning. This was followed by a compulsory IAATO briefing undertaken by all cruise guests to Antarctica. We then had our outdoor wear inspected for any bio/organic matter that we had inadvertently brought onto the ship. The rest of the day was filled with talks from the Expedition Staff in the Lecture Theatre.

janet in antarctica

On this first day the subjects covered were 'Discovering the White Continent' and an Introduction to Photography with special emphasis on obtaining the best photos on this voyage. Later on in the cruise there was a talk about taking photos on an iPhone which I found very useful. On this first day we also had the opportunity to join staff on deck for a wildlife watch; Swarovski binoculars were provided in every suite and we could freely use these on deck and on land.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

There was also a briefing for guests interested in taking part in the submarine and kayak tours, with a kayak set up for demonstration and for guests to practice. For those interested in the submarine tours, guests were advised to wear dark clothes and they had to be able to access the submarine through the narrow hatch. If guests were not able to attend the briefings and lectures, these were all available to watch on the TV in your suite. The overall impression that I received throughout the cruise was that safety was the most important consideration, both for guests and the expedition crew.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

That afternoon we had our first close up visit, off the coast of Antarctica, to Elephant Island. It was difficult to appreciate how Shackleton's crew survived four winter months on the island waiting for rescue when our summer weather of zero temperature and a biting wind was hard enough for just a couple of hours.

Emperor penguin in Antarctica

We had more lectures the following day and a very informative overview of the humpback whale and a comprehensive talk about the importance of krill in Antarctica. Our first Expedition Briefing was at 6pm and we were very surprised to learn that our first Zodiac tour the following day would be to Snow Hill Island, home of the Emperor Penguins.

Not many cruise lines venture this far and we felt very privileged to have this opportunity. Our Zodiac tour enabled us to see the young adults, mostly in pairs with their distinctive yellow markings just starting to show. That evening we were able to show our appreciation to the expedition team for this wonderful start to our cruise.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

The next morning our Zodiac tour was of Hope Bay situated at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and home to the Argentinian Esperanza Base. We learnt that the first baby born on the Antarctic Continent was at this base in January 1978 entitled to claim both Argentinian and British citizenship. We saw the first of many Adelie penguin colonies and brown skuas flying over. Our afternoon landing was at Brown Bluff. We had typical Antarctic weather of a blizzard and very strong winds, but the Zodiacs were able to drop us ashore with a shallow wet landing and wooden poles were always provided for guests that did not bring their own.

During the walk along the shore, with the backdrop of volcanic cliffs, we were entertained by thousands of squawking penguins, some of their nests protecting their young, others with eggs yet to hatch. Watching the antics of some as they made their way to the sea was very entertaining.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

Antarctica Cruise Guide

Download your complete Antarctica Cruise Guide here.

The early hours of the next morning saw the sun set at about 2.30am and rise again at 4am; we then had the start of a few days of glorious weather. Cruising through the icebergs and dramatic cliffs of ice towards the island was truly spectacular in the sunshine. Mikkelsen Harbour was a very popular whaling base at the beginning of the 20th century, with remnants of their vessels and whale carcasses can still be seen. There is also a refuge hut on the shore which is still available for emergency use.

Our next visit was to Danco and Cuverville, with Danco giving us our first proper snow climb to see the Gentoo colony. The expedition team had beaten out a path for us to use, traversing the penguin highways, and we had fantastic views across the bay to the ship. As the weather was so glorious a few of us remained on deck during the early evening to enjoy a Seabourn Caviar and Champagne moment.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

On our fifth day the beautiful Borgen Bay was the destination for our Zodiac tour. The mountains reflecting in the calm water were spectacular and with a couple of small avalanches to watch and hear it was a memorable visit. Our afternoon tour was to Port Lockroy, home of the southernmost Post Office in the world, known as the Penguin Post Office.

As we couldn't land, the team working for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust came on board with a selection of items to sell from their shop. We also had the opportunity to purchase post cards and stamps, and once written we posted the cards in a portable post box which they then took back to frank and post back to the UK via another visiting ship. They sold out of all the goods and the team were invited to enjoy hot showers, a meal and went back to the island with fresh food and water supplies (they have no running water and the group of seven volunteers share one cabin). The team included a midwife, a GP and a pastry chef!

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

The same evening after dinner, we were invited out on deck to witness the approach to the Lemaire Channel; at its narrowest point it is just 1,600 metres wide and nicknamed Kodak Alley as it is so calm and photogenic.

With just two more days of expedition to look forward to, a visit to the Inner Harbour of the Melchior Islands was spent touring by Zodiac with the added surprise of a champagne Zodiac bar pulling up alongside to allow us to toast our beautiful surroundings; it was great fun.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

Our final day was spent visiting Yankee Harbour and Half Moon Island in the South Shetland Islands. Yankee Harbour gave us the chance to take a long hike the full length of the bay, with the Zodiac dropping us off at the beginning of the bay and another collecting us at the end.

I was pleased to see that one of the expedition team was arm in arm with one of the older, less able passengers, and helping him to enjoy the walk. Half Moon Island, our final stop, enabled us to visit a Chinstrap penguin colony as well as seeing Weddell seals.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

I took the last Zodiac back to the ship feeling totally humbled by my visit to Antarctica. As well as all the expeditions, I enjoyed fine food in all the dining venues. We had two gala dinners which were delicious; tapas was available in the Constellation Lounge and freshly prepared Sushi in The Club - a great way to start the evening. Seabourn Square was the place to go for coffee, tea, savouries and pastries at any time of day and there was evening entertainment pre- and post-dinner provided by a duo and a multi-talented pianist. They split their time between The Club and the Constellation Lounge.

The cruise director also gave a couple of performances of her show and on the final expedition evening an impromptu disco party was held in the Expedition Lounge, with the head of IT performing as the DJ. It was very well attended and enjoyed by all. And for some, not me, the Polar Plunge was a highlight of the cruise!

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review

My highlight was one evening at 7pm when I witnessed a pod of humpback whales from my deck 5 balcony and without any noise interference from other guests oohing and ahhing, I could enjoy their moans, clicks, cries and other sounds. A private performance just for me, it was wonderful!

Our return on the Drake Passage had a higher swell than on the way down, but again I didn't suffer any side effects - in fact I found the rocking and rolling at night to be quite soporific. Our return charter flight to Buenos Aires was accompanied by one of the expedition guides and he was able to advise and answer any questions about onward arrangements. I enjoyed what was really quite a breathtaking Antarctic cruise with Seabourn and the memories will stay with me for ever.

Seabourn Venture in Antarctica: Expedition Cruise Review
Meet the author

Janet is an Adventure Consultant at Mundy Adventures, having worked with the company for just over a year and in travel for 40 years. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Sea Cloud and she has also sailed with Silversea, SeaDream, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar, Hebridean and Holland America. Her favourite adventure destination is Myanmar, however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Nile River, Alaska & North West Coast of USA and the Middle East. When she’s not travelling she loves going to the theatre, walking and trying new restaurants.

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