I’m still sorting through pictures and videos from my Antarctica trip, and some of the questions I’ve heard are ‘how do you spend your day?’, ‘what do you do in Antarctica? and so on. So those questions inspire this week’s article…
A Day in the Life of an Antarctica Expedition
I had been planning the Antarctica expedition I just went on for two years, but was really dreaming about doing it for ten years. I finally started putting the plan in place as we were coming out of covid and I was creating my bucket list trip series, the Recess Clubhouse.
Sometimes you have things that you dream of doing, but you don’t understand what it actually involves or how it all works. We knew that Antarctica would be amazing, but didn’t grasp what was involved in doing zodiac expeditions or what each day would be like, and such. I thought that I would share exactly what a day in the life of an Antarctica expedition is like.
When you talk about how your day begins on an expedition cruise, in reality, your morning starts the day before. The reason is that at the end of each day, the expedition staff lead a ‘Recap and Briefing’ in the show lounge. The recap reviews the expedition activities earlier that day, and then the briefing discusses the plan for the next day. They show maps of the area, discuss where we’re going in the morning and in the afternoon, if we’ll be doing zodiac cruises or zodiac landings, and the expected wildlife to be seen.
All of the passengers on the ship are divided into groups for the zodiac excursions and the groups are assigned a color. Basically there are two zodiac excursions per day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
You wait with bated breath to find out what time your group is scheduled, particularly for the morning session. Are you going to have a super early morning, or do you get a little extra sleep? Some of the expeditions will start as early as seven o’clock, and others could be after 9am based on how they are scheduling the excursion.
The times are assigned by group color, and then times for the group colors are shifted throughout the cruise so everyone has a mix of early and late times. We were the yellow group. Each evening when you return to your stateroom after dinner, there is a newsletter type sheet with the times of all the activities of the next day in case you forget from the briefing. Or in case you each heard something different and need to have the times in writing.
So, you plan each morning’s wake up time and routine based on what you learned at the expedition briefing.
Each morning there is breakfast available in a couple of the restaurants, with either buffet or sit down service. Silversea also offers complementary room service, so we found it easiest to call or pre-order breakfast so we didn’t have to get up quite as early. The room service menu has a nice selection of hot breakfast entrees in addition to lighter continental breakfast items.
For mornings with the earliest excursion times, you could get room service for coffee and basket of breads and pastry, and then when you return from the excursion, you could go to the dining room for a full breakfast.
They call the zodiac groups by color over the announcement system in the ship. When they call for your color group, you need to be all geared up and ready to go from your stateroom down to the mud room and zodiac area.
My trip to Iceland in November was a great chance for me to try out various cold weather wear, so I was well-prepared for this trip. Having the right gear is a key to happiness, and I was able to stay warm and comfortable throughout the trip.
My layers consisted of long underwear, fleece lined leggings and top, waterproof pants, fleece vest, hat, gloves, and my Silversea parka – one of the most well-designed pieces of gear ever. The parka is provided as part of the cruise, so I get to keep it. It features a waterproof cellphone case so you can use your phone to take pictures and not worry about it getting wet. You also wear a special life vest over all your layers.
Boots are not stored in your stateroom but rather in the mud room near the zodiac area. You wear your wool socks with slide-on shower shoes or other easy on-off shoes as you walk from your stateroom to head down to the mud room to put on your boots.
When they call your color, head to the lower deck with the zodiac platform. You ‘check-out’ of the ship using your key card similar to how you would at a port on a classic ocean cruise. Since you are going to be leaving the ship in the zodiac, they maintain safety and ensure guests are properly accounted for on and off the ship.
Continue to the mudroom to put on your waterproof boots, and from there you get in line with the other folks from your color group to climb into the zodiac.
Some of the zodiacs would hold around eight people per zodiac, but they also had some larger zodiacs that would hold fifteen people. You never knew exactly which one you would have – whichever zodiac pulled up next when it was your turn to get in.
It was really easy to climb on the zodiac. I was a little concerned about that ahead of time, but they have a great safety process and they’re very helpful. Even folks who seemed a unsteady walking or were not very agile or flexible were able to get in and out of the zodiac boats.
There were two types of zodiac excursions – a zodiac cruise or a zodiac landing, which are both exactly what they sound like.
If we were going do a zodiac cruise, it might last 60 to 90 minutes, and we’d always know the length of the cruise ahead of time.
We would use the zodiac to cruise the waters around Antarctica, sometimes around land masses or viewing icebergs, and always looking for wildlife. If we cruised beside land, we might see colonies of penguins or seals on the beach. We might come upon some humpback whales and see them spout and then dive so we’d see their tail. Random icebergs with penguins were fun to see.
One of my favorite things to see as we were cruising around was the penguins swimming. They actually leap in the air very similar to a dolphin. To see a group of five or ten penguins leaping through the water was just a stunning site – but I always seemed to miss getting a good picture.
We saw some amazingly beautiful icebergs. We were in this incredibly desolate stunning scenery of icebergs floating, glaciers, mountains covered in snow. The glaciers and icebergs had gorgeous colors of blue, because the ice absorbs the longer red and yellow wavelengths, while the shorter blue wavelengths reflect the light. You would see cracks in the ice that created the blue hue that was beautiful in its natural design.
Cruising around in the serene quiet does seem like a total totally different planet.
Upon returning from our excursion, we would head to the mudroom to take off our boots and put on our ‘back and forth’ shoes, and then we would head toward the elevators to flash our keycard to check back into the ship.
I have to confess one of my favorite things was the greeting from the guy standing near the elevators with the most delicious hot chocolate ever. And it was made even better with a shot of Frangelico (or Bailey’s or rum or Kahlua). After being out in the cold, it was so great to have that wonderful warm and taste treat.
We’d head back to our room and change into regular clothes and spread out our cold weather gear to let anything dry if needed.
If we had gotten up very early that morning, we might go eat breakfast in the restaurant. Often we would often go up to the Panorama Lounge and look for wildlife in the air or water, or do a crossword puzzle or play a game, and get a mimosa or a diet Coke.
A nap was always an option and one that I chose a number of times.
Well, there’s a lot to share about a day on an expedition, so we’ll stop here to take a nap, and pick up next week with the rest of the day.