Antarctica Honeymoon: The Expedition Begins!

Penguins and Quark ExpeditionsAntarctica. Everything about that word seemed untouchable. It is the coldest, driest, windiest, and virtually uninhabited continent, but it kept calling to us. We have explored six continents on our HoneyTrek, which only fueled our desire to reach the seventh…but how would we ever take an Antarctica Honeymoon? This was a place reserved for penguins, scientists and the ultra rich. Then we met Quark Expeditions: one of the most adventurous, sustainable, affordable, and down-to-earth outfitters specializing in the Polar Regions. We told them about our four-year journey and goal to be the first couple to honeymoon all seven continents, and they were determined to help get us there. Before we knew it, we were signed up for the “Antarctic Explorer” expedition on the Ocean Endeavor, their recently renovated ship with the most adventure options. And so began our journey…a 1,605-nautical mile, 12-day trip to the Antarctic Peninsula and the wildest place on Earth.

 

Ushuaia, The End of the World

Antarctica from UshuaiaWe met some of the Quark team and our expedition mates in Buenos Aires for the charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, “The End of the World.” We visited Ushuaia at the very beginning of our HoneyTrek and remember marveling at the Antarctic expedition ships in the harbor, trying to fathom what that trip would be like. Now we were here, giddy as all get up, knowing that one of those ships was ours.

 

The Ocean Endeavor

Quark Ocean Endeavor RoomsWe boarded The Ocean Endeavor: an Ice Class 1B, 450-foot, 17,420-horse power expedition ship. The 175 passengers were greeted by the 150-person staff (how’s that ratio for personal attention?), and our bags were whisked away to our rooms, while we sipped complimentary cocktails and explored the ship. The recent renovation showed with contemporary furnishings, a variety of cozy lounges, a full VOYA spa, two huge wooden saunas, a modern fitness center, a salt water pool, jacuzzi, and plenty of observation decks. Our fabulous room (bottom two right photos) was the “Twin Porthole Plus 2,” which basically meant his & her everything: Two windows, two bathrooms, two flat-screen TVs, and plenty of space for a couple…or even a third, since our leather couch pulled out. Rooms on the ship range from economical triples to a 320sq-ft suite with bow-facing windows. No matter which category you choose, each is assigned a room attendant for your every request. Joanna made us feel like royalty!

 

Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake PassageA thick Kiwi accent came through the loudspeaker (the main way of keeping up on the day’s schedule, whale sightings, or anything exciting), asking us to come to the main lounge for an orientation and safety briefing. That was Cheli Larsen, our extremely experienced and hysterical expedition leader. She had a wonderful way of delivering info with comedy and brutal honesty, making even bad news sound like an adventure. “Tonight, we’ll enjoy sailing the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel,” she says “then for two days, you lucky ducks get to experience the legendary ‘Drake Shake’!” The Drake Passage is a 500-mile wide, 2-mile deep stretch of turbulent sea where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide, creating arguably the world’s most dangerous stretch of sea. We had the privilege of 24-ft swells and 21-knot winds for a proper dance-off with The Drake. We have strong stomachs so we found the experience pretty entertaining, walking around at a 30-degree angle, watching furniture slosh across the room, and feeling the almighty force of the sea.

 

Days At Sea

Quark Lectures onboardThere were tons of activities on offer to pass the time on The Drake: Educational lectures, photography workshops, yoga classes, movies, visits to the bridge, kayak and SUP orientations, four-course dinners, and your relaxation method of choice. To wrap our head around the profound science and history of Antarctica, we went to as many of the talks as possible by their resident glaciologists, marine biologists, ornithologists, polar historians, among other impressive experts on board. The experience and resumés of the expedition team blew our minds. Our favorite example is Tara, a young woman who completed the first-ever kayak circumnavigation of the four main islands of Svalbard, Noway—a frigid archipelago full of dangerous polar bears, walrus, and whales–and she wasn’t even the ship’s kayak guide!!!

 

Icebergs Ahead!

Penguins and Icebergs in AntarcticaAfter 58 hours of rockin’ and rollin’ with Mr. Drake, the winds subsided, the sun came out, and our hopes for Antarctica beamed bright. Icebergs straight out of the Discovery Channel were just drifting by—with penguins on them! Looking at everyone’s favorite flightless birds waddle on the ice was surreal, only to be topped by a dozen of them swimming alongside us.

 

Whale Welcoming Committee

Humpback Whales in AntarcticaThen came the humpback whales. One would have been exiting, five would have been outstanding…but a pod of 40+? Unreal! The captain skillfully positioned the boat so we could watch them dive for krill, show off their speckled tails (each one unique like a fingerprint), and spout like fountains. Whales migrate to the Antarctic peninsula in the summer months to feed on the water’s incredible abundance of krill (up to 30,000 of these crustaceans per cubic meter!). Whale watching is best in late February and March, conveniently the exact time-frame of our trip.

 

First Expedition: Cierva Cove

Antarctica KayakingWe anchored for our first expedition in the jaw-dropping Cierva Cove. It reminded us of our favorite parts of Patagonia, like the sheer peaks of the Fitz Roy and the icebergs calving off the face of Glacier Grey, rolled into one. Most passengers geared up in their spiffy new yellow parkas and rubber boots (kindly provided by Quark) to explore by zodiac, while we joined our fellow kayakers for an epic paddle. To make sure participants have the best equipment, training, and nature experience, Quark only takes 16 kayakers per expedition. (When you go to Antarctica, make sure you are one of them!) Quietly paddling up to an iceberg with a family of crabeater seals, watching their silvery fur glisten in the sun, listening to the sounds of their grunts and ice crunching with their every move…it was the most intimate way to explore and appreciate the White Continent.

 

The Polar Plunge

Quark Polar PlungeIt’s an Antarctic right of passage to take the Polar Plunge, i.e. hurling yourself into the near-frozen sea for the fun of it. We stood on the dock in our bathing suits, watching a crew member move icebergs out of the swimming area, and thought there was something terribly wrong with this situation. And before you can reconsider…”One, Two, Three, Jump!” I did my best stag leap into the 2-degree Celsius water and felt the chill to my core. I surfaced with a huge gasp, appreciating air more than ever, and scrambled like a wet cat to the ladder. With my feet firmly on the rungs, a huge smile emerged. (You wouldn’t believe me, but check that photo top right.) Feels good to be alive.

 

Antarctica Honeymoon

Antarctica HoneymoonWe survived the Drake Passage and we were greeted to Antarctica with whales and sunshine. A celebration was in order. Champagne and hors d’oeuvres were served on the deck, the captain gave a warm welcome speech, and a little dance party broke out. There was much to celebrate and this was just the beginning…

Don’t miss the next post in our Antarctica series

P.S. A huge thank you to Quark Expeditions for inviting us on this epic journey!

 

Antarctica Honeymoon
SEE MORE PHOTOS IN OUR
USHUAIA TO ANTARCTICA SLIDESHOW

 

36 thoughts on “Antarctica Honeymoon: The Expedition Begins!

  • March 16, 2016 at 4:53 pm
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    This sounds like an incredible experience! I was hanging on every word! Just seeing the penguins sounds brilliant but then you got to the humpbacked whales and I was in awe of both those majestic creatures and your journey!

    The Polar Plunge sounds absolutely dreadful and you are crazy but brave to have done it! Forget the ice bucket challenge, you’ve gone one better!

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    • March 16, 2016 at 7:50 pm
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      The Polar Plunge is crazy but its invigorating and really puts things in perspective…makes you think about the seals, penguins, and whales that swim in this all day–and this is their summer! Another world for certain. The wildlife sightings were unreal…and this blog is truly just the beginning.

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  • March 16, 2016 at 10:23 pm
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    Looks like the trip of more than a lifetime but I think I’ll skip the Polar Plunge!

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  • March 17, 2016 at 12:53 am
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    What an amazing experience. I would love to see icebergs and penguins like that. Good job being brave enough to jump into freezing water! yikes. I am sure you felt alive after doing that! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    • March 17, 2016 at 2:34 pm
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      It really was an amazing experience, Shonee. Sculpturesque Icebergs + cute penguins is really ultimate combo. And the swim is a must!

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  • March 17, 2016 at 1:26 am
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    When I saw that iceberg, I suddenly remember Titanic. This was such a fun trip though I could not imagine how I can stand the cold there. I recommend Antarctica to all those adventurous couples.

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    • March 17, 2016 at 2:41 pm
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      The weather was actually warmer in Antarctica than New York! It was 40 degrees the day we went swimming. Don’t let the weather or the Titanic deter you, the ice is what makes it extraordinary!

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  • March 17, 2016 at 10:56 am
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    Now this trip looks really cool!! ‘No pun intended. In fact, my days of winter surfing tell me that polar plunge is now way too cool for me… ‘Would have to pass on that. But, wow. Great report on a wonderful adventure thus far! Looking forward to more!

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    • March 17, 2016 at 2:37 pm
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      Ken, so great to her from you! You’ve been missed! If you’ve done winter surfing, you totally got this. It was such a rush! The posts to come will only get better too once we go further south and onto the continent..the ice and animals get crazy!

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  • March 17, 2016 at 1:00 pm
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    Holy Moly! What an incredible experience! I’ve never really considered Antarctica as an option for travel, but I am totally adding it to my list!

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    • March 17, 2016 at 2:39 pm
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      We know it wasn’t on our list in a real way until the past couple years since it seems so remote and expensive. But getting there is much easier than you’d think….and with landscapes this awe-inspiring, it’s worth every bit!

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  • March 18, 2016 at 6:55 am
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    Can I sleep on the fold out couch on the next expedition?!? Pics are amazing. Can’t wait to hear stories in person!

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:41 am
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      Oh Deb, next time the fold out is all yours! Intrepid traveler that you, Antarctica is calling your name! Some expeditions even offer diving, how crazy would that be?! Can’t wait to catch up in person too!

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  • March 18, 2016 at 8:13 am
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    Thanks for the memories. It was a life changing experience kayaking in Antarctica on the Ocean Endeavour. I’m promoting your website to our family and friends. Also been enjoying reading about your other adventures. You are an amazing couple. Regards, Brendan & Kim Finnegan.

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:38 am
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      Kim & Brendan, YOU TWO are an amazing couple!! It was so brave for you to take on that many unknowns having never left Australia and heading to the coldest, harshest place on Earth…and kayaking the seas on top of that! We are so glad we are recreating good memories for you–more fun posts to come! Thanks for your sharing our site with your buds, hopefully it inspires them to get out there too!

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  • March 18, 2016 at 10:57 am
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    First off wow! Super exciting post! I am not sure I would survive the Drakes Shake! That makes my tummy anxious! The pictures of you jumping into the cold water, phew and brrrrrr. What an adventure. The ice bergs were beautiful!

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:54 am
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      The Drake was actually a cool experience. The boat is amazing the way it cuts through the waves and wind. You can fly to Antarctica but crossing the Drake really adds to the adventure and you are completely rewarded when you arrive to the icebergs and whales!

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  • March 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm
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    Umm, your crazy! But honestly I am loving the photos of you trip. I would love to see the whales and the seals but I pass on the ice and cold. I can’t believe you guys jumped in the ice cold water! Just seeing it make my bones ache.

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:51 am
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      Quark gives you these turbo warm and weather proof jackets, it’s honestly not that cold in the Antarctic summers. Don’t let that stop you. The swim might not be for you but we know you’d love Antarctica.

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  • March 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm
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    Oh my gosh what a honeymoon!! I had no idea that you can travel to Antarctica like this!! I can’t believe either that you did a Polar Plunge there, what an amazing trip to get to go on!

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:50 am
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      We thought Antarctica was untouchable and we even passed it up having been at the docks in Argentina four years ago but I wish we went sooner. It’s so doable and absolutely life-changing.

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  • March 18, 2016 at 5:02 pm
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    I want to go! This looks like such an exciting cruise! I’m right there with you just soaking up those educational talks. I love vacations just like your Antarctica honeymoon adventure. Your pictures are all beautiful. How fun to see whales and penguins! My hubby keeps saying we’ll take a cruise for our anniversary, I’m Pinning this to my Travel board so I can show him. Sounds like so much fun!

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:48 am
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      Who would have thought the lectures would be so fun but they were. Having the scientific and historic context made everything richer. The expedition leaders and naturalists passion for Antarctica was infectious…there is a lot to love here. Just wait for the next post when we get on the land with penguins…they walk right up to you! We are glad you are pinning this to your travel board and hope you make this trip happen!

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  • March 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm
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    You have just lived my dream. This is absolutely beautiful. I have been telling my husband how badly I wish to go to Antarctica. It is not the “traditional” destination by any stretch of the imagination, but what an incredible experience. Thank you for introducing me to Quark – I am most definitely looking them up (in fact, their page is open in my browser right now)! A beautiful experience. A beautiful honeymoon… !

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:34 am
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      Go live your dream and get your husband on board…no one regrets going to Antarctica! Quark totally exceeded our expectations. They are the perfect blend of adventure, luxury, education and fun. You’d think as one of the more affordable outfitters they’d cut corners, no way. Couldn’t speak more highly of them. We hope you go!

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  • March 19, 2016 at 12:54 am
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    That looks like an amazing cruise. You will always remember the excitement and experience from your honeymoon. I can just imagine how awesome all your pictures must be because these runs show how truly amazing your experience was. I love penguins and that picture just melted my heart. I am saving this to my travel board because this would be a great trip!

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    • March 19, 2016 at 9:29 am
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      It has been unforgettable honeymoon for sure and Antarctica should be at the top of more honeymooners list! Quark totally transcends the word cruise…their approach is all about adventure, discovery, learning, and intimate encounters with nature. I wish all cruises were more like this!

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  • March 19, 2016 at 11:53 pm
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    Wow. Antarctica looks amazing. I would love to see pequins up close like that. Adding this to my bucket list for sure.

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    • March 20, 2016 at 2:29 pm
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      The penguins honestly have no fear–they even started nibbling on our camera strap! It’s an absolutely incredible place.

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  • March 20, 2016 at 10:12 am
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    This looks AMAZING! I have always wanted to go to Antarctica and these pictures remind me exactly why! I would love to see so many animals up close like this. And it would be so much fun to go kayaking out there.

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    • March 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm
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      Kayaking is the ultimate way to explore Antarctica. Being on the water gives you such perspective for the scale and the pristine surroundings. Glad we could remind you that Antarctica is a trip worth doing!

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  • March 21, 2016 at 8:38 am
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    Can you believe that I literally JUST looked up trips to Antarctica last week to see how it went?! This post came at the right time! I read a book about someone who went on a similar trip, and I was just so enthralled with the experience. It is something that most people only DREAM of. I hope to one day visit ALL of the continents. 😉

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    • March 21, 2016 at 11:44 am
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      That is great timing! It is a total dream trip bu more achievable than you’d think. We have loved all seven continents but Antarctica has a very special place in our heart.

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  • March 21, 2016 at 11:35 am
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    Wow!! I would never think that Antarctica would be so amazing to visit. I cannot believe the Polar Plunge! BURRRR!! And all of those Penguins! I love them. What an once in a lifetime experience. I am so showing my husband this!

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    • March 21, 2016 at 11:46 am
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      If you love penguins this is your place. We literally saw thousands and incredibly close up. Whether you polar plunge or not, it’s once in a lifetime trip worth doing!

      Reply

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