The experience on Abercrombie & Kent’s 15-night luxury expedition cruise, a holiday getaway including stops at the Falkland Islands and South Georgia en route to the Antarctic Peninsula, is admittedly a bit cushier than what Shackleton and Wild went through.
Our first stop is at Moltke Harbor in Royal Bay, and it feels as if we’re dropped down into a sort of Antarctic amusement park. As soon as our boots splash into the frigid waters and we slosh up onto the beach, a field of curious animals immediately comes into view. Penguins, already? “The show is always on,” a crew member says.
Our next excursion takes us to Gold Harbor, where a gigantic glacier greets us in the bay, waterfalls of glacial melt cascading into the shallow, milky blue seas. As staggering in size as the glacier appears, we’re told that it has retreated substantially over the past two decades, occupying a fraction of the territory it once did.
The objective for the morning is to hop on a Zodiac boat and soak it all in. With calm winds, there’s no noise save for the crackling of ice chunks in the water. There’s an unspeakable sense of perfection to the environs, a storybook setting. It’s the most pristine and preserved piece of nature on the planet we call home.
“You can see why we’re all so addicted to this place and keep on coming back,” says Suzana Machado D’Oliveira, the trip’s expedition director. “Welcome to paradise.” She isn’t exaggerating: Our ultimate destination in Antarctica is Paradise Bay.