As soon as the pandemic will allow us to travel safely again, many people are hoping to kick things off with truly epic, once-in-a-lifetime trips. And what experience could top watching a solar eclipse from a ship stationed in the bottom of the world in Antarctica?
On December 4th, 2021, a total solar eclipse will be passing over the Southern Ocean, hitting the point of greatest eclipse for just under two minutes, over the Weddell Sea west of the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s a stunning setting for a celestial event, but this eclipse will be even more special as it follows an east-to-west path, as opposed to the more common west-to-east route. And, because the path of totality—the narrow track created by the moon’s shadow falling on the Earth—will cross over Antarctica’s icy waters instead of land, the best way to soak up the view is from a ship deck.
Everyone from veteran polar cruise operators to luxury expedition outfitters has prepared first-rate trip packages befitting this event, combining viewing the eclipse with Antarctic cruise “greatest hits,” like wildlife excursions and photography instruction (not to mention the finest luxury amenities). In addition to knowledgeable expedition teams, astronomy experts will also be joining many of these itineraries, providing educational lectures during the long days at sea. Here are the Antarctica cruises, timed to this eclipse, that we’re the most excited about.
With nearly thirty years of polar expedition experience, Quark Expeditions is regarded as one of the best names in the Arctic and Antarctic cruising game. On their 17-day “Solar Eclipse 2021: Totality in Antarctica, with South Georgia” voyage departing from Ushuaia, Argentina, the expedition will stop along the Antarctic Peninsula for activities like Zodiac excursions, and chances to jump into the freezing ocean for polar plunges. Guests will take in the eclipse on the way to South Georgia Island, the “Galapagos of the Southern Ocean,” which is known for abundant native wildlife, like penguins and seals. Onboard the ice-strengthened World Explorer, which boasts fantastic amenities—we’re talking a top-deck heated pool (perfect after those icy dips), glass-domed Observation Lounge, and viewing balconies for every cabin—an unbeatable eclipse view is guaranteed from practically every corner of the ship.
Departing: November 26
Book now: Starting at $15,295
From their early days linking communities along Norway’s spectacular but isolated coast, Hurtigruten is no stranger to getting travelers to some of the most remote places on Earth. They’re dispatching two ships to the White Continent for the eclipse. On top of their traditional excursions on the Antarctic Peninsula, the 18-day “Great Explorers and Solar Eclipse” package on the MS Roald Amundsen includes stops in the Falkland Islands, to discover its colorful capital city and wildlife-rich beaches (keep your eyes peeled for whales), and a serpentine route through the Beagle Channel and fjords of Tierra del Fuego. For those who want the Antarctic Triple Crown— visiting the Peninsula, South Georgia, and the Falklands—the 23-day “Ultimate Expedition and Solar Eclipse” option hits all the above and more on the newly refurbished MS Fram, a historic polar vessel whose recent glow-up includes upgraded lodgings and a new science center. Hurtigruten’s dedication to sustainability is another bonus, with ships like the Amundsen outfitted with innovative hybrid engines that reduce fuel consumption.
Departing: “Great Explorers” on November 24; “Ultimate Expedition” on November 22
Book now: “Great Explorers” starting at $14,855; “Ultimate Expedition” starting at $17,804
Science has a long and storied legacy on Antarctica, and you can join the ranks of all those who have searched for answers in the ice and water by joining Ponant’s 15-day voyage aboard the elegant Le Commandant Charcot. In addition to taking icy scuba dives and the chance to hot air balloon above snowy mountains and tabletop icebergs, guests can assist on-board scientists with research tasks like collecting water samples or setting up monitoring stations, through Ponant’s Participative Science program. This trip will also give guests the best possible view of the eclipse, as the ship charts a course further south than most sailings, through the shifting ice floes of the eastern Weddell Sea. When it’s time for the big show, guests will actually disembark to view the eclipse from atop floating slabs of ice.
Departing: November 29
Book now: Starting from $17,790
With their emphasis on small group trips aboard cozy, refined vessels, the Australia-based Aurora Expeditions provides a highly intimate, personalized experience—and a multi-pronged effort to reduce their environmental impact on every sailing. Though one of their eclipse itineraries has already sold out, there’s another sailing we’d hop on: Departing Ushuaia to cross the Drake Passage for the Peninsula, their 16-day “Solar Eclipse: Antarctica” cruise devotes nearly all of its time to hopscotching along the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, helping guests see as much of Antarctica as possible. In addition to excursions for hiking and honing wildlife photography skills, there’s plenty to do onboard the Sylvia Earle, which features state-of-the-art perks like an ocean-view sauna, a quiet library where for reading up on Antarctic history, and stately lounge and deck areas for taking in the views. Thanks to the ship’s revolutionary bow design, seasickness is also likely to be less of an issue.
Departing: November 23
Book now: Starting at $18,445
With their superb fleet of ice-strengthened ships and immersive basecamp cruise concepts (which include camping on the continent itself and technical activities like mountaineering), Oceanwide Expeditions knows the seventh continent and its seas like few others. On their newest vessel, the m/v Janssonius, launching October 2021, they’re offering a 20-day Grand Tour that checks off all the top spots on your Antarctic must-see list, like the Peninsula, South Georgia, and the Falklands. The eclipse will be viewed near the South Orkney Islands close to the Weddell Sea pack-ice. Perfect for hardy adventurers, their hands-on itinerary includes snowshoeing and hiking, as well as wildlife observation to see King, Gentoo, and rockhopper penguins, seals, and more. While the Janssonius is the pick of the litter, with environmentally friendly engineering, charming cabins, and spacious observation deck, Oceanwide is sending two other ships, the m/v Plancius and m/v Hondius, that depart around the same time and follow similar itineraries.
Departing: November 25
Book now: Starting at $16,400
Capturing a total solar eclipse is a dream come true for many photographers, and Lindblad Expeditions’s three cruise options on the Nat Geo Resolution, Endurance, and Explorer are focused on helping guests do just that. Onboard photography experts will be available for coaching, and the ships—which are built specifically for polar cruising—are designed to sail steady in those rough southern seas with a comfortable, modern cruising experience. The ships depart Ushuaia for 24-day odysseys that work their way along the Antarctic Peninsula, giving you time to beef up your photography skills on elephant seals, penguins, and stoic icy landscapes. Then, they head out to sea to be in the path of totality, before circling around to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. Of the three ships, we suggest hopping on the flagship Explorer, whose every inch was designed to get you as safely close to the icy action as possible, though rest assure that each of the ships features well-appointed cabins, and amenities like observation decks and wellness areas.
Departing: November 17 and 18
Book now: Starting from $25,890
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