Early in 2020, my family and I spent two days in Antarctica and it all started with one very excited little girl. “Hey, Grandma. Here are some books about penguins. You need to read them because you’re going to tell them I said hello!” Those are the exact words our four-year-old daughter said to surprise my mom (and dad) with an epic trip to the end of the world.
My mom thought her very imaginative granddaughter was just being silly. It wasn’t until I sent her the link to complete the onboarding forms that she actually believed us. Not to mention, my parents aren’t huge international travelers. So, when they started sharing their upcoming travel plans with other family and friends, they were most certainly not taken seriously. There was “no way” Fred and Ann were going to Antarctica, on the most sought-after adventure for world travelers. Once they returned, however, they were transformed—to say the least. And being able to witness that transformation, firsthand, is something I will forever remember and be grateful for.
Now, how did this trip even come about? Well, I happened upon the leisure travel industry eight years ago, and it was love at first flight. Since then, I’ve been begging my parents to “just go” (anywhere!). But, they were content with traveling domestically. So when the opportunity to visit Antarctica came knocking (which was always a crazy dream), I knew I needed to book it and merely tell them what to pack.
Because we would be leaving our daughter behind, time was of the essence. For that reason, we opted for the Antarctica Express Trip. Typically, this trip gives you a full day in Antarctica, but due to weather, we had to fly over a day early and had around two days in Antarctica. Even if it had only been the 24hrs, it would have been worth it. The express trip allowed us to explore a bit of Chile beforehand and Argentina after the cruise, helping maximize our travels in the southern hemisphere.
As for the cruise itself, it is hard to put into words how incredible it was. Not only did the crew make my parents (who, remember, aren’t big travelers) feel at ease, but they also made the experience live up to all the hype for my husband and me who are quite adventurous (polar plunge anyone?). Each guide had an area of expertise (e.g., mammals, birds, photography), but they all knew pretty much everything. We even tried to stump them with some difficult questions!
And how could I ever forget the lectures (that were nothing like lectures I’ve ever experienced), connecting with fellow passengers (who I am still in contact with today), and the unforgettable Randy who serenaded us every evening?
Even with all those “perks,” just being in Antarctica and seeing the glaciers and wildlife is epic enough. Of course, the crew took it another step further. One of our fondest memories is when we visited a Chilean base. We got to see their accommodations, speak with the team stationed there, and even enjoy a warm cup of coffee with them. Just writing this, I’m quickly reminded of visiting Cape Horn and being welcomed into the lighthouse by the family overseeing it for the year. I’ll never forget those children’s smiles.
All that to say, I’m sure you’re wondering about that transformation I witnessed in my parents after those two days in Antarctica. If so, they hesitantly walked onto the tarmac to board the plane to Antarctica (which was the most exhilarating two hours I’ve personally ever experienced). They were nervous of the unknown. Unsure about what to expect. Fearful of the Drake Passage. And they walked off the ship in Ushuaia asking where we can travel to next. With the help of Antarctica21, I had won them over!
Ultimately, Antarctica has magic that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. And because of Antarctica21, that magic was brought to life for my family and me.
Story by Julie Cardamone who traveled with us in 2020 on our Antarctica Express air-cruise.
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