What appealed to you about the APT Antarctica Cruise?
It was my life-long dream to go. As a child I used to cycle down to the Wharf and watch the Ice Breakers come in, having just returned from Antarctica. The fascination has stayed with me, and I have read lots of books on the region, so when my cousin mentioned she wanted someone to join her on this cruise, I was delighted to accept the offer.
Had you travelled with APT previously?
Oh yes, we have travelled with APT several times, including the European River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, and a tour of China.
Did you have any concerns about the tour?
I had no concerns, as I have travelled with APT before I knew everything would be well planned. I was a little scared of Drake passage, but it was absolutely fine. I would go again tomorrow!
Was the tour what you expected?
All I wanted was to see the ice and snow and the extreme landscape. But I wasn’t ready for how the view creeps up on you. As you pass through the ice passage, the harsh but beautiful landscape emerges.
Do you have a particular stand-out moment from the tour?
Wilhelmina Bay was special; we went out on the Zodiac and were fortunate enough to come across lots of whales. Our drivers were very experienced and cautious and kept us at a safe distance, however one of the whales followed us back to the boat and stuck their head directly out of the water. We could see their big eye looking right at us. It brought a tear to my eye seeing what curious and gentle creatures they are.
What can guests expect on tour?
You will get so close to the animals, and as they have so little human interaction, they aren’t scared. Penguins and seals will happily just lay there as you walk past, one might just open an eye lazily to peak at you.
All excursions are very controlled and well planned, the team, a lot of whom were scientists, would lay out a path of red flags which we had to follow to keep an appropriate distance from wildlife.
We were given special boots to change into when we were on the ice. which we removed as we got back on the boat to stop any contamination. Conserving and protecting the natural environment is of the highest priority.
What about the tour surprised you?
I felt like David Attenborough surrounded by little penguins waddling all around me!
I didn’t know all of the guides would be so highly qualified. They were so passionate about Antarctica and were always educating and offering information. Everyday, there were lectures onboard, where specialist guides spoke about North American explorers and huge range of subjects, all relevant to what we had seen that day.
There was one surprise no one was ready for on tour. One of our guides specialised in penguins and spoke at length about how rare it was to see an Emperor penguin. He himself hadn’t spotted one in three years, but that very night we got an announcement to come to the deck and saw two emperor penguins on an ice float. The guide was delirious with excitement, it was a wonderful thing to see.
What makes travelling on a small ship cruise so special?
There were only 187 people, which felt very manageable, and we were divided into much smaller groups of 10 to go on shore. Everything was very orderly, and it never felt crowded onboard.
The food was also lovely, with plenty of choice. We had a few elegant dinners which were very nice, and all the staff really went above and beyond to make sure all our needs were met. I can’t speak highly enough of them.
Who would you recommend APT to?
Everybody! I tell everyone my age about them.
Which APT tour would you like to go on next?
I am a bit of a Christmas pixie, I have a festive hat, shoes, earrings…so I really want to do the European Christmas Markets! My husband doesn’t like to travel, but I have found on APT tours it is easy to travel solo as the people are so friendly and you get to know everyone very quickly.
What did you take away from the tour?
That the Antarctic is indescribable. When I tell people about my experience, the word I used most is magical, it is just so peaceful. I have even had a book published, Heading Southwards, inspired by my journey in Antarctica.
Images courtesy of Bette Martin
Interview by Grace Cullinan