In case you’ve missed it, I’m covering our Silversea Antarctic voyage as if it were a five-course dining experience. Late for our meal together? Pull up a seat at the table. Here’s what you’ve missed so far …
When I left you last, we were stepping ashore in Antarctica. Remember? We saw penguins and seals (with pups) and lots of snow and ice at Half Moon Island. I hope you’ve enjoyed our meal so far. Our next dish is Cuverville Island, but before stepping ashore on Cuverville’s snowy banks, we’ll embark on a Zodiac tour through fields of sparkling ice. Button up, we’re about to zip away on a Zodiac.
The excursion takes just over an hour, and afterward, we’ll spend around 90 minutes exploring Cuverville Island. The day is incredibly beautiful, sunny and bright, cold, yes, and especially so when the Zodiac hits high speeds. Not to worry. For most of the ride, we’ll be tootling along to admire the ice.
The ice formations are stunning, many appearing to emit a bluish light from just below the water’s surface or as in the photo above, at the base of a clump of ice. So that you can get a feel for what it’s like to be on a Zodiac cruising through fields of ice, I’ve created a short video using my GoPro camera.
Fortunately, the GoPro is waterproof, so I was able to stick it under the water. I was hoping to capture one of the many penguins we saw out foraging for food. They are magnificent swimmers, propelling themselves along at up to 25 miles per hour and launching out of, and above, the water, a sight to behold. Before we move on to Cuverville Island, I thought I’d share a few more photos of the ice.
Our good Swede Calle maneuvered the Zodiac to the shores of Cuverville Island, where the expedition team, and a group of tuxedoed penguins, awaited us. By now, we knew the drill for disembarkation: Slide forward one at a time. Once up front, pivot your bottom with your feet facing the back and swing around to drop your feet in the shallow water. Next, divest yourself of your life vest, leaving it at the staging area. You’re ready to trudge off in search of wonder.
Just a moment before setting off, though. You may have noticed a bundle of gear on a tarp. That’s there just in case the weather suddenly shifts and there is a delay in getting back to the ship.
Inside the brightly cover bags and sturdy boxes are provisions to make camp for overnight if that were necessary. Fortunately, Silversea has never had to use the emergency provisions, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, as the weather can shift quickly and dramatically down here. Among the biggest threats is the wind, which can prohibit safe Zodiac operations. The ship is in constant contact with the shore crew about approaching weather that could affect Zodiac operations, and the captain and his crew err on the side of caution, so getting stuck ashore isn’t likely to happen, and some companies even offer camping excursions for a fee. Me? I’d rather sleep on the ship because, after all, what do you do when nature calls in a place where you can’t leave any trace at all.
One thing I forgot to mention was that Silversea Expeditions offers kayaking in Antarctica, at no extra charge. That’s unusual, but Silversea wants to keep its voyages as all-inclusive as possible. Hurtigruten and Oceanwide each offer kayak packages for as much as $465 per person. While Silversea’s kayaking activity is included, there are a couple of caveats. The activity is free for anyone, but, of course, the number of people who can participate is limited. We were on a waitlist but never got to paddle; our names were too far down the list. The other caveat is that weather dictates whether kayaking is a go or a no.
If you do get to kayak, as some of our fellow passengers did, you’ll be well taken care of. Silversea provides dry suits, paddles and life vests, along with two kayak guides and two support crew.
Cuverville Island was gorgeous on the day we stepped ashore. You’d think that you’d get tired of looking at snow and ice and penguins. You don’t. Especially penguins. They are such cute and comical characters.
We spent about 90 minutes exploring Cuverville Island before heading back to the Zodiac. We’d get back just in time for lunch.
Lunch, ah yes. Decisions, decisions. Silver Cloud features four dining venues, plus room service. There’s The Restaurant (simple enough name, right?), which we enjoyed for its table service and delicious dishes, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s also the Italian-themed La Terrazza, which features a buffet for breakfast and lunch. In the evening, La Terrazza serves an Italian menu created on “slow food” principles — locally grown, sustainable and fresh cuisine. Alcohol and all other beverages are included on Silversea.
The Pool Bar serves casual lunches and dinners, when it converts to The Grill. The latter offers the “hot rock” experience, where we grilled our own steak and portobello mushrooms on a preheated volcanic rock at our table. Here’s a short “sizzle” reel to show you what the experience is like.
These latter two venues, although outdoors, operated most of the time during our Antarctic voyage, except when there was too much snow on deck (more on that in my next post).
After our lunch in The Restaurant, a surprise. Stefan, the expedition leader, announced that for those who wished to participate, there would be Polar Plunge in the afternoon. You’ve no doubt heard of the Polar Plunge or can imagine what it is. The Polar Plunge is an opportunity to jump into the frigid Antarctic waters, and although you and I may think it’s an act only for the crazies of the world, there was a queue of people just waiting to disrobe and dive in.
I watched it all unfold from my fifth deck balcony. The event lasted for nearly an hour as pair after pair took the plunge. The worst part, someone told me, was standing on the landing area in a bathing suit with the cold wind whipping while waiting their turn. Hard to believe that was the worst part. If that were the case, I’d have plunged. The worst part from my point of view on the fifth deck, with zoom lens trained on the plungers, was hitting the water.
I couldn’t capture the expressions of those who dove, but I saw their expressions. Some were the looks of horror. One person, I was told, plunged five times.
We plunged into the our deck chairs, wrapped ourselves in blankets, and parched our thirst with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The scene before us was gorgeous. Little did we know that we were looking at the last of the good weather for our voyage.
Up next, a change in weather.