A Kid’s Take on Travelling to Antarctica
Family travel columnist Eileen Ogintz of Taking the Kids sailed on an A&K Luxury Expedition Cruise to Antarctica. Along the way, she enjoyed talking with the families and kids aboard the ship — 34 kids and teens in all! — about their experience. Here’s why they say an Antarctica cruise is the ultimate family adventure.
The days were Instagram-worthy — blue skies, water so clear we could see penguins diving, glaciers all around and, of course, the bountiful wildlife. We even witnessed glaciers calve — the process of solid ice hitting the sea with a large, echoing boom.
On our last day in Antarctica, we all went for a walk in the middle of the ocean, which reached a depth of 1,500 feet, on a fast-floating ice floe that was three feet thick. “I’ll always remember this,” declared Olivia G. from Melbourne, Australia. “You don’t see people walking on ice in the middle of the ocean every day.”
Life on board
Surprisingly on this trip, which lasted a little over two weeks, the teens hardly missed Wi-Fi. It was very expensive, and very difficult, to connect. Most explained that it was too stressful to keep up with their friends on social media, and Sean J. from San Diego said the enforced break from constant texting and posting was relaxing.
Besides, he added, “There was always something new to see and something to do.” This included daily onboard lectures offered by Antarctica naturalists and historians, as well as an excellent Young Explorers Program. Led by Jeff Manker and Kristin Wornson, activities included dissecting a squid one day, identifying seabirds from the deck another day and watching orcas from the bridge with the always enthusiastic captain the kids dubbed “Captain Wow.”
There were so many I-can’t-believe-I’m-here moments. Only 100 passengers at a time are permitted on the continent’s rocky beaches, and the expedition staff set up paths so we didn’t disturb the animals. They, of course, have the right of way.
During this trip, we walked amid thousands of penguins, witnessing a total of five species, who were not bothered by our presence. The huge elephant seals ignored us, as did the humpback whales, who we watched from Zodiacs. They were too busy feeding to pay attention to the paparazzi snapping their photos.
The wildlife abounded throughout. There were “heaps of Albatross,” reports Thomas from Melbourne, Australia. And “rockhopper penguins who were jumping and jumping,” added Marcos from Montclair, NJ.
I’ve never seen so many teens and tweens so engaged. A trip that once was the purview of wealthy retirees now attracts well-heeled millennial families that are no longer willing to wait to take bucket-list vacations. More than half of the kids on board, like Kevin T. from suburban Chicago, were visiting their seventh continent.
He, like the other well-traveled kids, insisted that everywhere he goes makes him want to dive deeper. “There are so many different countries and cultures to explore,” he said.
“I want my kids to be exposed to other cultures and to see that the world is bigger than their world in the U.S,” explained Janna G., from Montclair, N.J. Her kids are 10 and 12, and like other millennial families, they value experiences more than things.
Valiena Allison, who recently sold her business, said that one of the best gifts a parent could give their children was to show them the world. “Seeing something firsthand is a lot different than reading about it in a book,” her husband Dan added.
Even those travelling without kids enjoyed their enthusiasm and distinct perspective. “The kids bring an added energy and excitement to everything,” explained veteran cruise director Nadia Eckhardt. “It rubs off on everyone.”
Read the full story at takingthekids.com.