The Arctic is a frozen sea mass surrounded by land, while in the Antarctic thickly packed ice covers a vast continent surrounded by oceans. In winter, the expanse of Antarctica almost doubles as sea ice forms around the rocky coast. The Arctic’s proximity to the northern extremes of the American, European and Asian continents means that it is easier to access than the Antarctic and mankind has found a way to exist here. The Antarctic, however, remains uninhabited apart from scientific and industrial outposts. Whichever you choose to visit on your Polar cruise, it will feel like journeying to the Polar regions is almost akin to visiting another planet in terms of how alien the landscapes appear.
At opposite times of the year, both Antarctica and the Arctic endure a winter of almost permanent darkness, followed by a summer of near 24-hour daylight. The optimum time to visit on a Polar cruise is in their respective summers. For an exhilarating Arctic daylight experience, go between June and September when the pack ice recedes; however, the cruising season extends into deep winter for those wishing to experience the aurora borealis - the magical Northern Lights that flicker and flounce across a backdrop of white snow below and black sky above. Antarctic cruise adventuring is at its most rewarding from November to March.
On the subject of adventure, there’s kayaking, whale-watching, zodiac tours, hiking or even ‘polar plunging’ available for adrenaline junkies; these are just some of the many alternative ways to augment your Polar cruise experience.
Polar wildlife has evolved from species equipped to deal with the harsh conditions. In the Arctic, the seas are heavily populated with seals and walruses, while many species live on the land, including hardy plants and mammals – polar bears, wolves and reindeer, to name a few. The Antarctic has no significant plant life or land mammals; however, the coastal fringes are teeming with penguins, seals and whales.
A fascinating voyage of discovery to either of the Poles will never be forgotten.