What Is A Princess Cruise to Antarctica Really Like?

I am sharing everything you need to know about what a Princess cruise to Antarctica is really like, including my packing list for the 4 days of scenic cruising in Antarctica.

A princess cruise to Antarctica

Last Updated on 01/17/24 by Rose Palmer

“This is unlike any other cruise you have experienced before! It’s an adventure and we are all explorers!” – Captain Todd McBain of the Sapphire Princess.

I wasn’t on board the ship for very long before the captain set the tone for the next 16 days – and he was right, it certainly was an unforgettable adventure!

For a short window during the middle of the Antarctic summer, Princess Cruises scheduled sailings around South America that also included 4 days of scenic cruising in Antarctica. I was on the last of those voyages, starting in Valparaiso, Chile on January 20, and ending in Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 5.

Like many, seeing Antarctica was a big travel bucket list destination for me. After doing a lot of research, I chose this Sapphire Princess itinerary because it provided a great value on a cruise line that I knew I liked.

I would not be landing on the Antarctic continent, but instead, I would have the chance to also see other ports in South America. It seemed like a fair trade off. And the fact that the cruise was over my birthday was ice-ing on the Antarctic cake!

Introduction to Antarctica

It’s important to grasp just how large Antarctica is – twice the size of the continent of Australia. Yet despite its size, the majority of the tours to the white continent really only touch a small portion of the Antarctic peninsula, the finger that pokes out from the main land mass, trying to hold hands with Cape Horn. That is actually not that far off an analogy as the mountains in Antarctica are a continuation of the Andes mountain range that form the spine of South America.

Views of Elephant Island
Views of Elephant Island mountains and glaciers where Shackleton’s crew survived after their ship sank in the ice

Besides being the easiest part of Antarctica to reach, we were told that the Antarctic peninsula also has the prettiest scenery. It is dotted with islands, bays, fjords, and scenic channels, all waiting to be explored. From what I saw, I think I would agree that it was stunningly beautiful.

Today, we take tourism to Antarctica for granted, forgetting that no human knew of its existence until about 200 years ago. For the first 150 years, Antarctica was visited by sealers, whalers and explorers, and its resources were mostly exploited.

Spotting whales in Antarctica
Spotting whales in Wilhelmina Bay in Antarctica

In 1959 the Antarctic treaty was put in place to protect this unique environment. Now, countries from all over the globe have set up research stations and work in peaceful union all across the continent, sharing information and data.

Increased tourism didn’t start till the late 1980’s, and since its discovery only about 1 million people have seen Antarctica – that’s about 0.01% of the total world population. Currently about 50,000 people visit each year through a variety of travel programs.

Looking at the scenery from the front of the Promenade deck
Looking at the scenery from the front of the Promenade deck on the Sapphire Princess

More than 99% of the continent is permanently covered in ice and though it’s counterintuitive, the Antarctic ice sheet is actually a desert because the annual precipitation is so low. This ice that has formed over millions of years is not static – it flows from the center toward the coastline at a “glacial’ pace which can take as long as 100,000 years to reach the water.

Another view of Elephant Island
Another view of Elephant Island’s glaciers

When it finally reaches the ocean the ice will eventually break off, often, into large, flat sheets.

I learned all this Antarctica knowledge from the six destination experts that we had on board during the cruise. Two to three lectures were offered every day, covering a range of topics related to Antarctica and the other locations we were visiting. I liked that I could also watch the lectures on the TV in my room if I missed one of them live.

Watching the enrichment lectures on the TV in my room
Watching the enrichment lectures on the TV in my room

Safety First

From day one, Captain McBain was very transparent on what we should expect: that mother nature dictated our schedule, flexibility was key, and safety was the operative word.

That this cruise and the team that guided her were special became evident when we were introduced to the leadership staff at a question and answer session in the big theater. This cruise did not have just one captain – it had four!

In Wilhelmina Bay
In Wilhelmina Bay

Besides Captain Todd McBain, there was a second Princess ship captain to assist along with two highly experienced ice pilots that each had over 30 years in the field as captains of ice breakers. (And as I later learned, Captain Todd was also Princess’ only licensed ice pilot).

In addition, for this cruise, the staff on the bridge was quadrupled relative to a warm water (and weather) cruise. All these extra bodies were there to provide more eyes to keep a lookout as we sailed.

It bears mentioning, that we also had two IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) representatives who boarded in Ushuaia and were there to observe the Princess ship as she cruised through the Antarctic waters.

Early morning views of the Antarctic scenery
Early morning views of the Antarctic scenery

As the captain stressed many times throughout the trip, his priority was the safety of the ship. Unlike expedition ships, the Sapphire Princess could not go through ice because she did not have an ice protected hull, so the goal was to avoid it. (DO NOT mention the name of the fateful ship that starts with the letter T while on board).

By sailing in the middle of the Antarctic summer during the midnight sun season, it also meant that the bridge had daylight visibility 24 hours a day. So while we were cruising at “night” to get to our next scenic stop, floating ice could always be seen from far off and avoided.

Close up of one of the ice bergs floating near the ship
Close up of one of the ice bergs floating near the ship

Besides ice, the other common obstacle was the weather, highly variable weather. The Drake passage gets all the attention for horrendous waves, but the reality is that storms and winds continuously travel around the perimeter of the Antarctic continent in a clockwise fashion. In the Drake Passage the weather is amplified because of the bottleneck formed by the landmasses of Cape Horn and the Antarctica Peninsula.

Cruising on the Sapphire Princess to Antarctica

My cruise was on the Sapphire Princess, one of Princess’ smaller ships. The ship was designed for 2600 guests, though our cruise was not quit full with 2100 guests on board.

The Sapphire Princess has all the trademark elements that I enjoy on a Princess cruise: the International Café, Movies Under the Stars, their signature bedding and of course, lots of good food choices, drinks, and entertainment.

But most important for the days of scenic cruising in Antarctica, the Sapphire Princess also had a lot of open deck space which meant there was plenty of room for 2100 guests to stand at a railing and get a good view of the incredible scenery.

I describe my complete Sapphire Princess ship experience in a lot of detail in my post Finding My Blue Heaven on a Princess Cruise – A Detailed Sapphire Princess Review With Photos.

So, what is a Princess cruise to Antarctica really like?

“It’s an adventure!”

This was a statement that our captain made many times throughout the voyage. Yes – like Shackleton and other pioneering visitors to this lonely part of the globe, our cruise had an element of uncertainty that required adaptation.

Cruising through Antarctica on the Sapphire Princess
Lovely view as we cruised through Antarctica on the Sapphire Princess

I learned on this trip that an Antarctic itinerary is the hoped for plan but the weather dictates the reality. As Captain Todd said “it’s what we want to do, not necessarily what we can do”. This is true for any size ship, even the smaller expedition ships with the reinforced hulls.

In Antarctica, more than anywhere else, Mother Nature makes the rules!

South America and Antarctica cruise planned itinerary:

Jan. 20 – Day 1, board at Valparaiso, Chile and set sail by 6 PM

Jan 21 – Day 2, at sea

Jan 22 – Day 3, at sea

Jan 23 – Day 4, at sea

Jan 24 – Day 5, Punta Arenas, Chile

Jan 25 – Day 6, Ushuaia, Argentina

Jan 26 – Day 7, Scenic cruising around cape Horn, at sea

Jan 27 – Day 8, Antarctica, arrive 12 noon – see Elephant Island and Admiralty Bay

Jan 28 – Day 9, Antarctica scenic cruising – see Charlotte Bay and Wilhelmina Bay

Jan 29 – Day 10, Antarctica scenic cruising – see Neumayer channel and Paradise Island

Jan 30 – Day 11, Antarctica scenic cruising till 12 noon – see Deception Island

Jan 31 – Day 12, at sea

Feb 1 – Day 13, Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Feb 2 – Day 14, at sea

Feb 3 – Day 15. at sea

Feb 4 – Day 16, Montevideo, Uruguay

Feb 5 – Day 17, Dock in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Before we reached Antarctica, Captain Todd gave a navigational presentation explaining what his scenic cruising goal was for our 4 days in the Antarctic Peninsula for our specific cruise. We were also given a map that showed where and when we would be each day.

Map of planned sights to visit in Antarctica
Map of planned sights to visit in Antarctica

Once again though, the captain was forthright and made it very clear that this was his wished for plan, but that the reality could be different, and it all depended on the weather and the sea conditions.

South America and Antarctica cruise actual itinerary:
Day 0 – Jan 19

I landed in Santiago, Chile in the early morning and took an airport taxi to my hotel in Valparaiso where we were scheduled to board the ship. It was about a 90 minute drive and cost about $140 which I paid for in cash with US dollars once I reached my destination.

Insignia of official airport taxi in Santiago
Insignia of official airport taxi in Santiago

Travel tip: Make sure to use one of the Official Airport Taxis that are outside the terminal, waiting at the curb. An attendant that is wearing an Aeropuerto Taxi Oficial jacket, shirt, or tag and who speaks good English will help you. Agree on the cost ahead of time. Note that US dollars in cash were accepted as were credit cards. Do not accept offers for a taxi ride from any one else that approaches you.

In Valparaiso I stayed at AYCA La Flora Boutique Hotel, a very well rated, lovely, little B&B in the heart of the old town. Owners Anne and Alex made me feel very welcome and clearly went out of their way to provide a personalized experience to all of their guests.

The UNESCO listed old town in Valparaiso is a fun mix of colorful houses, lots of unique street art and interesting graffiti. I spent the afternoon wandering this neighborhood on my own (I felt quite safe doing that), followed by an exceptional dinner at the nearby Restaurant La Concepcion. If you are at all into foodie and wine experiences, I highly recommend eating there.

Day 1 – Jan. 20

Temp. 64 F.

Planned: board at Valparaiso, Chile and set sail by 6 PM.

Unusually high winds in the Valparaiso harbor prevented the returning Sapphire Princess from docking until 1 PM. Continued high winds made the disembarkation and the embarkation process, along with loading and unloading the ship, more difficult than usual. As a result, I was not able to board the ship until the evening.

I was scheduled to board at 11 AM, but was rescheduled for 7:30 PM instead. The kind hosts at the hotel let me hang out in their comfortable lounge area until boarding which was much more pleasant than waiting in the terminal. The hotel also set me up with a taxi for the short drive to the terminal.

The Sapphire Princess pulls into the port in Valparaiso
I could see the Sapphire Princess arriving in the port in Valparaiso from my hotel

Note that the cruise terminal in Valparaiso is not located at the pier where the ship is docked (the pier and harbor are primarily designed for cargo ships). After going through the Princess check in process at the cruise terminal building, a shuttle bus took us to the ship’s boarding area.

Also note that Princess held on to my passport once I checked in, and then returned it toward the end of the cruise.

In the middle of the night the ship finally set sail, but only to the nearby port of San Antonio, Chile. I understand that my boarding experience in Valparaiso was quite an exception and that this type of weather event was very unusual.

Day 2 – Jan. 21

Temp. 64 F.

Planned: at sea.

Due to the previous day’s delay and challenging weather conditions, the Sapphire Princess needed this day to refuel and stock up the ship. We had a “sea day” while docked in San Antonio and I used it to familiarize myself with the ship’s amenities and to enjoy the warm weather on deck while I still could.

At 6 PM we finally set sail for points south.

Day 3 and 4 – Jan. 22 and Jan. 23

Temp. 59 F.

At sea as planned.

Temperatures were getting noticeably cooler as we cruised further south. Day 4 was also the first formal night.

Enjoying the sea day in the hot tub on the Sapphire Princess
Enjoying the sea day in the hot tub
Day 5 – Jan. 24

Temp. 51 F; got colder as the day progressed and we continued further south.

Planned: day at Punta Arenas from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Because of the delay with embarkation and setting out from Valparaiso, the captain had announced on day 1 that we would be skipping the planned stop in Punta Arenas. We also sped up so that we could reach Ushuaia early in the morning in order to avoid the high winds that were predicted for the afternoon on the day of our arrival in Ushuaia.

Instead, Captain Todd provided a nice surprise as we sailed into the Straits of Magellan to avoid rough weather in the open ocean. As a result, we had a very pleasant day of scenic cruising through Chile’s Patagonia region with views of Tierra Del Fuego.

The scenery was breathtaking, with snow capped peaks surrounding us on both side. Occasionally we had a glimpse of a hanging glacier or one that was marching its way into the ocean. This short introduction to Patagonia convinced me that I need to come back and spend a lot more time exploring this gorgeous scenery.

Day 6 – Jan. 25

Temp. 41 F, cloudy and raining in the afternoon.

Planned: afternoon and evening in Ushuaia, 12 PM to 8 PM.

We arrived in Ushuaia around 7 AM and stayed till 8 PM which gave us a much longer day in port than originally scheduled.

As soon as I boarded, I booked the Princess offered “Penguin Rookery Navigation” excursion. Since we arrived in Ushuaia early, this worked out well because Princess adjusted the start time of the excursion accordingly.

The tour boat was docked at the same pier as our ship which made it very convenient. We cruised east along the Beagle Channel for about 5 hours, doing photo stops at some of the rock outcroppings that were home to imperial cormorants and sea lions. We also stopped at the popular Beagle Channel light house.

Cormorants and sea lions in the Beagle Channel
Seeing cormorants and sea lions in the Beagle Channel

The ultimate goal was Isla Martillo, or Hammer Island, which was home to both Magellanic and Gentoo penguin colonies. Once we reached the island, the boat pulled up very close to shore and we got very good close up views of the many, many penguins that had made this broad beach their home.

We watched the penguins for almost an hour and then headed back to town. Since it was raining and cold, I chose to go back on board early for a hot cup of tea and some scones.

Day 7 – Jan. 26

Temp. 39 F.

Planned: scenic cruising around Cape Horn.

The scenic cruising around Cape Horn was also cancelled due to high winds. Because of the weather, a local pilot could not get on and off the ship safely and the ship was not allowed to do this sailing without the experience of the local pilot on board.

We spent the day at sea crossing the famous (or infamous) Drake Passage. At first the waves were not too bad, about 2-3 feet, but by the end of the day, the waves reached about 10 feet in height.

Main course at the Chef's table dinner
Main course at the Chef’s table dinner

It’s a good thing I am not bothered by sea sickness because this was the night I was schedule to partake in the Chef’s Table dinner which was fantastic.

Dessert at the Chef's table dinner
Dessert at the Chef’s table dinner

If you’ve never tried a Chef’s Table event, I highly recommend it. You need to put your name on the reservation list at guest services as soon as you board the ship. The dinner is served to only 10-12 guests a few times throughout the cruise. They will call you to let you know if you got one of the spots and on which night.

Day 8 – Jan. 27

Temp. 32 F, wind 15 mph, humidity 95%; overcast.

Planned: Antarctica scenic cruising – arrive 12 noon – see Elephant Island and Admiralty Bay.

Since we were not able to cruise around Cape Horn, our ship arrived at Elephant Island at about 7 AM. I was very excited to look out my window and get my first view of Antarctica!

My first views of Antarctica's elephant Island
My first views of Antarctica’s Elephant Island

Unfortunately, mother nature didn’t cooperate and only gave us foggy views. The captain kept us in the area for about two hours in case the weather got better, but when it became obvious that there would be no change, we moved on.

The Sapphire Princess continued cruising through Bransfield Strait to King George Island and into Admiralty Bay. King George Island has lots of research stations and penguins. Three species of penguins nest here-Chinstrap, Adelie, and Gentoo which you might be able to see with really strong binoculars. The bay is also home to three fjords and 7 named glaciers.

We reached Admiralty Bay around 5 PM. The weather was somewhat better with high clouds that allowed us to see the glaciers and the ice fields. The bay was quite calm as we cruised about 2 hours, taking in the spectacular views.

From the deck of the ship, it was quite hard to get a sense of how large the peaks and glaciers were. It was only when I saw a boat or a research station that the scale of the scenery became evident.

A research station is dwarfed by the surrounding mountains and glaciers
A research station is dwarfed by the surrounding mountains and glaciers
Day 9 – Jan. 28

Temp. 34 F wind 7.5 mph, humidity 92 %, a little light snow in the morning; overcast all day with high clouds; sun out all day.

Planned – Antarctica scenic cruising – Leave Bransfield Strait and plan to arrive in Charlotte Bay around 7 AM, crossing Gerlach Strait where we will see great scenery for around 1 to 1.5 hours beforehand. Then go to Wilhelmina Bay and try for Plata Passage.

What a wonderful day of scenic cruising this day was! Our actual itinerary was a little different than what the Captain originally wanted to do, but it was a spectacular day nonetheless.

Overnight, the Sapphire Princess had navigated further south along the Bransfield Strait and then into the Gerlach Strait. We did not go into Charlotte Bay, but instead we cruised around the bend into Wilhelmina Bay where we arrived at 8:30 AM.

For the next 4 hours, our ship glided slowly through the calm waters of the bay, This bay is also nick named Whale-helmina Bay and it certainly lived up to its reputation. We saw quite a few whales as we cruised, and even came upon a pair just hanging out near the surface, sleeping.

To say that the views were stunning is an understatement, and while I took a lot of photos, they don’t do it justice. This was the Antarctica I had come to see, and I was not disappointed.

Because the water was so calm, the Captain also took us into the Plata Passage, which was only the second time he was ever able to do this.

At 12:30 we headed to our next destination, Neumayer Channel. We were expecting bad weather in this part of Antarctica the next day, so the Captain was taking advantage of the good conditions and showing us as much of the best scenery as possible.

Icebergs in Wilhelmina Bay
Icebergs in Wilhelmina Bay
Day 10 -Jan. 29

Temp. 32 F, winds 35 mph, overcast, some light snow through the day.

Planned: Antarctica scenic cruising – go into Gerlache Strait where we may also see whales; then possibly go to Paradise Harbor. Later go through the Neumayer Channel where we will try to see Port Lockroy. Finally, continue through Bismarck Strait around Anverse Island.

A very bad storm in the Drake Passage was spilling over into our area and produced high winds and high waves. This meant that it was not safe for our ship to do any kind of scenic cruising near floating ice.

Instead, we had a bumpy day at sea as we cruised north along the wide Bransfield Strait. This was the roughest experience I have had on a big ship, and while it did not bother me, the captain did recommend that anyone prone to sea sickness should take their medication or remain in bed in their cabins.

Afternoon snack in the Piazza during sea day
Afternoon snack in the Piazza during sea day

Since it was cold, windy, and raining, the outside spaces were not usable, so all the indoor public spaces were very busy. The crew did a nice job planning other distractions, including three additional enrichment lectures.

On this cold and wet day, I took some time to enjoy the nice, warm  thermal suites in the spa which were actually not busy at all.  The thermal beds and steam rooms are located within the spa space and there is no additional fee to use them.

The thermal beds in the Spa on the Sapphire Princess
The thermal beds in the Spa on the Sapphire Princess
Day 11 – Jan. 30

Temp.  34 F winds, 23 mph, partly sunny in the morning; got lots windier as we went into the opean ocean; partly sunny most of the day.

Planned: Antarctica scenic cruising – arrive at Deception Island which is reached through a channel named Neptune’s Bellows. This is an active volcano and has the world’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins. In the afternoon start heading toward the Falkland Islands.

The weather did not cooperate for us to go to Deception Island, so we went to Elephant Island instead. The island is best known as the refuge for Ernest Shackleton and his crew after their ship the Endurance was crushed in the pack ice.

We reached Elephant Island around 7 in the morning and slowly cruised around the island until 9:30.  The scenery on the island was spectacular. There was one mountain after another with glaciers in between.

We then started crossing the Drake Passage toward the Falkland Islands. As we progressed through the channel the sea became rougher and we had 15 foot waves which made the boat quite rocky. It also made the second formal night a little harder to navigate while wearing heels.

Day 12 – Jan. 31

Temp. 48 F, winds 20 mph.

Today was a day at sea, as planned.

The Drake Passage was not too bad today – it was more of a Drake Lake than a Drake Shake. The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the Drake Lake, which was in itself an unusual event.

Sunset over the Drake Passage
Sunset over the Drake Passage
Day 13 – Feb. 1

Temp. 60 F, beautiful sunny day but got windy in the afternoon and a little cloudy.

Planned: Port Stanley, Falkland Islands from 8 AM to to 6 PM.

The Sapphire Princess reached Port Stanley early in the morning as planned. This was a tender port and I picked up my ticket for the tender at 8:15. However, I did not actually get on the tender till almost 10. The wind kicked up and made it slow going for the tenders to get to shore.

Enjoying breakfast in the Piazza while waiting to get on the tender boat
Enjoying breakfast in the Piazza while waiting to get on the tender boat

The Falkland Islands are known for their penguin population. In fact, during the breeding season I was told there are 300 penguins for each person on the island.

Princess had a number of excursions to see the various penguin colonies. There are also many penguin tour options that you can book on your own. However, I booked my cruise late, and all the organized tours were fully booked.

King penguins on the Falkland
King penguins on the Falkland

As it turned out, I did not need a tour. I had a wonderful day seeing three different types of penguins all on my own!

Port Stanley has a bus that transfers you in 20 minutes from the port to Gypsy Cove and then back. At Gypsy cove I saw three different species of penguins: Magellanic, King, and Gentoos.

The Magellanic penguins had made their nests in the ground on the hillside above the sandy cove. While mom and dad were out fishing, the juveniles were hanging out near their nests, just as curious about us as we were about them.

On the other side of the sandy cove I found a small group of juvenile King penguins, regally standing there, being admired by the tourists as they plucked the molting feathers off their bodies.

King penguin preening itself on the Falkland Islands
King penguin preening itself

A few hundred feet away, there was a rookery of juvenile Gentoo penguins. Though most of these little guys and gals were sleeping lazily in the sand while the parents were away fishing, some were interacting with each other, totally oblivious to our presence.

I easily spent three hours here, happily observing all the penguin shenanigans on the warm and sunny beach. The Gentoos and their antics were especially fun to watch. But, once the wind started kicking up, I headed back to the pier (via the bus).

As the afternoon progressed, it got quite windy and a little more overcast. The winds were giving the tender boats a hard time as they slowly motored their way back to the Sapphire Princess. There was a line waiting to get onto the tender boats, but eventually, we all got on board and the ship was able to sail on, though a little later than originally scheduled.

Day 14 – Feb. 2

Temp. 62 F; sunny but windy.

Day at sea as planned.

This day was my birthday and I spent it by getting pampered like a princess. I slept in and then had a delicious room service brunch.

room service brunch on the Sapphire Princess
Room service brunch on the Sapphire Princess

I followed this up with an afternoon at the spa, getting a facial, using the thermal beds and sauna and also the hot tub. I then enjoyed an afternoon tea snack with a view before getting dressed up for formal night.

This was the third formal night and the evening festivities started with the Captain’s Circle cocktail party. I followed this with a delicious dinner at Sabatini’s where the staff brought me a special cake while singing (embarrassingly) happy birthday very loudly and exuberantly.

A glorious sunset over the Atlantic Ocean
A glorious sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

The night ended with a glorious sunset, a lively show in the theater, and a final cocktail with music in the Piazza.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a better birthday! There is nothing better than living like a princess on a Princess ship!

Day 15 – Feb. 3

Temp. 66 F.

Another relaxing day at sea as planned, taking advantage of the ship’s facilities; especially Movies Under the Stars now that it was warmer again.

Watching Movies Under the Stars
Watching Movies Under the Stars
Day 16 – Feb. 4

Planned: Montevideo, Uruguay from 8 AM to 5 PM.

We docked as scheduled at the port in Montevideo. From the pier it was an easy 10 minute walk to the pedestrian friendly area near the port with lots of meat serving BBQ restaurants in the Puerto Market.

In Plaza Independencia in Montevideo
In Plaza Independencia in Montevideo
Meat lover's BBQ restaurant in Montevideo near the cruise ship port
Meat lover’s BBQ restaurant in the Puerto Market near the cruise ship port in Montevideo

I am always on the lookout for excursions that I could not easily set up on my own and I think I found it in Montevideo. I signed up for the Princess “Montevideo and Carnival Excursion” which drove us to see the main sights in Montevideo and then ended at the Carnival Museum.

A few of the Carnival costumes on display at the Carnival Museum in Montevideo
A few of the Carnival costumes on display at the Carnival Museum in Montevideo

After learning a little about the history of the costumes on display in the museum, we were treated to a unique Murga performance just for our group. Murga is a type of musical theater that is special to Uruguay, especially Montevideo, and is only performed during Carnival season from late January to early March. Our show was on the stage inside the museum which was made to look like one of the local neighborhood stages.

The troop was made up of 13 vocalists, 3 percussionists and a leader. Performances are usually on community stages which are called tablados.  The performers were dressed up in wild, colorful costumes and their faces were also elaborately painted.

For about 30 minutes we were treated to this typically local musical style which was very different from anything I had ever heard before. After the performers finished their show, they invited us all to also get dressed up and take part in the singing and dancing which was a lot of fun.

Murga performance in Montevideo
Murga percussionists

The nice thing was that the Carnival Museum was very close to the pier where we were docked, so it was easy to walk back to the ship after I explored the area a little more.

Love being greeted with cold drinks
Love being greeted with cold drinks and smiles
The Sapphire Princess docked in Montevideo
The Sapphire Princess docked in Montevideo
Day 17 – Feb. 5

In the early morning I disembarked in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

My cruise was over, but my holiday was not. I was flying on to spend a few days in the Iguazu area to see the famous waterfalls.

Best spots for Antarctica photography on the Sapphire Princess

One of the things I really liked about the Sapphire Princess was how much outdoor deck space there was for all the guests to use during the Antarctica scenic cruising days. The Promenade level and the Sun level had outdoor deck spaces that wrapped around almost the entire ship.

As I wandered about taking photos, I found the following locations to be some of the best for photography:

  • Front of Deck 8 which is the upper level of the Promenade Deck.  This area puts you closer to water level and more eye to eye with the icebergs. It is also covered which makes it a good spot if it is raining or snowing. However, since it is at the front of the ship it can also be more windy and more bouncy.
Sapphire Princess deck 8
Sapphire Princess deck 8


Promenade deck 7
Promenade Deck 7
Front of Promenade deck 8
Front of Promenade Deck 8
  • On the front of Deck 15 there is an observation area on top of the bridge that is accessed by a few stairs. This gives you full, unimpeded views looking forward and at a higher level, so you will be looking down at the ice and any wildlife. Because this space is completely open it is also windier and will feel colder.
  • My favorite spot was the back on Deck 16 in the area called The Oasis. This space was more protected, so it wasn’t as windy. It was also usually less crowded and it also provided easy access to both the port and starboard sides so I could easily walk from one side to another for photos.

Deck 16


Back of Deck 16 on the Sapphire Princess
Back of Deck 16
Looking towards the front of the ship from my favorite spot on deck 16
Looking towards the front of the ship from my favorite spot on deck 16
  • The middle of deck 15 also had a lot of open railing space but it tended to be busier.
Deck 16 on the Sapphire Princess
Deck 15 on the Sapphire Princess
  • For the best indoor views, Skywalkers Lounge on deck 17 aft provided the best option.
View from Skywalker's Nightclub
View from Skywalker’s Nightclub

To help you get your best Antarctica photos, I have put together a list of 19 Antarctica Photography Tips for All Skill Levels.

Antarctica packing list

I am sharing my list of what I packed specifically for the Antarctica portion of the trip. Packing for this cruise was somewhat more challenging than usual since I needed clothes that spanned a temperature range of 32 F to 90 F.

I needed warm weather clothing for a tropical climate, comfy clothes for sea days on the ship, nicer clothes for dinners, a formal outfit, and all the extra cold weather clothes for Antarctica. And it had to all fit into one 26 inch checked bag (and a small carry on for miscellaneous items).  Yes – I managed it.

My key to packing for the cold weather was merino wool which kept me dry and warm and did not take up a lot of space.

1 pair merino wool long underwear 

1 pair fleece lined hiking pants 

2 long sleeve merino zip up turtlenecks

1 fleece pullover

1 pair merino wool glove liners

1 pair convertible gloves

1 wool hat 

1 wool neck gaiter

4 pair wool hiking socks – Kirkland brand from Costco

1 pair fleece lined Minnetonka shoes

1 pair warm winter boots – Lands End

1 mid length puffy coat with a hood – Lands End

I was fortunate in that I already had all these items from previous cold weather trips to Alaska and Wyoming. I ended up not wearing the boots and only needing the fleece Minnetonka shoes which kept my feet very warm while I was outside on deck all day.

selfie in Antarctica
Does it count if you don’t have a selfie proving you were there?

What I loved about this Princess Antarctica cruise

  • The scenery in Antarctica was incredibly beautiful.
  • I couldn’t get enough of the penguins on the Falkland Islands.
  • I really appreciated the captain’s full transparency about what we were doing and why. His daily briefings were more detailed than those on any other ship I have been on.
  • The quantity and variety of enrichment programs.
  • Plenty of open deck space for everyone that wanted to be outside. It never felt crowded.
  • The Chef’s Table dinner was fantastic.
  • Compared to expeditions cruises, this one was much easier on the travel budget.

I booked this cruise expecting to cross Antarctica from my bucket list. Instead, it only whetted my appetite and made me want to see more. I think there will be at least one more trip to the white continent for me in the future.

In the meantime, I too am now an Antarctic ambassador.

Become an Antarctica ambassador
Become an Antarctica ambassador

If you are interested in a Princess Antarctica and South America cruise similar to the one I did on the Sapphire Princess, please visit the Princess cruises website.

Please note that I received a media upgrade from Princess cruises. All Content is my own.


Other Princess cruising stories you may like:

My favorite photos from my Antarctica cruise: Penguins, and Ice, and So Much More – My Favorite Antarctica Cruise Photos

How to see the penguins on the Falkland Islands: An Unforgettable Day With the Falkland Island Penguins

My favorite Norway cruise photos: Beautiful Storybook Norway Photos to Inspire Your Next Trip


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My post shares my experiences on a Princess cruise to Antarctica.