Our Quark Expeditions Antarctica Cruise: Review & Recap

A trip to Antarctica has long been at the top of our travel bucket list. It’s a destination we’ve admired from afar since we began travelling more than a decade ago. For years, we’ve been captivated by Antarctica’s remoteness, the abundance of wildlife in its waters, and the honour associated with visiting the last frontier. 

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So when an email from Adventure Life arrived in our mailbox inviting us to join an upcoming sailing to the 7th continent, we didn’t hesitate for a second. It was a resounding YES! 

It’s been more than a month since we returned from our sailing but the feelings of awe and gratitude from our time in Antarctica are still present in our mind. From our smooth sailing on the infamous Drake Passage to that incredible afternoon lost in the fog with the friendliest humpback whale to the terrifying polar plunge – there were so many highlights on this trip.

Welcome to Antarctica!
Welcome to Antarctica!
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Many of you have asked questions about our trip, followed our adventure on social media and asked us to share more about what it was really to travel to Antarctica. 

It’s time to share all the details. Read on to get all the details from our expedition aboard the Quark Expeditions Discovering the 7th Continent Sailing to Antarctica.

Choosing the Right Operator

We can attest from firsthand experience that choosing the right ship and itinerary for your first trip to Antarctica can be challenging. Not all itineraries, ships, and staff on board are the same, and that can make a huge difference in your trip. Here are a few things to consider. 

Size of Ship 

The size of the ship makes the biggest different on any sailing to Antarctica. As we learned, there are 2 types of ships that sail to Antarctica

  • Ships over 200 passengers – are NOT allowed to make landings in Antarctica. That means that any itinerary on a ship with over 200 passengers will include sailing around the Peninsula, but NO land excursions, zodiac rides or opportunity to get off the ship and step foot on the continent. These sailing are significantly cheaper but come with this big and important caveat. 
  • Ships with less than 200 passangers – are allowed to make landings in Antarctica. These trips are more expensive but do offer the full Antarctica experience with landings, and zodiac rides. The trip price and experience then further vary based on the operator and ship. 
antarctica cruise review
World Explorer ship, Quark Expeditions


Most cruises to Antarctica begin in South America. Cruise ships usually depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile. While the exact details depend on the operator, there are basically 3 types of itineraries in Antarctica

  • Intro to Antarctica: This is a classic Antarctica itinerary. This trip is usually 8-10 days long and includes 4-5 days on the continent plus 4 days sailing across the Drake Passage (2 days each way). There is also an option to fly over the Drake Passage. 
  • Crossing the Antarctic Circle: This 12-14-day itinerary allows you to spend a bit more time on the continent, whether crossing the Antarctic Circle or exploring more landing sites around the Peninsula. 
  • Beyond Antarctica. This extended itinerary includes stops in the Falkland Islands and a few days exploring South Georgia, in addition to exploring Antarctica. It is the ultimate trip to the Antarctic region. 

Price is a huge decision factor for most people. Basic Antarctica trips on a large ship (over 200 people) with a company like Princess Cruises or Norwegian Cruises start from as low as $2,000/person. “Intro to Antarctica” itineraries range from $5,000-13,000, depending on the ship and its comforts, and itineraries that take you beyond Antarctica start at a whopping $23,000. 

Needless to say, selecting the right ship, itinerary, and experience is essential when it comes to any trip to Antarctica. We did a lot of research and due diligence in preparation for our trip but relied heavily on the advice and suggestions of our Trip Planners from Adventure Life to guide us through the trip selection process. 

Iceberg in Antarctica
Iceberg in Antarctica

About Adventure Life

Adventure Life is a leader in the adventure travel industry. Founded in 1999, the company offers tours and tailor-made travel itineraries for epic adventures worldwide. Their destinations span all seven continents, with the most popular regions being South America and Central America, Polar Regions and Asia.

Adventure Life is known for its commitment to sustainable tourism and responsible travel practices. The company partners with local guides and communities to ensure that their tours benefit both travellers and the destinations they visit while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and local cultures.

World Explorer ship from afar
World Explorer ship from afar

About Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions is one of the oldest and premier operators in Antarctica. With over 30 years of experience in the Polar Regions, they have long been renowned for their focus on conservation, guest experience and education on board. 

With lectures on polar history, marine biology, glaciology, ornithology, and even photography in Antarctica, the Expedition Staff share a wealth of information over the course of the sailing. There is so much to learn every day!

Their comfortable ships and impressive staff-to-guest ratio offered another reason to choose them over other operators in Antarctica.

World Explorer ship
World Explorer ship

Our Trip: Discovering the 7th Continent

After a lot of research and some back and forth with Adventure Life, we decided to sail on the Quark Expedition “Intro to Antarctica” trip, officially called Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent. This classic voyage would take 11 days and allows us to experience the iconic Drake Passage and spend 4-5 days in Antarctica, making landings in South Shetland Islands, and in other parts of the Peninsula. 

Our Ship: Quark World Explorer 

About the Ship

The Quark World Explorer is a 1B ice-class vessel built to be fast, comfortable, refined, and roomy. It has a cruising speed of 16 knots in open water, and houses 172 guests and 125 crew members.

As sustainable travel advocates, we were interested to learn about World Explorer’s sustainability initiatives on board. 

  1. The ship burns Marine Gas Oil, a clean-burning fuel with a low emission factor. 
  2. The restaurant on site serves only sustainable seafood and has a strong focus on reducing food waste on board. 
  3. The cleaning team uses eco-friendly laundry chemicals and cabin amenities. 
  4. Only recycled, acid-free paper is used on board
  5. The ship is free of single-use plastic, and every passenger is provided with a reusable water bottle.

The Rooms

There are six types of cabins on the World Explorer. 

  • 4 TRIPLE CABINS – 242 sq. ft. (22.5 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, a separate sitting area with another single sofa bed, plus a small walk-out balcony and ensuite. 
  • 24 INFINITY SUITES – 270 sq. ft. (25 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, a floor-to-ceiling glass French balcony, and an ensuite. 
  • 48 VERANDA SUITES – 215 sq. ft. (20 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, a walk- out balcony and an ensuite. 
  • 4 SUPERIOR SUITES – 278 sq. ft. (26 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, an extra large walk-out balcony with access from the sitting room and bedroom, and an ensuite 
  • 2 DELUXE SUITES – 334 sq. ft. (31 sq. m) in size, these cabins have with one double or two single beds, a large walk-out balcony with access from the sitting room and bedroom and an ensuite.
  • 4 OWNER’S SUITES – 355 sq. ft. (33 sq. m) in size, these cabins have one double or two single beds, a large walk-out balcony with access from sitting room and bedroom, and an ensuite. 

We had the Infinity Suite, and it was much more luxurious than we ever imagined! At first, we were bummed we didn’t get a Balcony Cabin, but a few days into the trip, we realized our suite was actually way better. We had so much space, and always had the option to look out at the view while staying warm thanks to the cabin’s floor-to-ceiling glass Juliet balcony.

Our room came with a comfortable double bed, a spacious sitting area, a built in closet with plenty of storage space, a private bathroom with a shower, a desk, a fridge, and a TV. We really appreciated the extra space in our cabin, as it allowed us to really spread out and keep things tidy in our cabin over the course of the sailing. 

The TV was a surprising bonus! A few days into the trip, we learned that the lectures, held in the auditorium were broadcasted to our cabin’s state-of-the-art “infotainment system,” it was a huge game changer! We learned so much about the wildlife from the comfort of our beds! Of course, we also used the TV to watch shows and movies in the evenings. 

Infinity Suite on Quark World Explorer Ship
Infinity Suite on Quark World Explorer Ship
Antarctica Quark scenery Max 00053
Admiring the view form our window in the Infinity Suite

Other Facilities on Board


We were happy to see a well-equipped gym on board the World Explorer. We had good intentions but didn’t use it as much as we wanted. We tried to hit the gym during the crossing days but found it tough to work out while the ship was swaying. 

Sauna & Spa

We didn’t find time for this, but it was good to have the option to book massages, facials, and hair, hand, and foot treatments. The spa also features change rooms, showers, and lockers.

Antarctica Quark World Explorer ship gym 09218
Gym on board the World Explorer

Polar Boutique

There was a shop on the ship that sold whatever you forgot to bring from your Antarctica packing list. In case you showed up with no warm gear, they had good options for waterproof pants, hats, and gloves. They also had gifts and souvenirs, camera equipment, and other random bits and bobs.

Observation Deck

This was a fun place to hang out, meet with all the guests, and watch as the ship passed by wildlife and icebergs. We spent most of our free time here. 

Antarctica Quark ship iceberg people 09487
The view from the observation deck on World Explorer

Upper Deck

The Upper Deck on the World Explorer ship had a 2km running track, which we really came to love over the course of the trip. We came up here daily for little walks, and to watch the wildlife while we sailed from one landing site to another. 

Pool and Heated Hot Tub

We were really excited to find that the World Explorer ship had a pool and hot tubs on board. But the reality is we never once used these. During the Drake Passage, when we had the most time, the pool and hot tubs were emptied and not available for use. They got filled while we were on the Peninsula, but we never found the time to hang out there. 

Main Expedition Lounge

This was a great place to spend some time with new friends. In the evenings, we typically gathered here for casual bar talks.

Coffee/Tea Station 

The complimentary coffee and tea station was always stocked and open. We used it daily. To be honest, I found the tea selection to be a bit lacking and was happy that I brought my own loose-leaf tea on board. 

Antarctica Quark World Explorer ship coffee station 09213
Coffee/Tea station


The bars were well-stocked with premium beers, wines, liquors, and spirits, and open from mid-morning into evening. Drinks were not included in our package, but free wine was available at dinner and additional drinks were reasonably priced. The good news is that starting in 2024, alcoholic drinks will now be included in the price of the sailing.

Antarctica Quark World Explorer ship bar 09221
One of the bars aboard the World Explorer


There was only one dining room on board, which made things easy and simple. Breakfast and lunches were served in a mix of buffet style and a la carte while dinners were a la carte and fully plated. 

The food was great, and there was plenty of it. The quality was high, we were impressed with the variety as well. The menu was different every day, a mix of international fare and a few themed nights. Most dietary restrictions were accommodated with ease as long as you informed the staff before the expedition.

Antarctica Quark World Explorer ship dining room 6700609
Dining room on the ship
antarctica cruise review

Internet on Board 

There was surprisingly good internet on board, though it was expensive at $69 for 1GB. We got one package each and were careful about only checking emails and posting an occasional photo on Instagram, but it lasted us the whole trip. For the 2024-2025 season, internet will be free and included on all Quark sailings to Antarctica. 

Our Day by Day Experience

Day 1: Arrival in Ushuaia

Day 1 on our itinerary actually included a day in Ushuaia, Argentina. We arrived the day before and made the most of our trip by taking a day tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina’s first coastal national park. 

We highly recommend it if you have some extra time. Our trip included a 3.5-hour trek through evergreen forests, then a canoe ride to the pristine Laguna Verde. We were back in Ushuaia by the afternoon, just in time for dinner and an orientation session with Quark Staff. 

Argentina Ushuaia Tiera del Fuego National Park hike 6700461
On a day trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park

Day 2: Embarkation in Ushuaia at 4pm 

After a chill morning in Ushuaia, we boarded our Quark World Explorer and finally set sail to Antarctica! We had time to settle into our cabins, explore the ship, and check out the amenities. 

That evening, we enjoyed our first meal on board, attended a few mandatory information sessions and settled into our cabin. 

Saying goodbye to Ushuaia
Saying goodbye to Ushuaia

Day 3-4: The Drake Passage 

We spent 2 days crossing the infamous Drake Passage. Every cruise to Antarctica has to go through this 48-hour crossing, which is notorious for rough seas in bad weather.

We got VERY lucky during our crossing. According to our expedition guides, our Drake crossing was the smoothest of the season! It was a true Drake Lake!

The crossing days flew by! We were busy attending information sessions on biosecurity, wildlife viewing, and activities during the cruise. There was also an evacuation drill. And, to make sure we didn’t bring any foreign matter on land, all our outerwear and even our camera bags were fully cleaned and vacuumed.

Excitement was high on the morning of Day 4, as we started spotting whales and icebergs around our ship! We spent a few hours that day just hanging around the Observation Deck, watching wildlife and admiring the iceberg-filled scenery. 

Because it was smooth sailing along the Drake, we actually arrived in Antarctica 12 hours early and got to enjoy one extra excursion. 

One of the lectures on board
One of the lectures on board
First iceberg sighting!
First iceberg sighting!
Spotting penguins on an iceberg
Spotting penguins on an iceberg

After lunch on Day 4, we had our first Antarctica excursion. We got into zodiacs and explored Deception Island. The island itself is an exposed portion of an active volcano. In the 1800s, it served as a whaling and fur-sealing base. It was later used as a year-round research base until the volcanic eruptions in 1967 and 1969 forced its evacuation. There is so much history here! 

We got to walk around the island, check out the remnants of this historical research base and visit our first big penguin colony. In addition to thousands of penguins, we saw dozens of fur seals and plenty of birds circling around.

We learned that 95% of fur seals are actually found in South Georgia. Though we saw them on Deception Island at Whalers Bay, they wouldn’t have been there in November. Most females are in South Georgia from December until May, nursing the pups. The last helicopter survey showed 3.5 million fur seals, but now numbers are increasing by 7%.

We learned that there are 1 in 1,000 albino fur seals, and we were lucky enough to see one in Whalers Bay!

When we got back on board, we saw an amazing sunset peeking through the clouds as we had dinner. Max ran upstairs and snapped some awesome shots on the camera! Our expedition was off to a great start already.

Antarctica Quark Deception Island Whalers Bay fur seal Max ship 09360
On land at Deception Island


Historical remnants in Whalers Bay on Deception Island
Historical remnants in Whalers Bay on Deception Island
Stunning sunset in Antarctica
Stunning sunset in Antarctica
Iceberg against the fiery sky
Iceberg against the fiery sky

Day 5: Useful Island & Cuverville Island 

We woke up to a jam-packed schedule with 2 planned landings, but the foggy weather conditions made it impossible for us to reach them. Our start was delayed so we spent the morning on the Upper Deck of the ship, admiring the view. It was here that we first had our “WOW moment”. Once in a while, the fog would part and reveal snow-clad mountains all around it. The scenery was magical! 

We finally disembarked the ship at around 11am and jumped in the zodiacs for a cruise around Useful Island. While on the zodiac, we had our second WOW moment of the day. We heard the call of a whale way in the distance, and our expedition guide drove the Zodiac straight into the fog, following the sound. Within minutes, the whale found us! He played with us, swimming all around the zodiac, coming up for air right beside us. His calls echoed across the water and created one of the most memorable moments of our trip! 

After lunch, we set off on another excursion, this time – a shore landing at another penguin colony on Cuverville Island. The scenery was amazing! There were penguins and icebergs all around us! 

Antarctica Quark Useful Island iceberg 09520
Magical foggy morning in Antarctica!
Whale spotted during our Antarctica exploration
Whale spotted during our Antarctica exploration
Whale sighting in the fog!
Whale sighting in the fog!
Whale sighting
Whale sighting
Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica
Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica
Antarctica Quark Cuverville Island OM 8226
Stunning scenery on Cuverville Island

Day 6: Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Island and Petermann Island

We woke up early this morning to watch the ship sail through the Lemaire Channel – a sight that was well worth the early wake-up! This was definitely another WOW Moment!

After breakfast, we had an excursion on Pleneau Island. We did an hour-long zodiac ride to admire the views and the icebergs and look for wildlife. 

In the afternoon, we joined a SUP group for what was supposed to be a peaceful way to explore the area near Petermann Island. But we could not have predicted what would happen next! 

We got on our boards, and before we could even find our balance, a leopard seal popped out of nowhere and started swimming right towards us. It was our first time seeing a leopard seal on this trip, so we were beyond excited to spot this elusive animal. But we were also a bit nervous, as they are known to be vicious hunters. As the seal got closer and closer to us, we had to paddle hard to get out of the bay and avoid a close-call encounter! It all happened so fast we didn’t get a chance to snap any photos!

Then, just as we had calmed down from the exciting leopard-seal interaction, a giant iceberg cracked right in front of us and sent pieces of ice and a ripple of waves our way! Once again, we had to paddle fast to make sure we didn’t get surrounded by pieces of iceberg. 

As if that wasn’t thrilling enough, a whale popped up less than 100m from us, and penguins started swimming all around us. Our expedition guide said Antarctica was on crack that day…in the best way possible! Definitely far from the relaxing SUP experience we expected, but it ended up being incredible – another WOW moment for the books – an unforgettable experience!

Crossing the Lemaire Channel
Crossing the Lemaire Channel
Oksana enjoying SUP
Oksana enjoying SUP
View of the cruise ship from afar
View of the cruise ship from afar

Day 7: Andvord Bay and Danco Island 

We were simultaneously very excited and slightly terrified of this day because Day 7 was Polar Plunge Day! We woke up to icy conditions, but the expert ship navigation changed the course from the unpassable Neko Harbour to Errera Channel and Paradise Harbour. The scenery was beautiful, and we even saw a sleeping whale!

In the afternoon, the wind picked up, and for the first time on this trip, we felt the cold, frosty conditions while on the Zodiac. It was very cold and made us so grateful for the amazing weather we’d had during all other excursions. 

That afternoon, it was time for a Polar Plunge! Despite the freezing water (the water was -0.5 °C) and nerves, we didn’t back down and took Polar Plunge! It wasn’t bad and not as cold as we expected. It was a fun experience and one we’d definitely recommend. 98 out of 167 passengers did it, and everyone loved it! 

We celebrated this amazing day with new friends at dinner. And as if the day wasn’t eventful enough, we saw an incredible whale breach while eating dinner!

Whale spotted!
Whale spotted!
Approaching back to the ship
Approaching back to the ship
Polar Plunge
Polar Plunge!
Polar Plunge in Errera Channel
Polar Plunge in Errera Channel
Showing our badge after the polar plunge
Showing our badge after the polar plunge

Day 8: Last Day in Antarctica

Our last day in Antarctica was one for the books. One of the add-ons on this Quark Sailing was a paddling excursion, also known as PEP (not to be confused with a kayaking activity). This paddling excursion allows you to experience Antarctica from the comfort of an inflated double-seater kayak, allowing you to get closer to the landscape. 

The program filled up before we even got on board (it’s just one of the many reasons why it’s essential to book any Antarctica trip with PLENTY of lead time), but we added our names to the wait list and hoped for the best. 

The weather conditions on our sailing were fantastic, allowing everyone who signed up for PEP, including those on the waitlist, to experience this adventure. 

We joined the last PEP group outting, but it was such a beautiful way to finish our trip! We paddled far, getting up close and personal with a penguin colony, a pod of sleeping whales and a flock of young cormorants taking to the water for their first time. 

On this day, we finally made the official touchdown on the Antarctic Peninsula at Portal Point and stepped foot on our seventh continent. It was a day to remember!

Iceberg viewing in Antarctica
Iceberg viewing in Antarctica
Seal on an iceberg
Seal on an iceberg
Shipwreck viewing in Antarctica
Shipwreck viewing in Antarctica
Spotted a whale's tail
Spotted a whale’s tail
Antarctica whale-watching
Antarctica whale-watching
Paddling around
Paddling around
Antarctica exploration success!
Antarctica exploration success!

Day 9-10: Drake Passage 

Our journey back to Ushuaia began as soon as we departed Portal Point and lasted the full 48 hours. The weather was a bit windier on the way back, so the ship swayed and rocked in the 3-meter swell (that’s nothing compared to an average sailing of the season). But even in 3-meter swell, some people felt a little ill and chose to stay in their rooms for the day. 

Luckily, we were fine. We attended a few more educational sessions, hung out with friends, and learned about other Quark sailings in the Arctic (our NEW bucket list destination!). 

It was fun to watch the waves at mealtime, but we had to be really careful when moving around the ship. 

These 2 days flew by, with nightly entertainment keeping us up late. There was a wedding on board, a games night, and a really fun Charity Auction 

Antarctica Quark bird

Day 11 – Arriving Back in Ushuaia 

We disembarked at 9 a.m., and then it was straight to the airport and onto the next leg of our trip: Bueno Aires!

The Bottom Line


This 11-day Discovering the 7th Continent itinerary starts at $11,195 per person.

It’s not the cheapest way to “see” Antarctica and not the cheapest way to step foot on the continent either. But the truth is, Antarctica, in and of itself, is not a budget-friendly destination. It’s a bucket list experience that’s worth the splurge. 

Is it worth it? 

100% YES! The Antarctic Continent is probably the most beautiful destination we’ve ever been to. The scenery is amazing and the wildlife encounters are incredible – we never thought we’d see so many whales, penguins and sea lions. 

When planning your trip, consider the best time to visit Antarctica and get clear on what you want to see there.

READ NEXT: Best Time to Visit Antarctica

We had a great time exploring Antarctica
We had a great time exploring Antarctica

How to book?

Our amazing trip was made possible by Adventure Life. They’re amazing, and we definitely recommend using their services if you’re considering a trip to Antarctica! They’ll be fantastic at helping you pick the right ship, the perfect cabin, and the ideal time to visit the continent for YOUR bucket list wildlife encounters!

Is visiting the Antarctic Peninsula on your bucket list?


Disclaimer: Our trip to Antarctica was made possible courtesy of Adventure Life and Quark Expeditions. As always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own, no matter who is footing the bill.

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