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A Whole New World

Waking to the sites of an ocean filled of icebergs of all shapes and sizes made for a memorable morning.

To get here, we had to cross the infamous Drake Passage.  Luckily for my stomach, our trip to Antarctica would be classified as the Drake Lake and not the Drake Shake.

Waves were generally around 9’ tall (3 meters) which is pretty tame.  Don’t get me wrong, walking was still difficult and we all looked like drunken sailors shuffling down the hall together in a perfectly choreographed ballet directed by Mother Nature, but we made it!

The ship, Viking Octantis is simply stunning.  Decor is perfectly manicured, cozy and comfortable in Scandinavian style.  The service is out of this world, provided by the two hundred and fifty staff (almost a 1:1 ratio).  The food is beyond what I expected, even the buffet.

Even the check-in process was more Five Star hotel than cruise ship.  We walked onto the ship ten by ten and walked immediately to a makeshift check-in table where we were given our room key and directed upstairs towards our cabin.

Immediately once I reached my Nordic Balcony room 2036, my room steward gave me a tour of the room including the drying closet (for all of that arctic gear), the bathroom with heated tile floors and operation of the Nordic Balcony (large window that opens half way too/down at the touch of a button.

The included minibar offerings, Nespresso coffee machine, binoculars, plush robes and over-sized closet were nice touches compared to any other cruise line that I’ve sailed.

For the tune of roughly $30,000 - it exceeded my expectation.  It’s an exorbitant amount and I’ll deflect the judgement, but that’s about what this trip costs…maybe slightly more if I include the hotel in Buenos Aires.

Being one of roughly 800,000 people that have stepped foot on the continent (I have not yet met that very critical category) in the history of the world comes at a cost.

I chose this ship and this sailing due to the number of opportunities to do just that.  We are in the Antarctic Peninsula for 7 full nights.  Many other voyages are three or four nights, and being that this trip ends on December 30th, I would have zero opportunities for a redo to meet my goal of all seven continents in a single calendar year.

It was a calculated risk.

The tourist season here only lasts from the end of October until the beginning of March.  There were no sailings available for February before I left for Australia and my first continent.  I had to fit Asia in, and November was the best itinerary for that.  So that left December for this trip.

It happens to be extra special to be here for the Solstice (summer solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere).  Today would have been my 21st wedding anniversary.  Spending Christmas on the continent is also extremely rare.  Flying home and landing back in Grand Junction on New Years Eve and being at home for New Years Day, and waking up back in Colorado and be able to say “I did it” was the perfect ending to this most perfect year.

Getting back to today and my first Antarctic expedition, an hour long Zodiac ride amongst the towering glaciers, icebergs, humpback whales and penguins was almost more than I could comprehend.

I walked the deck of the Octantis in my shorts (and shoes).  31F is not that cold, and that’s the scary part of the lesson and this trip.  While some of the ice that is staring me in the face may be more than a million years old, and is currently up to 2.7 miles deep at its deepest measurable depth, it’s warming here too.

After my hourlong soak in the hot tub while I watched a pod of 6 whales breach and see their blowholes move around the ship for more than 20 minutes, I walked up to the Explorers Bar at the front of the ship and mentioned to a pair of sisters from South Carolina that this feels like another planet, and they agreed.

The morning started with spectacular blue skies. At 6p when my zodiac tour started, it was snowing hard, much cooler and choppier.  It didn’t stop us from having an excellent first Antarctic expedition.

Tommorow should be the day!  It starts with an 8:45 kayak trip before a scheduled 11a landing.  So by 7 or 8a in Colorado, it should be mission accomplished.

As I am here and within reach if the goal, I remain emotional but much less than the last few weeks. Being here and surrounded by this unspoiled beauty makes this trip so much more than the goal itself.

Somehow, I have to sleep tonight which is funny because we will have no darkness here on the longest day of the year combined with what will be the biggest personal accomplishment of my life and potential Guinness Book of World Record qualifying day.

Likely being the first solo, LGBTQ traveler to step foot on all seven continents in a year is not why I set out to do this.  It was about doing some for myself, following a dream of travel.

As I finish dinner and go up to sip on an espresso martini, I smile.  No tears.  Just happiness.

Wish me luck that the weather holds and tomorrow is the day.

Cole from Colorado

Peacefully excited.




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about me:

Hey!  I am Cole from Grand Junction, Colorado. In 2023 I stepped on all seven continents, in a single calendar year, solo!

The year continues to shape my life and my lust for travel.

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