If you've always wanted to explore the frozen continent but were put off by thoughts of roughing it (bone-numbing temperatures, insufficient cocktails, ice picks), we've got good news: The first truly luxury Antarctic cruise is ready to board.
The Sea Spirit, which had its inaugural expedition in December, is the latest--and far and away most high-end--vessel from the 20-year-old Arctic and Antarctic cruise company, Quark Expeditions, which made its name shepherding travelers amongst breathtaking ice-floes and prehistoric-seeming sea-life.
Departing from Ushuaia, Argentina, The Sea Spirit offers four different journeys: a 12-day Antarctic Peninsula Expedition (from $5,000), a two-week, glacier-packed Antarctic Circle Crossing (from $6,000) and a nine- or 20-day, penguin-friendly Wildlife Tour of the remote Galapagos and Falkland Islands (from $4,000 and $9,000, respectively).
While the destinations alone are enough to pique our interest, the combination of adventure (with optional kayak and hiking trips) and pampering (including hot tubs, open bar and a full-service gym) seals the deal. We're particularly keen on the decidedly non-nautical rooms: In addition to 57 hotel-like cabins and six 350-square-foot suites, there's also one deluxe penthouse, replete with living room, game room, Jacuzzi and private sun-deck.
Those polar explorers never knew what they were missing.