For newlyweds Suzy Guttler and Juan Castillo, life is defined by extraordinary adventures. Following their engagement in Jordan’s Lost City of Petra, and a fairytale wedding in Lake Como, Italy, Suzy and Juan embarked on their happily ever after with a honeymoon in Antarctica. Here, the couple shares their experience and travel log from a 10-day voyage with Quark Expeditions to the Great White Continent.

A Honeymoon in Antarctica

Traveling the world has always been a big part of our lives and of our relationship. Juan and I swam in the clearest crystal blue waters of French Polynesia, and we’ve immersed ourselves in the historical and cultural splendors of the Great Pyramids. We’ve trekked alongside families of gorillas through the rainforests of East Africa, and hiked the majestic, alpine ranges of Everest Base Camp. Our quest for the most profound place in the world to honeymoon led us to our 7th continent – Antarctica! We wanted to travel to the last frontier of our planet, to make and be part of its history. And so began our journey: A 3,200 nautical mile, 10-day voyage to the South Pole aboard Quark Expeditions’ World Explorer vessel.

Our voyage commenced in Ushuaia, the capital of Argentine Patagonia, and the southernmost tip of South America. Proverbially regarded as “The End of the World,” Ushuaia serves as the gateway to the 7th continent. After two days at sea through the treacherous Drake Passage, we’ve reached the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Great White Continent

Each day in Antarctica presented a new discovery. We marched alongside colonies of penguins in their natural habitat and watched them curiously waddle right up to our camera lens. We quickly learned that the wildlife aren’t scared of us. In fact, they were receptive to our relatively close encounters. Onboard Zodiac boats, we navigated through towering, incandescent icebergs, being careful not to get too close in case they tipped. Knowing that these majestic icescapes were thousands of years old was awe-inspiring. We kayaked through the peaceful polar seas, and marveled at humpback whales from water level, as they gently glided through the current just inches from our kayaks. Following our curiosity, we hiked in the footsteps of bold explorers who discovered the continent only two centuries ago.

The best part after a long day of exploring – warming up in our cozy cabin and enjoying a private, romantic moment with the Great White Continent from our balcony.

Amidst all of the invigorating experiences, one of our fondest memories on the passage and ultimate bucket list item was the ceremonial polar plunge – jumping into the frightfully cold Antarctic waters in nothing but our bathing suits. The custom purportedly began in the Arctic, where it's known as the Polar Bear Plunge. Traditionally taking part on New Year's Day, brave participants would plunge into the icy water to commemorate a new beginning. What better way for us to celebrate our marriage and the beginning of our happily ever after.

From wildlife to landscapes, Antarctica was an out-of-this-world experience – endlessly intriguing, and breathtaking in every direction. There really isn’t another destination that’s more transformative, and romantic than the Great White Continent. (Think Titanic without the sinking situation.) Together, we’ve braved the elements and voyaged to the world’s most distant and isolated region. There’s no beaten path there.

Day 1 - Embarkation Day

January 19, 2023
The excitement was palpable as we embarked upon the beautiful World Explorer in Ushuaia. We enjoyed a warm, sunny day as we cast off our lines and steamed south into the Beagle Channel. Views of the Patagonian Andes bid us farewell as we enjoyed our first meal in the dining room, and after dinner we spotted some dolphins riding in the surf off the bow of the ship, as well as seabirds following us down the channel. It was a wonderful send off as we head towards our big adventure. Next stop: Antarctica!

Day 2 - Drake Passage: Southbound

January 19, 2023
We woke up feeling the motion of the Drake Passage. Our kayakers began their journey with a mandatory briefing from their kayak guides, and our first lecture of the trip was by our Ornithologist, Nigel, who taught us about the seabirds of the Drake Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula.

From the Deck 7 observation lounge we were able to put this new knowledge to use, spotting wandering albatross, Cape petrels and prions as they soared near the ship. We also knocked out the mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operations) Landing & Zodiac briefing and completed our first biosecurity checks, where we ensured that all our outer gear is clean and not at risk of carrying any biohazards to the places we are so excited to explore.

After lunch we had a presentation from our Photography Guide, Simon, who spoke on an introduction to photography, and how to capture Antarctica to the best of our abilities. This information is quite pertinent to the voyage, as we will not want to miss a chance to capture any of the amazing moments on camera. Just before dinner we were joined by the ship's Captain, Michael Block, for the Captain's Welcome. We met the senior members of the ship crew, and we were all given the important task of making sure the weather stayed amicable for the remainder of our voyage.

To help us complete this task, post dinner, we heard an informal bar talk from Woody covering various maritime superstitions and how to appease the forces of the Ocean.

Day 3 - The South Shetlands & Half Moon Island

January 20, 2023
The seas were much smoother this morning and rolled significantly less than yesterday, and we were pleased to find it was easier to move about the ship. Heavy fog accompanied us as we steamed south this morning, creating a beautiful, eerie sea view.

After breakfast, our paddle program folks met with their guides to get fitted into dry suits and take measurements for their kayaks. We also had a preliminary camping briefing, where we learned more about the possibility of camping in Antarctica, what to expect, and how to best prepare ourselves. Additionally, the morning program included a presentation by our ornithologist Nigel, and he taught us about penguins of Antarctica – our excitement growing as we get closer to seeing them.

This afternoon we were able to have our first landing at Half Moon Island, which lies between Livingston and Greenwich Islands. This accurately named island is the former caldera of a volcano, and its crescent shaped beaches are home to gentoo and chinstrap penguins, Weddell seals, skuas, and kelp gulls. Those of us who were in the second round of explorers had a rather sporty time on our way back to the World Explorer as the wind had rapidly increased, thus driving choppy waves and spray over the bow of the zodiacs. We really understand why it is vital to be waterproof from head to toe!

After dinner we enjoyed a casual bar-talk from our expedition guide and one of our photographers Jens about ‘Winter Whales of Norway.’ He wowed us with his stunning photos of Orcas, and the presentation was a lovely nightcap to a fun-filled day.

Day 4 – Orne Harbour & Danco Island

January 21, 2023
We awoke to low hanging clouds and a light snow-rain drizzle within Orne Harbour. The low clouds created the illusion that the steep glaciers and cliffs surrounding us were never ending as they jutted high into the sky. Immediately after breakfast we went out into the weather on a zodiac cruise and took in the sights of Orne Harbour’s two bays, a penguin colony, lots of icebergs, and Spigot Peak – a rocky sheer cliff that goes directly from the ocean to 286m (938 ft.)

During lunch we cruised through the beautiful Errera Channel on our way to Danco Island. Danco Island is a small, steep island; about 1.6 km (1 mile) long and lies at the southern end of the channel. Approximately 1,600 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins reside on the island, and during the landing we were able to see many of them laying on eggs in their nests. We were also able to have an incredible cruise and kayak around the area, as folks were able to see leopard seals, massive icebergs and ice flows, and a few were lucky enough to spend some time with a very interactive humpback whale. We had an informative recap in the evening and checked the weather for the possibility of camping. We deemed it too wet and chilly to spend a pleasant night on land, and at about 22:00 the sky opened up and began pouring rain. We enjoyed a movie and popcorn in the auditorium instead and a restful night in preparation for tomorrow.

Day 5 – Cuverville Island & Jougla Point

January 22, 2023
We spent our morning exploring around Cuverville Island, which lies between Rongé Island and the Arctowski Peninsula. This rocky island has steep, vertical cliffs reaching 200m (650 ft) and is home to the largest Gentoo penguin colony in the region of about 7,500 pairs. All of our paddle programs were able to go out and explore around icebergs in calm, glassy water without a breath of wind. Large snowflakes fell on the paddlers and cruisers creating a cozy, ethereal atmosphere. Many of us were fortunate to see amazing wildlife, including a mother and calf humpback pair cruising along the shoreline, Gentoo chicks in nests, and a hauled out elephant seal. After the excursion as we cruised towards Jougla Point, our Marine Biologist Tom spotted a pod of Orcas near the ship. As the World Explorer moved slowly by them, we saw an orca fling an Adelie penguin high into the air.

This afternoon we landed and cruised at Jougla Point. From our anchorage we could see the British post office of Port Lockroy. We had a beautiful, albeit chilly, cruise and were able to see multiple leopard seals hauled out on the ice. On land we witnessed hundreds of Gentoo penguins in their nests, and if we focused on one area long enough, we could see that most penguins were on eggs. We have had a day truly filled to the brim with Antarctic wildlife and will be recounting these stories for years to come.

Day 6 – Pléneau Bay & Yalour Islands

January 23, 2023
This morning we awoke to the calmest, brightest weather of the trip thus far. From our location in the narrow Lemaire Channel we could see towering mountains and massive glaciers. We set off on a long zodiac cruise around Pléneau Bay and into the ‘iceberg graveyard’ just south of the Lemaire Channel, where massive icebergs have run aground. Cruising through these giants made us feel quite small in the zodiacs, and we were able to see multiple hauled out leopard, Weddell, and crabeater seals on the ice. Our kayakers were able to experience paddling through pancake ice, and we all viewed Gentoo penguins’ porpoising around the boats.

We arrived at the Yalour Islands in the early afternoon and were able to zodiac cruise and kayak around the ice-filled area. Multiple humpbacks were spotted feeding in the area, and we saw our first Adelie colonies. The Yalour Islands are home to about 13 colonies of Adelie penguins. After the cruise, 83 folks temporarily lost their sanity and jumped into the icy Antarctic waters. This event was a blast for those who jumped as well as those who watched and cheered. This evening we cruised back up through the Lemaire Channel and took in the scenery while we dined- truly we have never experienced a restaurant with more stunning views.

Day 7 – Portal Point & Graham Passage

January 24, 2023
This morning we explored Portal Point, both on land, by kayak, and in zodiacs. Portal Point served as our continental landing of the voyage- and even heavy rain mixed with snow could not deter from the experience of stepping on the continent and taking a picture with our Antarctic flag. Those in the zodiacs were able to see lunge-feeding whales amidst the heavy drizzle, and we came back to the World Explorer ready for a cup of hot cocoa and warm lunch.

The saying ‘if you don’t like the weather in Antarctica, wait a minute,’ proved to be on the nose this afternoon as we arrived in Graham Passage. We had our last excursion in a bay full of enormous glaciers and gorgeous icebergs, and to our joy and surprise, the weather had let up into a stunning day. This was truly the best excursion to end the trip on, as we enjoyed a patch of sunshine in a jaw-dropping location watching and listening to the glacier front calve as it met the sea.

This evening after dinner we enjoyed an educational, fun, and humorous bar talk from our Biologist Ema about her time spent working in the field in interior Antarctica. As we began making our way back into the Drake Passage we crossed our fingers (and toes!) for gentle seas.

Day 8 – The Drake Passage- Northbound

January 25, 2023
This morning the Drake Passage provided calm, rolling seas as we steamed north towards Ushuaia. We had a day full of on-board activities and educational programs, starting with Ema in the auditorium presenting on her take of the ‘Meaning of Life’ from a Biologist’s perspective. Throughout the day we heard a lecture from our Marine Biologist Tom about ‘The Life of a Rock Sausage,’ teaching us more about the seals we encountered throughout the voyage. Expedition Leader Woody gave a history presentation about the discovery of Antarctica, and Adrian finished off the presentation program of the day with an insightful look into the world of krill fisheries. We were surprised to learn the vast array of products in which krill are used, and the detrimental effects that the fishery has on Antarctica.

This evening we had a fun filled Antarctic Fundraising Auction, where the expedition team auctioned off one-of-a-kind items with all proceeds going towards funding Penguin Watch. The day was capped off with a fun-filled twisted trivia game in the main bar, where we had a hoot of a time answering questions, interpretive dancing, and imitating penguins.

Day 9 – Approaching Tierra Del Fuego

January 26, 2023
The sea state had picked up a bit this morning, and the World Explorer pitched slightly more in the swell, providing more difficulty as we stumbled around the ship to and from activities. Our presentations today kicked off with ‘Planet Change’ by Ema, providing us an in-depth look at the anthropogenic forces that are changing the world faster than many species can adapt. Throughout the day we learned more about the humpback whales we were able to see from Tom, and a lecture from Glaciologist Ymke about glacial history and geomorphology. A group of the Quark team presented an ‘Explore Further’ program, where we learned more about the Arctic destinations visited on Quark Expeditions ships. To top off the activities today, we met with the Expedition Team and Captain Michael Block in the Main Lounge for the Captain’s Farewell. We raised a glass and gave a round of applause to the hotel and ship crew teams who took such good care of us throughout the journey. After dinner, we gathered in the auditorium for one final recap and an end of voyage slideshow made by our photography team and artfully assembled by Simon. In the slideshow, we were able to reminisce on the beautiful and educational trip we were able to be a part of.

Thank you to everyone who has been on board for this journey. We wish you all fair winds and following seas for wherever your future adventures bring you.

>Written By: Suzy Guttler