Cruising through Antarctica on the Celebrity Eclipse

This 14-night cruise takes you through the wonders of Antarctica, giving you glimpses of the frozen continent and wildlife that live there. It’s a trip you don’t want to miss, and Celebrity Cruises did a fantastic job pampering their guests.

As a photographer, I went with eagle-eyes and much anticipation of the landscape and wildlife that I might be able to capture. Seeing as this was my very first cruise I didn’t know what to expect—but needless to say found the cruise-life so very intriguing to both see and experience first-hand.

This blog post will go through my thoughts of the cruise from a photographer’s point of view. With this cruise being less than half the price of what one might pay for on a photo-specific expedition-type cruise, you’ll need to keep an open mind to the differences between the two.

I’ll do a separate more detailed blog post on the excursions that I did, since they require a little more explanation.

Celebrity Eclipse

14-night Antarctica Cruise | February 3-18, 2024 | Round trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina

4 Scheduled Port of Calls

  • Ushuaia, Argentina
  • Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
  • Puerto Madryn, Argentina
  • Montevideo, Uruguay

3 Scheduled View Times

Scheduled view times are when the cruise ship stops for about an hour or so, turning around on the spot, allowing all sides of the ship to get views of the area.

  • Cape Horn, Chile
  • Paradise Bay, Antarctica
  • Elephant Island, Antarctica

Overall costs

My overall cost for the 14-Night Antarctica Cruise by Celebrity Cruises came out to be approximately CAD $6200 for two people in an Interior Stateroom (no windows). Taking advantage of a last-minute stateroom auction, my overall costs went up to approximately CAD $6880 for two people in a Veranda Stateroom. A few notes to this cost:

  • Flight to Argentina not included
  • Excursions are not included in cost
  • No special add-on packages included in cost (ie. internet, drink, etc.)
  • Veranda stateroom was booked via a last-minute stateroom auction bid
  • All gratuities are paid for upfront
  • All taxes and fees included in cost

Overall Thoughts

Overall this was a great cruise that not only allowed us glimpses of what Antarctica had to offer, but also allowed us to relax and fully enjoy the cruise amenities and activities. The several continuous days at sea allowed us to slow down and enjoy the trip at our own pace, take in seminars from the on-board naturalists, indulge ourselves in the several food and beverage options, and end nights off with shows.

Photography-wise, you are limited to the ship’s itinerary, which may not be as flexible as perhaps a smaller ship might be in adjusting its course based on weather conditions. Our time cruising through the South Shetland Islands (Paradise Bay) was very cloudy, but the ship had a schedule to keep so it kept going to its next destination, leaving us wanting to see more.

The vastness of Antarctica becomes evident as you arrive there, making you realize even a 600mm is not enough to capture the various wildlife you might encounter. This is however offset by the various excursions you are able to take at the port-of-calls. These excursions are what we relied on to be able to see and photograph the adorable penguins.

This 14-night Antarctica cruise with Celebrity Cruises was definitely one that I can recommend if you were ever curious about Antarctica and wanted to see its offerings in the comfort of a well-equipped cruise ship. Take full advantage of excursions to give you opportunities to see penguins up-close as you will likely not be able to see them so close while on ship. If you want to see penguins on ice, keep a keen eye out from the deck of the ship. The penguins you see on excursions will be on sandy grounds and not ice.

Orient yourself on day one

It’s a good thing to orient yourself once you board the ship. Familiarize yourself of where the elevators and stairs are and which decks you can go on to take photos. This way you’ll be better prepared for when you start to see icebergs or even penguins on the ice—which starts around Day seven—a day after you leave Cape Horn, Chile.

Inside, oceanview, or veranda staterooms

If you’re trying to decide which type of stateroom to choose, I highly recommend getting a stateroom with a veranda. Not only is it refreshing to have the door open as you mill around in your room, but it’s also comforting to know that in an instant you are able to get outside and photograph whatever you come across.

View from veranda of icebergs!

When I first booked the cruise I booked myself an inside stateroom thinking I wouldn’t need to see outside as I would most likely be up on deck or at the very least somewhere with a window for most of the day. While this idea technically could work, this just means you would have to be prepared with all of your gear pretty much anywhere you went on the ship. You want to take a stroll on deck 14’s running track? You need to go to the bathroom? You want a drink from the dining room? How about a small bite to eat before lunch? Unless you have someone else to look after your belongings you’ll have to carry your gear EVERYWHERE you go on the ship.

And let me tell you, you will quickly get tired of doing that—not to mention your shoulders will get a beating after Day 1.

A room with a window is a room with a view

There are staterooms with an oceanview window but the window doesn’t open—and is just small enough that you can’t really take any meaningful pictures from it. It’s merely there so you can see the ocean and tell where you are in an instant. If your stateroom is near an open deck, this room might work out for you since you can see outside before heading out.

To have the comfort of having all of your gear inside your own private space ready to go whenever you need it though, is more than enough reason for me to go with a veranda stateroom.

Besides, imagine waking up at dawn and witnessing this outside your window? All I needed to do was open the door and start taking pictures in my pyjamas.

I did find myself using the veranda in many situations:

  • Upon waking up, or at sunrise
  • When I wanted mid-height views
  • When I preferred a private shooting location allowing me to spread all of my gear on the bed
  • When I wanted views including the ship

Upgrading staterooms last minute

If you have the budget for it, I recommend getting a stateroom with a veranda. If you choose a veranda stateroom upon booking, you get the comfort of choosing your exact room.

I wasn’t aware of this room auction concept until a few days prior to departure when I received this email (pictured). If you want to take advantage of last-minute room auctions though, there are a few things to note:

  1. There are minimum bid amounts for each available stateroom category upgrade.
  2. You might luck out and win a veranda stateroom, but you won’t know which room it is until a few days before departure. The computer will automatically take into account all bids, and if you win, place you in any room that is still available.
  3. Any perks associated to the new stateroom category are NOT included in your bid since you are only bidding for the upgraded room, and not any added amenities. For example, an Aqua Class stateroom has access to the spa and other areas. If you bid on an Aqua class stateroom, your winning bid will not automatically give you access to the spa.

I bid for a room category upgrade by bidding an extra $680 ($340 per person) and won a stateroom with a veranda. It turned out to be in a very convenient location within the ship with excellent views from the veranda. Overall this turned out to be cheaper than booking a veranda stateroom from the start. Further, the veranda stateroom doesn’t have any extra perks compared to the inside stateroom, other than the veranda itself, so it all worked out.

Height Matters

One of the first things I did when I boarded the ship for the first time was scout the entire ship for all the good photo taking spots.

Deck 5: This deck had the lowest possible shooting perspective on the ship but was only open on either side of the mid ship, and didn’t have views of the bow or aft.

Deck 14, 15, 16: These decks had outdoor views that you could walk all around the ship on. Deck 14 was the main deck with a walking route mid ship while Deck 15 brought you up a little higher on the aft and bow. Deck 16 was dubbed the Solstice Deck that provided the highest view from the ship with views of either side and an obstructed view of the bow.

View from Deck 5
View from Deck 8
View from Deck 15

The higher you go, the better view you’ll get of things further away from you. But naturally you’ll be further away from things that are closer to the ship. The lower you go, the better view you’ll get of anything that is closer to the ship. My stateroom was on Deck 8, which provided a great balance between the two extremes. I was on the Port Side so I could only see off of one side, but it still provided for great views of things near and far from the ship.

View from my veranda on the 8th floor offers a great view of things in the foreground but also enables you to see well into the back.

Excursions

While excursions serve to supplement the cruising experience, I never realized how important they were in making or breaking your overall cruise experience. The excursions allowed us to not only reach destinations that were beyond a simple taxi or bus ride away, but they also gave us additional chances to see penguins and wildlife beyond what we saw on the cruise ship.


I’ll have a separate blog post detailing my excursions so you can read that as well.


Day 4: Ushuaia, Argentina

Our first port-of-call was in Ushuaia, Argentina—more commonly known as the End of the World as it is the southernmost city in the world. There are plenty of excursion opportunities here, but as I have outlined in this more detailed blog post, we didn’t do any excursions and travelled to Tierra del Fuego National Park on our own, saving us a little money.

Hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park offers spectacular views like this.

Our hike through the park was gorgeous, allowing us to see a glimpse of the Patagonian landscape. The bus got us back to the pier where we had enough time to explore the town of Ushuaia as well.

Falkland Islands

The next port-of-call was supposed to be Falkland Islands. We had an excursion booked to see a penguin colony up-close, but unfortunately for us, this port was cancelled due to inclement weather! On a cruise ship, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. So as we experienced firsthand, when port-of-calls are cancelled, so are your excursions at that port. We are constantly warned in writing how itineraries are subject to change, and that’s just what happened on our cruise. With winds up to 90km/hr and 7m waves, the captain opted to forego this port the day before our scheduled arrival. Instead, we went directly to the next port-of-call, Puerto Madryn, arriving there a day earlier.

The waves were getting higher and the ship was noticeably swaying back and forth through the Drake Passage on our way back.

Day 11-12: Puerto Madryn, Argentina

We arrived here at 12:00pm on the day prior to what was originally scheduled. This meant we had another full day to explore what this port had to offer. It was interesting to see how things operated once an itinerary was revised. Because we arrived there an entire day earlier, they were able to organize excursions on that day as well.

Once we found out the Falkland Islands port-of-call was cancelled, Celebrity Cruises immediately refunded us the money we paid for excursions at Falkland Islands (in the original form of payment—in our case it was on-board credits). We were then able to use this credit toward an additional excursion at Puerto Madryn. You can read up on my Puerto Madryn excursions in this blog post. If you want to see penguins, this is the other port-of-call that will let you get up-close to these lovable flightless birds!

Day 14: Montevideo, Uruguay

The final port-of-call brings us to Montevideo, Uruguay. There are excursion opportunities here as well, but we opted to take it slow and walked the city centre area on our own. Full details on what we did in Uruguay, including feasting on not one, but two, large plates full of meat, can be read at this blog post.

From a photographer’s point of view, I was sorely disappointed as Falkland Islands was one of the main ports to be able to see penguins up close. It was a definite setback for our trip—and one that I felt the extra day in Puerto Madryn was not able to make up for.

Having said that, I did have a back up excursion planned, which was another penguin tour in Puerto Madryn, which turned out to be one of our highlights of the trip.

Always be mindful of these things when you are planning a cruise vacation. Some itineraries will obviously have fewer risks of schedule changes but they are always a possibility.

It’s all about the weather

Weather. It’s the one thing nobody has any control over. So when you go on a cruise, you need to go with an open mind—especially if your destination is more prone to inclement weather, like Antarctica.

Our 14-Night Antarctica Cruise on Celebrity Eclipse started in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We landed right in the middle of a heat wave with a wondrous temperature of 39° Celsius—and that’s without the humidity. I was wearing a fleece-lined top and fleece pants, so coming out of the airport was some sort of a sticky situation.

The Plaza de Mayo in the foreground with the Casa Rosada (The Pink House) in the back.

Typical February temperatures in Buenos Aires tends to hover around mid to high 20s, so apparently this was a little out of the ordinary. That being said, we knew we would be staying in Buenos Aires for a couple nights before and after the cruise, so we made sure we had some suitable clothing packed in our suitcase.

It’s all about the layers

This might be the single most frustrating thing we encountered before leaving. With temperatures in Bueno Aires around high 20° Celsius, and Antarctica getting as low as below 0° Celsius, there was a wide range of things we needed to be ready for. We continually read that layering is key as you can strip away layers as needed. This proved to be very true.

Being overly cautious though, we ended up over-packing for the cold.

Layers of an iceberg seen up close.

Packing for Antarctica

Packing for an Antarctica cruise, you might think to pack several extra warm attire, however, don’t overdo it like we did. Look at your itinerary and see how long your stay is in Antarctica. In our case, it was only for a few hours.

It’s true that once you leave Buenos Aires to head south to Ushuaia, the temperature drops. You can feel it in the air on deck as you cruise southward. Ushuaia tends to be overcast and windy so it can get quite cold compared to Buenos Aires. But winter attire is hardly needed in Ushuaia—at least in February when we went. Pants and a fall jacket over layers of clothing is probably sufficient in most cases. If you’re going on a hike, you might not even need a jacket.

In the photo, I’m wearing three layers of clothing and a fleece-lined pants while hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. I eventually peeled off the top layer as I hiked since it got quite hot within the trees.

Heading even further south from Ushuaia, the temperature really starts to drop. Two days into the Drake Passage, we get cool air outside—often cold enough to start wearing your winter attire. But how often will you be out on deck in the middle of the Drake Passage? Not often at all—especially if you get the Drake Shake! And if you’re outside and get cold, you can simply go back inside to warm up.

Fortunately for us, the cruise through Drake Passage going to Antarctica was smooth sailing—the Drake Lake!

While cruising within the South Shetland Islands, the temperature dropped below zero as it started to snow. This is when our winter jackets came out and any winter gear you brought would come to use. I even brought some winter boots thinking I may need it for those time when I’m outside an extended period of time photographing icebergs. But did I wear them? Not even once. Admittedly my toes did start to get cold at one point with my running shoes, but I just kept moving to keep them warm.

If you get cold easily, some gloves might come in handy as you stay out on deck. You can wear a hat, but be warned if it’s windy, it may get blown off. A toque or a hooded jacket is more ideal.

Camera Gear

If you’re interested in finding out what I brought for my camera gear, I’ve listed them all here.

  • Nikon Z 8 and Z 9
  • Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S
  • Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S
  • Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S
  • Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3
  • Nikon 1.4x teleconverter

I didn’t take every single one of these items with me wherever I went though. I made sure to only bring what I needed wherever I was, and left the remainder in my stateroom.

Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

I brought this lens mainly to photograph large expansive landscapes. I envisioned incorporating the Celebrity Eclipse in some of these photos as well. While I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would, I’m still glad I brought it.

See some of the photos taken with the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S in the slideshow.

Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S

This lens served as my mid-range zoom lens offering me flexibility in when to use it. It’s a super compact and lightweight lens that I bring it with me practically everywhere I go. It served its purpose well, including when I was out hiking in Ushuaia, Argentina.

See some of the photos taken with the Nikon Z 24mm-120mm f/4 S in the slideshow.

Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S

I brought this lens primarily to use on my excursions. I knew I would be able to get close to some penguins during my excursions to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, and Puerto Madryn, Argentina, so I thought this would be the ideal focal length. As it turns out, I was right! It allowed me to take photos of the penguins while not being so close to them. Furthermore, I ended up using it a lot on deck as well, creating unique shots from afar.

See some of the photos taken with the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S in the slideshow.

Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3

This was the lens I relied on to capture the Antarctic landscape up close. I knew there would be things to see afar but didn’t realize even at 600mm I was still vey far away from many things.

Nonetheless it allowed me to get close to things that were somewhat far away from me. I used the 1.4x teleconverter on this lens to bring me to 840mm, however, I didn’t use it as often as I thought I would have, given the lower-light environment I was in with the fog and cloud coverage.

This lens proved to be more valuable with my videos that I took, allowing me to take videos of penguins swimming right by our ship.

See some of the photos taken with the Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 in the slideshow.

YouTube Video

You can watch my supplementary YouTube video if you prefer to hear all of the information. The video may have a little more information in some sections. You can skip to certain sections of the video if you only want to hear select information.


Have you taken a cruise to the Antarctic before? Which cruise line did you take? Or did you go on an expedition-style cruise through the Antarctic peninsula?

Either way, let me know what your experience was like in the comments!

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