LGBTQ+ travellers on kayaks during an Antarctica Pride Cruise with AE Expeditions

AE Expeditions:
Pole Pride


Coming February, cruise brand AE Expeditions will offer LGBTQ+ individuals the unique opportunity to go on a nine-day Antarctica Pride Cruise. Its highlight will be the placing of a Pride flag in an unchartered spot. In doing so, the trip is set to buck the – very much obsolete – stereotype of the gay pleasure voyage.

For anybody who’s keen on the spirit of adventure, this prospective maritime extravaganza, the first gay-oriented boat getaway to Antarctica, really might tick all the boxes. Why? Firstly, because AE Expeditions, which was formed by Greg and Margaret Mortimer in 1991, has been organising sojourns to the uninhabited continent for over thirty years. Secondly, as a specialist operator in a land mass containing the South Pole, they’ve won numerous prizes for their exploits – the World Travel and World Cruise awards, etc – and have been the earliest enterprise to introduce activities such as ice camping and kayaking to the region. Oh, and did we mention the stonkingly incredible itinerary?

The starting point of the escapade is Ushuaia, the small, pretty city bounded by snowcapped mountains in the Argentinian province of Tierra del Fuego, where most Antarctic voyages commence. From what’s one of the planet’s three southernmost such-sized urban settlements – along with Chile’s Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams – the deluxe vessel that’s the Greg Mortimer will head through the Beagle Channel and along Drake Passage. It appears improbable the titular circumnavigator, Sir Francis Drake, actually went up this 620-mile wide waterway, yet it’s so-called as one of the ships under his command drifted towards it. But besides, you’ll still be following in the footsteps of other legendary explorers, as Charles Darwin and Ernest Shackleton also took this route.

The Drake Passage is where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans converge, so there’s a mixture of clashing air and water temperatures, leading to dynamic and intense weather systems. Thus, on the traverse, one can expect choppy currents with up to 40ft-high waves, strong winds and even titanic swirls of atmospheric gases that evolve into cyclones (we often try warding off mal de mer by cosying up with a Dame Barbara Cartland novel). Fortunately, the Greg Mortimer, which has an observation deck and 76 spacious cabins with extensive sea vistas, is fully equipped to cope with the roughly 48-hour crossing: you’ll find a host of ways to kick back aboard, including a gym, sauna or jacuzzi.

In our opinion, this exhilarating jaunt goes against the average person’s commonly held perception of what a ‘gay cruise’ – whether exclusively for the LGBTQ+ community or a more heterogeneous one – is like. Of course, the standard sort, for example, where (mostly) men engage in a hedonistic jamboree as they’re whisked off to an exotic locale, is a welcome part of the travel calendar for many. But there’s more to aquatic excursions, and this one appears just as enjoyable and riveting, albeit entirely different in nature, providing stimuli you won’t get from even the most fabulous of onboard shows or fancy cocktails.

On the way to the end of the earth, passengers get the chance to witness an array of animals that would have kept Doctor Dolittle eternally happy: Adélie penguins waddling across the ice as if slightly tipsy, various species of albatrosses and, with a bit of luck, those ultimate leviathans of the deep, blue whales, slapping their tails with enough force to crush a Smart car. There’s also a plethora of interesting pursuits for vacationers to indulge in, such as alpine tracking, photography, rock climbing, snorkelling, and zodiac tours.

The most significant endeavour on this immense journey, the first-ever Antarctica Pride Cruise of this kind, however, will be the planting of the Pride flag in an unexplored corner of Antarctica. To us, it indicates there’s an ever-expanding range of original gay cruises, symbolising new frontiers continually opening up across all aspects and types of luxury LGBTQ+ travel.

Photography by Matt Horspool, Mark Go, Sergei Andronov, Scott Portelli and courtesy of AE Expeditions

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