I just spent the night in an igloo in Antarctica — here’s how you can, too
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan is traveling to Antarctica on a free trip provided by Lindblad Expeditions. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by the line.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a room with a view quite as spectacular as the one I had last night.
From the teak wood bed, topped with a cozy white duvet, four sumptuous pillows and a plaid wool throw, I looked out through curving glass walls at floating Antarctic ice seemingly stretching for miles.
Snow-covered Petermann Island, famous for its gentoo and Adélie penguin colonies, was visible in the distance. So, too, were the soaring, snow-covered mountains and glaciers of the Antarctic Peninsula.
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At least, that was the initial scene. As I watched, mesmerized, while snuggling under the covers, the landscape soon began to change. New stretches of floating ice, mountains and glaciers came into view — scrolling past the glass wall before me like some sort of real-life IMAX movie.
The room, a glassed-in “igloo,” was on the move.
Dubbed the “Igloo Experience,” the room is one of two such accommodations atop National Geographic Resolution, a hardy new expedition cruise vessel that is specifically designed for exploring Antarctica and other polar regions. When the ship moves, the rooms moves, too.
Related: The ultimate Antarctica gear guide
When I blinked open my eyes the next morning, the scene was of swirling open waters. The ship had traveled more than 100 miles southward toward the Antarctic Circle while I slept. I might have had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, except knocking at the igloo’s door was National Geographic Resolution’s hotel director, come to wake me up with coffee and pastries.
An extraordinary overnight experience in Antarctica
National Geographic Resolution isn’t the only new vessel with onboard igloos for overnight stays. Another just-unveiled sister vessel, National Geographic Endurance, also has two of the rooms.
Among the most advanced polar cruise ships ever built, both of the vessels are operated by Lindblad Expeditions, a leader in adventurous travel that has a long tradition of pioneering new experiences in polar regions.
Located at the very top and back of the ships, the glass-wrapped igloos can be booked for single nights during voyages on either of the vessels. Quite amazingly to me, they are available to passengers on a first-come, first-serve basis at no extra charge.
Lindblad easily could charge $1,000 a night for this sort of experience, and people would pay it.
It’s an experience that goes beyond just sitting in bed watching the stupendous Antarctic scenery go by.
Each of the igloos is located next to a decktop hot tub, and they are just steps away from indoor spas that are home to side-by-side Nordic and tropical saunas.
Late at night, when everyone else has gone to bed, these hot tubs and saunas become like a private spa resort for igloo occupants.
I arrived at my igloo relatively late in the evening, following an after-dinner landing by Zodiac boats to see the penguins on Petermann Island.
But at the recommendation of the ship’s hotel director, Laura Fuentes, I didn’t jump right into bed after arriving at the igloo. Instead, I turned the evening into a late-night spa retreat.
Changing into my bathing suit at the spa, I dashed through the freezing Antarctic air to the hot tub next to my igloo for a long soak. Soaring mountains and glaciers were my backdrop.
Once sufficiently pruney, I dashed back to the spa for back-to-back sits in each of the saunas. Both of them are lined with a wall of glass facing the water.
I had all of it completely to myself.
Not as cold as I expected
The tropical sauna’s thermometer recorded the temperature as 61 degrees Celsius — about 141 degrees Fahrenheit. The Nordic sauna was an even more blistering 80 degrees Celsius — about 176 degrees Fahrenheit. That was more than enough to give me a lingering heat boost just before bedtime, and it made me drowsy, to boot — just as Fuentes had predicted.
A caveat to the igloo experience is that the igloos aren’t heated. Nor are there many of the other conveniences of standard hotel rooms, such as a television, running water or toilets.
Think of it as camping, except without having to put up your own tent — and on top of a ship.
Still, to my surprise, the igloo experience wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it would be.
In a wonderful touch, the bed was heated with giant hot water bottles placed underneath the covers. When I slid between the sheets after getting back from the sauna, it was like a toasty warm cocoon. I was in heaven.
It was then I began taking in the passing scenery in earnest, which was still lit up due to the nearly continuous daylight of the Antarctic Peninsula near the winter solstice.
The curving glass of the igloo is frosted on the side facing the ship’s top deck, for privacy. But the side facing outwards from the ship is clear and unimpeded. So is the top of the igloo’s dome. It makes for a stunning field of vision.
On a clear night, it also would surely allow for star-gazing right from the bed, assuming the ship is in a latitude where the sun goes down.
On this night, alas, the sky was mostly clouded over. Even if it had been clear, the window of darkness at this time of year in the Antarctic Peninsula is extremely short.
Indeed, it’s so short that one of the amenities of the igloo is an eye mask. I also received earplugs should noises from the ship intrude and a fleece-lined cape to wear during middle-of-the-night dashes to the bathroom in the nearby spa.
When I finally began drifting off to sleep, around midnight, it had just started to get semi-dark to the point that it almost felt like bedtime. The mountains and glaciers parading in front of my window had started to grow dimmer.
In the moments before oblivion took hold, lying with my eyes closed under the eye mask, I could hear the whistling of the wind and the whoosh of the waves against the hull as the ship headed out toward open waters.
The ship began to pitch forward and back just the littlest bit, rocking me ever so slightly in my bed like a baby in a rocker.
To someone who loves the sea and the places that sea travel makes accessible, it was a perfect moment.
I soon was fast asleep.
Planning an Antarctica expedition? Start with these stories:
- Dreaming of Antarctica: How to book the trip of a lifetime
- Skip the Drake Passage: What it’s like flying to Antarctica on a chartered plane
- 7 tips for visiting Antarctica before it’s too late
- The ultimate packing list for an Antarctica trip
- 5 fabulous destinations for luxury cruise fans
Featured photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy.
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