The act of visiting the polar regions has thankfully evolved. The journeys to the extremes aren't as harsh as they were for Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated Antarctic exploration. (Thanks, comfy cruise ships.) Nor is the landscape as endlessly icy as it was for John Franklin's Arctic expedition. (We see you, warming climate.) Also, you likely will not be hailed as a hero for your intrepid presence, like pioneering double-pole reacher Roald Amundsen.
Your Instagram shots will get a ton of likes, though.
Because we're seeing the polar extremes more and more in our social feeds, and we're building on the paths blazed by the giants of polar exploration, we now know a lot about these regions and how they differ from one another in intriguing ways. Technology helps, too. Just recently, for instance, researchers released the first, high-resolution terrain map of nearly the entire continent of Antarctica.
Still, Antarctica and the Arctic continue to confound and inspire travelers, much as they did the early explorers. Mysteries abound and adventure calls. If you're asking yourself what you should expect during a polar cruise to the Arctic or Antarctica, and which destination and approach might be best for you, we're here to break it down.
*Michael Yessis' features on travel have appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine, USA Today, and the Travel Channel. He's the co-founder of the digital travel magazine World Hum, and he runs the This Week in Podcasts newsletter. *