Houston, Texas native Meena Joshi is a professional in the oil and gas industry. She and three friends spent Christmas in Antarctica in 2016 aboard the Ocean Endeavour, on the holiday departure of our Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent expedition.
Quark Passengers pose with a Christmas tree in Antarctica
Antarctica was solidly on my bucket list, but I had no definitive plans to travel there. It’s that ultimately mysterious, goal destination you always hope you’ll visit, but so few actually make it there.
That changed for me and three of my best friends last year, when we spent Christmas in Antarctica aboard the Ocean Endeavour. Michelle Burns, Archana Deshmukh, Anjali Nigam and I often travel together—in fact, we planned these epic trips each time one of us turned forty. In 2015, we went to India for three weeks. We’ve been to Kenya together and had just returned from several glorious weeks spent in an Italian villa when Archana got an email about a flash sale at Quark Expeditions. “I know we just got back from Italy, but what do you think?” she asked. I thought she was joking.
“Meena, come on... this is something we’ve been wanting to do forever.” She was right, it was. I still can’t believe it, but we went for it!
A pod of orca whales delight Ocean Endeavour passengers on holiday expedition in Antarctica. Photo: Meena Joshi
Can you imagine the spectacle of a pod of 40 orcas whizzing by? We saw at least that many in the Gerlache Strait. From Antarctic camping at Kerr Point, to cross-country skiing our way to exceptional views over the peninsula and the Southern Ocean, to running out of our yoga class to see that massive group of whales cruising by, Mother Nature wowed us at every turn.
There’s so much to do onboard and we found that there was great balance in how expedition staff had organized our outings, lectures, meals and other activities. The lectures were fantastic but everything was optional, giving us a chance to rest or enjoy wildlife watching from the ship’s decks when we needed that downtime.
The Expedition Team and ship’s staff and crew did, too. The sheer energy and dedication of the onboard team is incredible. Because it’s a small ship, you really get to know one another, to the extent that staff even noticed if one of us missed breakfast and asked the others if they could prepare something for her!
Christmas fun in Antarctica! Winners of the Ocean Endeavour door decorating contest. Photo: Meena Joshi
And of course, the Christmas activities and events they planned were epic, especially since we were so incredibly remote. Service staff did a fantastic job decorating the lounge and dining room, and the culinary team prepared a delicious Christmas feast for us. The Expedition Team planned a Door Decorating contest, which gave the halls such a festive air (I’m thrilled to say that my cabin won, too!).
Two of our group went stand-up paddleboarding and were quite shocked when Santa cruised up in a Zodiac with hot chocolate for their group to enjoy!
I’m so grateful that my travel tribe could all work this holidays expedition into our schedules. While my friends were out stand-up paddleboarding, I decided to give cross-country skiing a try (and was lucky enough to win the onboard lottery for the empty space!).
Cross country skiers tackle the fresh powder on the 7th continent, on an Antarctic expedition. Photo: Quark passenger
One of my goals on the expedition was to stay active, as I was training for a marathon at that point. I needn’t have worried, as there was plenty to keep my blood moving, from optional challenging hikes on shore and adventures like the skiing, to onboard yoga and fitness equipment. Each of us appreciated that we could set our own pace and choose which parts of the program to do.
The yoga program on our ship really exceeded my expectations, to the point that it reignited my passion for yoga. Elly was fantastic and I was surprised by the very different feeling of doing yoga on a ship; it really helped bring calm into my life, even on top of the relaxation of a vacation.
The funny thing about our group is that three of us don’t even celebrate Christmas at home! It was such a joy to celebrate with Michelle and make her first Christmas away from her family a memorable adventure exploring Antarctica. We even had a gift exchange out of the ship’s Polar Boutique, thanks to the discretion and good humour of the shop manager. We set a $20 limit and she helped make sure we didn’t buy each other the same items without giving away what the others had purchased.
Expedition staff get festive onboard the Ocean Endeavour for a Christmas cruise. Photo: Meena Joshi
I think that really summed up the spirit of expedition travel for us, on this adventure. Everyone we met, from Expedition Staff to ship crew to fellow passengers, was just completely joyous and thrilled to be celebrating Christmas on the 7th continent. Even though we were all away from home and family, it was the most magical event.
Everyone really wants to be there. Everyone is thankful to be there.
I think our little family, floating along somewhere in the Southern Ocean on Christmas, must have been about the happiest place on earth that day.
Want to spend Christmas in Antarctica?
- Explore upcoming Antarctic expedition dates & rates
- Check out Ways to Save and make your Antarctic dreams come true