The family juggled their travel gear in the customs line, happily chatting away about their wonderful week in Antarctica.
The parents photographed penguins, the kids toured restored historic research stations. And the eight-year-old even kept up with his violin practice.
This isn't your father's Antarctica. Things have changed since Lars-Eric Lindblad started taking rich old folk to gawk at penguins in 1966.
Even at 60s prices, trips still cost at least£6200. The only two ships, World Discoverer and World Explorer, were cramped by cruise-ship standards but the service was luxurious.
Only the very rich could afford this and, even into the 90s, the number of tourists hardly climbed above 5000 a season.
Today, there are museums, research on tourist impact, large cruise ships, guided mountain-climbing expeditions, scuba trips and a Lonely Planet guide.
At its peak, during the 1999-2000 austral summer season, nearly 14,000 visitors went to Antarctica. Even last year, amid global economic troubles, the number was 11,500.
Vessels these days range from tiny sailing ships to 1,300-passenger Holland America ships, complete with casinos, night-club acts and midnight buffets. These cruise by and dont do Zodiac landings.
But most Antarctic tourism is done aboard decommissioned Russian research ships with ice-hardened or ice-breaking hulls and small numbers of passengers (50-90). Their more rugged itineraries include hiking, kayaking and scuba-diving.
Most tourists visit the Antarctic Peninsula, a long, jutting finger of land that brings Antarctica within a two-day sail of South America and has relatively hospitable weather (temperatures around 5C or so) during the austral summer (December-early March).
There was an hotel at the Chilean station on an island here in the 80s, and in 1989 Antarctic tourism companies adopted guidelines to manage visits. But it was the collapse of the USSR and all those Russian ex-research ships that led to todays boom.
Tourist conduct is governed by the (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a Colorado-based trade group with 32 member-companies. Its rules say you dont go closer than 5m to the penguins (though they are allowed to approach you, nibble you etc). The rule with fur seals is 14m, because they can get aggressive.
You leave nothing behind, and that includes modesty trips behind a bush. Go before and hold it in, said one tour guide.
And while there was a period in the early 90s when tourists were unwelcome at some research stations because they were seen as disrupting their work, this attitude has changed, especially among smaller stations run by smaller nations and relying on tourist dollars for funding.
Vernadsky, a Ukrainian station, sells everything from pins and T-shirts to coldweather gear and maps. And several former research stations have been turned into museums.
Port Lockroy closed in 1962 as a British research station and reopened in 1994 as Historic Site and Monument No 61. It, and the even older Wordie station nearby, were restored to how they looked at their peak and are staffed throughout the summer.
Not to sit idle between the 100 or so visits (we were ship No 93 of the season), the resident biologists at Port Lockroy have been conducting a study of tourist visits and gentoo penguin hatchings. They divided a nearby island into visit and non-visit areas and then sat back to see what happened.
Curiously, said Amanda Lynnes, a British penguin biologist, the eggs were slightly more successful in the visit area. The working theory is that tourists scare off the predatory skuas.
There are researchers who would close Antarctica to tourists or restrict their numbers, but many feel that the visits do no harm because of the strict rules.
When you land at Goudier Island [near Port Lockroy and one of the most visited spots in Antarctica], just imagine the number of people who... have been there before you... probably 6000 this season alone, said Pete Milner, one of the two researchers manning Port Lockroy.
Just have a look. Theres no litter, the water is completely clean. This is because people adhere to the environmental standards for tourism.
And its important for people to see what is effectively the last pristine wilderness weve got. There isnt one after this. If we mess up this one, its too late. - Yvette Cardozo


There are reckoned to be about 300,000breeding pairs of gentoo penguins in Antarctica


The Port Lockroy research station