There are a number of cruise and adventure tour companies taking ships down each year. Although some of the bigger cruise ships do head south it’s the smaller ones, around 80 to 100 metres long, that provide a much closer encounter with the big white land. These expedition ships are designed to handle the harsher sea conditions, deliver a good standard of service and an excellent land and sea experience. The season runs October to March.
Almost all the Antarctic cruises leave from Ushuaia, at the bottom of Argentina. The vast sea area to the south of Patagonia, which incorporates Cape Horn and parts of Tierra del Fuego, is a wild, empty place that begs investigating. Most cruises head to the Antarctic Peninsula, which is an extension of the Andean mountain chain, broken from the mainland by the tempestuous Drake Passage. It curls up in an arc from deep within the Antarctic Circle, giving an opportunity to see many kinds of penguins, seals, whales and seabirds.
Most ships have kayaks and zodiacs on board so passengers can get off and explore, and several allow on-shore camping, if the weather is good, and diving for the hardy. On-board biologists lead shore excursions and facilitate lectures and discussions on the surrounding wildlife and environment. Food is very important on any ship and even the cheaper cruises have a great menu and good standards of service. There’s a full range of cruises available from 5-star down to standard, and the prices to match.
Peregrine and World Expeditions have good mid-range cruises, while G-Adventures (ex-Gap) have more entry-level cruises. These start at around $5300 per person for a basic 9 day trip, triple share; while a 15 day trip in a deluxe cabin on a Peregrine Cruise costs around $20,000 per person. Add on airfares to and from Ushuaia; through Buenos Aires is easiest and allows you to add a side trip or two pre- or post-cruise – maybe the Galapagos islands, Iguazu Falls or Rio de Janiero.
Some cruises include, or only go to, the Falklands, South Georgia, the South Orkney Islands and the South Shetland Islands including Elephant Island. World Journeys also have what they call an Air Cruise, where you fly direct from Punta Arenas to the South Shetland Islands, avoiding the sometimes hostile sea crossing past Cape Horn and the Drake Passage.
There are still some good specials for this season if you book by 30 November.
For details of any of these trips email us today.