Embark on a trip-of-a-lifetime cruise to Antarctica where amazing wildlife and landscapes await you. This 11-night cruise aboard the Polar Pioneer offers excellent opportunities to see penguins, whales, seals, glaciers, icebergs and more!
• Available on new bookings only
• Cannot be combined with other offers
• Discounts available on all cabin categories
• TravelWild reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time and without prior notification
|TRIPLE SHARED||TWIN SHARED||TWIN PRIVATE||MINI SUITE||SUITE|
|Dec 16, 2017 - Dec 27, 2017||$8,900||$10,400||$11,900||$13,500||$14,900|
|Jan 6, 2019 - Jan 16, 2019||$9,700|
Day 1 - Ushuaia
Expeditioners will gather in Ushuaia, and have time to explore the bustling community that lays claim to being the world’s most southerly town. It sits beneath the spectacular mountains of Tierra del Fuego on the edge of the Beagle Channel. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied while waiting to board Polar Pioneer at 16:00 (4pm). You could take a trip to the Lapataia National Park by train or bus, or visit the small museum, which has informative displays about the original inhabitants and the current population of Tierra del Fuego.
Ushuaia is a duty-free port with a reputation for its Argentine chocolates, cheap alcohol and leather goods, and is a great place to buy souvenirs and presents. There are a host of excellent restaurants available whether looking for a quick coffee, an excellent meal of king crab or an Argentine barbecue.
Our competent Russian crew will welcome us aboard Polar Pioneer in the afternoon. Sailing down the Beagle Channel, we will settle into shipboard life and enjoy our first meal on board.
Days 2 to 3 - Drake Passage
Cape Horn, the most southerly point of the American continent, has stimulated the imagination of mankind since Sir Francis Drake inadvertently rounded it back in 1580. Some of us will approach this historic crossing with more than a little trepidation. But despite its reputation, there are many times when the Drake Passage resembles a lake, with lazy Southern Ocean swells rolling under the keel. On the other hand, we sometimes encounter rough crossings with large waves. The size of the waves and the force of the gale will take on gigantic proportions when related around the fire back home. At sea we are totally self-sufficient. The days flow by as we travel snugly in our cocoon. A favorite pastime on board is to stand at the stern watching the many seabirds, including majestic albatrosses and giant petrels following in our wake. They rise and fall skillfully, using air currents created by the ship to gain momentum. During our Drake crossing, we will commence our lecture program on the wildlife, geology, history and geography of the Antarctic Peninsula. We will be given guidelines for approaching wildlife and talk about the implications of the Antarctic Treaty.
Kayakers and snorkelers will be introduced to their waterproof drysuits and be briefed for their paddling adventures. The climbers will prepare their equipment ready for their lofty Antarctic adventure. Nearing the tip of the Peninsula towards the end of day three, excitement reaches fever pitch with everyone on the bridge watching for our first iceberg. The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once we are below the Antarctic Convergence and are surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures. The memory of your first big iceberg sighting is likely to remain with you forever.
Days 4 to 9 - Antarctic Peninsula
Depending on the weather, we will first approach Antarctica near the South Shetland Islands, entering Bransfield Strait either at the eastern end of King George Island or the western extremity of Livingston Island. We may pass by historic Smith Island, which is the outer limit of the South Shetlands. A host of choices are now open to us and depending on the ice and weather conditions the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is ours to explore. Our experienced leaders, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design our voyage from day to day. This allows us to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Because we are so far south, we will experience approximately 18-20 hours' daylight and the days will be as busy as you wish. There is plenty of time for sleep when you get home! We are always keen to explore new territory, so if the opportunity arises, we will! Who knows where we will go?
During this voyage, there might be an opportunity for the more intrepid to camp for a night on the ice. This will give you the chance to sample the style of adventure that Scott, Shackleton and other legendary Antarctic explorers experienced. Be comforted - our warm and comfortable ship with its hot showers will be only a short distance away! Once we arrive in the calmer waters of Bransfield and Gerlache Straits, we hope to make landings and/or go kayaking two to three times a day. To get ashore we will use Zodiacs (inflatable rubber boats). You will have been briefed on the workings of these sturdy craft and their use, during our Drake Passage crossing. Sometimes we will cruise along spectacular ice cliffs, or make contact with whales, penguins and seals. In these situations we will appreciate the distinct advantage of being on a small vessel, which gives everyone the opportunity to experience these very special close encounters with wildlife. Our Western chefs serve hearty meals in our cozy dining rooms. Accompanied by good conversation, they will become a focal point of our shipboard life. A sample of the many exciting places that we would like to visit follows:
A unique landing place on the Peninsula – tiny toes of land that are literally alive with wildlife. Here we will find two species of penguins breeding, chinstraps and gentoos. It is not uncommon to find wallows of elephant seals that are 60 beasts strong. Giant petrels nest on the ridgeline. The vegetation consists of mosses, lichens and the only grass species that grows in Antarctica. All this is set against a stunning backdrop, underneath long black scree slopes at the foot of the mountains and glaciers of Livingston Island.
Half Moon Island
A wildlife-rich island tucked into a neat bay at the eastern end of Livingston Island. On a clear day the glaciers and mountains of Livingston Island dominate the scene. There is a large chinstrap penguin rookery tucked in between basaltic turrets colored by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. At one extremity of the island there is a large colony of nesting blue-eyed shags. At the other end lies a small Argentine station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways.
Visiting Deception Island is like making a journey to the moon. We sail through the narrow opening of Neptune's Bellows to enter the flooded volcanic crater. Inside is an unworldly scene, virtually devoid of life. Glaciers flow down from the edge of the crater, littered by black volcanic ash. We can explore the lifeless remains of a derelict whaling station and a vacant British base, or climb to the rim of the crater. Steam often rises from the shore indicating that the water is actually warm enough for a swim, for those who dare. Outside the crater, if conditions allow, we might land at Bailey Head to explore the enormous chinstrap penguin rookery that featured in David Attenborough's Life in the Freezer series.
A protected bay surrounded by magnificent peaks and spectacular glaciers, the rocky cliffs of this unforgettable piece of heaven provide perfect nesting sites for blue-eyed shags, terns and gulls. The serenity of Paradise Harbor envelops us once the sound of the dropping anchor fades from our ears. This is a haven for whales and we keep our eyes open for humpbacks, orcas and minkes, as well as crabeater seals, as we explore the bay in Zodiacs. Imagine being so close to a whale that when he surfaces to blow, the fishy spray of his exhalation momentarily blurs your vision. Words cannot describe this experience.
If the ice conditions allow, standing on the bow of Polar Pioneer and quietly moving through the narrow Lemaire Channel could be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs tower 700 meters directly above the ship. The water can be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface. Gigantic icebergs clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct our passage.
This group of low-lying unprotected granitic rocks protrude from the sea, swept by ocean swells. At first these rocks appear uninteresting, but on closer investigation, calm channels lead to a hidden interior where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds and noisy chinstraps raise their families on rocky platforms. Hydrurga is Latin for leopard seal, and on occasions we see some skulking in the shallows. There are many places to simply sit and watch the rise and fall of clear green water and listen to the magic sounds and calls of the wildlife. Other places we may visit around the Antarctic Peninsula are: Petermann Island; Penola Strait; Neko Harbour; Antarctic Sound; and Scientific Bases of Ferraz (Brazilian), Vernadsky (Ukrainian) or Port Lockroy, a historic British base that is now a museum and post office.
Days 10 to 11 - Drake Passage
Time to head back to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, with lectures and videos to complete our Antarctic education. This is a time for reflection and discussion about what we have seen and felt, and the impact this voyage has had on our attitude to life. As we approach the tip of South America, our Captain may sail close to legendary Cape Horn, weather conditions permitting.
Day 12 - Beagle Channel & Ushuaia
During the early morning, we cruise up the Beagle Channel, before quietly slipping into dock in Ushuaia, where we will be free to disembark around 09:00. It’s a busy time, saying farewell to our crew and to fellow passengers who have shared the intensity of exploring this magnificent white wilderness. We head off in our different directions, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature. At the conclusion of the voyage, flights are not to be booked from Ushuaia prior to 12 noon on the day of disembarkation.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the nature of expedition cruising, itineraries are subject to change due to weather, ice conditions, natural and cultural events, wildlife viewing opportunities and other logistical considerations. In general, a ship's crew will endeavor to complete the itinerary provided, but the ultimate decision lies with the ship's captain and expedition leaders.