This cruise gets us off the most-commonly traveled route to visit some seldom-visited islands. Known as the Scotia Arc, this chain of islands runs from Antarctica to the Andes. In addition to stops at the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, we'll visit South Shetland, South Sandwich and South Orkney archipelagos.
Your gateway for this expedition is Ushuaia, Argentina. Nestled within the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, Ushuaia offers you a small-town feel but has many shops, museums, cafes and restaurants to enjoy before your voyage. If you're feeling adventurous, the nearby national park and Martial Glacier offer plenty of hiking and outdoor activities.
As you embark, the anticipation and excitement grows. Trade your land legs for sea legs, meet and greet your fellow travelers and get acquainted with your ship. As every Antarctic adventure presents new opportunities and experiences, Embarkation day is just as exciting for your Expedition Team as it is for you. They're onboard to ensure your comfort and safety, as well as help make your wildlife dreams come true.
There are many activities to keep you engaged while you're at sea. Learn to identify seabirds that glide alongside the ship or attend illustrated presentations by your knowledgeable Expedition Team. You will be prepped on procedures for your Zodiac cruises and shore landings. You'll also be given instructions for getting the most out of your optional kayaking adventures, a truly intimate way to experience the Antarctic.
Upon arrival in this archipelago your cameras will get their first real workout capturing the abundant wildlife and rugged feel of the Falklands. The archipelago contains two main islands - East and West, which we will explore by Zodiac excursions and daily landings. Port Stanley is often a favoured landing site, as the town offers a unique British outpost feel to it, complete with a bit of a ramshackle charm. You'll be free to explore the town, grab a pint at the local pub, or visit numerous churches and museums.
In terms of wildlife, the archipelago is home to Magellanic, gentoo and rockhopper penguins. If lucky, you may even spot king penguins here as well! We can expect to see black-browed albatross and two endemic species; Cobb's wren and the Falkland's flightless steamer duck.
Your team of lecturers and specialists will be sure to educate you on the local flora and fauna so that you get the most out of your time in the Falklands.
Sailing south, you'll officially enter Antarctic waters by crossing the invisible biological boundary called the Antarctic Convergence. Encircling the continent, cold Antarctic waters meet and mix with the warmer waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, creating the abundance of krill and marine life that attracts whales and seals to this part of the world. Ship staff will be sure to keep you posted when we cross this invisible, yet important line.
This remote outpost was a popular stop for many historic Antarctic expeditions and was once a haven for hunting whales and elephant and fur seals. Today, South Georgia Island wildlife populations have rebounded, but you'll still see remnants of those old whaling stations and other abandoned outposts.
One significant and historic site that will be of interest is the grave of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. You can visit his grave at the settlement of Grytviken, which is also home to an old whaling station, a museum, gift shop, church and a research station of approximately 20 scientists and support personnel.
While South Georgia's history is an important attraction to the islands, it is the wildlife on South Georgia that you and your shipmates will surely find most captivating. Often referred to as the Galapagos of the Poles, each landing you make on South Georgia will open your eyes to a new wonder of wildlife.
One day you may see colonies with a hundred thousand pairs of king penguins waddling on the beach. The next day we may visit another beach with thousands of fur seals or elephant seals. The grasses, mountains and beaches of South Georgia all play an important role in the breeding and survival of different species on the island, this fragile and symbiotic relationship is something that your Expedition Team will share with you during your time here.
Say goodbye to the king penguins, as your next destination is Antarctica! Your days at sea are filled with seminars from your Expedition Team, who will prepare you for the wildlife that will be greeting you upon your arrival in Antarctica. In between presentations, spend time chatting with your shipmates over a drink at the bar.
Arriving in the South Sandwich region, our first stop is Zavadovski Island, a small volcanic island and home to one of the world's largest penguin colonies. Almost a million breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins can be found here, in the shadow of the recently active Mount Asphyxia volcano. The island was discovered in 1819 by Russian Antarctic explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and named for Lieutenant Ivan Zavodovski, the captain of this ship, the Vostok.
Discovered in 1775 by Captain James Cook, Saunders Island was named for Sir Charles Saunders, First Lord of the Admiralty. Saunders is home to another active stratovolcano, Mount Michael, at almost a kilometer in height, which last erupted in 2012. In the crater is a recurrent lava lake, one of only a few in the world. Over half the island is covered by a permanent ice cap, but we will still find penguin colonies on the rugged shores.
Off the beaten track, the South Orkney Islands will draw you in with their vibrant scenery, rich bird life and the towering icebergs that collect along their shores. Here, we'll find graceful snow petrels, silver-grey fulmars, as well as chinstrap, Adélie and Gentoo penguins.
If you are lucky, and ice conditions are right, there will be an excursion to Coronation Island to observe penguins nesting in moss beds alongside playful fur seals. You may also stop at the remote island of Laurie, and visit the oldest human outpost in Antarctica, Argentina's Orcadas Base.
Elephant Island and surrounding islands (Northern part of the South Shetlands): where Shackleton landed with his crew in 1916 and departed on the James Caird to seek help from South Georgia.
The most common reaction to arriving at the white continent is a sense of reverence and awe. The experience is hard to put into words, as few places are as untouched, unique and enduring as Antarctica. You will discover that Antarctica is a land of extremes. At one moment you'll be overcome with a feeling of complete desolation and silence, at the next moment you'll be inspired by nature as a calving glacier crashes into the brilliant blue sea or a penguin comes waddling by to inspect your footwear.
Your Expedition Team will take care of you at each landing, whether it is trekking up a glacier, visiting a research station or consorting with penguin colonies. Chinstrap, Adélie and gentoo penguins are found here, along with Weddell, fur, crabeater and leopard seals. Curious whales, such as minke's, are often attracted to Zodiacs as well, giving you a chance to get within reaching distance of these majestic animals. Each day and every landing will present a new collection of creatures to entertain you and keep your camera shutter busy.
As exciting as the Zodiac excursions and landings are, perhaps you'll treat yourself to an extra special Antarctic experience by partaking in an optional (extra cost) kayaking excursion or going for a swim in the Antarctic!
After more than two weeks of endless wildlife encounters, your journey home begins. Crossing the Drake Passage is your unofficial rite of passage, completing your Antarctic adventure.
Enjoy some final moments mingling with your fellow travelers. The noisy, busy, populated world awaits your return, so savour the silence of the sea as long as you can.
After breakfast aboard the ship, it is time to part ways and say goodbye to your Expedition Team. We will transfer you to the airport for your homeward flight.
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.