It’s no secret that we are fans of expedition cruising here at Avid Cruiser; in fact, Ralph has been to Antarctica three times. With the 2019-2020 Antarctic season starting in just a few weeks, we thought it was prudent to start looking to next year. Interest in expedition cruising is continuing to grow, which means there are now more Antarctic itineraries than ever before. Today, we will look at the sailings that Hurtigruten, Seabourn, Crystal, and Lindblad offer in Antarctica.
There are many ways to get to Antarctica. Many cruises leave from Ushuaia, Argentina. Guests will travel to Ushuaia by way of Buenos Aires or Santiago. The nice thing about cruising from Buenos Aires or Santiago is that it eliminates a charter flight to Ushuaia or another southern port of call. You have time to acclimate to the ship and the sea.
Though most of the Antarctic itineraries that we hear about travel roundtrip from South America, there are a few itineraries that leave from Australia. These itineraries sail through the Ross and Tasman Sea, and the South Ocean rather than through the Drake Passage.
Getting to Antarctica is not always an easy task. Crossing the Drake Passage takes nearly two days. If you are sailing from Australia, it takes about seven days to reach Antarctica, though you will make stops as you journey to the White Continent.
Longer itineraries may visit the Falkland Islands or South Georgia. There is a chance to see wildlife on both of these islands however, you risk sending more time in potentially rough seas.
Most modern Antarctic expeditions cruise and explore the Antarctic Peninsula, which extends roughly 1,300 kilometers between Cape Adams in the Weddell Sea to Eklund Islands. A few expeditions — most notably those operated by Quark Expeditions — have gone as far as Robert Falcon Scott’s old stomping grounds just off of the Ross Sea in past years, allowing guests to come ashore and step into the party’s Terra Nova hut, which sits largely as it was in 1910.
Guests can expect most of their Antarctic cruises to consist of setting out by zodiacs to explore remote islands and ice floes. The cruise companies are largely making up their schedules as they go to ensure optimal viewing experiences of both scenery and wildlife.
Hurtigruten is a Norwegian company that has more than 100 years of sailing under its belt. The company was founded when the Norwegian government sought to develop a reliable maritime lifeline along the Norwegian Coast. Carrying cargo and passengers, Hurtigruten’s 12-day coastal cruise along the Norwegian coast has been billed – and arguably so – as “the world’s most beautiful voyage.”
While cruising Antarctica aboard MS Fram Aaron Saunders wrote:
Hurtigruten focuses as much on the rich history of exploration and adventure in Antarctica as they do on things like penguins and ice floes. After all, the venerable Norwegian line has been sailing the polar waters of Arctic Norway for over a century, and during that time, they’ve learned a thing or two about exploration. Fram herself has sailed to Antarctica each winter since she first set sail in 2007, and her crew and Expedition Team have amassed an enormous wealth of polar experience during that time.
Highlights Of The Frozen Continent – 13-days roundtrip from Buenos Aires/Ushuaia
This 13-day itinerary starts with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires before guests board MS Midnatsol in Ushuaia. Guests will spend two days crossing the Drake Passage before arriving in Antartica where they will stay for five days. After crossing the Drake Passage a second time, guests will end their expedition in Ushuaia where they will be transferred to the airport in Buenos Aires.
The Ultimate Expedition – 23-days roundtrip from Buenos Aires/Ushuaia
Like the itinerary outlined above, and most of the itineraries we will look at today, this itinerary starts and ends in Buenos Aires. Guests will start their journey with an overnight in Buenos Aires before embarking MS Fram in Ushuaia. Guests will then spend a few days at sea between visiting The Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Five days will be spent in Antarctica before crossing the Drake Passage and returning to Ushuaia.
Christmas On The White Continent – 17-days roundtrip from Buenos Aires/Ushuaia
Similar to Hurtigruten’s first Antarctica itinerary we looked at, this journey starts with an overnight in Buenos Aires. Guest will board MS Midnatsol in Ushuaia and then venture toward Antarctica, spending two days crossing the Drake Passage before their arrival. Guests will spend 10 days in Antarctica before heading back to Ushuaia where their cruise will conclude.
Seabourn currently has only one ship operating expeditions, Seabourn Quest. Retrofitted with Zodiacs in 2013 so that it could operate expeditions, Seabourn Quest carries up to 450 guests, making it among the largest vessels (capacity-wise) operating in Antarctica. See In Video, Antarctica: Exploring The White Continent On Seabourn Quest
In July of 2018, Seabourn announced that it will build two new expedition vessels to enter service in 2021 and 2022. The 170 meter, 23,000 gross ton vessels will add new capacity for Seabourn in Antarctica, the Arctic, and other exotic destinations around the world while meeting PC6 Polar Class standards. Each will feature 132 oceanfront veranda suites, which will be home for up to 264 guests.
24-Day Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia – From San Antonio, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina
This 24-day itinerary starts in San Antonio (Santiago), where guests will embark Seabourn Quest. During the sailing guests will cruise the Reloncavi Sound, Chilean Fjords, El Brujo Glacier, Canal Sarmiento, Straight Of Magellan, Beagle Channel, and Drake Passage. Between scenic cruising and days at sea, guests will visit Puerto Montt, Isla Chiloe, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, South Georgia, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. Guests will spend six days in Antarctica.
*This sailing is also offered as a holiday itinerary from December 20, 2020 – January 13, 2021, with a few changes in ports.
21-Day Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia – From San Antonio, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina
This is a variation of the above itinerary that calls on most of the same ports. While this itinerary offers the same scenic cruising, it sacrifices a stop in South Georgia.
43-Day The Americas & Antarctica – From Miami, Florida to Buenos Aires, Argentina
Like the above itineraries, this sailing spends many days scenic cruising. In fact, of 43 days, 23 days are spent cruising. However, there is a lot to be seen and the cruising days include transiting the Panama Canal, and cruising the fjords of Chile. Guests will cruise down the coast of Chile before arriving in Ushuaia, where they will head for Antarctica. After six days in Antarctica, guests will head back to Ushuaia, stopping in the Falkland Islands and Montevideo.
While Crystal Cruises will launch its first true expedition vessel in 2020, Crystal Endeavor, the company has operated expedition-style cruises on its 62-passenger yacht, Crystal Esprit, and on Crystal Serenity, which has done two Northwest Passage crossings (in 2016 and 2017).
The 200-guest capacity Crystal Endeavor will offer extreme adventures by air, sea and land with a complete range of expedition equipment that includes two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions, as well as two, 7-person submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, fishing facilities, paddleboards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, recompression chamber, dive support tender and a multi-person ATV.
Hobart To Christchurch (Lyttelton), or reverse – 22-nights
Unlike the itineraries that we have looked at so far, this itinerary does not start in South America. It departs from either Australia or New Zealand. Guests taking the Hobart to Christchurch itinerary will embark Crystal Endeavor in Tasmania before heading toward Antarctica. Guests will spend four days cruising both the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean before reaching the Belleny Islands. After spending one day in the region, guests will spend two more days at sea before reaching Cape Adare. From Cape Adare, guests will visit Cape Hallet and Roget, and then spend multiple days at Ross Island. Guests will venture onto Marble Point and Coulman Island before heading to New Zealand to disembark.
Ushuaia Roundtrip – 11-nights
Crystal also has two itineraries that sail from South America, the first being its 11-night itinerary roundtrip from Ushuaia. After embarking Crystal Endeavor and crossing the Drake Passage, guests will spend eight days in Antarctica, and then return to Ushuaia do disembark the ship.
Ushuaia Roundtrip – 15-nights
Similar to the above itinerary, this itinerary differentiates itself by making stops in the Falkland Islands before guests arrive in Antarctica.
Lars-Eric Lindblad lead the first “citizen-explorer” expedition to Antarctica in 1966. Continuing to sail Antarctica and the rest of the globe, the company grew into what is now known as Lindblad Expeditions. Not only does Lindblad have an extensive expedition history of its own but the company is also partnered with National Geographic. This partnership allows guests can cruise beside the scientists, researchers, and naturalists that make up National Geographic’s team on board.
Antarctica, S. Georgia & The Falklands – 24-days from Buenos Aires or Santiago, to Ushuaia
Guests will spend a night in Santiago if they are sailing aboard National Geographic Orion. If they are sailing aboard National Geographic Explorer or Endurance they will spend a night in Buenos Aires before heading to Ushuaia to embark their ship. After a day at sea, guests will spend six days in Antarctica, they will then visit South Georgia Island, where they will spend five days. On the final days of the journey, guests will visit the Falkland Islands before heading back to Ushuaia.
Antarctica: The White Continent – 14-days from Buenos Aires or Santiago, to Ushuaia
Like the above itinerary, guests will either fly into Buenos Aires or Santiago, ship dependent. Then guests will cross the Drake Passage before spending six days in Antarctica. Guests will disembark in Ushuaia.
South Georgia & The Falklands – 19-days from Buenos Aires to Stanley, Falklands
Unlike most of the itineraries we have looked at so far, this itinerary does not go to Antarctica. However, it is included on the list because it follows the same model as the other Antarctica itineraries we have looked at so far. Guests will fly into Buenos Aires, then embark National Geographic Explorer in Ushuaia. Guests will spend two days in the Falkland Islands at the beginning of the trip, seven days at South Georgia Island in the middle of the trip, and three days in the Falkland Islands at the end of the trip.
Epic Antarctic Voyage – 35-days from Buenos Aires to Dunedin, NZ
This voyage different than those we’ve looked at so far because it starts in South America and ends in New Zealand. Guests will start their journey in Buenos Aires before embarking National Geographic Endurance in Ushuaia. After crossing the Drake Passage, guests will spend 21 days cruising Antarctica, from the Antarctic Peninsula, to West Antarctica, to the Ross Sea. After exploring Antarctica, guests will spend two days in Macquarie Island, Australia before heading to explore New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands. Guests will disembark the ship in Dunedin before heading back home.