A massive rookery of penguins shuffles across a frozen shore, a pod of whales glides through frigid waters, dramatic landscapes float off in the distanceÂ—welcome to Antarctica. You'll sail the Drake Passage past the South Shetland Islands and then really explore the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The safe and comfortable Expedition is ideally suited to these icy waters and its expert staff are there to ensure you'll fully appreciate all the majesty you encounter. Prepare yourself for an adventure like no other.
Day 1: Arrive Ushuaia
Arrive into Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Make your way to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure. Sitting on the shores of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia actually means 'the bay facing westward' in the language of the original Yamna inhabitants. Once a penal colony (the presidio was disbanded in the 1940s) for political prisoners as well as hardened criminals, Ushuaia is now a major tourist attraction, particularly for people cruising to Antarctica. The town of 40,000 is also a major ski resort area for both alpine and cross-country skiers and offers magnificent hiking in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the only coastal national park in Argentina.
Day 2: Ushuaia
Today, you will embark on the Expedition. Group embarkation is set for 4 p.m. The morning is free to do any last minute shopping or an optional excursion to the Terra Del Fuego National park or a good hike up to the Marshall Glacier. The evening is spent on board the ship watching the sunset over the Beagle Channel. Please note while it is intended to adhere to the itinerary described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. On the first day on board, your Expedition Leader will give you an expedition overview.
Days 3-4: The Drake Passage
Your adventure begins with a 400-mile crossing of the passage that bears the name of the 16th century English explorer Sir Francis Drake. The Expedition is at home in this part of the Southern Ocean, known for the unimpeded fetch of the winds that encircle the Antarctic. At some point on the second day you cross the Antarctic Convergence, a meeting of cold polar water flowing north and warmer equatorial water moving in the opposite direction. This mixing pushes nutrient rich waters to the surface attracting a variety of seabirds, whales and other species. As you make the passage you have time to become acquainted with the ship and frequent the common areas that include the lounge, dining hall, library and lecture hall where you will meet your guides, shipÂ’s crew and expedition staff. The lecture and information sessions begin where you can learn the extraordinary human and natural history of the Antarctic region.
Days 5-6: Antarctic Peninsula / South Shetland Islands
This is what you've been waiting for - a chance to step foot on the Great White Continent! Over the next few days, you will navigate southwards making stops in the South Shetland Islands then through the Bransfield Strait and to the Antarctic Peninsula. The goal is to attempt two excursions per day while navigating through the area, but the itinerary and daily schedule will be based on the local weather and ice conditions encountered. The Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands abound with wildlife activity. Penguins gather with their fast-growing chicks, seals haul out onto ice floes and beaches, and numerous albatross and other seabirds trail in your wake. There is plenty of time to enjoy the sheer beauty and the breathtaking scenery of ice-choked waterways, blue and white icebergs, impressive glaciers and rugged snow-capped mountains. The Peninsula also has a remarkable history and, during the voyage, you will learn about some of the most important and dramatic expeditions to this remote corner of the world. Keeping a lookout from the Bridge or the deck of the ship, as it threads its way along the continent, you'll feel the same sense of excitement as many of those early explorers.
Days 7-8: Polar Circle Crossing
You set off southward along the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Passing colossal icebergs and countless colonies of penguins, you push on with your goal in mind - crossing the Antarctic Polar Circle. Few travelers have ventured this far south, but with your fully equipped ice-strengthened vessel and favorable sea conditions, you can access many remote locations other ships just can't reach.
Days 9-11: Antarctic Peninsula / South Shetland Islands
You will continue your exploration of the peninsula and then into the South Shetlands as you move North again. Keeping a close eye out for wildlife, you might have to opportunity to do some whale watching or even go for a polar plunge in the Southern waters.
Days 12-13: The Drake Passage
Today, begin the journey back to your home port of Ushuaia. The final two days at sea are a perfect time to reflect on your memorable adventure and the lectures and guides will be on hand to review the highlights of your Antarctic experience.
Day 14: Depart Ushuaia
And so the adventure comes to a close. You will say your goodbyes as you disembark in Ushuaia in the morning.