ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPEDITION CRUISE TO ICE-BOUND CONTINENT, REMOTE NATURAL RESERVE WITH THRIVING WILDLIFE; ANTARCTICA
Day 1 – Arrive Santiago, Chile
There are direct flights to/from Santiago, Chile from USA’s cities, such as Miami, Atlanta, Huston, Dallas and New York. Upon arrival at the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, we transfer to our hotel. At the hotel, we meet our cruise expedition team, collect our itinerary and enjoy a relaxing dinner.
Note: Our Antarctica itinerary takes place aboard the National Geographic Orion, a luxurious cruise ship managed by Lindblad-National Geographic. The selected cruise to Antarctica is an expensive luxury and once in a life time adventure. Antarctica’s remote location requires an extra insurance for emergency evacuation, which can be purchased through Lindblad-National Geographic. Before departure, we advise obtaining a prescription medication for motion sickness, in preparation for crossing the Drake Passage. Onboard the ship, a doctor is available 24 hours a day. Our expedition cruise takes place at Christmas, the summer season in Antarctica. The Antarctic Summer ensures bountiful sunlight and daylight, and the opportunity for a polar plunge into the icy waters of Antarctica. The cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia, the popular tourist town situated in the southernmost part of South America. There are direct flights to/from Ushuaia to Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hence, our Antarctica Itinerary can be extended to visit either of these cities.
Day 2 – Santiago, Chile Departure, Arrive & Depart Ushuaia, Argentina
In the morning, we take the chartered flight to Ushuaia, the popular tourist city situated in the southern tip of South America. Upon arrival at the Malvinas Argentinas International Airport, we transfer to the Park National Tierra del Fuego to explore its wildlife and coastal scenery. We follow the hiking route along the Beagle Channel towards the catamaran docked at the shore. The catamaran cruise follows a scenic route along the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia Port, as we enjoy a relaxing lunch aboard the boat. Upon arrival at the port, we walk along the bay to the Ushuaia Maritime Museum, to visit the historic prison created in 1902. After the visit, we board the National Geographic Orion and depart to Antarctica.
Day 3 – Drake Passage
Our journey to Antarctica begins at the Drake Passage, the challenging open sea route between the Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula. Our crossing of the Drake Passage is a surprisingly manageable, smooth sailing with waves. At sea, we meet our fellow passengers and gather at the lounge for lectures presented by the experienced team of naturalists, diver masters and nature photographers. We learn about Antarctica and its topography, species of whales, colonies of penguins, seals and different birds. At the Bridge Deck, we meet the captain and learn about the cruise vessel and our selected navigational route to Antarctica. We spend joyful hours in the lounge, library, dining room and our cabin.
Day 4 – Half Moon Island, Deception Island
Early in the morning, our cruise ship arrives at the South Shetland Islands. The dive team embarks on an underwater expedition to photograph the Leopard and Weddell seals. At the lounge, we listen to lectures about Antarctica, penguins and nature photography. We learn about the landing and decontamination guidelines in preparation to explore Antarctica. Our vessel traverses the passage between Livingstone Island and Greenwich Island, toward Half Moon Island, located at the entrance to Moon Bay. Late afternoon, we take the Zodiac boats to the Half Moon Island to observe a colony of over 4,000 pairs of breeding Chinstrap penguins. At the island, we follow the designated hike route and admire panoramic views of the surrounding islands. We return to our cruise ship for dinner.
Day 5 – Fridtjof Strait, Devil Island
Traversing the Fridtjof Strait and the Weddell Sea, we have the unexpected opportunity to observe a pod of Killer whales (Orcas). After breakfast, we steer the Zodiac boats along the icebergs, observing the groups of Adélie penguins resting on the floating ice. In the afternoon, our cruise ship reaches Devil Island where we explore a colony of 10,000 Adélie penguins, residing on the island. We spend hours watching and photographing the penguins, and hike to the lookout point with panoramic coastal views. We return to our cruise ship and listen to exciting lectures about Antarctica. Late afternoon, we embark on an amazing kayak excursion along the calm icy waters, naturally colorful icebergs and incredible scenery. Back at the cruise ship, we have a relaxing dinner.
Day 6 – Gerlache Strait, Cayley Glacier
As we traverse the Antarctic waters, we listen to the lecture about the historic 1902 Swedish Antarctic Expedition. En route to the Gerlache Strait, we admire the incredible nature scenery and observe the majestic Humpback whales. As we approach the Brialmont Cove, the snow is falling, decorating the massive icebergs and ice sheets with thick snow. As the cruise ship moves forward, breaking through the thick ice, we observe a seal sleeping on the massive ice block. We arrive in front of the enormous Cayley Glacier, a stunning creation of nature. Dressed in heavy winter clothing, we stand for hours on the front deck, photographing its ice caves and crevasses.
Day 7 – Neko Harbour, Paradise Harbour, Lemaire Channel
It is early morning as we wake up to an incredible view of Andvord Bay. After breakfast, we visit Neko Harbour to observe the colony of Gentoo penguins and leisurely hike to the lookout point overlooking Andvord Bay. Before returning to the ship, we have a bit of fun sliding down the snowy hill to the harbour. In the afternoon, we arrive at Paradise Harbour, a pristine and beautiful embayment. We take the Zodiac boats to the harbour, cruising along the stunning icebergs and wildlife, and arriving near the massive glacier wall. Back at the vessel, we listen to a presentation about the history of whaling and sealing in Antarctica. As the night approaches, the captain navigates the ship through the Lemaire Channel, an awe-inspiring passage between snow-covered mountains, cliffs and icebergs.
Day 8 – Penola Strait, Port Lockroy
Today is Christmas Eve, another gorgeous day. After breakfast and lectures, we spend blissful hours kayaking at the Penola Strait. The sun is strong and the sky is blue as we steer our kayaks at the edges of icebergs, photograph the fast swimming Adélie penguins and stop at the floating bar for refreshing drinks. An afternoon landfall at the massive ice sheet offers up close encounters with the Adélie penguins and an optional polar plunge into the icy waters. We disembark directly on the ice sheet, enjoy a glass of champagne and observe the playful penguins. It is early evening when we take the Zodiac boats to visit Port Lockroy, the natural harbour with the Antarctic British Base, established in 1944. After returning to the cruise ship, we celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional holiday dinner and a show presented by the cruise staff.
Day 9 – Hidden Bay, George Point
Blue sky, sun and calm waters greet us in the morning on Christmas Day. We steer the Zodiac boats toward Hidden Bay at the False Cape Renard. We cruise along the icebergs, observe penguins on the ice sheets and arrive in front of the magnificent glacier wall with caves and crevasses. While returning to the ship, we have an up close encounter with a pod of Humpback whales, photographing their lobtailing. At midday, our cruise ship passes through the Neumeyer Channel, turning back to the Gerlache Strait. We arrive at George Point and take the Zodiac boats to the shore for a last chance to observe a large colony of penguins. In the evening, the captain starts the navigational route toward the Drake Passage, while we observe magnificent icebergs in the middle of the ocean. Tonight, we celebrate Christmas with a traditional holiday menu.
Day 10 – Drake Passage
Our journey across the Drake Passage is wonderfully uneventful, a smooth sailing. We visit the sun deck to observe the Albatrosses flying above the cruise ship. At the lounge, the expedition naturalist lectures about whale species and whales’ behavior. It is cold and sunny outside while we enjoy the German style lunch “Früschoppen”, grilled and served on the deck. In the afternoon, the captain announces through the speaker system a whales sighting, sending us to the deck to observe the pod of Fin whales just next to our ship. In the evening, we listen to the captain’s lecture about ice navigation and watch a photo slideshow of our adventures. Late evening, cocktails are still being served as we return to our cabin to prepare our luggage for tomorrow’s departure.
Day 11 – Visit Ushuaia, Ushuaia Departure
In the morning, we enjoy a relaxing breakfast while the captain navigates the cruise ship to Ushuaia. Upon arrival in Ushuaia, we thank the ship crew for the wonderful journey and disembark at the harbour. We walk to the center of Ushuaia and spend approximately an hour exploring the picturesque town and having a light lunch at a café overlooking the Bay of Ushuaia. After our visit, we transfer to the Malvinas Argentinas International Airport to take our international flight.
Ushuaia, Argentina – Argentina is a country in South America, bordering Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and the South Pacific Ocean. Argentina is the land of the passionate dance of Tango, spellbinding nature and extraordinary biodiversity. Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago in the southernmost point of South America. The western part of the archipelago belongs to Chile. The archipelago’s eastern part is a Province of Argentina, called Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia, the capital city of Tierra del Fuego, is set along the Bay of Ushuaia, on the shores of the Beagle Channel, encircled by the snow covered Martial Mountains. A visit to the Ushuaia Maritime Museum, a historic prison created in 1902, offers the chance to learn the history of the colonization of the region. The Park National Tierra del Fuego, part of the Tierra del Fuego Islands, is a coastal nature reserve with dramatic scenery of mountains, rivers, glacial lakes and forests. The Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel and Drake Passage are the three navigable routes in South America, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Strait of Magellan is the channel separating the mainland of South America and Tierra del Fuego Archipelago. The Beagle Channel, a strait in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, separates the larger Tierra del Fuego Islands from the smaller islands. The Drake Passage is the stretch of open sea between the Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands, located north of the Antarctic Peninsula. The expedition cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia, traverse the Drake Passage and steer toward the remote Antarctic Peninsula.
Antarctica – Antarctica is an ice-bound continent, situated in the Southern Hemisphere in the Antarctic Region. The Antarctic Region is the polar region at the South Pole, consisting of Antarctica, island territories, ice shelves and the surrounding oceans. Antarctica is an extraordinary natural reserve with unparalleled scenery and diverse wildlife. In 1959, the Antarctica Treaty was signed by twelve countries and later adopted by over 50 signatory nations, to protect the environment and promote scientific research in Antarctica. The extreme climate and remote location of Antarctica, results in a steady influx of explorers, researchers and tourists. In the northern part of Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula is a long mountain chain that is 1,000 kilometers south of Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, the southernmost part of South America. During the Antarctic Summer from December to March, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands to the north of the Antarctic Peninsula, are a dream cruise destination. Our selected cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula is an incredible journey along a dramatic scenery of enormous glaciers, massive icebergs and rare wildlife. The National Geographic Orion, a luxury cruise ship, skillfully navigates the Drake Passage, a perilous waterway at the Cape Horn, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. At the South Shetland Islands, our ship’s dive team explores the underwater world and searches for Leopard and Weddell seals. A waterway passage between the Livingstone Island and the Greenwich Island leads to the Half Moon Island, a small protected bay with over 4,000 pairs of breeding Chinstrap penguins, congregating during the summer season. The next day journey across the Fridtjof Strait and the Weddell Sea includes an unexpected sighting of the majestic Orcas, Killer whales. In the morning, we steer the Zodiac boats along the magnificent icebergs, admiring awe-inspiring scenery and watching the Adélie penguins resting on the ice blocks. The afternoon landfall at Devil Island offers a chance to closely observe a colony of 10,000 Adélie penguins. The designated hike route runs along the colony of penguins and guides us to the lookout point overlooking the island. Late in the afternoon, the ocean waters are calm while we kayak along the uniquely shaped icebergs and ice sheets. The Orion vessel continues traversing the Antarctic waters to the Gerlache Strait, while we learn about the historic details of the 1902 Swedish Antarctic Expedition. The weather rapidly changes while the captain steers the cruise ship to the next destination. We go outside on the deck to observe the magnificent Humpback whales. As we journey to Brialmont Cove, the heavy snowfall, freezing temperatures and massive icebergs create the perfect winter wonderland scenery. The captain navigates the vessel forward, breaking through the very thick ice and finally stops in front of the enormous Cayley Glacier. Dressed in heavy winter clothing, we stand on the front deck, admiring the dramatic scenery of crevasses, fissures and ice caves, and watching pieces of the glacier collapsing at times into the sea. Our vessel continues its journey at night and we wake up the next morning to an incredible view of the Neko Harbour, situated on Andvord Bay. A morning excursion to the Neko Harbour includes ample time to observe a colony of Gentoo penguins and a pleasant hike to the lookout point overlooking the Andvord Bay. Neko Harbour is a natural habitat for various bird species, such as kelp gulls, skuas and snowy sheathbills. In the afternoon, we arrive at Paradise Harbour, a pristine embayment with magnificent views of glaciers and icebergs. We steer our Zodiac boats toward the massive glacier wall, admire the remarkably colorful icebergs and observe Weddell and Crabeater seals. We return to the cruise ship and listen to a lecture about the history of whaling and sealing in Antarctica. As the evening approaches, we cruise through the Lemaire Channel, a beautiful 11 kilometer long passage surrounded by mountain peaks, snow-covered cliffs and icebergs. An unusually colorful sunset and clear sky produce an absolutely stunning view, almost imaginary, of Antarctica’s natural beauty. On Christmas Eve, the sunshine and calm waters create magical conditions for our kayak excursion at the Penola Strait. We navigate our kayaks along the colorful icebergs, photograph the fast swimming Adélie penguins and enjoy refreshing cocktails served at the floating bar. An afternoon landfall at the massive ice sheet enables up close encounters with playful Adélie penguins and the optional polar plunge into the icy waters. In the early evening, we take the Zodiac boats to the Port Lockroy, a natural harbour with the British Base established in 1944. Back at the cruise ship, we celebrate Christmas Eve with dinner and Christmas Carols sung by the cruise staff. The next morning, we take Zodiac boats to Hidden Bay at the False Cape Renard. The sky is blue and the ocean waters are calm as we cruise along the mountainous topography, enormous glacier wall and the naturally colored icebergs. We observe a seal hiding in the iceberg’s crevasses and penguins resting on the snow covered cliffs. At midday, our cruise ship passes through the Neumeyer Channel back to Gerlache Strait. The landing at the George Point offers us another chance to observe the colonies of penguins in their natural habitat. As we celebrate Christmas with other guests, the captain navigates the vessel along the enormous glaciers and ice blocks. The journey back to Ushuaia is a time for relaxation, interesting lectures, a German style lunch “Früschoppen” served on the deck and watching magnificent Fin whales swimming very close to our ship. A cruise to Antarctica is a very special adventure, offering unrivaled natural scenery, memorable encounters with penguins, kayaking in icy waters and Zodiac boat excursions along the pods of whales.
Wildlife Watching – Antarctica is isolated, pristine and wild. The cold temperatures, strong winds and very dry air create extreme habitat for the wildlife. The Antarctic waters have abundant fish and Antarctic Krill (small crustacean) that are important food sources for a diverse wildlife. Penguins, seals, whales and seabirds can withstand the cold climate of Antarctica. During our journey, we encounter three Pygoscelis species of penguins: Chinstrap, Adélie and Gentoo. The penguins’ tightly packed feathers act as an insulation against the cold weather, while the color of their white front and black back acts as a camouflage when hunting or evading the predators. Chinstrap penguins have a white face with an identifiable thin black line under the chin and primarily eat Antarctic Krill. Adélie penguins create nests with pebbles, carrying stones in their beaks, and at times taking stones from their neighbour’s nest to build their own. They are fast swimmers, deep divers and are primarily krill eaters. Gentoo penguins stand out with their red-orange beaks, light orange feet and long tail. They are nurturing parents who build circularly shaped nests with pebbles. As we hike along the large colonies of penguins, we notice the guano, the penguins’ excrements with their strong odor. While kayaking in the icy Antarctic waters, we observe at close range a groups of penguins gathered atop the icebergs. Walking on the massive ice sheet, we encounter spirited Adélie penguins sliding on their bellies in a zigzagging style. Cruising in Zodiac boats, we spot diverse species of seals, resting on the glacier ice, swimming in the water or concealing in the ice caves. The formidable Leopard seals have a silver or a grey coat, long mascular body and large jaw. Weddell seals have a multi-colored coat, brown, grey or silver with patches. The krill-eating Crabeater seals have a pale coat and special teeth to sieve food. As we traverse the Antarctic Peninsula, we frequently gather on the ship’s front deck to observe the pods of whales, including Killer whales (Orcas), Humpback whales and Fin whales. The magnificent Killer whales, also called Orcas, have a recognizable black and white coloring. Humpback whales have a massive tail that pushes them through the water. We watch them lifting their tail out of the water before slapping it back onto the surface. We spot pods of Fin whales, the second largest mammals after the Blue whales, swimming just next to our ship. Antarctica’s remoteness and wilderness guarantees its visitors the most surprising and unique wildlife sightings.
Christmas Feast – A high quality international cuisine is served aboard the National Geographic Orion. The inventive menu changes daily, highlighting special dishes from different countries. We celebrate Christmas with a traditional American holiday menu, consisting of whole turkey, baked ham, potatoes, vegetables and desserts. After dinner, we congregate in the lounge, listening to Christmas Carols sung by the cruise staff.
Note: We have many great images from Antarctica and prefer to include here few more images of beautiful Antarctica, instead of images of the cuisine.
The Ritz Carlton Santiago, Chile – Situated in the Las Condes district of Santiago, the Ritz Carlton Santiago offers luxury and relaxation. The collection of rooms and suites are stylishly decorated and have lovely views of the city. The glass roofed indoor swimming pool is naturally illuminated and spacious. Estro, a chic restaurant inside the hotel, serves a lovely Chilean Cuisine. The hotel is superbly located within walking distance to shops, restaurants and cafes. The Ritz Carlton Santiago, Chile is a perfect short-term stay destination.
National Geographic Orion – The Lindblad-National Geographic organizes inspiring expeditions to far-flung and fascinating places. An impressive fleet of cruise ships embarks on faraway journeys to isolated continents, remote islands and protected nature reserves. We select the National Geographic Orion, the luxury cruise ship, to explore the frozen continent of Antarctica. The ice-class vessel Orion, equipped with the latest technology, can maneuver along the challenging polar ice. The vessel is equipped with Zodiac boats, ensuring smooth landings and close range viewing of wildlife. The luxurious cabins, spacious lounge and stylish dining venue serving quality cuisine, ensure a comfortable journey. An excellent team of experienced naturalists, dive masters, photographers and chefs manages our itinerary and satisfies our needs. The sun deck is our favorite place, the perfect place to view the magical nature scenery and incredible wildlife of the Antarctic Peninsula.