Itineraries and the need for flexibility
Antarctic itineraries should be considered expedition voyages rather than traditional cruises. To be able to relish the unexpected is essential to one’s enjoyment of polar travels. Weather, sea and ice conditions, unforeseen delays and the availability of landing permits – as well as unmissable wildlife and photographic opportunities – will all influence the day-to-day running of your expedition. Itineraries can and do change, often at very short notice, but decisions taken by your expedition team and crew will be in the interest of your safety and enjoyment.
Getting to Ushuaia, Port Stanley and Punta Arenas
Our Antarctic cruises usually depart Ushuaia in Argentina and air-cruises depart from Punta Arenas in Chile, both at the southern tip of South America; some use Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, a short flight away from Punta Arenas. Delays can happen with flight connections (and baggage) en route to these cities. Therefore, please be sure to arrive in South America at least 3 nights before the start of your expedition and be at your Antarctic departure point (Ushuaia, Punta Arenas or Port Stanley) no later than the day before departure. Refunds cannot be made in the event of you missing the start of your cruise.
The Drake Passage
Expedition cruises from South America cross the Drake Passage to Antarctica in around 48 hours. While the Drake Passage deserves its notorious reputation, many travellers regard it as essential to their Antarctic experience. Whether or not you have good sea legs it is often a turbulent crossing but lectures are given on board by your expedition team, meals continue as normal and there is plenty of time to read and spot birds or whales as the ship heads south. Bring your preferred motion sickness remedy, relax and remember your crew has done this many times before. Air-cruises, which begin at King George Island, are ideal for those who are short on time or prefer not to cross the passage. Motion sickness is much less of a problem once you reach the sheltered waters off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Flights between Punta Arenas and King George Island
If you have chosen an air-cruise, you’ll fly across the Drake Passage between Punta Arenas, Chile and King George Island in one or both directions. In these extreme zones, occasional delays occur as the crew seeks weather clearance for Antarctica. Each local operator follows its own procedures when dealing with delays. Meals and accommodation are usually provided, but please note refunds may not be made in the event of severe delays or cancellation. More details can be found in individual cruise operators’ terms and conditions, which you must read before you confirm your booking.
Many expedition cruises offer guests the option to spend a night camping on the ice, or participate in optional adventure activities such as sea kayaking, mountaineering, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. Some of these cost extra and previous experience may be required (except for camping). As space is limited, we advise you to sign up in advance for any optional adventure activities you are considering.
Keeping in touch
It is best to assume you will be out of contact for the whole of your time in Antarctica. On some ships it is possible to purchase internet usage in order to send and receive short emails (without images or attachments). You may notice a faint signal as the ship passes isolated research bases but you should not expect to be able to use your phone once you have left Ushuaia, Punta Arenas or Port Stanley.
Should your expedition call at Port Lockroy on the Antarctic Peninsula, it’s possible to send a postcard from the British Antarctic Territory post office. Allow 6 weeks for these to reach the UK..