Escape into another realm as you board Swan Hellenic's luxury boutique ice-class ship on this once-in-a-lifetime trip from South America to New Zealand. This epic semi- circumnavigation cruise of Antarctica fulfils the ultimate bucket list, sailing on glassy seas, passing by monumental icebergs, unheralded landscapes and phenomenal wildlife. You'll explore icy waters to reach the world’s southernmost islands where only a handful of adventurers, explorers and scientists have been before. And as you cross the polar circle, you get to join an elite group of people who have been to some of the least-visited places on the planet.
Day 1: Ushuaia
Days 2 & 3: At sea
Day 4: Antarctic Sound
Days 5 & 6: Antarctic Peninsula
Day 7: Antarctic Peninsula/ Bellingshausen Sea
Days 8 - 11: Bellingshausen Sea
Day 12: Bellingshausen/Amundsen Sea
Days 13 - 18: Amundsen Sea
Day 19: Amundsen/ Ross Sea
Days 20 - 23: Ross Sea
Days 24 - 27: At sea
Day 28: Macquarie Island
Day 29: At sea
Day 30: Auckland Island
Day 31: Enderby Island
Day 32: At sea
Days 33 & 34: Dunedin
Ushuaia is the gateway to the White Continent. Found at the southernmost tip of South America in Argentinian Patagonia, the city is often described as “the End of the World”. The city’s mountain backdrop rises above the harbour and entrance to the Beagle Channel. The town itself is walkable and has a few small museums as well as pubs, restaurants and cafes - a good place to try Patagonian lamb cooked over open fire pits.
Sea days are rarely dull. Take the time to sit back and let the world go by as you traverse the Drake Passage. The ship’s observation decks provide stunning views of the passing ocean. A day at sea gives you the opportunity to mingle with other passengers and share your experiences of this incredible trip or head to the ship's library which is stocked full of reference books. Get an expert’s view in one of the onboard lectures or perhaps perfect your photography skills with invaluable advice from a team of onboard professional photographers.
As you sail quietly past house-sized, free-floating tabular icebergs and pancake ice, you may be able to hear the sounds of creaking and popping as huge chunks break off and crash into the sea. While Gerlache Strait is filled with ice, the Antarctic Sound takes it up a notch with even more impressive bergs and ice cliffs. Possible landing points where you will meet thousands of breeding Adélie penguins include Brown Bluff and Paulet Island.
Among captivating glaciers, majestic icebergs and snowy islands, the Antarctic Peninsula is where most visitors to the White Continent will live out their Antarctica dream. The Antarctic Peninsula, the most accessible area of the continent, hosts several scientific bases and some of the most interesting wildlife scenery, such as the extremely photogenic Lemaire Channel. Shore excursions might include Petermann Island, where among Adelie penguins, blue-eyed shags and skuas, huge, lumbering elephant seals haul out.
As your ship sails gently through this vast frozen wilderness, keep an eye out for the elusive minke or humpback whales who accompany you. The ship edges southwards as you cross the Polar Circle at 66 degrees south and experience the midnight sun. Here, Adelaide Island is the site of the British research station. Although there is less wildlife to see this far south, you might visit the world’s southernmost Adélie penguin rookery on Fish Island.
Take in the magnitude of translucent bergs silently floating on crystal-clear seas, often broken up by the tail of a fluking whale and leopard seals resting on an ice floe, as we sail via two of the largest islands in the Antarctic - Alexander and Thurston Islands - past Peter I Island. Rarely visited by ships, Peter I is claimed by Norway. This ice-covered volcanic island is home to elephant seals, Cape pigeons and southern fulmars.
Filling bays and passing islands, pack ice stretches out into the distance. Gaze into the icy horizon and try to spot lone emperor penguins or seals resting on the ice floes, or check for spouting orca and minke whales as they come up for air. Fulmar petrels guard the skies as we sail into the Amundsen Sea on the outer edge of the pack ice. If you are feeling brave, end the day with an icy polar plunge.
One of the most remote areas of Antarctica, covered mostly by glacial ice from the Thwaites ice tongue, and part of the Southern Ocean, the Amundsen Sea is named for legendary Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen who led the first team to reach the South Pole in 1911. Marie Byrd Land on Antarctica’s western coast is the largest single unclaimed territory on earth where chinstrap penguins and skuas have set up home on the ice-capped Shepard Island.
Setting sail across the Ross Sea, you approach the Bay of Whales on the eastern side of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in Antarctica. Several hundred metres at its thickest, below the water surface, the vertical front you see reaches 50 metres high. You will attempt to land on the shelf where, on Roosevelt Island, Roald Amundsen began the first ever successful journey to the South Pole, arriving on 14 December 1911.
One of the least-visited spots in Antarctica, the on-shore excursions will hopefully take you to Hut Point on Ross Island, the site of the US McMurdo research station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. But the big draw is following in the footsteps of the great explorer, Robert Scott. Scott’s cabin is here on the slopes of Mount Erebus, where he set off for the South Pole reaching it on 17 January 1912 five weeks after Amundsen.
Enjoy the many amenities of your ship as you sail towards New Zealand
Sealers discovered the tiny windswept Macquarie Island (or Macca) in 1810. The southernmost territory of Australia, it is the site for Macquarie Island Station, an Australian Antarctic base, and a Tasmanian natural reserve and world heritage site protecting a pesty tundra ecosystem. Colonies of loudly barking southern elephant seals breed here and you might spot giant petrels and albatross. Four species of penguin make the island home including royal penguins, king, Gentoo and southern rockhoppers.
Relax on board and take in the views as your ship heads towards its next port of call
Renowned for their seafaring and whaling traditions, the principal Māori iwi, Ngāi Tahu considers Auckland Islands (Maungahuka) a place of great spiritual significance. Port Ross at the north end of the main Auckland Island - the largest of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands - is a breeding site for southern right whales. You might also get to spot New Zealand sea lions alongside some of the world’s rarest birds including yellow-eyed penguins, white-capped mollymawk and Gibson’s wandering albatross.
The smaller Enderby Island is a treat for birders including the Auckland Island snipe and teal, southern royal and light-mantled sooty albatrosses. The pocket-sized Auckland Island tomtit is a regular visitor and Hooker's sea lion haul out here. Growing on this remote archipelago 465 km south of South Island is an exceptionally rich flora of 200 native species such as pink Gentiana, red rata blossoms, white tree daisies and mega herbs including the Campbell Island carrot.
Your journey is beginning to come to an end, but not before more time to relax on board and time to enjoy the ship's amenities
Your luxury expedition cruise sadly comes to an end in Dunedin, on the South Island, the principal city of the Otago region. Set in a pretty bay that serves as a port and surrounded by bush-covered hills, the town has quirky historic appeal. One of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere, Dunedin is known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, and it’s proud of its Celtic connections. Small and eminently walkable, see elaborate civic buildings, New Zealand’s only castles, funky alleyways filled with street art, and picturesque parks. The Toitu Otago Early Settlers Museum and Otago Museum come highly recommended, as well as a visit to the Dunedin Chinese Garden.
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