Today is the beginning of our southern adventure. Ushuaia in Argentinean Patagonia, the world's southernmost city, is where we board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, your home for the next 9 days. Even as we sail down the Beagle Channel in the early evening we may see our first wildlife and start to become familiar with shipboard life. As you meet the impressive team of naturalists who will provide you with a greater understanding of our exotic destination and the creatures that inhabit it you share a bond with Charles Darwin, Captain Fitz Roy and the crew of the Beagle who explored and named this waterway.
Day 2 - 3
Crossing the Drake Passage, there's considerable excitement in the air as we make our way towards to the white continent. You'll readily fall into the relaxed and friendly atmosphere onboard as our time is divided between watching albatross follow in our wake and presentations on everything Antarctic, from wildlife and history to Zodiac protocols and the environment. Then we cross 60°S, the geopolitical boundary of Antarctica and pass through the Antarctic Convergence where there's a distinct drop in temperature as we enter the much colder waters of the Southern Ocean. During these sea days there's the element of the unexpected as we may see giant icebergs and the seabirds unique to this part of the world and perhaps the world's largest whales that live in this boundless ocean.
Day 4 - 6
In the bays and coves of the Antarctic Peninsula, we intend to utilize every moment to explore by inflatable Zodiac craft that serve both as stable photographic platforms and let us easily land on wild beaches. Our sail plan will be selected from the wealth of sites in this most-accessible part of Antarctica and may include beautiful, continental Neko or Paradise harbours, the large Gentoo penguin colonies of Cuverville or Danco Islands, and iceberg-strewn Wilhelmina Bay and Cierva Cove.
At any of these locations Humpback, Minke or even Orca whales may make a surprise appearance and we'll also be looking for Crabeater, Weddell and Leopard seals in the water or basking on the ice. We intend to spend a day in the South Shetland Islands, perhaps at Half Moon Island where a colony of Chinstrap penguins share the island with a variety of seals and some Blue-eyed shags.
Our aim is to give you the best opportunity to maximize your Antarctic experience as you like. So it's possible that on a single excursion some of us may walk up onto a glacier for a high vantage point while others stay down with the penguins near the beach and a third group go cruising the ice in Zodiacs seeking seals and whales. And there's normally time for everyone to do whatever combination of these activities you like. Whether it's the endlessly entertaining antics of penguins and their chicks, the photographic opportunities of seals on ice or the infinite sculptural shapes and rich hues of icebergs you'll experience it all. We intend to spend a light-filled night camping on shore and to land on the continent itself. Whether your vantage point is onboard or onshore, expect to feel enriched by spending Christmas in the strange, wondrous and ethereal domain at the bottom of the planet.
Day 7 - 8
Heading north, back across the Drake Passage towards the Antarctic Convergence, the albatross return and there's time to reflect on your Antarctic experience. We'll be aiming for Cape Horn and, if conditions allow, we'll round this ultimate mariner's landmark as we sail briefly into the Pacific Ocean and back into the Atlantic on our way past the islands that form the tip of South America. On our last night onboard we sail westwards along the Beagle Channel while we celebrate the conclusion of our Antarctic Christmas voyage at a special Captain's dinner.
In the early morning, we will arrive back in Ushuaia. After breakfast it is time to say farewell to new friends among the crew and staff and fellow passengers. You will be transported directly from the ship to hotels or to the airport for your flight home. It certainly will have been a Christmas to remember.