Morning is free to explore Ushuaia and the surrounding area, to do some last minute shopping, stroll around Ushuaia and down to the port or maybe go for a walk in the nearby National Park. The transfer to the ship takes place in the afternoon. Once on board there is a get together for introductions to the expedition team, to learn about the ship and its layout, talk about the itinerary for the next 10 days and participate in the obligatory lifeboat drill. Departure from Ushuaia is normally around 6:00 p.m, and we set sail through the Beagle Channel in the early evening. The long days mean plenty of evening light in which to experience the beauty of the channel, and to perhaps enjoy your first wildlife sightings.
Day 2 - 3
Sea conditions in the Drake Passage can vary from dead calm (known as 'Drake Lake'), to rough and stormy (known as 'Drake Shake'). As you cross the Drake Passage our team of experts is out on deck to help you spot whales and identify seabirds. There is also a programme of talks, covering the wildlife, the ice, and polar history. This prepares you for your adventure to the 'White Continent'. The excitement intensifies as you cross the Antarctic Convergence, where the cold waters of the Antarctic Ocean meet the warmer waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. You feel the change as the air gets cooler. Huge icebergs loom up against the horizon in increasing numbers, and Wandering albatrosses, petrels and other birds which thrive in this cold, remote ocean are frequently seen.
Day 4 - 10
Our itinerary for these days is necessarily flexible, and will be decided upon by your expedition leader in consultation with the ship's captain. It will depend on ice and weather conditions, and may start by sailing as far south as possible, hopefully to the Antarctic Circle, and then working our way back north along the peninsula and finally visiting the off-shore Shetland Islands group. On the other hand the order may be reversed, first cruising among the volcanic South Shetland Islands before travelling to the waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula, and further south.
The itinerary focuses on the areas with the greatest promise of wildlife, and frequent shore excursions are planned at perhaps Livingston, Half Moon, Aicho or King George Islands. This area is a favoured feeding ground for Humpback whales and, with luck, you may see them dining on krill. Nearby, around 80,000 Adelie penguins have established one of the largest rookeries, alongside Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, providing great opportunities for photography. At crescent-shaped Half Moon Island, a breeding colony of Chinstrap penguins shares their territory with fur seals and Blue-Eyed shags; while at Livingston Island you may observe Weddell seals, Elephant seals, skuas, Giant petrels, Antarctic terns and rookeries of Chinstrap, Gentoo and Macaroni penguins.
Weather permitting you may also enter the flooded caldera of Deception Island, a recently active volcano and one of the most perfect crater islands in the world. Steam rises from the black sand beaches in places along its shores where the cold Antarctic waters mix with the steaming thermal waters of the bay - although this is very much dependant on the tide and the hot water flow. You may also observe the island's large Chinstrap penguin colony and enjoy spectacular walks to the higher points of the crater rim.
We may visit Paradise Harbour further south or Hope Bay to the north, both situated on the Antarctic mainland, to see some of the most dramatic scenery the continent has to offer. Here, there are further opportunities for spectacular photography. Ringed with overhanging ice cliffs, the bay is filled with a wild assortment of floating icebergs that reflect a stunning array of the colours, including the most exquisite blues, turquoise and indigo. On one or two occasions we may also go ashore to visit some of the research stations maintained by several different countries on the peninsula or offshore islands.
Back on board whilst we cruise between landing points, you will be tempted to spend time out on deck if conditions are calm, just watching and marvelling at the glory of the passing scenery. Penguins are often seen 'porpoising' in the water, or resting on ice flows, which pass by the ship, and the scenery of the Lemaire Channel can be absolutely breathtaking. South of this channel we hope that the seas will be clear enough to take us right down to the Antarctic Circle; the scenery remains outstanding, and although there's no 'marker on the sand', it's a great feeling to know when we've reached the line. Sadly, all great things must come back to an end, and we eventually turn the ship, and head back north for the final stages of a remarkable journey.
Day 11 - 12
Leaving the Antarctic Peninsula overnight our ship heads back across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage. The crossing is completed with the rounding of Cape Horn, weather permitting.
In the early morning you arrive back in Ushuaia where your voyage ends. You are transferred either to town on to the airport for your onward flight to Buenos Aires.