• Overview
  • Photos & Video
  • Pricing
  • Dates
  • Hotels
  • Cabins
  • Boat Details
  • Trip Reviews
  • FAQ

The 338-ft M/V National Geographic Orion was designed and purpose built in Germany in 2003 specifically for expedition travel, with the express purpose of taking explorers to the planet’s remote, wild places in incredible comfort and in complete self-sufficiency. She accommodates 102 passengers and offers the privilege of safely exploring Antarctica in the luxury of comfort, matched with the informality of an expedition-style adventure. With many decades and hundreds of expeditions worth of experience, the National Geographic Orion’s ice masters and expedition leaders are able to deliver an unparalleled experience.

On every expedition, a National Geographic Photographer will give talks and one-on-one photo tips in the field, where it counts. An Undersea Specialist captures rarely seen footage of life beneath the icy surface for viewing in the comfort of the ship’s lounge, and a professional video chronicler is aboard to capture the expedition moments you’ll want to remember. These top pros are at your side and at your service—providing advice, tips and slideshows as you glide around enormous tabular icebergs by Zodiac, walk along beaches covered with thousands of penguins, and kayak amid abundant wildlife. The National Geographic Orion meets strict specifications for environmental protection, enabling her to travel to the most pristine environments while ensuring sustainable marine environmental practices. Engineered for maximum comfort and safety, she is outfitted with a host of advanced design features and the latest technology including large retractable stabilizers, sonar, radar, and a shallow draft plus bow and stern thrusters which provide the convenience of being able to maneuver close to shore. The National Geographic Orion has an ice-strengthened hull (ice-class: Germanischer Lloyd 100 A5 E3 Passenger Ship MC E3 AUT) and travels at a maximum speed of 15 knots.

 

Itinerary (Classic Antarctica)
DAY 1: Arrive Santiago, Chile

Today you will arrive in the sophisticated city of Santiago, Chile where you will check into your included and centrally located hotel and have the morning to relax. Santiago is nearly surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to your afternoon guided overview of this vibrant city. In the afternoon, you will embark on an excursion to view the highlights of this exciting city such as the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and nearby Presidential Palace, and enjoying wonderful views from the many hills that dot the city. Please contact us for additional extension options in Santiago. (L)

DAY 2: Santiago - Ushuaia, Argentina - Embark

In the morning, you will be transferred to the airport for a private charter flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy lunch during a catamaran cruise of the scenic Beagle Channel before embarking your Antarctic expedition vessel. (B,L,D)

DAY 3: Drake Passage

Awake this morning well into our journey across the Drake Passage. Lying between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake holds a distinct place in maritime lore. Sometimes misty and gray, other times calm and clear, crossing the legendary Drake Passage is unforgettable and a milestone in any traveler’s personal travel history. In this area you may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black- browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. As you cross the Antarctica convergence, you will notice a significant change in the environment as colder temperatures surround you and the first icebergs come into view, and you will know that the White Continent is approaching. (B,L,D)

DAYS 4-9: Antarctic Peninsula

With long hours of daylight at this time of year, you will easily make the most of your five days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands. The veteran expedition team, with their expert knowledge of Antarctica’s waters, will craft an expedition where you will learn more, see more and experience more. Your captain will sail through incredible landscapes, passing by rugged mountains, glaciers, and icebergs. In keeping with the nature of an expedition, the schedule and itinerary is flexible to give you the best experience possible. Flexibility will enable you to take advantage of the unexpected - perhaps watching a 40-ton whale surface off the bow, taking an after-dinner Zodiac cruise, or heading out on an extra landing during the day. You will enjoy a variety of outings daily, allowing you to experience Antarctica with all of your senses as you walk ashore, cruise in Zodiacs, kayak among the icebergs and experience close encounters with wildlife. You will sail through the incomparable Lemaire Channel, land on the “White Continent”, see seals wallowing on the beach, hear the cries of penguins, and experience the huge, nurturing silence of this pristine place. One day, you may take a Zodiac foray amid towering bergs under a bright sun, walk along the shoreline amid a huge penguin colony, hike to a summit for a breathtaking view, or kayak along a cliff-side rookery in search of blue-eyed shags. And the next, you’ll have the thrill of watching the powerful ship crunch through the pack ice, or step ashore to the cries of thousands of Gentoo penguins. You’ll learn from the top-notch experts how climate change affects the penguin populations, how to identify the different penguins and how best to capture images of those same penguins from a National Geographic photographer. Back aboard, the Undersea Specialist may present video from that day’s dive — rare images taken up to 1,000 feet below the surface using the ROV. (B,L,D)

DAYS 10-11: Drake Passage

As the expedition nears its end in the Antarctica Peninsula, you’ll head back to the open sea and sail again through the Drake Passage. As you sail back to Ushuaia, an albatross or two may join the avian escort of seabirds that cross the bow, and the staff spotters will keep an eye out for marine life. Talks from the staff will reflect on all you have seen and learned and there’ll be plenty of time to share photos with the onboard National Geographic photographer, enjoy the ship’s amenities, catch up on the book you haven’t had a minute to read, and write emails home, saying “don’t want this to end.” (B,L,D)

DAY 12: Disembark Ushuaia - Santiago

After breakfast, you will disembark in Ushuaia with time to explore before proceeding to the airport for your charter flight to Santiago. Upon arrival, you’ll connect with your flight home or continue to another South American adventure. (B,L)

Key: (B)reakfast (L)unch (D)inner

Itinerary (Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica)
DAY 1: Arrive Santiago, Chile

*PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary runs in reverse order for some departures. Please inquire for details.

Today you will arrive in the sophisticated city of Santiago, Chile where you will check into your included and centrally located hotel and have the morning to relax. Santiago is nearly surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to your afternoon guided overview of this vibrant city. In the afternoon, you will embark on an excursion to view the highlights of this exciting city such as the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and nearby Presidential Palace, and enjoying wonderful views from the many hills that dot the city. Please contact us for additional extension options in Santiago. (L)

DAY 2: Santiago - Ushuaia, Argentina - Embark

In the morning, you will be transferred to the airport for a private charter flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy lunch during a catamaran cruise of the scenic Beagle Channel before embarking your Antarctic expedition vessel. (B,L,D)

DAYS 3-4: Drake Passage

Awake this morning well into our journey across the Drake Passage. Lying between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake holds a distinct place in maritime lore. Sometimes misty and gray, other times calm and clear, crossing the legendary Drake Passage is unforgettable and a milestone in any traveler’s personal travel history. In this area you may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black- browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. Once you cross the Antarctic Convergence, you will notice a change in the environment as colder temperatures surround you and the first icebergs come into view and you will know that the White Continent is approaching. (B,L,D)

DAYS 5-9: Antarctic Peninsula

With long hours of daylight at this time of year, you will easily make the most of your days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands. The veteran expedition team, with their expert knowledge of Antarctica’s waters, will craft an expedition where you will learn more, see more and experience more. Your captain will sail through incredible landscapes, passing by rugged mountains, glaciers, and icebergs. In keeping with the nature of an expedition, the schedule and itinerary is flexible to give you the best experience possible. Flexibility will enable you to take advantage of the unexpected - perhaps watching a 40-ton whale surface off the bow, taking an after-dinner Zodiac cruise, or heading out on an extra landing during the day. You will enjoy a variety of outings daily, allowing you to experience Antarctica with all of your senses as you walk ashore, cruise in Zodiacs, kayak among the icebergs and experience close encounters with wildlife. You will sail through the incomparable Lemaire Channel, land on the “White Continent”, see seals wallowing on the beach, hear the cries of penguins, and experience the huge, nurturing silence of this pristine place. One day, you may take a Zodiac foray amid towering bergs under a bright sun, walk along the shoreline amid a huge penguin colony, hike to a summit for a breathtaking view, or kayak along a cliff-side rookery in search of blue-eyed shags. And the next, you’ll have the thrill of watching the powerful ship crunch through the pack ice, or step ashore to the cries of thousands of Gentoo penguins. You’ll learn from the top-notch experts how climate change affects the penguin populations, how to identify the different penguins and how best to capture images of those same penguins from a National Geographic photographer. Back aboard, the Undersea Specialist may present video from that day’s dive — rare images taken up to 1,000 feet below the surface using the ROV. (B,L,D)

DAYS 10-11: At Sea, Pass Elephant Island

As your ship voyages north over the next two days, you may head up to the Bridge to watch for icebergs and observe expert navigation at work as your skilled Captain and officers sail these historic waters. Your Captain may even pass by legendary Elephant Island, where the crew of the Endurance landed and where Shackleton and five of his men set of on their incredible journey to South Georgia. Each day the naturalists will offer talks that add depth to your experience. There’ll also be time to enjoy a massage in the wellness center, workout in the gym, and browse in the library. As you cross the Antarctica convergence, you will again notice a significant change in the environment as your approach South Georgia. (B,L,D)

DAYS 12-16: South Georgia Island

For the next five days, you will explore the spectacular coastline of South Georgia, jam packed with wildlife, breathtaking scenery and soaring cliffs. This is the ultimate destination for jaw-dropping scenery, boundless wildlife and captivating history. Steeped in Shackleton and whaling lore, and covered mostly in glaciers, South Georgia explodes with life: Gentoo, Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins, enormous Elephant seals and a thriving Fur seal population.

In keeping with the nature of an expedition, the schedule is flexible with opportunities for walking, hiking, kayaking and Zodiac excursions. You will paddle a kayak amid curious Fur seals, explore in a Zodiac among the bergs and compare aperture settings side-by-side with a National Geographic photographer. Hundreds of Antarctic Fur seals will greet you as the Zodiacs make landfall, and you will witness one of the world’s great wildlife spectacles: literally 200,000 stately King penguins on a single beach!

As your captain leisurely circumnavigates the island, the plan will be to make stops every day including: Grytviken, the final resting place of the great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and Stromness Bay, where Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley finally reached aid at a whaling station. South Georgia is an unforgettable part of the Endurance story, and you’ll have the opportunity to hike in the footsteps of these great men, hear their extraordinary tale of survival, and hoist a toast at the gravesite of “The Boss”, Sir Ernest Shackleton. (B,L,D)

DAYS 17-18: At Sea

As you sail back toward the Falkland Islands, an albatross or two may join the avian escort of seabirds that cross the bow, and the staff spotters will keep an eye out for marine life. Talks from the staff will reflect on all you have seen and learned and there’ll be plenty of time to share photos with the onboard National Geographic photographer, catch up on the book you haven’t had a minute to read, and enjoy the ship’s amenities, such as a wellness treatment, or logging some time in the gym. (B,L,D)

DAYS 19-20: Falkland Islands

You will spend the next two days exploring the Falkland Islands, seeing the human face of the region, reminiscent of Great Britain, with grazing sheep, tea and crumpets. Each Falkland Island is a variation on the theme of topographical beauty with white-sand beaches, vaulting cliffs, windswept moors and the sunlit yellows and sage greens of waving tussock grass. Here you will get your first taste of the incredible wildlife that you will experience during your expedition, as the Falklands boast thousands of irresistible Gentoo, Rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, as well as King cormorants, herds of Fur and Elephant seals and the largest albatross colony in the world. You’ll have time to stroll the photogenic Victorian-style town of Port Stanley, meet the hospitable locals, hoist a few at the famous Upland Goose pub and visit the evocative Anglican Cathedral with its archway of whalebones. (B,L,D)

DAY 21: At Sea

As the expedition nears its end, you’ll have one last chance to view the marine life of these southern waters before your ship sails again through the Beagle Channel and returns to Ushuaia. (B,L,D)

DAY 22: Disembark Ushuaia - Santiago

After breakfast, you will disembark in Ushuaia with time to explore before proceeding to the airport for your charter flight to Santiago. Upon arrival, you’ll connect with your flight home or continue to another South American adventure. (B,L)

Key: (B)reakfast (L)unch (D)inner

Weather

When to Visit
  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec

Antarctica is known as the “coldest, highest, driest, windiest place on earth”. However, please keep in mind that you will not be venturing into the interior of the continent and you will be visiting during the Southern Hemisphere summer (November through March). That said, weather in Antarctica can vary dramatically from day to day, even from moment to moment. With summer temperatures ranging from 20-40° F, you may experience snow, rain, high winds, and bright warm sun all in the same day. It is best to approach an Antarctica expedition with a sense of adventure, as the climate is unpredictable. Weather may be a bit cooler early in the season (November) and late in the season (March), but there will not be a dramatic difference in temperatures throughout the tourism season. If you are used to winter in places like the northern United States, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia, you will be more than prepared for summer temperatures at teh Antarctic Peninsula.


You may also wish to schedule your trip according to what wildlife activities you are likely to observe at different points during the season, details below:
 
o    Late October and November: The early part of the season showcases a number of highlights. Landing sites are at their most pristine. The possibility of seeing sea ice is present early on, before it breaks up later on in the season. Late October to early November sees Adélie, Chinstrap and Gentoo adult penguins and Antarctic-breeding seabirds starting to come ashore to their breeding sites where they commence courtship rituals and nest building. Shortly thereafter eggs are laid and incubated. Emperor penguins can be seen on the frozen Weddell Sea (visited occasionally by ice-strengthened expedition ships on special itineraries).

Spring flowers begin blooming in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and elephant seals are actively courting in South Georgia. South Georgia's female king penguins lay their eggs in November and the parents can be seen "carrying" eggs on their feet so that the parent can shuffle around the colony while the other adult goes out to sea to feed. "Oakum Boys" — king penguin chicks from the previous season — can also be seen in the rookeries. Fur seals litter the beaches in South Georgia with the males aggressive and ready to mate.
 
o    December and January: The increased number of daylight hours brings exceptional opportunities for photographers and non-photographers alike, and the expeditions make the most of the summer weather and continuous hours of daylight. Research activity in the Peninsula at the scientific bases is at its peak. Penguin chicks begin hatching in the Falklands (Islas Malvinas); followed by hatchings in mid- to late-December at sites in the Antarctic Peninsula. Some 30 days after hatching, penguin chicks can be found in "crèches," resembling a nursery of sorts, which leaves both adults free to replenish their food supply. An exciting time of this part of the season is when the parent returns with food and the hungry chicks are persistent in being fed, running after the parent (or any adult penguin with food) in a "feeding chase." Whale sightings of baleen and toothed whales escalate in the Peninsula area. Seal pups can be seen on the beaches in South Georgia. Sea ice is also beginning to break up which allows for the possibility to begin to access to rarely visited sites in the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea and within the Antarctic Circle.
 
o    February and March: Sightings of whales are at their peak in the Peninsula and an increasing number of fur seals can be found along the Peninsula and offshore islands. Young fur seals are also quite playful in South Georgia. Penguin colonies are very active with the penguin chicks beginning their molt - losing their fuzzy down and developing their adult plumage. During this timeframe, the parents will abandoned their chicks, and return out to sea to feed and fatten up for their own molting stage. Most colonies (Adélie, Chinstrap and Gentoo) are nearly vacated by the end of February to early March. Blooming snow algae is prevalent and receding pack ice has reached its peak for the season, allowing for easier exploration within the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea and Antarctic Circle.

Maps

Classic Antarctica

Pricing
DaysStart DateEnd DateCat 1Cat 2Cat 3Cat 4Cat 5Cat 6Cat 1 SingleCat 3 Single
1212/18/1712/29/17$14,860$15,970$17,890$21,290$24,340$28,340$22,290$26,530
           
1212/28/171/8/18$14,860$15,970$17,890$21,290$24,340$28,340$22,290$26,530
           
121/7/181/18/18$13,760$14,790$16,390$19,720$22,540$26,240$20,640$24,590
           
121/17/181/28/18$13,760$14,790$16,390$19,720$22,540$26,240$20,640$24,590
           
1211/26/1812/7/18$14,170$15,230$16,960$20,500$23,440$27,290$21,250$25,440
           
1212/6/1812/17/18$14,170$15,230$16,960$20,500$23,440$27,290$21,250$25,440
           
1212/16/1812/27/18$15,380$16,520$18,300$22,130$25,320$29,490$23,070$27,420
           
1212/26/181/6/19$15,380$16,520$18,300$22,130$25,320$29,490$23,070$27,420
           
121/5/191/16/19$14,170$15,230$16,960$20,500$23,440$27,290$21,250$25,440
           
121/15/191/26/19$14,170$15,230$16,960$20,500$23,440$27,290$21,250$25,440
           
121/25/192/5/19$14,170$15,230$16,960$20,500$23,440$27,290$21,250$25,440
           
122/4/192/15/19$14,170$15,230$16,960$20,500$23,440$27,290$21,250$25,440

-Activities offered on all departures are: Zodiac Excursions, Hiking, Kayaking & Photography
-All prices are PER PERSON.
-There is a supplemental fee for the group charter flight.
-A solo traveler willing to share a cabin with another passenger of the same gender can avoid the single supplement in Categories 1 & 2. 

Included in tour cost
  • Antarctica cruise accommodations
  • All meals onboard Antarctica cruise
  • Airport transfers for group charter flights - Included for some departures
  • 1 night's accommodations Santiago
  • All shore excursions throughout voyage by zodiac
  • Photography Program
  • Kayaking
  • Expedition parka
  • English-speaking certified guides
  • Entrance fees for all scheduled tours, national parks & archaeological sites
  • Southern Explorations pre-departure services
Excluded from tour cost
  • International airfare to/from Argentina and/or Chile
  • Group charter flight (Santiago/Ushuaia/Santiago)
  • Ground transportation in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Medical evacuation insurance (mandatory)
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (recommended)
  • Rubber boots and other personal gear
  • Personal expenses (gratuities, alcoholic beverages, telecommunication charges, laundry, airport taxes, etc.)
  • Expedition DVD

Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica

Pricing
DaysStart DateEnd DateCat 1Cat 2Cat 3Cat 4Cat 5Cat 6Cat 1 SingleCat 3 Single
221/27/182/17/18$23,790$25,490$27,940$34,290$39,570$45,880$35,690$41,910
           
222/16/183/9/18$23,790$25,490$27,940$34,290$39,570$45,880$35,690$41,910
           
2211/6/1811/27/18$24,620$26,380$28,450$35,660$41,150$47,720$36,930$42,670
           
222/14/193/7/19$24,620$26,380$28,450$35,660$41,150$47,720$36,930$42,670

-Activities offered on all departures are: Zodiac Excursions, Hiking, Kayaking & Photography
-All prices are PER PERSON.
-There is a supplemental fee for the group charter flight.
-A solo traveler willing to share a cabin with another passenger of the same gender can avoid the single supplement in Categories 1 & 2. 

Included in tour cost
  • Antarctica cruise accommodations
  • All meals onboard Antarctica cruise
  • Airport transfers for group charter flights - Included for some departures
  • 1 night's accommodations Santiago
  • All shore excursions throughout voyage by zodiac
  • Photography Program
  • Kayaking
  • Expedition parka
  • English-speaking certified guides
  • Entrance fees for all scheduled tours, national parks & archaeological sites
  • Southern Explorations pre-departure services
Excluded from tour cost
  • International airfare to/from Argentina and/or Chile
  • Group charter flight (Santiago/Ushuaia/Santiago)
  • Ground transportation in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Medical evacuation insurance (mandatory)
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (recommended)
  • Rubber boots and other personal gear
  • Personal expenses (gratuities, alcoholic beverages, telecommunication charges, laundry, airport taxes, etc.)
  • Expedition DVD

Classic Antarctica

Trip Dates
Availability changes constantly on Antarctica cruises. Please contact us for the most up-to-date availability.
Monday, December 18, 2017 to Friday, December 29, 2017
Thursday, December 28, 2017 to Monday, January 8, 2018
Sunday, January 7, 2018 to Thursday, January 18, 2018
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 to Sunday, January 28, 2018
Monday, November 26, 2018 to Friday, December 7, 2018
Thursday, December 6, 2018 to Monday, December 17, 2018
Sunday, December 16, 2018 to Thursday, December 27, 2018
Wednesday, December 26, 2018 to Sunday, January 6, 2019
Saturday, January 5, 2019 to Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 to Saturday, January 26, 2019
Friday, January 25, 2019 to Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Monday, February 4, 2019 to Friday, February 15, 2019

Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica

Trip Dates
Availability changes constantly on Antarctica cruises. Please contact us for the most up-to-date availability.
Saturday, January 27, 2018 to Saturday, February 17, 2018
Friday, February 16, 2018 to Friday, March 9, 2018
Tuesday, November 6, 2018 to Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Thursday, February 14, 2019 to Thursday, March 7, 2019
Santiago
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
Cabins


The M/V National Geographic Orion accommodates 102 passengers in 53 spacious, outside cabins. All cabins have luxurious amenities, with windows and/or balconies. Sixteen cabins and 12 suites can be configured as triples and four cabins are specifically designed for solo travelers.

Main Deck

  • Category 1 (5): twin beds or queen bed w/large oval window, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 16.26-16.72 square meters
  • Category 2 (14): two twin beds or queen bed, w/large oval window, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 16.72 square meters
  • DEDICATED SINGLE Category 1S (3): queen bed w/window or two portholes, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 16.26 square meters

Upper Deck

  • Category 3 (18): Suite w/window, two twin beds or queen bed, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 19.5-20.4 square meters

Bridge Deck

  • Category 4 (2): Deluxe Suite w/window, two twin beds or queen bed, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 21.4 square meters
  • Category 5 (6): Deluxe Suite w/balcony, two twin beds or queen bed, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 21.4 square meters
  • Category 6 (4): Deluxe Suite w/balcony, two twin beds or queen bed, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 32 square meters
  • DEDICATED SINGLE Category 3S (1): Deluxe Suite w/window, twin beds, private facilities, flat-screen TV w/DVD & CD player, 16.26 square meters

VIEW DECK PLAN - HERE

 

Boat Details

Ship Amenities

 

  • National Geographic Orion is spacious, modern and subtly elegant, offering ample indoor common space, as well as expansive outdoor deck space, giving guests plenty of room for viewing the spectacular scenery and wildlife. Her public rooms include an open bridge accessible to travelers throughout their journey, a dramatic window-lined main lounge and library, as well as a spacious observation lounge perched at the very top of the ship which affords stunning 270º views and panoramic windows running the entire length of the lounge, and plentiful observation decks. The main dining room and outdoor café easily accommodate all guests at once for open seating dining. There is a state-of-the-art surround-sound theater, fitness center with sweeping ocean views, health spa, sauna, Jacuzzi, library, Wireless Internet, mud room, and a glass elevator. While the interiors are certainly elegant, life aboard is always casual, with no need for formal clothing.
  • The vessel is equipped with an onboard fleet of 14 Zodiacs, and 24 double kayaks, a remotely operated vehicle (R.O.V.) capable of exploring depths up to 1,000 feet to film where no diver can go, a Splash-Cam, and an Underwater video camera; a remote-controlled crow’s nest camera with real-time footage broadcast on video screens within each cabin; a video microscope to view Antarctica’s invisible facets, and a hydrophone to listen in on whales.

Ship Services

 

  • The M/V National Geographic Orion is manned by a highly experienced, expert crew of 65 which includes an onboard expedition crew of 12 (an expedition leader, an assistant expedition leader, a wellness specialist, a spa therapist, Zodiac drivers/naturalists/historians/guest speakers, a full time doctor a video chronicler, a National Geographic photographer, and an undersea specialist).


 

antarctica travelMarisa, we've been back a week and I'm writing to say how wonderful our trip was. Thanks you for all your guidance and planning. Buenos Aires was so interesting. Our tour guide, Alejandro, was top notch-- and very funny. The hotel was in a good location and the all-day tour in Ushuaia was memorable. The ship was well-run and the food was both interesting and plentiful. The crew was professional. The expedition leaders were kind, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.  I can't give you credit for the fantastic weather and incredible scenery but it was an amazing trip. Thank you. - Susan Ogden/Rose Marie Wilson (Akademik Ioffe) 


The trip was fantastic of course! South Georgia is an amazing place! After docking at Ushuaia, the driver was waiting there on the pier and coordinated well with the ship and the port officials, provided me with useful materials and delivered me to the Alto Andino. I liked the Alto Andino. It was quiet, clean and has a nice secure luggage store, which I used when I arrived, as it was too early to check in. They did let me check in early, shortly after lunch, when a room became available. And, when I came back to the hotel after dinner with friends, there was a message from my driver about the pickup time for departing to the airport. The transfer at BA went without a hitch, nice driver and nice car, and being Saturday, light traffic as well! Anyway, thank you! Your planning and support is greatly appreciate and I will be sure to let my friends know about your great company! - Philip H. Walters (South Georgia In Depth onboard Akademik Sergey Vavilov)

Carrie and Jonathan, we arrived back from Antarctica over the weekend.   I just wanted to thank both of you for arranging such an outstanding trip!  The guides, hotels, and logistics were all excellent—and we thoroughly enjoyed it all.  Fortunately, despite my foot injury, I was able to fully partake in all the sightseeing and activities and didn’t feel that I had to curtail anything I wanted to do.  We’ll be sure to contact you for future trips in South America.  - Nancy Voye (Antarctic Peninsula onboard NG Explorer)

Carrie and Justin, I just wanted to send the two of you a message to thank you for all your help putting together our trip to the Antarctic.  The trip was absolutely fantastic – definitely the best trip we have ever taken! I would strongly recommend the Akademik Ioffe team to anyone that asks. The places we visited and the excursions we were able to participate in were definitely first-rate, and I would credit the staff for making this happen.  They selected great places to visit, and really made each zodiac or on-shore excursion a special experience. The Antarctic is just mind-blowing.  We did get south of the Circle – which sounds like it was a bit of an accomplishment – and had really great weather for the entire trip.  So again, thanks for making a totally fabulous trip a reality for us. -Ron & Bonnie Milzer (Antarctic Circle Voyage onboard Akademik Ioffe)
Antarctica - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I choose an itinerary?
A: Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime, offering abundant wildlife and unique landscapes. Travelling to the end of the world is an unparalleled experience. It’s hard to go wrong with any option but for those with specific interests we recommend reviewing our guide to Antarctica Cruises found here or contacting an Adventure Travel Coordinator.
Q: Can I make changes or additions to these tours?
A: Antarctica cruise itineraries are set and cannot be changed, but you can certainly add pre/post cruise services (hotels, tours, transfers, flights, etc.) in Argentina and Chile. Southern Explorations is happy to assist with any additional services you require.
Q: When is the best time to go to Antarctica?
A: Travel to Antarctica occurs during the Austral Summer with cruise expeditions departing from late October through March. You may wish to schedule your trip according to what wildlife activities you’d like to observe, or any specific adventure activities you would like to do, such as snowshoeing, skiing, mountaineering, whale watching, and more, which are only offered on certain departures.
Q: When is the most affordable time of year to travel to Antarctica? What’s the best way to get a deal on an Antarctica cruise?
A: It is a popular misconception that the best way to obtain a deal on an Antarctica cruise is to wait until the last possible moment to book. While this works out sometimes, this scenario is rarer and rarer as Antarctica’s popularity as a tourist destination increases. A few years ago, operators had trouble filling their boats with paying passengers, so last-minute deals were common. Now, most Antarctica cruise departures sell out far in advance, so there is no reason for operators to offer last-minute deals. Currently the best way to obtain a deal on an Antarctica cruise is to book early, as many operators offer early booking discounts.
 
Generally, it is a good idea to confirm your cruise at least eight months to one year in advance. The time period around the holidays (Christmas/New Year's) tends to sell out further in advance. Fly cruises, during which you fly over the Drake Passage rather than crossing it onboard the vessel, also tend to sell out early, so it is a good idea to book more than one year in advance if you choose this type of cruise.
 
Prices are higher for travel in late December, January, and early February, as this is high season. Prices are lower early season (November/early December) and late season (late February/March).
Q: What can I expect to see at different points during the season?
A:
  • Late October and November: The early part of the season showcases a number of highlights. Landing sites are at their most pristine. The possibility of seeing sea ice is present early on, before it breaks up later in the season. Late October to early November sees Adélie, Chinstrap and Gentoo adult penguins and Antarctic-breeding seabirds starting to come ashore to their breeding sites where they commence courtship rituals and nest building. Shortly thereafter eggs are laid and incubated. Emperor penguins can be seen on the frozen Weddell Sea (visited via helicopter on special Emperor penguin voyages).

    Spring flowers begin blooming in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and elephant seals are actively courting in South Georgia. South Georgia's female king penguins lay their eggs in November and the parents can be seen "carrying" eggs on their feet so that the parent can shuffle around the colony while the other adult goes out to sea to feed. "Oakum Boys" — king penguin chicks from the previous season — can also be seen in the rookeries. Fur seals litter the beaches in South Georgia with the males aggressive and ready to mate.
 
  • December and January: The increased number of daylight hours brings exceptional opportunities for photographers and non-photographers alike, and the expeditions make the most of the summer weather and continuous hours of daylight. Research activity in the Peninsula at the scientific bases is at its peak. Penguin chicks begin hatching in the Falklands (Islas Malvinas); followed by hatchings in mid- to late-December at sites in the Antarctic Peninsula. Some 30 days after hatching, penguin chicks can be found in "crèches," resembling a nursery of sorts, which leaves both adults free to replenish their food supply. An exciting time of this part of the season is when the parent returns with food and the hungry chicks are persistent in being fed, running after the parent (or any adult penguin with food) in a "feeding chase." Whale sightings of baleen and toothed whales escalate in the Peninsula area. Seal pups can be seen on the beaches in South Georgia. Sea ice is also beginning to break up, which allows for the possibility to begin to access to rarely visited sites in the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea and within the Antarctic Circle.
 
  • February and March: Sightings of whales are at their peak in the Peninsula and an increasing number of fur seals can be found along the Peninsula and offshore islands. Young fur seals are also quite playful in South Georgia. Penguin colonies are very active with the penguin chicks beginning their molt - losing their fuzzy down and developing their adult plumage. During this timeframe, the parents will abandoned their chicks, and return out to sea to feed and fatten up for their own molting stage. Most colonies (Adélie, Chinstrap and Gentoo) are nearly vacated by the end of February to early March. Blooming snow algae is prevalent and receding pack ice has reached its peak for the season, allowing for easier exploration within the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea and Antarctic Circle.
Q: What is the weather like in Antarctica?
A: Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest, coldest place on earth, but keep in mind that all tourism trips occur during Austral summer. The average summer temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula area is around 25 to 32°F (-4 to 0°C), although sometimes it will feel substantially colder due to the wind chill factor and water splashing up while riding in zodiacs. You can expect to encounter varied conditions including rain, snow, high winds, bright sun, and fog.
Q: What is a typical day like in Antarctica? 
A: All three meals are eaten on board the ship. After breakfast, you will head out for your morning excursion for 2 to 5 hours, then get back on board to eat lunch while the ship navigates to the next landing site. Here you will once again disembark on land for 2 to 5 hours before dinner.
Q: How physically fit do I need to be to enjoy a trip to Antarctica? 
A: You do not need to be extremely physically fit to travel to Antarctica, but should be comfortable walking short distances over uneven terrain, including snow, ice, and rock. Most ships also have a steep metal gangway that you must descend and ascend to embark/disembark the small zodiac boats that ferry passengers to shore. Your guides will always be there to assist you.
Q: While in Antarctica, will I get to get off the ship and walk around on land?
A: Yes! You will make landings every day you are in Antarctica, and the cruise staff will ensure you spend as much time on land as possible. This is true of every Antarctica cruise we offer. There is no cruise during which you stay onboard the ship the entire time.
Q: How much time do I need to visit Antarctica?
A: Standard Antarctic Peninsula cruise itineraries are 10 to 12 days long. The shortest Antarctica voyage we offer is 6 days long, with our longest being 32 days. Please inquire for details about specific voyages.
Q: What are your booking and cancellation policies?
A: All Antarctica cruises have different deposit policies, with the deposit amount typically ranging from $1500 per person to 25% of the total trip costs. Final payment is usually due between 100 days and 120 days prior to travel.
 
Antarctica cruise cancelation policies vary widely from ship to ship. The cancelation penalty from the time of booking up until 90 or 120 days prior to departure can be as little as $500 per person or as much as $5000+ per person. Generally, all cruises will have a 100% cancelation penalty within 90 days of departure. Please inquire for details about cancelation penalties for specific ships. 
Q: What kind of accommodations can I expect?
A: Accommodations and amenities on board Antarctica cruises vary from simple 3-star to luxury 5-star. Please inquire for details.
Q: Do tours include airfare?
A: Most Antarctica cruises do not include any airfare, though some include roundtrip flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, and “fly cruises” include flights from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica or to the Falkland Islands. Southern Explorations is happy to arrange any flights you require within Argentina or Chile. Please inquire about airfare inclusions for specific cruises.
Q: How many people are on your tours?
A: The Antarctica cruise ships we offer range in size from a capacity of 54 to 200 passengers. “Mega ships” with thousands of passengers on board are not allowed to make landings in Antarctica, so all vessels are relatively small. 
Q: Do I need travel insurance, what all do I need, and how much does it cost?
A: All Antarctica cruises require that passengers purchase travel insurance covering emergency medical evacuation and repatriation. The cost of medical evacuation transport from Antarctica is high, and as it is the responsibility of the traveler, this coverage is imperative. Though trip cancellation insurance is not required, it is highly recommended. The cost of travel insurance varies from individual to individual and depends on many factors, such as cost of trip covered, age of traveler, where you live, etc. We recommend contacting Berkshire Hathaway or Travel Guard, or click here to compare other trip insurance companies.
Q: Where do Antarctica cruises begin and end?
A: Most Antarctica cruises begin/end in either Ushuaia, Argentina or Punta Arenas, Chile. Occasionally cruises depart directly from Buenos Aires, Montevideo, or other port cities, but this is rare. When departing from Ushuaia, you board the cruise at the pier in town and cross the Drake Passage onboard the vessel. Trips departing from Punta Arenas are "fly/cruise" programs that fly you (one-way or both-ways) by small aircraft to the South Shetland Islands, just off the Antarctic Peninsula to embark your expedition ship there. There are also some cruises that start with a flight from Punta Arenas to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Please check your itinerary for any inclusions, or needed additions, such as pre- or post-trip hotel nights and domestic flights to your embarkation cities. Southern Explorations can book any needed pre- or post-trip hotels, domestic flights, tours and transfers, and include them within your trip costs.
Q: What can I expect while crossing the Drake Passage? Will I get seasick?
A: The Drake Passage is the body of water between Cape Horn (the southernmost tip of South America) and the Antarctic Peninsula. On most Antarctica cruise ships it will take a full two days to cross the Drake Passage.  This passage has some of the roughest recorded sea conditions in the world (the “Drake Shake”), but it can also be pristinely calm (the “Drake Lake”). Conditions in this waterway can vary at any time of year depending on weather, and it is impossible to predict how rough it will be in advance. Some passengers experience seasickness, and others do not. It is advisable to come prepared by packing motion sickness remedies. All ships also have doctors onboard, and these medical professionals are extremely adept at assisting passengers with any seasickness concerns. Once in Antarctica, sheltered waters are normally encountered with little problem for rough seas. NOTE: There are also options to do what is called a "fly/cruise" program where you fly by small aircraft to the South Shetland Islands, just off the Antarctic Peninsula and then join up with your expedition cruise ship there, thus avoiding crossing the Drake Passage onboard the vessel.
Q: Can I bring my photographic drone to Antarctica?
A: The governing body of Antarctic tourism is called the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and Southern Explorations is a member of this organization. IAATO members have agreed that they will not allow the recreational use of UAVs (drones) in the unique, and often wildlife rich, coastal areas of Antarctica. Through the unique global partnership that is the Antarctic Treaty system, the entire continent is formally designated as a 'natural reserve, devoted to peace and science'. Antarctica is regarded as the last great wilderness on our planet, still pristine with wildlife and landscapes that show little evidence of direct human activity. Visiting and operating in an environment like this comes with a responsibility to do so carefully and with minimal impact. UAVs are a relatively new phenomenon and IAATO Is therefore taking a cautionary approach, as it is possible they could have a negative impact on the environment. Also, as you can imagine, many drones flying over a penguin colony would not only be potentially detrimental to the birds (adult penguins are distracted by drones, which allows a Skua to swoop in and eat their eggs or swipe one of their chicks), but will also greatly diminish the experience of other passengers seeking to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the Seventh Continent. So, please, leave the drones at home!
Q: Will I get more information on packing, vaccines, currency, electricity, etc.?
A: After booking, you will receive a link to our online trip portal which includes all of the need-to-know information that is specific to your itinerary. This includes packing lists, restaurant recommendations, tipping guides, FAQs, vaccine recommendations and currency information. Your Adventure Travel Coordinator will also be a great resource for any other information you may need.