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The 235-ft M/V Polar Pioneer was built in Finland in 1985 as a research vessel, and for many years she plied the treacherous waters of the USSR's northern coast. In 2000 she was refurbished in St. Petersburg as a polar expedition vessel, with a traveler capacity of 54 passengers. The Polar Pioneer has an excellent reputation for polar expedition cruising, due to its strength, maneuverability and small number of cabins. The smaller group size allows travelers to take full advantage of wildlife observation by having the capability to often offer additional and/or longer excursions. She is not a luxury vessel, but rather offers simple, yet comfortable accommodation and amenities. The Polar Pioneer complies with the latest SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) regulations and flies under the Russian flag. She travels at a maximum speed of 10 knots, and is ice-strengthened (100A1 Super).

 

 

 

 

 

Itinerary (Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula)
DAY 1: Punta Arenas, Chile
*PLEASE NOTE: Some departures run in the reverse order, commencing with a flight from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, Chile for embarkation and returning with a return flight from Antarctica to Punta Arenas. Contact us for details.

Welcome to Punta Arenas, Chile, the largest and oldest city in Chilean Patagonia, overlooking the Straights of Magellan! Today you will make your way to our joining hotel where you will meet your fellow expeditioners and enjoy your first group dinner. Please contact us for your extension options in Punta Arenas or Santiago, Chile. (D)
DAY 2: Punta Arenas, Chile - King George Island, Antarctica - Embark

In the early morning, you will meet your fellow travelers and be transferred to the Punta Arenas Airport for your charter flight* to King George Island, Antarctica**. Upon arrival, you and your luggage will be transferred by Zodiac across the Fildes Bay where you will embark your Antarctic expedition vessel and check into your cabin. You will settle in for safety and environmental briefings to prepare you for landings, as your ship sets off across the Bransfield Strait. (B,L,D)

*Charter flight is included in your trip costs.
**Please note that weather conditions in Antarctica can prevent the charter flight from departing Punta Arenas. In the event of a delay, the Polar Pioneer will offer different programs while you await your departure from Punta Arenas. Examples of these programs include a visit to Torres del Paine National Park and a flight over Cape Horn. 

DAYS 3-8: Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula

The next six days are spent navigating through the Weddell Sea, on the eastern side of the Peninsula, also making stops on the western side and in the South Shetland Islands. A host of choices are now open to your voyage and the Peninsula will be yours to explore. The whim of the weather systems and shifting pack ice will dictate the schedule, but your experienced leaders will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. Flexibility will facilitate the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. You will generally experience landings or Zodiac excursions 2-3 times a day.

Your captain will first sail through the stunning iceberg canyons of the Antarctic Sound to the Weddell Sea. Calved from the Weddell Sea’s massive ice shelves, the giant icebergs of Antarctic Sound on the Peninsula’s northeast coast create a memorable sight. Your ship will thread her way through waters alive with penguins against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery, forged by volcanic activity. Examples of possible sites you may visit in the Weddell Sea include the vast penguin colonies at Brown Bluff or Paulet Island, James Clark Ross Island and Devil Island, the Larsen Ice Shelf and View Point, Duse Bay.

Situated on the eastern side of Tabarin Peninsula, the spectacular 745-meter promontory of Brown Bluff towers over some 20,000 nesting pairs of Adélie penguins and hundreds of Gentoo penguins. Nesting Skuas, Snow petrels and Pintados inhabit the upper slopes and Kelp gulls screech overhead. Brown Bluff’s volcanic origins have created some fantastically shaped boulders that lie scattered across the ash beach and make colorful nesting sites for some of the penguins. Paulet Island is a tiny volcanic island forming the nesting grounds of some 120,000 pairs of Adélie penguins, and the surrounding seas literally teem with penguins! There is also a Blue-eyed shag colony situated at one end of Paulet’s long beach front, Leopard seals are often seen cruising offshore, and Weddell seals sometimes haul out on the beach. The beaches and rocks of James Clark Ross Island are a geologists’ paradise. The beaches are populated with kelp gulls while Antarctic terns and Skuas nest on the island’s higher slopes. Many of the rocks are decorated with bright red and orange lichens, presenting fantastic photographic opportunities and ice floes in the surrounding waters provide temporary floating homes for Weddell and Leopard seals. You may walk up to Hidden Lake, and follow a stream rich in fossilized remains of deciduous trees, ferns and even clamshells. Devil Island, with its two striking peaks or ‘horns’, is the nesting site for some 10,000 pairs of Adélie penguins. If weather conditions permit, you may decide to walk up a scree slope to the top of the island’s western peak, where you will see superb views of Erebus and Terror Gulf and may even see nesting Snow petrels and Wilson’s Storm petrels. At View Point, Duse Bay, a possible location for a continental landing, you will experience the well-preserved British and Argentine refuge huts that offer a glimpse into the olden days of Antarctic Exploration. If the ice conditions are favorable, your captain may also cruise south along part of the spectacular Larsen Ice Shelf, which runs continuously for some 800km between Cape Longing and Cape Mackintosh. Other locations you may visit in the Weddell Sea area are: Hope Bay, fossil-rich Seymour Island, historic Snow Hill Island, Prince Gustav Channel, Crystal Hill, Herbert Sound and Joinville, Beak and Vega Islands. Wherever you’ll go, wildlife, Heroic Age relics and haunting landscapes await.

Returning through Antarctic Sound, you’ll head for the Peninsula’s beautiful western flanks. You will make full use the relatively ice-free waters to experience as much as possible, visiting busy penguin rookeries, cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the service, and exploring landing sites rich in wildlife, history and stunning scenery. A sample of locations you may visit are Half Moon Island, the Lemaire Channel and the Hydrurga Rocks.

At Half Moon Island, there is a large Chinstrap penguin rookery tucked in between basaltic turrets colored by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often Fur seals and Elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. At one extremity of the island there is a large colony of nesting Blue-eyed shags. At the other end lies a small Argentine station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways. If ice conditions allow, your ship will quietly move through the narrow Lemaire Channel where cliffs tower 700 meters directly above the ship and the still water below will mirror perfect reflections of the world above. The Hydrurga Rocks are a group of low-lying, unprotected, granitic rocks protruding from the sea and swept by southern ocean swells. As you enter the calm channels that lead into their hidden interior, you will discover Weddell seals hauled out on protected snow beds, noisy Chinstraps raising their families on rocky platforms and on occasion, some skulking Leopard seals in the shallows. Additional exciting locations you could visit are Neko Harbour, Port Lockroy, a historic British base that is now a museum and post office, Cuverville, Danco and Trinity Islands…or a variety of other surprises. (B,L,D)

DAY 9-10: At Sea

The next two days are spent onboard as your vessel heads north through the Drake Passage toward Ushuaia, Argentina. Time onboard is spent attending lectures and reflecting on your journey. As the vessel approaches the southern tip of South America, the captain will sail close to the legendary Cape Horn if conditions permit. (B,L,D)

DAY 12: Disembark Ushuaia, Argentina

In the early morning, you slip into dock in Ushuaia, Argentina, marking the end of your expedition. After breakfast, you will disembark the vessel, and transfer to the Ushuaia Airport or your nearby hotel. (B)

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

Itinerary (Across the Antarctic Circle)
DAY 1: Ushuaia, Argentina* - Embark

*PLEASE NOTE: Some departures run in reverse order, starting in Punta Arenas, Chile and ending in Ushuaia, Argentina, and some iteneraries will start and end in Punta Arenas, Chile. Please contact us for details.

Welcome to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located in the shadow of the Andes and right on the Beagle Channel! Enjoy a morning at leisure. You may opt for a cruise on the Beagle Channel, a trek in Tierra del Fuego National Park, or visit a nearby historical estancia and museum. Please contact us for your extension options in Ushuaia. In the late afternoon, head to the port of Ushuaia where you will embark your Antarctic expedition vessel. Once onboard, you’ll check into your cabin and enjoy a welcome briefing as you sail through this scenic waterway. (D)

DAYS 2-3: Drake Passage

The next two days are spent crossing the Drake Passage. Time onboard is spent relaxing, enjoying lectures, whale watching and watching the ceaseless flight of seabirds following the ship’s wake. Heading south, you’ll cross the Antarctic Convergence, arriving into the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. 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 the journey across the Drake Passage ends, you’ll spot your first icebergs near the South Shetland Islands. (B,L,D)

DAYS 4-9: Antarctic Peninsula & Polar Circle

The next six days are spent exploring the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula, visiting busy penguin rookeries, and exploring scenic and historic sites, as your expedition sets course to and from the Polar Circle. A host of choices are open to your voyage and the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is yours to discover. Your experienced leaders will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. Flexibility allows you to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. You will cruise along spectacular ice cliffs, follow whales that are feeding near the service, and explore landing sites rich in wildlife, history and stunning scenery, generally experiencing Zodiac landings or cruising excursions 2-3 times a day.

Your exciting crossing of the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66°33’ South is a highlight of this voyage. In order to accomplish the extra distance without compromising the quality of your Antarctic experience, the ship will motor south every night and during meal times. By the time you’ve crossed the Circle in Crystal Sound, you will notice subtle changes in the Antarctic land and icescapes, and also in the distribution of wildlife. In Crystal Sound the mountains soar from the sea, while small islands provide havens for penguins and seals. At this time of the summer the waters are rich with krill so conditions are hopeful for seeing whales, particularly Humpbacks and Minkes. If conditions allow, your ship will travel south through the narrow twisting channel called The Gullet. As your ship heads north again, you will understand more about the effect of southerly latitudes on Antarctic wildlife.

Examples of possible sites you may visit throughout your voyage include Robert Point, Half Moon and Deception Islands, the Lemaire Channel, and Paradise Harbour. Robert Point is a unique landing place in the South Shetland Islands; a tiny toe of land that is literally alive with wildlife. Here you will find breeding Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins, wallows of Elephant seals that are 40 beasts strong and Giant petrels nesting on the ridgeline. At nearby Half Moon Island, there is a large Chinstrap penguin rookery tucked in between basaltic turrets colored by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often Fur seals and Elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. At one extremity of the island there is a large colony of nesting Blue-eyed shags. At the other end lies a small Argentine station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways. If weather conditions permit, your ship will sail through the narrow opening of Neptune’s Bellow to enter the flooded volcanic crater of Deception Island. Here you will find the remains of a derelict whaling station and vacant British base. Steam rises for the shore here, and you may decide to take the Polar Plunge! Outside the crater, you may land at Bailey Head to explore the enormous Chinstrap penguin rookery.

If ice conditions allow, your ship will quietly move through the narrow Lemaire Channel where cliffs tower 700 meters directly above the ship and the still water below will mirror perfect reflections of the world above. In the protected bay of Paradise Harbour, you will find spectacular glaciers surrounded by magnificent peaks. The rocky cliffs of this unforgettable piece of heaven provide perfect nesting sites for Blue-eyed shags, terns and gulls. This is also a haven for whales and you will keep our eyes open for Humpbacks, Orcas and Minkes, as well as Crabeater seals, as you explore by Zodiacs and possibly make a continental landing. Additional exciting locations you could visit are the Petermann, Fish, Argentine and Detaille Islands, Penola Strait, Neko Harbour, Crystal Sound, the Ukrainian Scientific Base of Vernadsky and Port Lockroy, a historic British base that is now a museum and post office…or a variety of other surprises. (B,L,D)

DAY 10: Disembark King George Island - Punta Arenas, Chile

Today you’ll arrive at mountainous King George Island and your ship will approach Frei Base. If time and weather permit we explore penguin and seal-rich waters of Fildes Bay and visit the surprising Trinity Church at Bellingshausen Station, before catching our charter flight back to Punta Arenas, Chile.** Upon arrival into Punta Arenas, you will be transferred to your hotel for the night. (B,L) *Flight is included in trip costs. **Please note that weather conditions in Antarctica can prevent the charter flight from departing King George Island. In the event of a delay, the Polar Pioneer will continue to accommodate you while you await your departure from Antarctica. We highly recommend that you do not book your homeward flight or international departure from Chile on the same day as your scheduled flight from Antarctica.

DAY 11: Punta Arenas - Depart

Enjoy breakfast with your fellow expeditioners in the hotel before saying your farewells and continuing with your own arrangements. (B)

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

Itinerary (Weddell Sea & South Georgia)
DAY 1: Ushuaia, Argentina - Embark

Welcome to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located in the shadow of the Andes and right on the Beagle Channel! Enjoy a morning at leisure. You may opt for a cruise on the Beagle Channel, a trek in Tierra del Fuego National Park, or visit a nearby historical estancia and museum. Please contact us for your extension options in Ushuaia. In the late afternoon, head to the port of Ushuaia where you will embark your Antarctic expedition vessel. Once onboard, you’ll check into your cabin and enjoy a welcome briefing as you sail through this scenic waterway. (D)

DAYS 2-3: Drake Passage

The next two days are spent crossing the Drake Passage. Time onboard is spent relaxing, enjoying lectures, whale watching and watching the ceaseless flight of seabirds following the ship’s wake. Heading south, you’ll cross the Antarctic Convergence, arriving into the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. 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 the voyage across the Drake Passage ends, you’ll spot your first icebergs near the South Shetland Islands. (B,L,D)

DAYS 4-7: Weddell Sea

The next four days are spent navigating through the Weddell Sea, on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The whim of the weather systems and shifting pack ice will dictate the schedule, but your experienced leaders will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. Flexibility will facilitate the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. You will cruise along spectacular ice cliffs, visit busy penguin rookeries, follow whales that are feeding near the service, and explore landing sites rich in wildlife, history and stunning scenery. You will generally experience landings or Zodiac excursions 2-3 times a day.

Your captain will first sail through the stunning iceberg canyons of the Antarctic Sound to the Weddell Sea. Calved from the Weddell Sea’s massive ice shelves, the giant icebergs of Antarctic Sound on the Peninsula’s northeast coast create a memorable sight. Your ship will thread her way through waters alive with penguins against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery, forged by volcanic activity.

In the Weddell Sea, you will begin to trace Shackleton’s path. The Weddell Sea offers huge glaciers that pour down between the mountains from the polar plateau, and plates of ice the size of city blocks cover the ocean’s surface. All attempts will be made to visit fossil-rich islands, wildlife havens, remnants of historic explorers’ huts, and even land on the Antarctic continent itself.

Examples of possible sites you may visit in the Weddell Sea include the vast penguin colonies at Brown Bluff or Paulet Island, James Clark Ross Island and Devil Island, the Larsen Ice Shelf and View Point, Duse Bay.

Situated on the eastern side of Tabarin Peninsula, the spectacular 745-meter promontory of Brown Bluff towers over some 20,000 nesting pairs of Adélie penguins and hundreds of Gentoo penguins. Nesting Skuas, Snow petrels and Pintados inhabit the upper slopes and Kelp gulls screech overhead. Brown Bluff’s volcanic origins have created some fantastically shaped boulders that lie scattered across the ash beach and make colorful nesting sites for some of the penguins. Paulet Island is a tiny volcanic island forming the nesting grounds of some 120,000 pairs of Adélie penguins, and the surrounding seas literally teem with penguins! There is also a Blue-eyed shag colony situated at one end of Paulet’s long beach front, Leopard seals are often seen cruising offshore, and Weddell seals sometimes haul out on the beach. The beaches and rocks of James Clark Ross Island are a geologists’ paradise. The beaches are populated with kelp gulls while Antarctic terns and Skuas nest on the island’s higher slopes. Many of the rocks are decorated with bright red and orange lichens, presenting fantastic photographic opportunities and ice floes in the surrounding waters provide temporary floating homes for Weddell and Leopard seals. You may walk up to Hidden Lake, and follow a stream rich in fossilized remains of deciduous trees, ferns and even clamshells. Devil Island, with its two striking peaks or ‘horns’, is the nesting site for some 10,000 pairs of Adélie penguins. If weather conditions permit, you may decide to walk up a scree slope to the top of the island’s western peak, where you will see superb views of Erebus and Terror Gulf and may even see nesting Snow petrels and Wilson’s Storm petrels. At View Point, Duse Bay, a possible location for a continental landing, you will experience the well-preserved British and Argentine refuge huts that offer a glimpse into the olden days of Antarctic Exploration. If the ice conditions are favorable, your captain may also cruise south along part of the spectacular Larsen Ice Shelf, which runs continuously for some 800km between Cape Longing and Cape Mackintosh. Other locations you may visit in the Weddell Sea area are: D’Urville Island, Hope Bay, fossil-rich Seymour Island, historic Snow Hill Island, Prince Gustav Channel, Crystal Hill, Herbert Sound and Joinville, Beak and Vega Islands. Wherever you’ll go, wildlife, Heroic Age relics and haunting landscapes await. (B,L,D)

DAYS 8: Elephant Island

Today, if conditions allow, your captain will set course for Elephant Island, a half-submerged mountain cloaked with an ice sheet at the outer limits of the South Shetlands. The plan is to sail past Cape Valentine to see the beach where Shackleton’s men first put ashore. Weather permitting, you’ll follow the coastline six miles west to Point Wild, where the men wintered beneath two of their upturned, open boats. If weather and ice conditions are favorable, an attempt to make at least one landing will be made. (B,L,D)

DAYS 9-10: At Sea

Following in Shackleton’s wake, the next two days are spent onboard as your vessel heads across the Scotia Sea bound for South Georgia. Time onboard is spent attending lectures, watching the sea birds follow the ship, whale watching from the bridge or relaxing in the lounges. (B,L,D)

DAYS 11-14: South Georgia Island

South Georgia’s remote, untamed landscape is simply stunning. You will spend the next four days exploring the history and reveling at the extraordinary diversity of wildlife on this incredible island. Famed for its abandoned whaling stations and Shackleton’s heroic journey, South Georgia is home to literally millions of Fur seals, the world’s largest penguin rookeries, wallows of Elephant seals, and nesting Wandering albatross. Your expedition will have ample time to explore the network of harbors along South Georgia’s spectacular northern coast, visiting wildlife havens that include the world’s largest King penguin rookeries and majestic albatross nests. You will marvel at the adorable seal pups learning to swim, the herds of reindeer cantering across lush, grassy flats and the haunting cries of the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Kayakers will also revel in paddling the coastline’s nooks and crannies, accompanied by playful seals, and the Alpine Crossing Party will begin their adventurous journey through the crevassed terrain of the island’s interior.

Initially, your captain will head towards King Haakon Bay on the southern side of the island. The hope is to make a ceremonial landing at Cave Cove, Shackleton’s first landfall after his epic open boat voyage. Later in the day, you’ll move down the bay to Peggotty camp where the Alpine Crossing Party will begin their trek through the mountains and passes of South Georgia. Here you’ll make a landing and have an opportunity to walk with them up onto the island, rejoining the ship in Possession Bay or Stromness.

South Georgia visitor sites include Grytviken, St. Andrew’s Bay, Stromness Bay and Bay of Isles. At Grytviken, originally a Norwegian sealing and whaling station which was abandoned in 1965, you will encounter elephant seals amidst abandoned factory buildings, and view ships which lay sunken alongside old wharves. Sir Ernest Shackleton was laid to rest here, and a pilgrimage will be made to visit the cross his men erected in his memory looking out across beautiful Cumberland Bay. Upon the black sandy beach of St Andrew’s Bay, you will find hundreds of Elephants seals that haul out on shore to molt amidst a backdrop of phenomenal snow-capped peaks. Just behind the beach, you’ll hear and then see the overwhelming sight of tens upon tens of thousands of King penguins at different stages of their breeding cycle. The glacial river that runs into the sea here will be alive with penguin chicks and seal pups testing their aquatic skills. At Stromness Bay, you may decide to wander up the mountains behind the old whaling station to see the waterfall decent that marked the ending of Shackleton’s arduous island crossing, or even get the opportunity to walk in his footsteps from Fortuna Bay across the saddle to this waterfall. At Bay of Isles, you’ll find the serene Wandering Albatross with their massive wingspans, sitting proudly on their cute downy chicks – and maybe even be blessed by the performance of an intimate courtship dance, or witness a youngster being lovingly fed. Other sites you may visit are Elsehul Bay, Cooper Bay, Larsen Harbour, Salisbury Plains, Right Whale Bay, Royal Harbour, Drygalski Fjord, Gold Harbour, and Possession Bay. Rich in history, wildlife and unbelievably impressive scenery, South Georgia will astound you. (B,L,D)

DAY 15: Shag Rocks

If time and weather conditions permit, you may pass close to Shag Rocks, a fascinating group of jagged rocky islets protruding from the sea in the westernmost extremity of South Georgia. Blue-eyed cormorants fill the air; their precarious nesting sites are white with guano. (B,L,D)

DAYS 16-17: At Sea

The next two days are spent onboard as your vessel heads west toward the Falkland Islands. Time onboard is spent attending lectures, watching the sea birds follow the ship, whale watching from the bridge or relaxing in the lounges. (B,L,D)

DAY 18: Disembark Stanley, Falkland Islands - Punta Arenas, Chile

Early this morning, your ship will glide into Port Stanley. After breakfast, you’ll disembark your ship and enjoy a lovely tour of the port before transferring to the Port Stanley Airport for your flight to Punta Arenas or Santiago, Chile*. You have the option of either spending more time exploring the Falkland Islands or continuing on to Punta Arenas or Santiago, Chile. (B) (*Flight included to Punta Arenas or Santiago)

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

Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula

Pricing
DaysStart DateEnd DateTripleTwin ShareTwin Economy PrivateTwin PrivateMini SuiteCaptain's Suite
113/10/193/20/19$9,700$11,400$13,100$13,800$14,800$16,200

-Activities offered on all departures are: Zodiac Excursions, Hiking, Kayaking, Camping, and Photography Program.
-All prices are PER PERSON.
-A single supplement applies to a solo traveler in a private cabin. Please inquire for single supplement pricing. A solo traveler willing to share a cabin with another passenger (or passengers) of the same gender can avoid the single supplement.

Included in tour cost
  • Antarctica cruise accommodations
  • All meals onboard Antarctica cruise
  • Airfare (Falklands/Punta Arenas) - Included for some departures
  • Airfare (King George Island/Punta Arenas) - Included for some departures
  • Airfare (Punta Arenas/Puerto Williams) - Included for some departures
  • 1 night's accommodations Punta Arenas - Applies on some departures
  • All shore excursions throughout voyage by zodiac
  • Camping - all gear included
  • Expedition waterproof jacket - Must be pre-reserved
  • Rubber boots available onboard – must be pre-reserved
  • Personalized trip photo book
  • 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
  • Hotel accommodations in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Ground transportation in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Meals in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Medical evacuation insurance (mandatory)
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (recommended)
  • Personal expenses (gratuities, alcoholic beverages, telecommunication charges, laundry, airport taxes, etc.)
  • Kayaking available at additional cost - includes all gear
  • Diving available at additional cost
  • Snorkeling available at additional cost
  • Climbing available at additional cost
  • Shackleton Crossing (trekking/camping) available at additional cost on some departures

Across the Antarctic Circle

Pricing
DaysStart DateEnd DateTripleTwin ShareTwin Economy PrivateTwin PrivateMini SuiteCaptain's Suite
113/2/193/12/19$9,700$11,400$13,100$13,800$14,800$16,200

-Activities offered on all departures are: Zodiac Excursions, Hiking, Kayaking, Diving, and Snorkeling.
-All prices are PER PERSON.
-A single supplement applies to a solo traveler in a private cabin. Please inquire for single supplement pricing. A solo traveler willing to share a cabin with another passenger (or passengers) of the same gender can avoid the single supplement.

Included in tour cost
  • Antarctica cruise accommodations
  • All meals onboard Antarctica cruise
  • Airfare (Falklands/Punta Arenas) - Included for some departures
  • Airfare (King George Island/Punta Arenas) - Included for some departures
  • Airfare (Punta Arenas/Puerto Williams) - Included for some departures
  • 1 night's accommodations Punta Arenas - Applies on some departures
  • All shore excursions throughout voyage by zodiac
  • Camping - all gear included
  • Expedition waterproof jacket - Must be pre-reserved
  • Rubber boots available onboard – must be pre-reserved
  • Personalized trip photo book
  • 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
  • Hotel accommodations in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Ground transportation in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Meals in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Medical evacuation insurance (mandatory)
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (recommended)
  • Personal expenses (gratuities, alcoholic beverages, telecommunication charges, laundry, airport taxes, etc.)
  • Kayaking available at additional cost - includes all gear
  • Diving available at additional cost
  • Snorkeling available at additional cost
  • Climbing available at additional cost
  • Shackleton Crossing (trekking/camping) available at additional cost on some departures

Weddell Sea & South Georgia

Pricing
DaysStart DateEnd DateTripleTwin ShareTwin Economy PrivateTwin PrivateMini SuiteCaptain's Suite
183/20/194/6/19$14,600$17,900$20,600$21,700$24,000$25,400

-Activities offered on all departures are: Zodiac Excursions, Hiking, Shackleton Crossing (Trekking/Camping), and Kayaking.
-All prices are PER PERSON.
-A single supplement applies to a solo traveler in a private cabin. Please inquire for single supplement pricing. A solo traveler willing to share a cabin with another passenger (or passengers) of the same gender can avoid the single supplement.

Included in tour cost
  • Antarctica cruise accommodations
  • All meals onboard Antarctica cruise
  • Airfare (Falklands/Punta Arenas) - Included for some departures
  • Airfare (King George Island/Punta Arenas) - Included for some departures
  • Airfare (Punta Arenas/Puerto Williams) - Included for some departures
  • 1 night's accommodations Punta Arenas - Applies on some departures
  • All shore excursions throughout voyage by zodiac
  • Camping - all gear included
  • Expedition waterproof jacket - Must be pre-reserved
  • Rubber boots available onboard – must be pre-reserved
  • Personalized trip photo book
  • 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
  • Hotel accommodations in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Ground transportation in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Meals in Argentina and/or Chile - unless otherwise noted
  • Medical evacuation insurance (mandatory)
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (recommended)
  • Personal expenses (gratuities, alcoholic beverages, telecommunication charges, laundry, airport taxes, etc.)
  • Kayaking available at additional cost - includes all gear
  • Diving available at additional cost
  • Snorkeling available at additional cost
  • Climbing available at additional cost
  • Shackleton Crossing (trekking/camping) available at additional cost on some departures

Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula

Trip Dates
Availability changes constantly on Antarctica cruises. Please contact us for the most up-to-date availability.
Sunday, March 10, 2019 to Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Across the Antarctic Circle

Trip Dates
Availability changes constantly on Antarctica cruises. Please contact us for the most up-to-date availability.
Saturday, March 2, 2019 to Thursday, December 12, 2019

Weddell Sea & South Georgia

Trip Dates
Availability changes constantly on Antarctica cruises. Please contact us for the most up-to-date availability.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 to Saturday, April 6, 2019
Cabins


The M/V Polar Pioneer accommodates 54 passengers in 26 spacious, outside cabins with portholes or windows, and ample storage space. Cabins have either shared or private toilet and shower facilities.

 

  • Triple (2):  Two lower and one upper berth, desk, small washbasin, shared facilities, porthole, 10.2 square meters
  • Twin (9):  Two lower berths, desk, small washbasin, couch, shared facilities, porthole, 9.8 square meters
  • Twin Private (12):  Two lower bunks, desk, private facilities, windows, 13.7-13.9 square meters *Cabins 402 & 403 have and upper and lower berth plus couch
  • Mini Suite (2):  Double bed in separate room, sofa bed, desk and table, refrigerator, TV/DVD, private facilities, windows, 18.72 square meters
  • Captain’s Suite (1):  Double bed in separate room, sofa bed, lounge and table area, refrigerator, TV/DVD, private facilities, forward and port windows, 24.42 square meters


 

Boat Details

Ship Amenities

  • Large open decks, allowing for plenty of viewing space from the ship to enjoy dramatic scenery and wildlife
  • Spacious bridge on deck six
  • A combined lounge/bar/library area on deck four
  • Two dining rooms with portholes
  • Sauna
  • Lecture/presentation room
  • Equipped with 6 Zodiacs for shore excursions

Ship Crew and Services

  • Highly experienced, 24 member Russian crew
  • Expedition leader
  • Assistant expedition leader
  • 4 guides/lecturers
  • Hotel manager
  • 2 chefs
  • On-board doctor

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.