Aptly described as “The White Continent” for its hauntingly beautiful polar landscapes, Antarctica is Earth’s most southerly continent, beckoning luxury travelers with “bucket-list” eco-adventures. During daytime, guests will explore via Zodiac rides, kayaking and hiking. They’ll gaze at icebergs and glaciers and search for penguins, seals, whales and seabirds.
But 24/7 onboard their luxury ship or upscale expedition vessel, they’ll also find luxurious floating accommodations, gourmet dining, enrichment programming, and varying by ship, such perks as spa treatments, professional photography instruction and butler service. So, what’s new in Antarctica for winter 2021-2022 and 2022-2023?
Many Antarctic voyages sail roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina via the infamous Drake Passage, cited by sailors throughout history for its rough seas, although waters can be calmer at times. Other Antarctica sailings are point-to-point, often between Ushuaia and another city in mainland South America or the Falklands. But luxury lines are creating new innovative options.
A great example is Silversea Cruises’ new ultra-luxury, fly-cruise service, “Antarctica Bridge,” which will offer travelers a fast, direct route to the White Continent. Starting in December 2021, 14 fly-cruise voyages are planned, the largest Antarctica offering in the line’s history, not only for the most voyages available but for itinerary diversity — from solar eclipse voyages to an extended voyage in the Ross Sea.
Guests will arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile via an inbound international flight from Santiago, Chile with either Silversea’s inclusive economy-class air or reduced business-class air, part of an ongoing air promotion. They’ll spend a night pre-cruise at the elegant Hotel Cabo de Hornos, Punta Arenas, where they’ll receive their expedition kit (rubber boots, parka, walking poles, waterproof trousers, expedition backpacks and a water bottle). The line’s dedicated expedition team will be on the ground to prepare guests for the adventure ahead.
"Antarctica Bridge" guests then will fly in business class on the private jet from Punta Arenas to Antarctica’s King George Island. Hosted by Silversea, the flight “above” the Drake Passage will take two or so hours each way, and most notably, will save four sea days (versus the ship sailing roundtrip through that passage). The in-flight entertainment program will include Zodiac and International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) briefings.
Siversea's “Antarctica Bridge” guests will head to the White Continent aboard the 144-passenger Silver Explorer, shown here. // Photo courtesy of Silversea
Specially adapted to land on King George Island, the 75-seat aircraft will arrive at Chile’s Presidente Frey base, normally used by scientists traveling to Antarctic research stations. Silversea’s passengers will then board the 144-passenger Silver Explorer, with all ocean-view suites, butler service, 24-hour in-suite dining service; a bottle of champagne upon arrival and a drinks bar, stocked with guests’ preferred beverages; fine dining, including complimentary caviar on demand and many other perks.
Best of all, on these fly-cruise itineraries, guests will spend five full days — the same amount of time as on Silversea’s conventional Antarctica voyages — exploring Antarctic Sound, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.
Expanded to 14 members for 2021-2022, the line’s expedition team will accompany guests on Zodiac tours, shore experiences and kayaking tours, as well as lecture on the region’s geology and history. Cruisers will peruse large penguin rookeries and look for seals, whales and birds. After the cruise concludes, passengers will take the line’s private flight back to Punta Arenas and spend one night at Hotel Cabo de Hornos, before returning home.
For those seeking a seagoing route, Silversea’s new 2023 sailing schedule includes an 18-day voyage on Silver Cloud from Ushuaia to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica, Elephant Island, the Antarctic Sound, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, departing January 28, 2023.
Classic Ship, Adventurous Itinerary
While many vessels headed to Antarctica are expedition ships, not all are. Some are luxury cruise ships. For the first time since 2011, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will once again return to the southernmost continent with its 19-night “Journey to Antarctica” voyage on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager. Departing January 31, 2022, the journey from Santiago (San Antonio), Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, will take luxury travelers to “The Ice” while also making calls at other ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
In addition, this return to Antarctica will put Regent back on the list as an ultra-luxury line offering itineraries to all seven continents. In Antarctica waters, Seven Seas Voyager will cruise by Neumayer Channel, Paradise Bay, Dallmann Bay, Wilhelmina Bay, Charlotte Bay, Half Moon Island and Yankee Harbor.
All accommodations on Seven Seas Voyager have private balconies and Penthouse Suites and higher categories have butler service. We’d check out the most spacious suite category, Deck 11’s, 1,403-square-foot Master Suite, consisting of two bedrooms, two-and-a-half marble baths and a large living room.
Accommodating up to six guests, the Master Suite also offers two private balconies. “Park Avenue chic” is a good way to describe this suite’s space and décor, as it’s decked out in elegant rosewood furniture and deluxe fabrics with a crystal chandelier to enhance that ambiance.
Among the many complimentary Master Suite guest perks are a one-night, pre-cruise hotel package; a dinner invitation with a senior officer, guaranteed reservation each night in the specialty restaurant of their choice, priority online shore excursions and dining reservations, one sumptuous en-suite caviar set-up, and even a cocktail party for eight, plus much more.
New Ships in Antarctica
Highly anticipated is Seabourn’s first new luxury expedition ship, the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, a polar class (PC6) vessel beginning service later this year; a sister expedition vessel will set sail in 2022. Starting in November 2021, Seabourn Venture will sail 11- to 22-day expedition voyages that visit the Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
Newly released are details about Seabourn Venture’s Spa & Wellness facilities, designed by Adam Tihany. Located on Deck 7, the 3,700-square-foot space will offer Seabourn’s holistic “Mindful Living Program,” developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. Staffed by a fitness director, the fitness center within the spa will be outfitted with cardio and strength equipment, plus the ship has a full-service salon.
What’s nifty about the spa design? It’s Tihany’s creative concept of a contemporary “floating forest.” Guests can expect to see a textured tree-inspired art mural, light wood-and-bronze material palette and live wood features. Natural stone flooring is paired with muted sage and orange accent colors. Floor-to-ceiling spa windows are new to Seabourn and unique to its expedition ships.
Seabourn Venture will be carrying two U-Boat Worx Cruise Sub 7 subs that will take guests into the depths of the ocean. // Photo courtesy of Seabourn
For the ultimate in space, check out Seabourn Venture’s two-story expansive Grand Wintergarden Suite. Yes, guests can expect all the bells and whistles in décor, amenities and space, but we also like that guest needs have been anticipated, such as by the inclusion of a built-in, heated jacket wardrobe. Guests can simply grab a warm coat before heading out on deck or ashore during a cool morning or hang their wet outdoor parkas and other gear in this wardrobe, so their expedition gear will dry quickly once cruisers return from a hike, kayaking trip or Zodiac adventure.
Also newly introduced is Seabourn’s new 2023 “Grand Voyage: Grand Americas, Amazon & Antarctica,” a 79-day sailing roundtrip from Miami. Circumnavigating South America, the 458-passenger Seabourn Quest will sail to Central America, countries along South America’s western coastline and then visit Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
That voyage’s five-day Antarctica experience will include Zodiac exploration; optional kayaking is available. The Grand Voyage’s return route to Miami will take guests to the Amazon and into the Caribbean. When the voyage is completed, guests will have visited 15 countries and 37 ports with five overnight stays in port.
Seabourn Quest is also slated to operate Seabourn’s 2021-2022 Antarctica & Patagonia voyages, which will include five 21- to 24-day cruises between November 2021 and February/March 2022.
Launching this summer is Crystal’s first ultra-luxury expedition vessel, the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, which will sail winter 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 Antarctica voyages. Among them is an 11-night “Antarctic Peninsula” itinerary that includes a week in Antarctica plus several days at sea for the Drake Passage transit.
For the “Antarctic Peninsula” voyages, guests receive a one-night, pre-cruise hotel in Buenos Aires and roundtrip air from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. This itinerary is available on multiple dates. Among other options is a 19-night “Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Wildlife Expedition.”
The polar class (PC-6) Crystal Endeavor will offer expansive open decks, spacious public spaces, Michelin-inspired global cuisine, a full-service fitness center, spa and salon and one of the cruise industry’s highest service ratios — 1-to-1 or one crew member for every passenger. As for “toys,” the vessel will carry Zodiacs, two helicopters and a seven-person submersible that’s able to explore up to 980 feet beneath the water, conditions permitting.
Guests will find spacious public areas, such as the Crystal Cove, the heart of the ship where guests can listen to enrichment speakers, savor pre-dinner or late night cocktails and enjoy entertainment. A favorite for afternoon tea or cocktails is likely to be Palm Court, a signature space found on ships throughout the Crystal brand.
All-suite accommodations have pampering butler service, high-tech amenities and a private veranda. For the most luxurious digs, we’d look to the 1,130-square-foot, two-bedroom Owner’s Suite (OS category) with a 737-square-foot veranda.
Crystal Endeavor’s onboard expedition spaces include enrichment areas, designated mud rooms, a fully equipped private marina and a helicopter lounge.
New luxe-adventure Atlas Ocean Voyages recently introduced a new perk — private charter jet flights from Orlando, FL, to Ushuaia, Argentina for all Antarctica sailings in winter 2021-2022 and in 2022-2023. The cruise line is also including connecting flights from 16 U.S. and Canadian gateways to Orlando for guests taking those charter flights.
Part of the line’s “All Inclusive All the Way” approach, this new private charter jet service allows guests to fly direct from Orlando, FL, to Ushuaia, Argentina. It’s helpful given LAN Argentina’s recent cessation-of-operations announcement, which significantly decreases airlift to Ushuaia. Atlas’ guests also bypass at least one layover and eliminate at least one day’s transit time.
Atlas’ first polar-class ship, the 196-passenger World Navigator, will begin cruising this summer and sail nine- and 12-night Antarctica expeditions between November 2021 and March 2022. Launching in mid-2022 is World Traveller, which will join World Navigator in Antarctica for the winter 2022-2023 season.
Antarctica cruise itineraries include the nine-night “Antarctica Discovery” with multiple embarkation dates in late 2021 and early 2022. A 12-night “Antarctica: The Solar Eclipse” voyage sails roundtrip from Ushuaia on November 28, 2021; guests will witness a few moments of total darkness in the Weddell Sea.
One “bucket list” option is the 12-night “Antarctica: Crossing the Circle” on February 2, 2022. As the ship crosses the 66th parallel, passengers will become a “Red Nose,” an anecdotal title for those few people across the globe who’ve done that.
World Navigator’s inaugural Antarctica expedition season will be led by Henry Pall Wulff, a naturalist and adventurer who’s guided Arctic and Antarctica expeditions for six years. He’ll also be assembling an expedition team of ornithologists, marine biologists, other specialists and scholars.
In addition, Michel Verdure, a renowned cruise and travel photographer, will come onboard select Antarctica voyages as a feature lecturer and share photography tips with guests. Dr. Patrick Treuthardt will join World Navigator’s solar eclipse cruise on November 28, 2021.
World Navigator features four decks of accommodations, totaling just under 100 suites and staterooms, all with ocean views and nearly all with balconies. We’d recommend one of Deck 5’s or Deck 6’s one-bedroom suites with balcony (NS category). At 465 square feet, they’re the ship’s most spacious accommodations with floor-to-ceiling ocean views from the living room or bedroom.
Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic will operate Antarctica cruises with multiple polar expedition vessels between November 2021 through February 2022 and also in winter 2022-2023. Highly anticipated by Antarctic-bound cruisers are two new, 126-passenger upscale PC5 vessels — National Geographic Resolution, setting sail later this year, and its sleek, identical sister, National Geographic Endurance, named in honor of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton; it was delivered last year, but has yet to sail for the line.
Both ships have a patented X-BOW designed to slice through waves — creating a much smoother ride and reduced ocean spray on deck, helpful for when passengers are standing outside to view polar landscapes or watch marine life.
Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic’s two new Antarctica-bound vessels will offer the first “igloos at sea.” // Photo Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
When it’s time to explore, Lindblad’s guests will head out by Zodiac, kayak or go virtually — by watching video captured by a ROV (remotely operated vehicle/drone). On excursions, Zodiac rides or on the ships’ outer decks, an expert National Geographic photographer and a Lindblad-certified photo instructor will share what they see and help passengers perfect the art and technique of their photos.
What’s nifty? Both ships will offer the first “igloos at sea.” Two clear igloos are positioned on deck near the affinity whirlpools, so guests have a well-protected and private area to enjoy the outdoor perspective on polar landscapes. They’re first-come, first-served and each has a two-person bed with comforters for extra warmth, as well as LED lighting. Bed warmers also will be used to keep guests comfortable and drinks will be served. It’s akin to a beach cabana experience, yet a cocooned relaxation bubble for a cool climate. The igloos are not for overnight use.
Accommodations-wise, the two new ships will have 69 outside-facing cabins, 53 of which (including 12 solo cabins) will feature small balconies with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Most spacious is the 430-square-foot Category 7 Suite, which has a privacy wall — with TVs on each side of that — to screen the bedroom from the sitting area, but it’s also open-air to let in light.
This suite offers a stone-clad bathroom with a tub, rain shower and heated towel rack as well as a walk-in closet. Creature comforts include signature feature duvets, a retractable lighted vanity mirror, a digital tablet for guest use, plus generous USB and universal electrical ports for plugging in multiple devices. On sunny days, why not relax on the suite’s private balcony which has seating and a hammock.
One of several itineraries is the 24-day “Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands” itinerary; guests sailing on the two new ships operating these itineraries will fly to and from the embarkation point of Ushuaia, Argentina via Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Onboard the two new vessels, multiple dining options will include Restaurant Two Seven Zero for superb dining with stellar views; C. Green’s for an early riser breakfast, fresh salads, lighter fare and custom-grilled selections at lunch and dinner; and Chef’s Table, an intimate chef-hosted, small group dinner venue with regionally inspired, sustainable and inventive cuisine.
For luxury travelers seeking “combination” itineraries that offer Antarctica but also a totally different region in South America, we suggest checking out Scenic’s 22-day “Highlights of Peru with Antarctica In Depth” itinerary on February 18, 2022.
During the first 10 days, passengers can explore Peru’s ancient Incan culture and the legacy of the Spanish conquistadors, as well as the valleys and peaks of the Andes. Guests spend time in Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cuzco, before flying to Buenos Aires and on to Ushuaia, where they board the expeditionary Scenic Eclipse for a journey through the Drake Passage and into Antarctic waters for more than a week. Scenic Eclipse is a polar class (PC6) vessel. It can carry 228 guests but only takes 200 for polar sailings.
Another Scenic option is the 21-day “Antarctica In Depth with Patagonian Adventure” from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile; departures are November 10, 2021, February 26, 2022, or in reverse on January 29, 2022.
Top accommodations on Scenic Eclipse are the Owner’s Penthouse Suites on Deck 9’s bow, but those were listed as sold out at press time. Another pampering choice is the 1,130-square-foot Grand Panorama Suite, located forward on Deck 6. Guests will love viewing the polar landscapes and any wildlife from this suite’s curved, private outdoor terrace with sun loungers.
The Grand Panorama Suite’s bedroom offers a luxury king-size Scenic Slumber Bed, reading alcove, desk and an HDTV, while the bathroom has a full-size bathtub, steam shower with light therapy and dual vanity. The in-suite lounge and dining area offers both cinema (surround sound and an HDTV) and a four-seat dining table.
Grand Panorama Suite guests can also expect butler service; canapés and petit fours delivered to the suite; and in-suite beverage, dining and early morning tea/coffee service. A premium minibar is restocked daily, and the personalized butler bar offers illy coffee and specialty teas.
One complimentary one-hour spa treatment is offered per suite, as well as complimentary laundry service, priority specialty restaurant dining and VIP embarkation/disembarkation. Guests in the Grand Panorama Suite also receive priority booking for shore excursions and discovery experiences including Zodiacs and kayaks, as well as optional spa treatments, helicopter and submarine experiences.
The Palm Court on Crystal Endeavor is likely to be a favorite for afternoon tea or cocktails. // Photo Courtesy of Crystal Cruises
Another “combination” option is Viking’s 18-day “South America and Antarctic Discovery” itinerary from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Ushuaia on the new 378-passenger Viking Polaris, a polar-class (PC6) expedition vessel; voyages depart October 17, 2022 and November 5, 2022.
In addition to multiple days in Antarctica, the ship will overnight (for the possibility of two days ashore) in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. It will also call at Montevideo, Uruguay and Paranagua, Brazil.
Antarctica is a “bucket list” experience but so is sailing around Cape Horn, at the headland of Chile’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago at South America’s southern tip, or sailing through the Beagle Channel, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Some Antarctica itineraries tap into one or the other of those experiences including Viking’s 13-day “Antarctic Explorer” itinerary from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Fourteen different 2022 departures of this itinerary will be operated.
Among other Antarctic sailing options for Viking are a 15-day “Antarctic Adventure,” operated by Viking Octantis on December 13, 2022, and a 44-day “From the Arctic to Antarctica,” a Viking Polaris “pole-to-pole” cruise from Tromso, Norway to Ushuaia, departing September 21, 2022.
For a combination voyage that includes Antarctica but also the Chilean fjords, one appealing option is Oceania Cruises’ 20-day “Polar and Patagonian Quest” itinerary. Departing on January 8, 2022, the 1,250-passenger Marina will sail from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile with cruising along Admiralty Bay, Paradise Bay and Half Moon Island in Antarctica. The ship also calls at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.
In Patagonia, during the port call at Puerto Chacabuco, Chile, Oceania’s guests can book a Patagonia nature tour, go kayaking on Lake Los Palos or head out fly fishing. We’d book the half-day “Wellness and Mindfulness At Ensenada Perez Hot Springs” excursion. The excursion begins with a catamaran ride into Aysén Fjord past steep mountains, and then tour goers can soak in mineral-rich, open-air hot spring pools. During the “return” ride, cruisers can soak in breathtaking scenery and perhaps order a Chilean pisco sour.
Also providing a good option for combining Chile is Azamara’s 690-passenger Azamara Quest, which sails a 21-night “Fjords & Antarctica Voyage” itinerary from Santiago (San Antonio), Chile to Buenos Aires on February 2, 2022. It spends three days in the Antarctic Sound and Peninsula, and much time in the Chilean fjords. Pre-cruise, guests can add a two-night “Stay Local Santiago” or a three-night, “Stay Local Longer Santiago” package.
Recently, Royal Caribbean Group announced it was selling the Azamara brand and its three ships to Sycamore Partners. Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s former president, will become Azamara’s new executive chairman when the sale closes sometime this quarter. In addition, Sycamore is buying Princess Cruises’ former Pacific Princess, which — after a major update/renovation — will become Azamara’s fourth ship.
Carol Cabezas, formerly the line’s COO and now its new president, also told Luxury Travel Advisor that Sycamore Partners plans to retain guest loyalty programs and levels, retain Azamara’s staff and nurture the Azamara brand personality and its strong destination-immersion focus.
Family Expedition Cruising
The all-new Adventures by Disney Expedition Cruises plans family-focused Antarctica voyages on luxury small-ship Ponant’s 264-passenger Le Lyrial or Le Boreal. During the past few years, Adventures by Disney similarly has paired with AmaWaterways for European family-focused river cruises. Adventures by Disney recommends that children be 12 years and older to sail, with no kids younger than 10 accepted for the cruise.
Kicking things off will be new 12-day Adventures by Disney sailings, sailing roundtrip from Ushuaia on December 20, 2021 and January 30, 2022. Guests can expect Disney’s family-friendly programming. They’ll sail with Adventures by Disney naturalists and a wildlife or photo expert, who will also host workshops and lectures. Adventure Guides will accompany and lead daily Zodiac excursions and landings in Antarctica.
The itinerary begins with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then it’s on to Ushuaia, a scenic train ride and exploration of Tierra del Fuego National Park. Then they’ll travel via catamaran through the Beagle Channel and visit the historical settlement, Estancia Harberton. The Ponant ship will sail through the Drake Passage and, once reaching Antarctica, families will head out on daily boat excursions and hikes with potential for spotting wildlife. Guests also add on a three-night, pre-cruise group Adventures by Disney experience in Buenos Aires.
Separately, Ponant also operates its own Antarctica sailings including “Emblematic Antarctica,” a 10-night itinerary roundtrip from Ushuaia on Le Boreal, departing February 19, 2022. Among the inclusions are an overnight stay in Buenos Aires at the start of the cruise, plus a domestic flight between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia and transfers.
One voyage highlight is the opportunity to sail on the Weddell Sea at a time of year when it’s relatively free of ice; the ship sails amid the free-floating pack ice in a stunningly gorgeous setting with the potential for guests to spot emperor penguins.
Both English and German are the official languages onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ luxurious expedition vessel, Hanseatic Inspiration. Sailing roundtrip from Ushuaia on December 5, 2021, this 16-day eco-adventure includes iceberg viewing, Zodiac expeditions and wildlife viewing — perhaps whales and elephant seals as well as huge penguin colonies.
This expedition cruise visits Stanley in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, as well as the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Pre-cruise, add-on packages are available to Ushuaia, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro/Iguacu, Brazil.