If you have found this article and are wondering can you visit Antarctica, then this article on how to get to Antarctica may be able to help answer your questions if you have any.
Otherwise, this article will detail a 10 day cruise to Antarctica from Ushuaia aboard the Ocean Atlantic with Albatross Expeditions. But before we get into the actual cruise details, there’s some important information to go through in order to work out what cruise you should look further into.
Table of Contents
- Best time to visit Antarctica
- How do I get to Antarctica?
- How much does it cost to go to Antarctica
- Antarctica cruise review
- Ushuaia to Antarctica itinerary
- Important notes about seasickness
- Final thoughts
Best time to visit Antarctica
The Antarctic cruise season starts in November and finishes in March. The best time to go to Antarctica is in December and January and this is because the days are longer than in the other months. Outside of this season there is sea ice which makes it difficult for the boat to cruise through the Antarctic waters. It would be hard to find a cruise that operates outside of these months anyway as the expedition boats head north to the Arctic for its summer season.
Unfortunately, later in the season means that the number of animals may be lower as they have already bred on land and are making their way back out to the water. The trade off for this means that you may be able to grab the cheapest Antarctica cruise of the season.
Can you fly to Antarctica?
Yes, there are flights to Antarctica, however, this article will specifically deal with a cruise. One thing to plan for when you are going to Antarctica is that the weather can be unpredictable and severe. Flights may not necessarily run to schedule.
How do I get to Antarctica?
The easiest and best way to visit Antarctica is via a cruise from Ushuaia. If you need to know how to get to Ushuaia, getting to Ushuaia is actually straightforward. You can only get a flight to Ushuaia from another Argentinian airport, the most popular being Buenos Aires. As this is where most international flights land, you’re well positioned for a flight to Ushuaia.
Ushuaia is an amazing city and there are a plethora of activities there to participate in. If you have spare time in your itinerary, it is recommended that you spend at least 3 days here. Especially is you like the outdoors because there’s plenty of hiking trails at Tierra Del Fuego National Park as well as the Martial Glacier hike.
Travel from Ushuaia to Antarctica
When choosing a cruise from Ushuaia to Antarctica it is important to know what you are buying. Large cruise ships do not allow passengers to set foot on land in Antarctica. This is because there are limits as to how many people can be on Antarctica in order to preserve the environment. Make sure you are buying a cruise that includes shore landings and zodiac cruising. This is called an Antarctica expedition cruise.
How much does it cost to go to Antarctica
Many people will buy a last-minute Antarctica cruise from Ushuaia from one of the many tour operators advertising in Ushuaia. These are generally cancelled berths that have become available and they need to be off-loaded. While you may be able to pick up a bargain, you may need to wait a few days until the cruise departs. The extra time will need to be factored into your itinerary.
Another way to pick up a cheap Antarctica cruise from Ushuaia is to book early! And when I say early, I mean as soon as the cruises go on sale. I booked almost 2 years in advance and I paid almost $5000 AUD less than my roommate. Antarctica cruises have dynamic pricing, so the earliest and the latest you get in, the best price you’ll get.
Antarctica cruise deals
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Affordable Antarctica cruises will be shorter in duration. Different duration cruises will also have different itineraries. Cruises from Ushuaia will generally be 10-11 days for a shorter cruise that goes directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. Otherwise, a 19-21 day cruise will take in the Falkland Island and South Georgia before heading to the peninsula. When planning your holiday, remember it isn’t just the Antarctica cruise cost you need to take into account. You also need to add flights and accommodation before and after the cruise. It can add up quickly.
10 Day Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise with Albatross Expeditions
14 Day Quest for the Antarctic Circle with G Adventures
18 Day Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands cruise with Albatross Expeditions
Antarctica cruise review
This is a review of the Ushuaia to Antarctica cruise that I took in February/March 2020. The cruise was 9 nights/10 days with 4 days in the Antarctic region. It was aboard the Ocean Atlantic with Albatross Expeditions. The tour was booked through Chimu Adventures. I booked the cruise in April 2018. Upon booking, I was required to pay a non-refundable deposit of 25%. As a solo traveller, I did not have to pay a single supplement as long as I was prepared to share a room with someone of the same gender.
Having never been on a cruise before, it was surprising how nice the boat was. Being an expedition cruise as opposed to a luxury cruise, I had even lower expectations. However, the Ocean Atlantic had been refurbished only a few years ago, so it is well fitted out and very comfortable.
As this is an expedition cruise, the activities include mostly lectures. The expedition staff are experts in their fields which included fields such as birds and whales, even history and law. The lectures were interesting and it gave me a better appreciation of the journey I was embarking on.
Given I travelled later in the season, a lot of the wildlife had left the land areas. So there were still penguins around, but they weren’t as plentiful as earlier in the season. The penguins and seals were going through moulting which means they don’t move around a lot as it takes a lot of energy moult. The animals are also quite uncomfortable during the moult. There is, however, lots of penguin poo left over from the breeding season.
In Antarctica, when you do disembark the ship and reach land, you may only have 1 hour on land. There is a lot of walking that you will be doing once you are on the land as well. On most of the shore landings, there were multiple points of interest with a long walk between. So be prepared to walk fair distances in some awkward gumboots (supplied by the expedition).
Because of this reason, if you are wanting to visit Antarctica, I would only recommend this 9 night/10 day cruise if you were constrained by time and/or money. Remembering that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us.
All I remember was feeling disappointed on the journey back to Ushuaia. Your time in Antarctica is brief. If you can prolong it, take the opportunity.
Ushuaia to Antarctica itinerary
The Antarctic journey begins around 2 pm at the Ushuaia fin del Mundo (end of the earth) sign. This is situated at Ushuaia Port, near all the brightly coloured tour huts. It’ll be hard to see because so many people are crowded around it trying to get a photo. You need to get a photo also, because it’s the end of the earth, after all!
From there, you will need to board a bus in the adjacent car park. This will take you down the docks and to the ship. You may need to look around for someone from your tour company. If I hadn’t started asking around, I wouldn’t have known what to do as the booking company didn’t give very clear or thorough instructions on how to get onto the boat. The person I roomed with missed the buses as she wasn’t given that information and ended up having to go through customs and walk down the docks to the ship.
Whatever you do, just make sure you’re on that boat. The boat departed before the check-in of passengers had been completed so if you had missed it no one would have known.
After settling into the rooms, there was a briefing in the main lounge for all passengers. Everyone is taken outside for a mandatory briefing on the lifeboats. Everyone is allocated a colour and this is the group of people you will be doing all your activities with. After this, dinner is served in the restaurant. As I have never been on a cruise before, I was surprised by how fancy it was.
A trip to Antarctica is a once in a lifetime for most passengers and there is a buzz of excitement in the air.
At some time during the night, the ship enters the Drake Passage. It’s interesting trying to sleep while crossing the Drake Passage. All I can say is I’m surprised I didn’t roll out of the bed! Even if you don’t usually succumb to sea sickness, I would still recommend taking medication with you just in case. The boat had the waves hitting it from the side, so if you were looking out the windows all you saw was water, then sky, then water, then sky, ad nauseam.
Activities today included a lecture on Seabirds of the Southern Ocean and a lecture on photography in Antarctica. There were also two mandatory briefings, one on IAATO and the other on biosecurity. The day was completed with an Antarctic documentary.
Another day crossing the Drake Passage. This is definitely an interesting part of the Antarctica experience. Hopefully, by day two you are getting your sea legs! Legs aside, I did lose a cup of tea as it slid straight off the table in one large swell.
The day passes with two mandatory items, one briefing is about the zodiacs, while the other is a biosecurity check to have all our clothes vacuumed. This is to stop the spread of seeds and other things that could damage the Antarctic habitat. The lecture today is about penguin breeding ecology. During the night session, there is a special guest, Kurt Fearnley, an Australian Paralympian champion, who shares some of his life stories.
In the evening the first sighting of land occurs. The ship has arrived in the South Shetland Islands and the boat stops rocking as much as it has reached more sheltered waters.
Upon waking, the scene out of the porthole window could not be more beautiful. The water is like glass and the sun is starting to rise on the mountain range that is sheltering the boat in the Neumayer Channel. With excitement, everyone heads outside to see the views.
After breakfast, everyone gets ready for their first of many Antarctica excursions. We disembark the ship and land at Damoy Point. There is an old hut here that is open for exploration. There’s also a colony of Gentoo penguins. I can’t believe I’m standing on Antarctica, well, almost. This is an island of Antarctica and not the mainland proper. But still! The group has an hour to walk around and see the sights. An hour goes very fast.
The afternoon is still spectacular and so the second landing for the day will go ahead. This time we are landing at Port Lockroy. It is a British base and this is a popular Antarctica tourist spot! It’s where you will be able to send your postcards and buy some souvenirs. I regret not buying a t-shirt in the gift shop there. This stop is only for 45 minutes because the numbers are restricted to 50 tourists at any one time.
What an incredible first day in Antarctica.
The boat is woken up early to cruise down the Lemaire Channel. This is meant to be one of the highlights of the trip. The scenery is incredible, but it’s all incredible! This isn’t one of the easy places to visit in Antarctica because there are often icebergs and sea ice that prevent the ships from cruising down the channel.
The first shore excursion of the day is on Petermann Island. There are two penguin colonies on this island. One colony consists of Adelie penguins and the other consists of Gentoo penguins. I didn’t see the Adelie colony because the ground here is very icy and to be honest, I just didn’t feel like slipping over and hurting myself! I do regret this decision as there were no other Adelie penguin colonies to be seen on this trip.
The afternoon shore excursion is to Port Charcot. There is another colony of Gentoo penguins at Port Charcot. Watching them climb the high mountains via their penguin highways is incredible. For such clumsy walkers, they sure can waddle up steep mountains easily. Unfortunately, there is a beach with multiple dead penguins on it, most likely from a seal attack.
Another feature of this particular area is that it is a bit of an iceberg graveyard or iceberg alley. Whatever you want to call it, there is a high number of icebergs in this area because the currents push them into this area and they get trapped. The zodiac cruise was a bit rough due to the more open waters, but cruising around the icebergs really is an amazing experience. Icebergs are stunning, they are nature’s art.
In the evening, the cruise traverses Lemaire Channel again. It really is one highlight of the trip, amongst all the other highlights!
Today is the day when we step foot on the Antarctica mainland. There is such a buzz in the air.
Brown Station is an Argentinian base on Antarctica. It is the first shore landing for the day. A snow hike up the hill behind Brown Station shows an incredible mossy area due to running water. There is a petrel bird that is curious about all the visitors also. There is an all-white penguin in the colony.
Neko Harbour is very close to a large glacier and calving can be seen quite often. I saw a small one occur and unfortunately just missed a big one. When large calvings happen here, they can create a tsunami and wash the beach area away. There are still a lot of penguins here and the colony is quite large. The penguin highways are also intricate and reach high up the mountain. I’ll never get over how good these highways are when the penguins are so clumsy on land.
After everyone is back on the boat, the Polar Plunge is organised. Everyone on the boat is invited to jump into the icy cold Antarctic waters. I don’t hesitate for a second in signing my life away to have a go. When walking down the plank, one of the staff said to me ‘don’t hesitate’ so I didn’t. I walked straight down, held my nose and jumped in. If I did hesitate, I would never have done it.
The water was so cold at 1.5°C. My brain froze as soon as I jumped in the water and the air rushed out of my lungs. Luckily I had a harness on and I was being pulled back in as I was frozen and couldn’t think to swim. Even so, I’d do it all again!
Half Moon Island
Another Argentinian base is on Half Moon Island, coupled with some more Gentoo penguin colonies. I know the whole circle of life thing, but when I was watching the penguins, a giant petrel came down and started attacking a penguin. It was very sad and I couldn’t watch it for long.
This island is an active volcano. The water at the edge of the beach is steaming as the sand below is hot. If you put your hand in the sand, you can’t keep it there for long as it’s too hot for comfort. There are ruins here of old whaling stations. There is also evidence of mudslides from the last eruption in 1969. There are fur seals lazing about the beaches, but they can become aggressive, so I give them a very wide berth. Only a few penguins are here as the water and land is too warm for them.
Today I succumbed to seasickness. I spend 24 hours in bed.
Still a bit woozy, but I make it to dinner.
After dinner, everyone meets in the main lecture room for a recap and presentation of our trip. It is such a bittersweet night. I don’t feel ready for the cruise to be finished.
After breakfast, everyone disembarks the ship. The ship is being cleaned and turned around to leave again that evening. I’m unable to check in to my hostel, but I drop my bag off and go in search of adventure. I can’t believe my Ushuaia to Antarctica cruise is already over. The almost 2-year wait was worth it though.
Important notes about seasickness
You must see a doctor before going on the cruise from Ushuaia to Antarctica as you will be crossing the Drake Passage. I took over the counter medicine that I bought in Australia. When I was in Ushuaia, I picked up another packet of tablets, but they weren’t quite the same. The transition from the Australian brand to the Argentinian brand was when I fell sea-sick from what I’m assuming is the different acting ingredients. So make sure you have enough of the same medication to last the whole trip.
If you are looking to travel to Antarctica, do it! You will not be disappointed. Antarctica is beautiful and a cruise from Ushuaia to Antarctica is an excellent way to visit the 7th continent. The best Antarctica cruise is whatever one you go on given your constraints. If you can go on a longer cruise, that is definitely my recommendation.