Private Journeys

Antarctica: Ross Sea and the Far Side

37 days from £27,865pp

Antarctica

King Penguin Ross sea ice shelf

Essentials

Transport

1 flight (4hrs); 33-day (32 night) cruise.

The itinerary detailed here is for guidance only, and given the expeditionary nature of this voyage, changes are to be anticipated. Although 32 nights are spent on board, the ship arrives in New Zealand 33 calendar nights after leaving South America (please note that 1 calendar day is skipped as you cross the International Date Line from east to west).

Accommodation

The hotels in Argentina are good, practical mid-range options. The ice-strengthened MV Ortelius was formerly a Russian scientific ship and has a true expeditionary ambience, along with comfortable cabins with private facilities.

Meals

Breakfast daily; full board days 4-36.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Summary Of Nights

36 days, 35 nights: Buenos Aires 2; Ushuaia 1; Antarctic cruise 32.
Although 32 nights are spent on board, the ship arrives in New Zealand 33 calendar nights after leaving South America (please note that 1 calendar day is skipped as you cross the International Date Line from east to west).

How To Take It

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

On the cruise ship you can pay your bill for extras with a credit card (Most accepted excluding Diner’s Card), or in euros or US dollars cash.

For our latest currency advice for Argentina please see our FAQs section.

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso. The ship works with euros and US dollars.

Daily Spend

Meals on board ship are included. Water, coffee and tea are complimentary but other drinks are charged. You pay for your extras (in US dollars, euros or by credit card) at the end of the cruise. There isn’t much else to pay for on board.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for cruise ship staff, hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants. On the cruise, a tip of $US 8-10 per person per day for the crew and guides is considered appropriate. 

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Make sure your insurance covers you for the full amount if you have to cancel.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport Taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey Grade

The ship still has an expeditionary feel, as it was operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences before refurbishment for leisure travel. Accommodation is in compact but comfortable cabins and there are 2 restaurants, a bar/lecture room and a sauna.

The cruise:
Antarctica is very remote: once committed to your journey, you are at the mercy of the weather and ocean conditions, the melting and freezing of ice-packs, and the movement of icebergs. This is expeditionary cruising: you will be facing the same environmental challenges as the early explorers, albeit in much greater comfort, and with the assistance of modern technology and communications. 

You need to be sufficiently agile to get in and out of small landing craft and walk over rocky terrain.

There is a doctor on board, but if you fall ill while on the cruise or have an accident, it could be a long time and maybe an arduous journey before you return to a destination with good medical facilities, so  bear this in mind if you have a pre-existing condition.

Climate

Buenos Aires is hottest January-March (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40°C during the day). The weather can be cooler in November.

Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego is best to visit in the summer (December-February) when days are long and mild.  March and November can be sunny and clear, but it can be windy.

Antarctica is technically a desert; precipitation averages only 166mm per year. Depressions can bring in cloud and snow or rain but the sun often shines. Weather conditions can be unpredictable: periods of calm, frozen intensity give way to a sudden storm or blizzard. White-outs are not infrequent, and winds can career down from the polar plateau to the coast at velocities of up to 300km an hour – treacherous conditions for the unprepared and it can be bitterly cold.

Clothing And Special Equipment

The southern hemisphere summer is hot in Buenos Aires, so take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort at this time. An umbrella is a good idea in case of a tropical shower. Spring and autumn are milder and less predictable.

South America is in general a relaxed continent and you won’t need clothes for formal dining but you may wish to take some smart casual wear for dining at the estancias or at top of the range restaurants.

On the cruise: 
Protective clothing is the single most important way of ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable cruise and the key is to dress in layers. For Antarctic landings we recommend a breathable, thermal base layer to wick away perspiration; a warm mid-layer such as a fleece or down sweater and a wind and waterproof (but breathable) outer shell garment. Trousers should have a thermal lining (or wear a base layer of thermal leggings) and you will need waterproof trousers to wear over them. Plus of course warm socks, hat, scarf, gloves and sunglasses. Rubber boots are essential for Antarctic landings; these can be pre-ordered and are loaned on board free of charge.  Dress on board ship is informal and it’s sensible to bring a spare change of warm, dry clothing for wearing out on deck between landings.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

Travelling Alone

Cruise ships will accept individuals travelling alone who are willing to share a cabin with a person of the same sex, they will be charged a per person price based on two travelling together. If you prefer not to share a cabin you may opt to pay the single cabin supplement.

The Nature Of Antarctic Travel

Many factors play a role in shaping the expedition’s progress – the prevailing wind, weather and ice conditions, for example. Ideally, depart the ship by zodiac to explore Antarctica with excursions on land, by zodiac or a combination of both, lasting anything between 2-4hrs.  There are no man-made jetties in Antarctica so landfalls are ‘wet landings’ where you scramble ashore from the zodiac in wellingtons and waterproofs. You are then free to explore on your own or in groups, before later being picked up again by zodiac. Evenings may be spent relaxing, reliving the days’ events with a briefing or lecture, or out on the deck, keeping an eye on the dramatic, ever-changing scenery.

Helicopter transfers: If zodiacs cannot be used, transfers will be by helicopter at Peter I Island, The Ross Ice Shelf, the Dry Valleys, Mc Murdo Station, Cape Evans (Scott’s hut) and Cape Royds (Shackleton’s hut). In theory the plan is for 5 helicopter-based landings.

Conditions may change rapidly, having its impact on the helicopter operation – safety is the greatest concern and no guarantees can be given. The vessel is equipped with 2 helicopters, but in the case that either helicopter is unable to fly owing to a technical failure, for example, the helicopter operation altogether will cease or even be cancelled, since one helicopter always needs to be supported by a second operational helicopter.

This is the ultimate in Antarctic expedition cruising, so come with a flexible approach. Expect plans to change and itineraries to vary, but expect an adventure. It’s a long time at sea, but the variety and intrinsic fascination of what can be seen is spell-binding.

What To See And When

The theatre of wildlife in Antarctica as a whole displays an ever changing narrative of birth, struggle, pleasure, fulfilment and death. You may witness the comedy of a waddling penguin building its nest, a mother bird feeding its young or reuniting with a returning mate; a wily seal escaping the clutches of a hunting whale.

A large variety of marine birds (includes 6 species of penguin – Emperor, King, macaroni, chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie) visit the White Continent. Mammals abound here: blue, orca, humpback, minke and southern right whales prowl the chilly ocean, while Weddell, Ross, crab-eater, leopard and elephant seals sprawl on the beaches. 

Plant life in Antarctica is restricted to lichen, mosses and algae but there are hundreds of colourful varieties of these. 

What you may see during your voyage:

Drake Passage and the Antarctic Convergence:
Over 35 species of birds may accompany your crossing. Species include giant petrels, Antarctic fulmars, and the black-browed and wandering albatrosses with wingspans up to 3m.

Antarctic Peninsula:
Chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie penguins abound. Breeding birds include skuas, Antarctic terns, giant petrels, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic shags, kelp gulls, Wilson’s storm, and Antarctic and snow petrels. 

Fish Islands:
Adélie penguins, blue-eyed shags.

Peter Island:
Elephant seals, southern fulmars, cape pigeons.

At sea approaching Ross Ice Shelf:
Orca whales, Emperor penguins, minke whales.

Cape Adare: 
Huge colony of Adélie penguins.

Campbell Island:
Southern royal albatross, eastern rockhopper penguins, erect-crested and yellow-eyed penguins.

Of course, sightings of this plethora of wildlife cannot be guaranteed.

Country info

When To Go

Antarctica is accessible by ship from late Oct- Mar, the southern hemisphere summer. Outside this period, days are short and dark.

Currency

On board your cruise ship you can use US dollars or euros to pay for goods and services. The most popular credit cards are also accepted on most boats.

Time Difference

Officially Antarctica Standard Time is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and does not operate daylight-saving. However owing to the Pole’s position at the foot of the world, you can walk through all 24 time zones in a few seconds. Bases and stations tend to keep either the time relating to their home territory or the supply line that feeds them.

Combines With

The Falkland Islands, another wildlife wilderness, frequently visited on longer cruises to Antarctica. A holiday in Argentina; you can spend time at a luxury estancia in Patagonia, or, much further north, visit Buenos Aires and the Iguazú Falls. A beach warm-up and wind-down at Punta del Este, Uruguay, easily reached from Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Getting There

There are no direct flights from the UK to Antarctica. Most European and American visitors take a cruise from Ushuaia, a port on the island of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina at the southern tip of South America, which can be reached via Buenos Aires. There are also fly-cruises from Punta Arenas in Patagonian Chile.

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • All land and air transport within Latin America
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Included Excursions

  • City tour of Buenos Aires
  • Shore and (if necessary) helicopter landings on the Antarctic cruise

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • International flights to Latin America
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
  • Optional excursions

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • All land and air transport within Latin America
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Included Excursions

  • City tour of Buenos Aires
  • Shore and (if necessary) helicopter landings on the Antarctic cruise

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • International flights to Latin America
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
  • Optional excursions

Inspired by this trip

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Real Latin America Experts

  • JimAshworth
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    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

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    Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant

    It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

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    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

  • Jamie Swan
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    Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..

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