The specific ship and itinerary you select for your Antarctica expedition cruise will determine which destinations you visit. This section contains descriptions of the various locations included in the Antarctica adventures we offer. Please consult your specific ship's itinerary, listed on the Ships
page, to find out which locations are included on your Antarctica tour.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The South American arrival point for most Antarctica expedition cruise guests is Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital and major city. One of the largest metropolitan areas in Latin America, Buenos Aires is a top tourist destination, known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle, vibrant cultural melange and European-style architecture reflecting its colonial heritage and the influence of its many 19th-and early 20th-century immigrants.
Ushuaia, at the bottom of Tierra del Fuego, lies at the very foot of the southernmost Andes. There’s no mistaking the "end of the world" feeling about the world’s most southerly town, which is the point of embarkation for expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Drake Passage
The Drake Passage is legendary among mariners. Named for the 16th-century English privateer Sir Francis Drake whose ship was blown far off course in these waters, this 600-mile-wide channel that separates Cape Horn from the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for frequent high winds and rough seas. At these latitudes there is no significant land anywhere on the planet, which allows the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to flow unimpeded, carrying a tremendous volume of water through the Passage. Midway across it lies the Antarctic Convergence, the zone where the cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the subantarctic. This area of mixing and upwelling creates a highly productive marine zone, especially for Antarctic krill, the favored food source for whales, seals, penguins, squid, albatrosses and other sea birds. Once we reach this zone on southbound voyages, we’re likely to be escorted by whales, dolphins, cape petrels and wandering albatrosses, a hint of the wildlife to come. En route, educational programs led by the expedition team prepare us for all that lies ahead.
A grand and otherworldly kingdom of ice, rock, sea and sky, the Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the continent of Antarctica. The first explorers laid eyes on it in the early 19th century, and it has held a storied place in the annals of global adventurers since. Covered beneath a near-perpetual ice sheet, the peninsula rises in a line of serrated peaks. Glaciers pour into their valleys, flowing into the massive ice shelves that hug the sea. Though this frigid land hosts no permanent population, it is the site of a vital international scientific research community. The peninsula’s relatively mild climate in comparison to the rest of the icebound continent explains its status as the preferred location for most research stations, as well as a destination for tourist vessels.
Almost constant summer daylight provides ample opportunity to explore this frozen white frontier with the guidance of the seasoned expedition team that accompanies each ship. Millions of animals thrive here, and visitors find a rich assortment of marine life including Weddell, Southern elephant, crabeater and leopard seals, and minke, humpback, sei and fin whales, as well as orcas. Motorized Zodiac rafts allow us to get close to wildlife and make landings on shore, where we walk among noisy colonies of penguins. Four species are found on the peninsula – chinstrap, emperor, gentoo and adelie — mostly toward the tip and on the islands. Other prolific seabirds include kelp gulls, various petrels, snowy sheathbills, skuas, shags and Antarctic terns. A popular destination on the Antarctic Peninsula is the Lemaire Channel, where steep cliffs hem in a narrow passage filled with a magnificent parade of icebergs bobbing past.
South Shetland Islands
The heavily glaciated South Shetlands lie off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and it is here that we usually see the first frosty blue icebergs indicating our approach to the Antarctic continent. Though claimed historically by the United Kingdom, Chile and Argentina, the South Shetlands are part of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and are open to use by any signatory country. Several countries maintain research stations in the islands. While the South Shetlands were a focus of sealing and whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, today they harbor large populations of these marine mammals, as well penguins and other seabirds. When weather conditions permit, landings here may be possible, though frequent intense winds often prohibit this.
Days at sea are an opportunity to learn and relax. Your expedition ship has a full complement of on-board naturalists, scientists and historians eager to share information about geology, climate, wildlife and human presence in Antarctica and the southern polar region. Lectures and slide shows will add to your appreciation of all that you see and experience during your voyage. In addition, most ships will have facilities on board for leisure and recreation such as a gym with fitness equipment, massage therapy and/or a library with a collection of books on Antarctic natural history and polar exploration. Traditionally, most Antarctica expedition ships have an open bridge policy, and passengers are welcome to come up to visit with the captain and officers.