Voyage to Antarctica
January 9-19, 2020 • 11 Days • Tiered Pricing Available
30+ Participants: $9,975 • 25-29 Participants: $11,900
This is not your garden variety Adventure! Flying to the bottom of the world, sailing through the oft-tumultuous Drake Passage, going ashore in Zodiac rafts, walking/hiking over uneven, rocky terrain, encountering wildlife and icebergs close-up and in color—all combine to make this the most adventurous Adventure we offer to date. This is a continent like no other! This is an experience like no other!
Traveler Rewards Program: New Travelers receive a $500 discount on the Voyage to Antarctica 2020 tour. Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. Check out our Traveler Rewards page for more details.
EARLY SIGN-UP BONUS!
Reserve your spot on this tour by December 7, 2018 and receive $100 off the Registration deposit!
Buenos Aires & the End of the World Pre-tour
January 6-9, 2020 • 4 Days • Price TBA
Details on the Buenos Aires Pre-tour will be available by January 2019.
The program for the optional pre-tour will include 2 nights in Buenos Aires and 1 night in Ushuaia, Argentina. Activities will include a city walk in Buenos Aires, a guided coach tour of Buenos Aires, an outstanding tango dinner dance show with famous Argentinean beef, and a walk right at the “end of the world” in Tierra del Fuego National Park just before we board the ship to Antarctica!
NOTE: The itinerary described below reflects possible stops and possible walks we may experience during the voyage based upon the likely route of our cruise and past experience. A final projected itinerary will be established during the summer of 2019 when the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) meets to approve 2020 itineraries for all small ships cruising Antarctica waters. IAATO was founded in 1991 to promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic. Managing itineraries also serves to reduce the likelihood that ships will encounter one another while cruising and especially during shore excursions.
The approved itinerary will then remain tentative due to the possible need for the captain to reroute according to variables such as weather and ice and other changing conditions. These variables make for a fluid and exciting program (we once spent an hour circling a huge slanting iceberg because a colony of penguins was entertaining us by attempting to jump out of the waves onto the ice), but rest assured that you will see plenty of the 7th continent with two shore excursions per day while we are in Antarctic waters (days 4 through 8), lots of great viewing from the ship as we sail, and a full slate of outstanding naturalist lectures!
Seven has long been considered a “lucky” number in the Western World. After epic journeys to the 7th continent with intrepid groups of walkers in 2009, 2010, and 2015, it’s time for a return to #7. You are invited to become a part of an exclusive group – the WAI 7 Continent Club (travelers who have walked on all 7 Continents with WAI)!
- Penguins – pinstriped stars of any trip to Antarctica provide entertainment on many shore excursions
- Birds – albatrosses, petrels, terns, skuas, and shags amazing us with antics and acrobatics
- Seals – crabeater seals and fur seals are likely; leopard seals, the penguin predator, are also lurking; if lucky, we’ll see bobbing blobs of blubber called elephants seals
- Whales – humpbacks and minkes are most likely, though several species feed in these waters
- Ice – you may be surprised at how fantastic and full of color, light, and texture ice can be
- Naturalists – education was never this fun and fascinating when we were in school!
- Wow Walks – stroll amidst surreal southern landscapes that few humans have trod!
- Accommodations onboard the M/V Plancius; tour price is based on accommodations in Twin Porthole cabin
- Group departure transfer (one departure offered by the ship) from the ship to Ushuaia airport on January 19
- Port charges
- All Zodiac cruising and shore transfers
- 29 meals: all meals aboard ship – breakfast, lunch, dinner (BLD)
- Coffee, tea, & snacks throughout the cruise
- Complimentary use of rubber boots for shore excursions and walks
- All walks
- Walk credit for 2 walks for those collecting IVV credit
- Services of Expedition team for shore excursions, including leading walks
- Lectures aboard ship by naturalist guides & expedition team members
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- Pooled tips aboard ship are not included
- Pricing is based on double occupancy; single accommodations are prohibitively priced aboard our small ship and may not be available.
M/V Plancius is a great expedition vessel for 116 passengers with lots of open-deck spaces including full walk-around possibilities on Deck 4, maximizing wildlife viewing while cruising! It was built in 1976 and was fully rebuilt in 2009.
The ship is comfortable and nicely decorated, but not luxurious. It’s designed for explorers! It has a restaurant/lecture room on Deck 3, and on Deck 5 a spacious observation lounge, with bar, offers large windows for full panoramic views. The vessel is manned by 17 highly experienced international nautical crew members, 19 hotel staff (including 6 chefs), 7 expedition staff (1 expedition leader and 6 guides/lecturers), and 1 doctor.
The M/V Plancius has 6 decks. Cabins are on Decks 3, 4, 5 & 6. The Adventure price is based upon the category of cabin called Twin Porthole. These cabins are on Deck 3 and provide a porthole, 2 lower berths, private shower & toilet, hair dryer, desk & chair, and ample storage space. They are 129 square feet in size. We have a limited number of these cabins available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Deck 4 Twin Window: These cabins are slightly larger than Twin Porthole cabins (either 135 or 145 square feet) and have a full window in place of porthole.
- Upgrade fee: $450 per person
Deck 4 Twin Deluxe: These cabins have the same amenities as Twin Porthole except that there are two windows, a flat screen TV, telephone, and internet connection. These are corner cabins and are therefore a bit more spacious at 145 square feet.
- Upgrade fee: $850 per person
Click on each picture below for more details.
Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5
Scott Isom has had a passion for the outdoors ever since his childhood days spent exploring the waterfalls and outstanding hiking trails of the Columbia River Gorge with his family. Scott has led tours on all 7 continents and is one of WAI’s busiest guides and on-site Adventure planners. Scott will be guiding the Antarctica tour along with an assistant from Walking Adventures and accompanied by guides and naturalists aboard the M/V Plancius.
NOTE: The itinerary described below reflects possible stops and possible walks we may experience during the voyage based upon the likely route of our cruise and past experience.
Click on each day for more details.
DAY 1: Jan 9: Set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina (D)
The epic Adventure departs this evening on the M/V Plancius from Ushuaia, southernmost city on the planet. Embarkation is from 4 to 5 p.m. Shortly thereafter, we weigh anchor and begin a voyage of discovery like no other! We sail through the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel en route to Antarctica, the “7th continent”, a shadowy myth throughout human history until just a couple hundred years ago.
DAYS 2-3: Jan 10-11: At Sea (BLD)
Leaving the Beagle Channel, we head south into the Drake Passage, crossing the Antarctic Convergence where warmer currents meet colder Antarctic waters. This rite of passage can be a challenge. At this latitude, no land masses provide obstacles to ocean currents and the U.S. Navy has classified this as one of the world’s most forbidding bodies of water. Fortunately, our crossing takes place in the relatively placid period of Antarctica’s summer. Still, travelers need to be mentally and physically prepared for rough waters with seasickness remedies and an informed strategy for moving about the ship if conditions are rough. This time onboard is ideal to prepare for the exciting days ahead with lectures and other presentations by the ship naturalists and expedition team. We will likely encounter a changing variety of bird life including four different species of albatross, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, and three different species of petrel.
DAYS 4-7: Jan 12-15: Antarctic Peninsula (BLD)
As we head south, we plan to visit a number of Antarctica highlights, generally enjoying two shore excursions each day. Cuverville Island, for example, offers a hike with penguin rookeries framed by stunning sea and mountain views. Danco Island hosts a large colony of Gentoo penguins and breeding pairs of Brown Skuas. Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay provide breathtaking vistas of icebergs and deep cut fjords, especially in windless conditions when the sea acts like a massive mirror. A walk at Pléneau Island provides eye-popping panoramas over ice-strewn waters; we’ve interacted with curious leopard seals here in the past. It is likely that we’ll sail through spectacular Lemaire Channel to Petermann Island for a walk with Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags.
Zodiac cruising is a regular feature of our landings, often zipping us amongst mountains of floating ice. Chances are good for encountering Humpback, Minke, and Fin whales, either from the ship, or even close up from our zodiacs! Late mornings and afternoons are often spent in the lecture room, advancing our understanding of this environment through naturalist presentations on various aspects of the natural and historical wonders of this fascinating region at the bottom of the globe.
DAY 8: Jan 16: South Shetland Islands (BLD)
The volcanic islands of the South Shetland Islands are windswept, often cloaked in mist, and well known for their prolific wildlife! Expect to see Chinstrap penguin rookeries, a variety of seabird species with likely closeup sightings of Fur seals, and perhaps Elephant seals. At Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows, a narrow opening that leads to a sea-filled caldera, creating a natural harbor for our ship! Ashore we’ll find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels, kelp gulls, brown and south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns.
DAYS 9-10: Jan 17-18: At Sea (BLD)
On our way north across the Drake Passage, we are again followed by a plethora of different species of seabirds. Several fascinating lectures are made on the return voyage by the ship’s illustrious expedition staff.
DAY 11: Jan 19: Depart from Argentina (B)
Disembark at Ushuaia this morning and catch flights home at the close of the most unforgettable adventure of your life!
Below is a short summary of walks that may be part of our Antarctica program, depending upon weather and navigation factors. Landfalls could be quite different than the plan, but these descriptions are intended to provide a feeling for the type of walking we have done in the past; many will likely be part of the 2020 program.
Click on each walk heading for more details.
WHALER’S BAY, DECEPTION ISLAND – 5 KM, RATED 2B
Whaler’s Bay in the caldera of Deception Island offers a few options for discovery. One direction takes us along a sandy beach for a short climb over lava flows to the viewpoint at Neptune’s Window. A second spur trail climbs Ronald Hill, with an elevation gain of just over 300 feet, providing outstanding views, in good weather, of the island and sea-filled caldera.
HANNAH POINT – 3.5 KM, RATED 2B
Hannah Point offers a marvelous out and back hike from the landing beach, around penguin rookeries, past blubbery piles of elephant seals, cutting across the sloped hill of cinder and gravel back down to a beach where we have the chance to discover fossils.
CUVERVILLE ISLAND – 2 KM, RATED 2B
Cuverville Island is a stone’s throw from the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula and is home to one of the largest Gentoo penguin colonies in Antarctica. Walking here generally takes place along the shore, with the option to climb a hill that gains us close proximity to the penguin rookeries and provides stunning views out over the iceberg-strewn water (where our ship awaits us) and over to the mainland.
NEKO HARBOUR – 1 KM, RATED 2B
The hike here passes penguin rookeries and ascends a snow field to a rock outcrop with commanding views of the bay. Glaciers feed into the bay here, often calving while we are in the area. When conditions are right, some of our best photography takes place on this hike!
JOUGLA POINT – 1.5 KM, RATED 2C
This walk is normally paired with a visit to Port Lockroy, the British scientific station boasting the only post office on our journey. The route begins with a detour of 100 meters to a blue-eyed shag rookery. Retracing our steps, we climb to a high point on the island, with awesome views of the Neumayer Channel. This involves crossing a snow patch and tricky footing, at times, over loose stone, sometimes stepping from stone to stone.
PETERMANN ISLAND – 2.5 KM, RATED 2B
A hike on Petermann Island leads to Petermann’s southernmost point. The route has two spur trails. The first spur takes us to a small rock promontory past the world’s southernmost Gentoo penguin colony. Crossing a rocky stream, snow patches, and rocky areas takes us to a viewpoint with a nice view of the colonies. We return to the start point and go left on the longer spur, (twice the distance of the first) that passes colonies of Gentoo and traverses partially melted snow fields to a rock outcrop with views of the other side of the island.
PLÉNEAU ISLAND – 1.5-2 KM, RATED 2C
The visit here generally goes first to see a Gentoo penguin colony, where Elephant seals are also known to lounge. Retracing our steps, we climb through rock outcroppings, used earlier in the year as penguin rookeries, to the summit of this small island. Breathtaking views can be had here of the iceberg-bejeweled bay on the opposite side of Pléneau. This hike has tricky footing in several places, and the rock surfaces can be slippery. The second half of our visit to Pléneau typically involves a Zodiac iceberg cruise where we’ve had encounters with leopard seals in the past.
Click on each heading for more details.
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
To save yourself a spot on this Adventure, contact us to register with a $1000 deposit as soon as possible! Registrations are accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis. We realize that we are talking about a trip that is over a year away. Due to the supply and demand equation at work here, ships have strict cancellation policies and require commitments much further in advance than travel of a more conventional nature. As a result, WAI is forced to release unclaimed spaces on the ship in January 2019. In addition, because of the high costs and high-adventure nature of this program, it is unlikely that we will return to Antarctica soon. It’s been five years since our last visit. NOW is the time to join us on this odyssey to the 7th Continent!!
Traveler Rewards Program
New Travelers receive a $500 discount on Voyage to Antarctica 2020! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions, and conditions apply. See the Traveler Rewards page for more details or contact us with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].
Note: The New Traveler and Alumni Traveler Discounts apply only to the main tour price. The Buenos Aires Pre-tour is not eligible for these discounts.
Modified Payment and Cancellation Policies for Antarctica
Because of the high demand for cruising through Antarctica and the short supply of the more attractive small ship experience, cruise companies can be somewhat aggressive in their cancellation policies. Normal WAI cancellation policies (see the General Tour Conditions form) are therefore superseded by those of the ship. We will therefore use the following tour payment schedule. Significant non-refundable deposits have been made by WAI and all payments made are therefore non-refundable at time of payment:
- At time of registration: $1,000 deposit; non-refundable
- January 2, 2019: $1000 due; non-refundable
- May 1, 2019: $2,000 due; non-refundable
- October 1, 2019: Balance of tour price due; non-refundable
General Tour Conditions and Registration Forms
Argentina Reciprocity Fee
US citizens are no longer required to pay a reciprocity fee on entering Argentina; however, citizens of other nations may be still be required to submit this fee. More details will be available on reciprocity fees at a later date.
How is airfare arranged?
Travelers will fly into and out of the Malvinas Argentinas International Airport (USH) in Ushuaia at the very tip of Argentina. Those that decide to join us for the optional Buenos Aires & the End of the World Pre-tour will fly into the Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) in Buenos Aires. Program details for this pre-tour will be released in January of 2019. We recommend that you contact Debbi Custer, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment! More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided by email after you register for the Adventure. Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!
Season of Our Sailing
The sailing season for Antarctica is understandably short. Even intrepid explorers like the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, first person to reach the South Pole, strategized to avoid brutal Antarctic winters. Below the equator, seasons flip, so the warmest time of the year is November to March. We are sailing in January, the heart of Antarctica summer. Each month during the sailing season offers its own unique version of “amazing”!
January is the middle of summer, when weather should be at its best. Low temperatures are around freezing and highs can get into the low 40s, with about 20 hours of daylight. Penguin chicks have hatched and are at their fluffiest and most photogenic. Whale watching is generally good with humpbacks, in particular, focused on gorging on krill. Seals are present in large numbers and leopard seals tend to be more conspicuous as they patrol areas around the penguin rookeries.
Drake Passage – the Rite of Passage!
The Drake Passage is the body of water that circles the globe between South America and Antarctica. It’s a rough body of water, not to be taken lightly. When aboard, the sea often does not look as rough as the boat feels. Though it is Antarctica’s summer, and the seas are calm relative to winter conditions, the Drake is notoriously fickle, and it can truly be a rite of passage en route to the glories of Antarctica. If we have a rough crossing, it is essential that you be alert whenever you are not securely seated or lying down. Moving about the ship is a skill that you will develop in a few hours, but you need to take this aspect of the trip very seriously while we are in the passage!! The crossing lasts about 36 hours each direction. Seasickness meds are important, and you need to be prepared in this regard, but staying safe while moving about the ship is a bigger issue. Once we arrive in the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, sailing is calm and most people are quite comfortable without seasickness meds. More advice will follow in the Tips & Tidbits factsheet.
Once you have been in a Zodiac, you will never forget the feeling of being whisked ashore!! Ship staff members are always available at every landing to give you a helping hand as you get into Zodiacs from our steel gangway and then once you arrive ashore. You need to be able to walk down a fairly steep gangway and have enough leg strength to step down into the Zodiac, which can bob up and down a bit depending upon sea conditions. The crew is extremely efficient about helping you into and out of the Zodiac, so even though it is a unique way to reach land, it is easier than it sounds!
Except in rare cases, there are no jetties or docks for the Zodiacs to use for unloading. In these instances, Zodiacs will bring you ashore and unload on beaches or shorelines. This may require walking through shallow water to reach dry land, but the water is always very shallow and the ship provides rubber boots onboard so you will not get your feet wet! Expedition staff are always on hand to assist.
The ship provides rubber boots onboard in a variety of sizes so you do not have to worry about fitting them into your suitcase! Make sure you bring extra socks to layer for a better fit. More details will follow in the Tips & Tidbits factsheet.
How do we walk in Antarctica?
Short answer – “between piles of penguin poop”! Okay, here’s the serious answer. Offering walks from a cruise ship through one of the most remote corners on the globe, with some of the most unpredictable weather, can be a little tricky. Those who’ve participated in our Galapagos Island walks will be familiar with the pattern used in Antarctica:
- We are subject to the ship’s schedule, which is itself subject to a sailing itinerary tightly controlled by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.
- We will participate in multiple shore excursions via Zodiac boats (usually two per day) and walk various distances at each location.
- Though there is no possibility for a true 10-kilometer walk, we will package various walks together to add up to at least two official walks.
- IVV walk stamps (2) have been applied for from the International Federation of Popular Sports.
- Terrain will be uneven, sometimes icy, often rocky, and there are no roads or fixed trails. The ship will provide rubber boots to take the “wet” out of wet landings. These boots have proven to be adequate for the limited distances we will be walking ashore.
- Walking sticks are strongly recommended.
- Because of conditions noted above, walk pace will be slower than our normal 2 to 3 miles per hour pace. Walk pace should not be an issue for anyone who is otherwise fit enough for this 7th continent adventure.
What is always true about walks on our Adventures is that your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Because these are guided group walks, the success of the walks is predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness in order to ensure that we are walking at a somewhat similar pace. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.
When all is said and done, these Antarctic walk experiences are among the most unique, amazing, and memorable we have undertaken.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system that contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:
1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.
A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.
Doctor’s Release Form
Due to the remote destination we are sailing to, the ship requires that all passengers be fit and physically prepared for the Adventure. When you register for this trip, you will receive from us an online link to the ship’s Personal Information Form requiring information about your health. Upon their review of this information, the ship is entitled to request a medical release from your doctor. If you are concerned that you may have a medical condition that may disqualify you from participation, it is best to have your check-up before you register. As mentioned below, rigid payment terms required by ships in Antarctica require WAI to make all deposits non-refundable.
Travel Insurance Mandatory in Antarctica
Due to the extreme remoteness of our destination, and the complete lack of medical facilities (though the ship does have a doctor onboard), travel insurance is required by all ships sailing into Antarctic waters. This insurance must include a minimum of $100,000 coverage for emergency medical evacuation.
Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Debbi Custer of World Travel Inc., a travel agent who provides air travel services to many WAI travelers, can provide travel insurance options for your WAI tour as well as your airfare (email [email protected] -OR- call 888-276-0925 / 503-231-9507). For those of you who purchase airfare through Debbi, purchasing your travel insurance from her as well may be the simplest option. As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the squaremouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.
Other options include:
- Travel Guard
- Travel Insured International
NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). In addition, be aware that some travel insurance policies contain time-sensitive provisions—i.e. some benefits are available only if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days of the purchase of the travel package.
What Happens Next?
Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter, initial invoice, and Adventure Advice memo with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. You will be prompted when further payments are due on January 2, May 1, and October 1, 2019. Later next spring, you will receive a factsheet of additional information and a packing list for the Adventure to help you get prepared! Then, about 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names (for the Pre-tour) and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.
It is our profound pleasure and privilege to share with you our Voyage to Antarctica!