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Antarctic expedition cruises for the independent traveler – Introduction

WildWings are agents for many of the vessels that visit the area, and generally recommend the ‘small ships’ (up to 110 passengers or so) for the best Antarctic wildlife experience. As Associate members of IAATO, we continue to work to ensure the continued protection of this unique environment. Over 20 years experience of sending travellers to the white continent allows us to offer unrivalled personal advice, the best choice and the best prices. We are selective about the ships we work with, we do not necessarily offer all the vessels our partner shipping companies operate, we only offer the ones that give the best bird and wildlife experiences………..

Nearly all the ships that visit the Antarctic Peninsula (plus the Falklands and/or South Georgia) depart and return to the port of Ushuaia in South Argentina. A small city set in the stunning scenery of southern Tierra Del Fuego, on the shores of the Beagle Channel. Well worth a few days stay, and we insist our clients arrive at least the day before sailing in case of flight delays, you don’t want to miss the boat! Small enough to explore on foot, a wide range of local sightseeing tours are also available plus some good birds can be seen in and around Ushuaia itself, often rafts of Black-browed Albatross are offshore, just a taste of what’s to come further south. Embarkation is normally late afternoon whilst disembarkation at the end of the voyage is normally after breakfast, allowing plenty of time to catch a flight back up to Buenos Aires with onward overnight flights back to the UK, Europe and North America.

All our recommended ships carry a team of expedition staff, whose services are available to all passengers. The Expedition Leader is the person who runs the trip from the passenger side, and decides where you will go each day and supervises the rest of their team and the landing staff. The captain is ultimately in charge and safety is of paramount importance. Exact itineraries are subject to weather and ice conditions on the day, no ship ‘guarantees’ the exact planned itinerary but in practice most make the majority of planned landings and alternative sites are usually never far away. An optional series of lectures and film shows on the region are shown onboard to make your Antarctic experience as complete as possible. The team usually includes a specialist for birds and marine mammals, the exploration history of the region and geography and geology. Briefings are made usually before each landing and most evenings, the team will hold a recap of the day’s events. A number of our voyages will also offer the unique chance to spend a night ashore ‘camping’, subject to local conditions on the day. You will be given a souvenir DVD log of your voyage, often illustrated with images to help you treasure your memories. Members of the team go ashore with you for the Zodiac landings, some even driving the Zodiacs too. The season is the Antarctic summer and you will be supplied with comprehensive pre-cruise information including clothing etc to bring. In practice if you go out for country walks in the UK in the winter, you probably own most of the necessary clothing already. The one essential is good old Wellington Boots for the Zodiac rides and shore landings. Wind is the main weather enemy and the ‘layer’ principle of dressing applies. A good windproof top and waterproof overtrousers are also essential (which are often supplied onboard by many vessels). The ships are usually very warm inside. A suggested reading list will also be sent, well worth doing your own pre-trip research to maximise your experience. Photo opportunities will be tremendous, the wildlife in your face and super results are easy even with ‘point and shoot’ type cameras. Superb results can be obtained from modern digital media, all the ships have plenty of power points to recharge your batteries (including in your cabin). We strongly suggest you take two cameras, one downside of digital is because of the moisture and salt spray in the air, they can pack up without warning! Many vessels now have onboard photographers who will happily assist you to get the best shots. Some vessels now offer photography specials, with pro-photographers and special onboard workshops. Binoculars are essential and will also greatly enhance your views, especially of the wildlife. Please ask us for advice if required.You will see thousand and thousands of penguins, seabirds including the incredible albatrosses plus seals, whales and dolphins. In some areas of the peninsula in recent years, some of the whales are becoming very friendly and will readily approach Zodiacs, especially later in the season or you may occasionally even get a penguin land inside your Zodiac! The scenery is more than spectacular, ice and snow covered mountains and many passengers are surprised at how beautiful icebergs are, which come in every shape, size and hue of blue. On some voyages you may visit one of the scientific bases on the continent. Like the ship, the Zodiac drivers are captains of their vessels, and their orders are to be followed at all times. No standing up without their permission for example. You will be fully briefed at the beginning of your voyage. Strict rules apply ashore, and absolutely no smoking, eating or toilet facilities exist. The only complaint about food we get onboard is that there is usually too much of it! Breakfast and lunch are often buffets, dinner may start with a salad buffet but the following courses are usually waiter served. A number of choices are available for all courses. Vegetarian and some special diets can be catered for by most vessels (but not vegan or kosher). Any unfinished bottles of wine will be kept with your cabin number marked, for later consumption. Most voyages have a mix of nationalities onboard, a great way to meet new interesting people. Many people travel as singles, cabin sharing is commonplace on our ships, you will probably spend little time in it anyway, and single cabin supplements average 1.5 - 1.8 times the twin share rate. Seasickness is not usually the problem most people imagine, the Drake Passage is often calmer than its made out to be but even in the Antarctic summer a storm could occur at any time, although in practice most captains do everything to avoid them. We can give some suggestions for prevention which seem to work for most people. If you are unlucky, the onboard doctor will usually be able to sort you out! 

Most find their visit to the white continent a life-changing experience and return home uplifted with a new outlook on our natural world and it’s worth. You will probably want to go back again, you have been warned, the region has a sense of pristiness found nowhere else on the planet. WildWings will donate money to the Save the Albatross campaign (www.savethealbatross.net) for each visitor we send, we hope when you come home you will make your own donation too (if there was not a collection or auction onboard your ship).

All prices on this and the following pages are cruise only. WildWings are able to arrange your flights and any other travel requirements you may require. We stock separate colour brochures for all our vessels giving much more detailed information including the planned itineraries, please ask us for your copies. Prices are subject to exchange rates so please always contact us for your up to date quote!

Prices include: Voyage chosen in cabin accommodation as booked including all meals, tea, coffee, water, lectures and services of expedition team, Zodiac shore landings and cruises, port taxes, comprehensive pre-voyage information and post voyage souvenir log. Many ships now include complimentary parka coats and offer free boot loan onboard. Most also include group transfers to/from the ship.

Prices exclude: Travel insurance, fuel surcharges if applicable, onboard staff and crew gratuities (suggested amount US$10-$15 per passenger, per day), other drinks and items of a personal nature.  

Return flights from the UK to Ushuaia start from £999 per person, including prepaid taxes and current airline fuel surcharges. Pre-cruise hotels in Ushuaia start from £65 per person, twin share with breakfast (included with some ships).

Pick up the phone and call us to discuss your plans, our advice is free and honest, 0117 9658 333.

Special offers! Ships with berths to fill do sometimes discount them, for departures within 2 months of travel, always phone us!

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