CRUISE – ANTARCTICA
Antarctica – a land of superlatives and extremes, Antarctica is without a doubt one of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth. The fifth-largest continent, it is the highest, most arid, and most isolated. More than 99 percent of it is covered in ice. It is the least explored and least inhabited; yet people are drawn to this place again and again.
Travel to Antarctica is not easy; in fact it has to be earned: its isolation requires a lengthy flight—unless you happen to live in one of the gateway towns, like Stanley, Hobart, or Ushuaia—just to board the ship. Then there’s the matter of the sea itself. Even in the sturdy confidence and relative comfort of an expedition ship or icebreaker, crossing the Drake Passage south of Argentina’s Cape Horn can be a seafaring adventure in itself. However, nothing can compare with the rewards of traveling to Antarctica! Antarctica’s glaciers, massive rivers of ice, crunch, grind and calve their way into the sea. Gargantuan towers of ice the size of city blocks glow in shades of pink, violet, and baby blue. Humpback whales gracefully loop through the frigid water in search of a meal of krill. Navigate around an iceberg on a Zodiac expedition and gaze in awe as 18-foot, 4.5-ton elephant seals haul themselves out of the water and gather on icy banks as southern albatrosses soar overhead. Ready your camera for a king or royal penguin encounter in a colony of thousands upon thousands of nesting birds and their fluffy, bewildered chicks. Antarctica cruises are truly one of the last great adventures. Leave tourist crowds—and indeed, the whole world—behind. Come see more than the tip of the iceberg: venture to terra incognita australis, the unknown southern land.
In Antarctica, the word “extremes” takes on new meaning. It holds the world’s largest reservoir of fresh water. Yet it is a vast desert as dry as the Sahara. It is a frozen wilderness locked in a Pleistocene time warp. Yet in summer during the miracle of rebirth, Antarctica’s open skies are alive with swooping seabirds, its pure snow and water filled with the largest concentration of pelagic life on our planet. Rookeries of penguins that number in the tens and even hundreds of thousands. Seals and whales in glorious abundance. Equally glorious is the stark, raw beauty of Antarctica. Giant, blue-tinted icebergs sparkle like diamonds in a midnight blue sea. Towering snowcapped mountains reach toward the eternal midnight sun. Vast snowfields, blinding white, stretch to eternity. All this we invite you to witness aboard National Geographic Explorer. This 148-passenger ice-class polar expedition ship will set sail in June 2008. The Lyngen, purchased from the Norwegian company Hurtigruten, will be renamed the National Geographic Explorer and will be redesigned to become a state-of-the-art vessel, offering guests an intimate and educational environment with innovative tools for exploration. She is fully stabilized, enabling it to navigate polar passages while providing comfort. Services onboard include: Full-time doctor, Undersea Specialist, Wellness Specialist, LEXspa Therapist, Video Chronicler. All 81 cabins face outside with windows or portholes. Each has private facilities and climate controls.
DAY 01: MIAMI / SANTIAGO / CHILE
You depart this evening on an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile’s capital.
DAY 02: SANTIAGO
You arrive in Santiago this morning. With the soaring Andes as a backdrop, Santiago, makes a spectacular and welcoming first impression — as does your hotel, located in a gracious residential neighborhood. The morning is free for resting up or exploring on your own. Santiago offers an intriguing blend of European, Spanish Colonial and innovative modern architecture. Its sun-mellowed facades and stately palms invite leisure walks. After lunch, join a guided excursion of Santiago, including the Presidential Palace and historic cathedral area. You’ll head up into the San Cristobal hills for a panoramic city view, sure to inspire photographers. You return to the Hyatt for a relaxing dinner.
DAY 03: SANTIAGO / USHUAIA, ARGENTINA / EMBARK SHIP
The morning’s flight offers some fascinating and rare views as you fly over the vividly rugged terrain of Patagonia before landing in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. This windy and desolate outpost is awe inspiring in its starkness. As your luggage is transferred to Endeavour, you’ll head to the nearby El Restaurante Relincho for a lunch that includes Argentina’s traditional barbecue. Tierra del Fuego National Park at Lapataia Bay is your afternoon destination. Bordering the Beagle Channel, it is home to an array of plants and animals that are rarely seen anywhere else in the world, including the Tierra del Fuego red fox and the chungungo otter. After your walk, return to town and board the Endeavour, your seafaring home for the next several days. As you step aboard, surrounded by Ushuaia’s soaring mountains, you’ll be aware, in an exciting way, of the fact that you’re a long way from home. Settle into your cabin before joining your first dinner onboard. It’s time to start your voyage toward Antarctica.
DAY 04 – 05: AT SEA
You leave Ushuaia with Argentina and Chile behind you, and head to the Drake Passage. Lying between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake holds a unique place in maritime lore and legend. From the Endeavour’s bridge, observe expert navigation at work as your skilled Captain and officers sail these historic waters. Sometimes misty and gray, other times calm and clear, crossing the legendary Drake Passage is unforgettable — a milestone in any adventurer’s personal travel history. Endeavour’s library, gym and guest e-mail station become welcoming haunts. Watching for seabirds on deck in the fresh air, socializing in the Lounge, as well as attending informal lecturers given by the naturalists onboard, are among the opportunities that make your time at sea an active and engaging preparation for the adventure ahead.
DAY 06 – 11: ANTARCTICA
With nearly 24 hours of daylight at this time of year, you are able to make the most of your six days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands. And what a light it is — ranging from brilliantly blue-skied to the famous “golden hour” light prized by photographers, and the shades of gray, from pearly to pewter. Your expedition style of travel means that your schedule is completely flexible, adapting to give you the best experience during your time. Out there, amid the splendor of the ice, surrounded by penguins and snow-capped mountains, the ship will freely roam in the most spectacular environment on earth. Your expedition team is a veteran one, and their knowledge of Antarctica’s waters enables you to take advantage of prime conditions as you find them. Perhaps to explore an inlet this year that was blocked by ice last season, or drop kayaks in a small cove for a more personal, “penguin level” expedition. Sometimes we’re even able to take you places where no one has ever been before — places for which our Captain and Ice Master might make a “mud map” that will eventually be published by maritime authorities as a guide for other mariners. You may also be able to enter Lindblad Cove, named in memory of Lars-Eric Lindblad, a pioneer in Antarctic tourism. Sail through the incomparable Lemaire Channel, also known as Iceberg Alley, where a hush falls over onlookers as bergs of incomparable beauty and scale drift by. Cruise in Zodiacs to make landfall on Deception Island, where you’ll walk along the beach, in the shadow of high black hills, through the spectral ruins of an abandoned whaling factory which once employed 100 men. And visiting historical such as Elephant Island, a name known to anyone familiar with the story of Ernest Shackleton, and his legendary feat — bringing every member of his crew safely back home after the wreck of his expedition ship Endurance and a two-year ordeal.
As you voyage, you’ll see all the creatures that thirve in this polar habitat. Seabirds — from pintado petrels to albatross with their magnificent wingspans. You may see orcas and minke whales, Weddell seals and fearsome leopard seals. And of course — penguins. You’ll see gentoos, Adelies and chinstraps in unimaginably large numbers, visiting their colonies while observing their hunting, gathering and parenting behavior firsthand. You’ll be out daily — experiencing Antarctica with all your senses as you walk, cruise in Zodiacs, and paddle kayaks through berg fields, hearing the Antarctic seltzer (gases escaping from dissolving icebergs) around you, the cries of the penguins, and the huge, nurturing silence of this perfectly pristine place.
DAY 12: AT SEA
As you sail back to Ushuaia, an albatross or two may join the avian escort of fulmars, petrels and other seabirds that cross the bow in a mesmerizing, ballet like display. There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy a massage, log some time in the gym, or catch up on the book you haven’t yet had a minute to read. If you did manage to finish it, you’ll find hundreds of others to pursue in Endeavour’s extensive library. During our time at sea, your expert Expedition Leader and naturalist team offers talks and presentations that add depth and dimension to your experiences. And your Undersea Specialist will show rare footage of the seldom-seen creatures that inhabit these frigid waters.
DAY 13: CAPE HORN
Today, you round Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. This legendary seafaring spot marks the point where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. Standing on deck, marking your passage through and marveling at this historic, even infamous locale, the mind plays over what you’ve seen and where you’ve been. How comfortably and with what apparent ease you have traveled to a place legendary for its hardships and danger. And perhaps, even think: How easy it would be to simply stay put in one’s ordinary routine. How enlivening not to do so and to continue to live adventurously — putting oneself in the right place to experience exceptional moments.
DAY 14: USHUAIA / DISEMBARK / SANTIAGO
As you disembark in Ushuaia, a location that mere days ago seemed wild and remote, is now, in contrast to the “farness” of Antarctica, cozily familiar. After your time at sea, your visit to the Maritime Museum in Ushuaia will have a richer context. You then proceed to the airport for the flight to Santiago, and the subsequent overnight flight to Miami.
DAY 14: MIAMI
Arrive in Miami at sunrise. As you board connecting flights home, you will each carry vivid memories of your adventure.