|Day 1||Santiago, Chile||Guided tour of Santiago|
|Day 2||Embarkation Ushuaia||Flight from Santiago to Ushuaia, Beagle Channel cruise|
|Day 3||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
||Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands||Antarctic Peninsula outer Islands|
|Days 10-11||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
|Day 12||Ushuaia||Disembark. If joining the group flight transfer to airport for flight to Santiago|
National Geographic Orion is a modern, elegant ship with an intimate ambiance. The window-lined main lounge and library offer spectacular views while the expedition community are gathered each evening for cocktails and a recap of the day’s activities. High atop the vessel, the cosy observation lounge is ideal for taking in the 270º views, or you might choose to brave the outdoor bar (with ambient heaters) on the same deck. The 53 cabins accommodate 102 guests and all are exterior, with most featuring picture windows that connect you with the Antarctic landscape. Built in Germany in 2003 and engineered for maximum safety and comfort, Orion is ice-strengthened and has the latest technology, including large retractable stabilisers, sonar and radar. Its fleet of 14 Zodiacs ensures quick disembarkation and offers the ideal transport for up-close exploration.
Check in to the hotel Santiago by Mandarin (or similar), centrally located in Santiago, and have the morning to relax. Santiago is nearly completely surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to your afternoon guided tour of this vibrant city. Explore the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and nearby Presidential Palace, enjoying wonderful views from the many hills that dot the city. In the early evening we gather for an informal reception and a drink at the hotel.
The morning’s charter flight offers some rare views as you fly over the starkly rugged terrain of Patagonia to land in Ushuaia, known as the southernmost city in the world (although, with a population of around 60,000, really more of a large town). Set on the shores of the Beagle Channel, ‘Ushuaia’ actually means “the bay facing westward” in the language of the original Yamana inhabitants. Once a penal colony for political prisoners as well as hardened criminals – the Presidio (prison) was closed in the late 1940s – Ushuaia is now a major tourist centre, particularly for people cruising to Antarctica.
You will have lunch aboard a catamaran cruise of the scenic Beagle Channel before embarking your ship in the mid-afternoon. As you board the vessel, you cannot help but wonder about the exciting journey ahead. In the early evening set sail, leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel, the historic channel that transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America.
Awake well into your journey across the Drake Passage. Lying south between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the Drake holds a unique place in maritime lore, sometimes rough, misty and grey, other times calm and clear – the crossing is unpredictable and constantly changing but the legendary Drake Passage is unforgettable. You’ll spend this time getting to know your shipmates, while your polar experts will provide insights into what excitement lies ahead. When you cross the Antarctic Convergence you will notice a distinct drop in temperature as you enter the waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
With long hours of daylight, the most will be made of the time spent around the Antarctic Peninsula, while maintaining a flexible schedule to take advantage of the unexpected – perhaps watching a huge whale surface off the bow. You will take Zodiac excursions from the ship to explore bays, channels and landing sites each day. One day you may make a foray among towering bergs under a bright sun, walk along the shoreline amid a huge penguin colony, hike to a summit for a breathtaking view, or kayak along a cliff-side rookery in search of blue-eyed shags. And the next you’ll have the thrill of watching the ship crunch through the pack ice, or step ashore to the cries of thousands of gentoo penguins. You’ll learn from the on-board naturalists how to identify penguins and get photo tips from a National Geographic photographer while watching those same penguins. Back aboard, the team’s undersea specialist may present a video from that day’s dive – rare images taken up to 300 metres below the surface using the ship’s ROV (remotely operated vehicle). Your expert staff will craft an expedition where you will learn more, see more and experience more.
As you leave the continent and sail back to Ushuaia, an albatross or two may join the escort of seabirds that cross the ship’s bow, and your spotters will keep an eye out for marine life. There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy a wellness treatment, log some time in the gym, or catch up on the book you haven’t had a minute to read. Final presentations from the expedition staff will reflect on all you have seen and learned.
In the early morning, arrive back in Ushuaia. After breakfast, it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers.
If you have chosen to take the Charter Flight Package join the charter flight from Ushuaia to Santiago on the day of disembarkation. Alternatively you may wish to spend a bit more time exploring this region.
NOTE: It is possible to arrange alternate flights if you want to explore other areas of Argentina or Chile before or after the voyage. Please ask at time of booking.