More than a year in advance, my husband and I booked a 12-day expedition cruise on Seabourn Pursuit to Antarctica. We had no expectations, but were greatly looking forward to it. We stayed at a hotel in Buenos Aires in early January 2024 for two nights before the cruise. One night's stay was arranged by Seabourn Cruise Line.
From the hotel in Buenos Aires we departed with two buses full of cruise passengers to the airport to take a charter flight to Ushuaia, where after a short bus ride we embarked on Seabourn Pursuit and were we greeted by the ship's team with a delicious glass of champagne. Moments later we were able to enter our Veranda Suite on deck 8. A beautiful stylish room with balcony. The bathroom had a shower and bathtub which was one of the deciding factors when we booked this cruise. Although the bath was on the small side, warming up in a bath can be nice on cold days.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and also the capital of Tierra del Fuego, set among breathtaking snow-capped mountains and windy waves of the Beagle Channel, situated on the southern tip of mainland South America. The journey by ship from Ushuaia to the white continent, the Antarctic Peninsula, takes about 2 days.
During the evening, Seabourn Pursuit departed its journey across the Beagle Channel, where we enjoyed the breathtaking scenery of Tierra del Fuego. Our adventure could begin. All passengers were very excited because embarking on a voyage to Antarctica is an experience of a lifetime.
On board, before dinner, a briefing was done by the expedition leader, followed by an introduction of the full expedition team. Throughout the trip, the team held educational lectures and talks about the various destinations, wildlife and history of Antarctica.
The Drake Passage, the water between South America's Cape Horn and the South Schetland Islands is considered by many to be one of the most treacherous passages for ships. Stories circulated that the Drake Passage could be a real challenge. It is a lively shaky ride that you must endure to reach Antarctica. Halfway through, the 3 different seas meet, the Antarctic, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, where it can be quite rough. Either you get lucky with light waves and have a Drake Lake or it's a Drake Shake with waves up to 12 meters (40 feet) high.
Our crossing showed an average swell with waves around 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet). Winds were between 22 and 25 knots, although a few gusts up to 27 knots propelled the ship favorably from the northwest.
As a precaution, I took a pill against seasickness, but in retrospect it was unnecessary. However, if you are sensitive, it is best to take half a pill or a whole pill in advance, because when the symptoms appear it is already too late. Seasickness pills are available free of charge at the reception desk.
During our trip we were given orange water- and windproof Helly Hanssen expedition parkas, as well as a beanie and waterproof backpack that we could use on board and during the expedition and that we could take home afterwards. Provided were rubber Polar sports boots that had to be fitted beforehand and were stored in our personal compartment with cabin number in a special room called the Mud Room. Waterproof pants, thermal underwear, warm sweaters and gloves we had to provide ourselves. During the trip, a super quality pair of Swarovski binoculars was also available in our suite, with which we could admire the wildlife up close.
After lunch, the Bridge was open for guests who were interested and wanted to visit the impressive room. During our crossing on the Drake Passage, after 1 day of sailing, we saw white dots on the horizon in the distance. We wondered what they were and went to take a look at the Bridge, where the officers told us they were tabular icebergs. Wow, we were so excited to see our first icebergs!
A day later, from the window of our balcony suite, we spotted penguins swimming gracefully in the cold water. That was a wonderful and special moment, our first penguins sighting.... After almost 2 days of sailing, we finally reached the white continent of Antarctica.
Cruise passengers were divided into 6 color groups during the trip. Orange, green, brown, blue, pink and yellow. Each time a different color group was brought ashore with the zodiacs. No more than 100 people were allowed on land at one site at the same time from a single vessel.
Half Moon Bay
A gray foggy afternoon with fine drizzle of snowflakes could not dampen our enthusiasm. Our first landing with our feet on land of beautiful pristine Antarctica.
Half Moon Bay is tucked among a huge group of larger volcanic islands, the South Shetland Islands and is located in the northern part of Antarctica. Once ashore, we took a short walk on the boulders along the water where we soon spotted colonies of Chinstrap penguins nesting against and on the rocks. You could smell it from afar, the smell of penguin guano.
January is the ideal travel time because of the milder temperatures around freezing point. It is therefore the southern summer and the period for little chicks, which was quite fun to see. Those fuzzy little creatures under mother's feathers. Nice, warm and protective. A little later, on the other side of the Bay we noticed a Weddell Seal sleeping elongatedly on the rocks near the water. Suddenly the animal yawned and gestured at its mouth with its flippers, so hilarious. An ideal photo opportunity.
Brown Bluff & Hope Bay
With gray cloud cover the next morning, we arrived at Brown Bluff, located at the far northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. Once ashore, we were invited to walk along the rocky beach, where masses of Adelie and Gentoo penguins were parading alongside the shoreline in succession. Funny little walking birds wearing their waterproof tuxedos. So cute. On the other side, penguins were nesting with eggs and little chicks. Some penguins were stealing small rocks from other animals nests to built their own nest. Quite an experience. On Brown Bluff, both Adelie Penguins and Gentoo Penguins could be spotted. Colonies with 20.000 pairs of penguins. Of course, the smell of penguin poop was present here as well. The view and the animals were so impressive that I kept taking pictures.
In the afternoon we went to Hope Bay on an expedition by zodiac. It was windy with light waves, but nothing to worry about. The expedition driver sailed us along the shore of the bay with Esperanza Base, a permanently staffed Argentine science station, and we also searched for wildlife. Halfway down, unfortunately at that time, an unforeseen storm came up from behind the mountain. We had a strong headwind with the zodiac and the cruise ship was a long way off. We were hit by cold waves from the sea and our gloves got soaking wet. The rest of the clothing withstood just fine. So a new lesson, make sure you have waterproof and warm gloves to keep your hands warm! After sailing for quite a while, we saw the ship getting a little closer each time. It took forever... But the experienced zodiac driver brought us safely to the cruise ship.
There the Pursuit team welcomed us every time again with a glass of delicious hot chocolate.
The sun shone on a long line of icebergs as Seabourn Pursuit sailed into Cierva Cove located on Graham Land. A beautiful morning with blue skies and a cove surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Wow.
Cierva Cove is also known for its unusually dense plant communities, with the south shore of the bay being home to Antarctic hairgrass, mosses and lichens. Despite the cold climate, these plants grow tenaciously in whatever protective spots they can find, fed by constant supplies of penguin guano, which acts as a natural fertilizer.
Here, according to color group, we did another zodiac tour. Along the way we saw penguins, of course, and some Weddell Seals sleeping on pieces of floating ice. Beautiful to see and so photogenic.
Neko harbor and Skontorp Cove, Paradise Bay
A beautiful golden dawn and calm waters greeted us at Neko harbor. Neko is named after a Scottish whale boat that operated here in the early 20th century. It was a fantastic day. Once launched, zodiacs made their way through the ice to arrive at the landing site, welcomed by Gentoo Penguins waiting for us on the beach.
From the landing site, a snowy footpath zigzagged up the slope to a higher vantage point with several penguin colonies along the way. The view was phenomenal. Magnificent glaciers regularly made rumbling sounds, indicating impending calving events. On the way back we still enjoyed the beautiful nature and tried to capture as much as possible.
In the afternoon we arrived at Skontorp Cove, located in Paradise Bay. Once in the zodiac, we soon found interesting wildlife like seals that were resting on the icebergs. Many birds were seen around the high cliffs of the bay, including Snow Petrels, Antarctic Terns and nesting Antarctic Cormorants.
The size of the icebergs were almost overwhelming and towered high above the zodiacs with their beautiful shapes and colors.
On the way back, the zodiacs sailed past the Argentine research station Base Brown. Along the way, we were greeted by humpback whales swimming by and feeding.
Prospect Point and Fish Islands
Seabourn Pursuit arrived at Prospect Point and later on Fish Islands on a beautiful morning with clear skies, a light breeze and a glassy sea.
The perfect weather conditions allowed for various zodiac, kayak and underwater activities, among which guests could explore the area in different ways.
As we sailed by zodiac along the coastline, we enjoyed the incredible scenery with beautifully turquoise colored icebergs and Weddell seals resting on sea ice. From the zodiacs, we were treated to nesting Adelie penguins and Antarctic Shags busy building a nest and feeding their chicks.
The rest of the day's program included the so-called polar plunge. Many guests braved the frigid waters of Antarctica by taking a unique and daring plunge into the waters of Antarctica. The brave passengers were treated to a warming drink, a moment in the whirlpool on the outside decks or a warm shower afterwards. It was a fun atmosphere. Everyone was blazing with enthusiasm and many friends were made.
In the evening we received a scoop from the captain. He announced that we had crossed the Antarctic Circle. The ship had passed south of latitude 66°33'45.9 S. A beautiful sunset colored the sky illuminating the surrounding mountains. It was a day full of excitement and adventure that we will remember for a long time.
Each passenger received a certificate the following day that we had crossed the imaginary line.
Seabourn Pursuit wound its way through iceberg-filled ocean to Hanusse Bay. It wasn't easy, but the view was phenomenal. There was plenty of wildlife to view from the ship. Crab-eaters, Weddell and Leopard seals. Suddenly an Emperor penguin was spotted in the water, so the expedition leader decided to lower the zodiacs and do a ride along the edge of the fast ice winding between the icebergs. With the zodiacs in the water, it became easier to look for wildlife. Earlier we saw a Ross seal resting on an iceberg. As well as dwarf humpback whales feeding on skrill.
In the afternoon, the captain tried to make a landing in the ice with the ship. For a while we thought it wasn't going to work because of too many icebergs and too strong a current, but finally after careful maneuvering by the talented captain and his team, they found a place in the ice to bring the boat to a stop. The expedition team first tested the stability of the ice to make sure it was safe for the passengers. And yes, the ice covered with a thick layer of snow was sufficiently firm. Everyone was excited when we were allowed onto the ice, where we were welcomed with a nice glass of Champagne. It was another bright day with blue skies and sunshine. A thick rope was placed across the bow by the deck team, allowing guests to capture a unique photo opportunity, precisely pulling the ship further through the ice.
Suddenly, a lone Adelie penguin came out to greet us. Magical, a real goosebump moment.
Looking back, the ice landing was one of the highlights of the trip. There were no words for this. After three hours, Seabourn Pursuit gently turned backwards off the ice and continued the amazing journey. A moment to never forget.
Port Charcot & Vernadsky Station
After an incredibly icy landing the day before, we woke up to yet another beautiful weather, with the sun giving us a warm day. Each day became more and more beautiful. As we landed the zodiacs from Port Charcot, a humpback whale swam nearby. Everyone was super excited. In addition to the mesmerizing views, we were able to visit a cairn built during the first Antarctic expedition. Moreover, all three species of brushtail penguins (Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap) were observed close together. Port Charcot offered us wonderful photo opportunities. The passengers on the ship and in the zodiac boats could enjoy the echoing sound of the humpback concert of two adult humpback whales and a calf lingering in the bay.
Seabourn Pursuit then sailed through the Strait of Penola to its next destination, the Argentine Islands. Here we enjoyed a zodiac tour among the icebergs, one of which clearly caught our attention. A giant spectacular curved iceberg with a huge crack that could collapse at any moment. Next, the zodiacs continued to explore the area and we passed a Ukrainian science station Vernadsky at Marina point on Galindez Island. We saw various wildlife in and near the water. Gentoo penguins, Wilson's petrels and last but not least, the first elephant seal resting on the ice.
Late at night there was a colorful orange glow sky at midnight sunset, one to long remember.
Petermann Island is a rocky island named after German cartographer August Heinrich Petermann and is located just south of Anvers Island on the West side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Upon waking the next morning it was overcast, but afterwards the sun came out briefly. Another wonderful place with breathtaking scenery.
The last stop on land. By zodiac we were taken to the shore where a couple of Gentoo penguin colonies with little gray chicks were sitting. A pair of fat elephant seals lay on the rocks near the hut the Argentines had built in 1955. Their cries could be heard all over the island. Impressive to witness something like that from so close up.
In the afternoon, our trip began further. Before we had to return to the Drake Passage, we sailed further along a channel with steep cliffs, beautiful icebergs and glaciers, the Lemaire Channel. Humpback whales also swam nearby here. Orcas would usually also dwell in this area, but we did not see them ourselves.
Two more days of sailing back through the Drake Passage toward Ushuaia. The crossing was a bit choppier than before. Waves of 6 to 7 meters (20 to 23 feet) with strong winds along the side. Neither I nor my husband got seasick, although some passengers and crew told us otherwise. Slowly we were rocked to sleep. The last day was a day of rest. Going on an expedition is very enjoyable, but also very intensive. Be ready to go ashore at appropriate times, getting up early, attending briefings and eating in between. It was all part of it and you don't want to miss anything.
During the Drake Passage crossing, the photographer on board offered every passenger his best photos for free via downloads to smartphone, USB stick or our own computer. And last but not least, the filmmaker on board who made an amazing summary of our memorable trip and showed it on the big screen of the theater, as well as offered this film to download afterwards after 48h at home, an experience to never forget. It was an emotional moment that even involved a tear. All the beautiful moments came back, so many beautiful things seen, wildlife and beautiful nature with excellent weather conditions and especially hardworking staff and crew who were always ready with a smile and a chat, nothing was too much for them. During this trip we made many new friends for life.
By the last day, we had to pack our suitcases and put them outside our suite door the night before so that the bags could be picked up and taken to the airport where we could pick them back up afterwards. Consequently, we were flown back on the charter plane from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, where everyone went their separate ways.
A big thank you to crew, staff and expedition members of Seabourn Pursuit for making this trip one of the best trips of our lives.
The experience cannot be captured on photo or video, an expedition cruise to Antarctica must be experienced for yourself.
This was our moment, a moment to never forget.
Thank you for your interest in my blog,