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The struggling expedition cruise market could see relief as Chile and Argentina begin reopening for tourism.

The positive announcements we reported on last week from Chile and Argentina means that travel to the Antarctic could soon be back on the program once again. This is welcome news for a part of the cruise industry that often flies under the radar yet consists of 20% of the global cruise market.

Argentina has started to make progress towards opening its borders, although only for neighboring countries at this time. The government in Argentina had implemented the longest lockdown of any country globally.

That same government has now also realized that tourism is vital for its collapsing economy. More than 40.000 tourists made their way through the port of Ushuaia from October 2019 through April 2020.

In Chile, the government has made it clear that citizens from all countries worldwide may enter the country, provided they have a negative PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before traveling.

Ushuaia, Argentina

Why Are Chile and Argentina Important For Travel To Antarctica?

There are several ways to travel to Antarctica but right now there are not a lot of options considering Australia and New Zealand's borders are closed. If they were open, the voyage is a five-day transit through the world's roughest oceans and if you are prone to seasickness, this is probably not your cup of tea.

Through South America, the vast white wilderness that is Antarctica is much easier to reach. From Argentina's port of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, Antarctica is a short day and a half sail across the Drake Passage.

From Chile, there are several options to travel to Antarctica. Ships leave from the port of Puerto William in Southern Chile, while flying across the notorious Drake passage is also an option.

Notorious Drake Passage Has Rough Seas
The Drake Passage is Known For Its Rough Seas

Expedition Cruise Market Was Set For A Huge Growth Year

The Expedition Cruise Market has had a tough year. Last year more than 80.000 people visited Antarctica on an expedition ship. This year, most companies had their eyes set on a big year with the arrival of new ships.

The pandemic meant that new ship arrivals were delayed, the  popular expedition voyages to the North pole, Greenland, and Svalbard were cancelled and most of the Antarctic sailing season has also been put on hold.

All these companies will be eagerly awaiting the end of Chile and Argentina's lockdowns, so the ships will be able to sail to Antarctica once again.

Expeditions Ships That Could Resume Antarctica Voyages

There is a vast selection of operators that will bring you to Antarctica in any given year. From old sailing ships like the Bark Europa where you are expected to work and help out on-board, old Russian icebreakers like the Kapitan Khlebnikov will take you anywhere, or ultra-luxury ships like Seabourn Quest where no request is too much.

Seabourn Quest

The selection of ships you can choose is vast; 72 different vessels visited Antarctica last year. 

The type and style of trips also vary:

  • Fly Cruise: Want to go to Antarctica but dreading the Drake Passage? Then this is a trip for you. You will fly from Puerto William, Chile, to King George Island in Antarctica. From there, you can board your expedition cruise ship and start exploring penguins, icebergs, and fantastic scenery.
  • Short Western Peninsula: These trips are by far the most popular and cover the Antarctic Peninsula's western side, while you also get to experience the Drake Shake. Famous places like the Lemaire Channel, Paradise Bay, and Neko Harbour are usually included. Expect spectacular scenery and lots of wildlife.
  • 21-days in the footsteps of the great explorers: Sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Falkland Islands, the wildlife paradise which is South Georgia, and onwards to the Antarctic Peninsula and the Antarctic Circle. Expect rough seas, massive colonies with millions of penguins, and epic history.

  • The hard to find Emperor Penguin: These trips are only sporadically done due to the strict regulations. You will board an icebreaker in Ushuaia, Argentina, sail into the Weddell Sea while breaking and pushing through the ice, and fly the last 15 kilometers to an Emperor Penguin Colony at Snow Hill. Expect a once in a lifetime experience.

Opening the borders in both Argentina and Chile is vital for a struggling expedition cruise market. While a part of the Antarctic season is undoubtedly over by now, there is still a small chance that a small part can be saved. If you are eager to travel off path, Antarctica is probably the most off path you can get.

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories



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