CRUISES: PATAGONIA AND ANTARTICA
Cruising is a leisurely and comfortable way to take in the rugged marvels of Patagonia and the southernmost region of the world. Sailing through remote channels and reaching islands virtually untouched by man, you’ll witness fjords, snowcapped mountains and granite peaks, and glacial lakes. You’ll get a close look at elephant seals, migrating whales, colonies of Magellanic penguins, and cormorants from the comfort of your vessel and during shore excursions taken in Zodiacs (small motorized boats) led by naturalist guides. Far from the beaten path, you’ll visit small fishing villages accessible only by sea, explore fantastic temperate rain forests, and enjoy the freshest seafood and local wines.
Most short cruises depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile. Longer and more luxurious itineraries typically depart from either Buenos Aires or Santiago.
WHEN TO GO
In the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, November through March is considered high season. However, the weather in Patagonia is unpredictable: strong winds and sudden storms are common. Summertime (December through February) is the best time to visit. Shoulder months—October, November, March, and April—tend to have cooler temperatures but also less wind. In winter, cruise companies all but hibernate for the season.
October (late spring). Best time to witness the whale migration and the immense colonies of elephant seals and sea lions in Península Valdés.
November (early summer). The natural nesting cycle of Magellanic penguins is November to February. Penguins arrive at the rookeries at the beginning of the month. Spring flowers are in full bloom. This is the best time to catch the bird nesting of finches, sparrows, condors, albatrosses, and other species.
December and January (high summer). The warmest months see penguin chicks hatch in Tierra del Fuego. Long daylight hours also mean great photography opportunities all over Patagonia.
February and March (late summer). Receding ice allows for easier exploration farther south. Whale-watching is at its best. Penguin colonies are very active, as the adults feed the chicks.
BOOKING YOUR CRUISE
The majority of cruisers plan their trips four to six months ahead of time. Book a year ahead if you’re planning to sail on a small adventure vessel, as popular itineraries may be full six to eight months ahead.
Consider booking shore excursions when you book your cruise to avoid disappointment later. You can even book your spa services pre-cruise to have your pick of popular times, such as sea days.
Although most travel is booked over the Internet nowadays, for cruises, booking with a SER Travel agent, who specializes in Patagonia cruises is still your best bet. Our experts have strong relationships with the lines and have a better chance of getting you the cabin you want, possibly even a free upgrade.
Choosing an itinerary is as important as choosing a cruise line that fits your tastes and budget. We highlight possibilities that focus on specific areas, as well as typical departure points, and we make arrangements that can take you there.
CRUISING THE TIP OF SOUTH AMERICA
Cruising the southern tip of South America and along Chile’s western coast north to the Lake District reveals fjords, glaciers, lagoons, lakes, narrow channels, waterfalls, forested shorelines, fishing villages, and wildlife.
Boarding your vessel in Punta Arenas, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, you’ll cruise the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, visiting glaciers, penguin rookeries, and seal colonies before heading north along the fjords of Chile’s western coast.
Some ships set sail in the Caribbean and stop at one or two islands before heading south; a few transit the Panama Canal en route. West Coast (U.S.) departures might include one or more Mexican ports before reaching South America. Fourteen- to 21-day cruises are the norm.
Many itineraries visit Argentina (Buenos Aires and Ushuaia), Brazil (Belém, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador), and Chile (Antofagasta, Arica, Cape Horn, Coquimbo, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, and Valparaíso).