Weddell Sea – Emperor Penguin Voyage

Emperor Penguin Colony, Antarctica

11 Days/10 Nights

From $11,400 per person

(Quad. Occupancy, Not Incl. Airfare)

Select Departures from November to March

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This itinerary includes a visit to one of nature’s most fascinating spectacles, the Emperor Penguin rookery south of Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea. You will travel from the ship by helicopter to an area near the rookery, and walk for 45 minutes to observe the penguins in their natural state. If the weather cooperates, there will be time to visit Half Moon Island to witness Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins, and for a landing at Pendulum Cove on Deception Island.

Lodging and Meals: This tour includes accommodations for 10 nights (10 nights aboard the Ortelius), and 29 meals (10 breakfasts, 9 lunches, and 10 dinners).

Best Time to Go: November-March.

Destinations: Argentina, Patagonia, and Antarctica.

Interests: Adventure, Expedition Cruising, and Wildlife Viewing.

Places Visited: Ushuaia & Tierra del Fuego, the Weddell Sea, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Shetland Islands.

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Note: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. The onboard expedition leader will determine the final itinerary. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. Average cruising speed of M/V Ortelius is 10.5 knots. If ice conditions are favorable and the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice, you have the chance for ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to Snow Hill Island – roughly 45 minutes walking distance from the emperor penguin rookery. If successful, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (Even so, remember that nature writes the final itinerary out here: Attempts to reach Snow Hill Island during the voyages of 2012-17 did not always succeed. In 2013 and November 2017 conditions were favorable to land by helicopter on Snow Hill Island and to visit the emperor penguin rookery.

Day 1: End of the World, Start of a Journey.

Your voyage begins where the world drops off: Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, located on the far southern tip of South America.  Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego – nicknamed “The End of the World” – and sail the scenic, mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the rest of the evening.  Overnight aboard the ship.  (D)

Note: We advise all passengers to plan to arrive in Ushuaia one night before the cruise departure.

Day 2-3: Path of the Polar Explorers.

Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you catch a taste of life from the perspective of the polar explorers who first braved these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale blasting up sea spray.  After passing the Antarctic Convergence – Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when northflowing cold waters collide with warmer subantarctic seas – you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone.  Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too: A variety of albatrosses and petrels show up, along with Cape pigeons and southern fulmars.  Then, near the South Shetlands Islands, the first icebergs flash into sight.  Overnight aboard the ship.  (B,L,D)

Day 4-7: Enter the Antarctic.

You may sail into the Weddell Sea via the Antarctic Sound.  Here huge tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.  During this part of the cruise, the search is on for emperor penguins.  Using both the vessel and helicopters, there’s a good chance you’ll find them.  You might also enjoy scenic flights and – if conditions allow – helicopter landings in locations otherwise out of reach this time of year.  Helicopter flights are a true trip changer, and may include:

Antarctic Sound – The western side of this area is only rarely seen from the air, though the landscape is truly worth the flight: Layered sandstones, lava flows, glaciers and icebergs and pack-ice extend as far as the eye can see.  There are often individual emperor penguins and Adélie penguins on the ice floes, as well as kelp gulls, skuas, and various breeds of petrel.  Jagged mountain peaks stab through the snow, and enormous walls of ice lie shattered on the slopes below.

Duse Bay – A soaring helicopter flight may deposit you on a rocky hillock close to an old refuge hut overlooking the bay.  There is still a lot of snow and ice, but much of the walk on the Antarctic is over frostshattered rock covered with lichen of all shapes and colors.

Seymour Island – Here’s where the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901 – 4 wintered under harrowing circumstances.  Sedimentary rock, fossils, and great views define this location.

If conditions allow for deeper ventures into the Weddell Sea, Zodiac trips may include:

Devil Island – Home to a large colony of Adélie penguins, this island offers a magnificent view for hikers willing to foot it to the top of the hill.  Melting ice sometimes forms a waterfall dropping from the cliffs close to Cape Well-met.

Brown Bluff – Maybe the most scenic location in the entire northern tip of the Antarctic Continent: sheer canyon walls, fallen boulders, beautiful volcanic creations capped with ice.  A large Adélie penguin rookery lives here, with gentoo penguins and nesting snow petrels also to be found.

Gourdin Island – Chinstrap, gentoo, and Adélie penguins like this place, yet another option for your continuing Antarctic adventure.

Esperanza Base – This Argentine research station may be another landing site.

Overnight aboard the ship.  (B,L,D)

Day 8: Last Landing.

In the morning, you sail to Deception Island for the last landing of the voyage – at Pendulum Cove or Whalers Bay.  Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.  Overnight aboard the ship.  (B,L,D)

Day 9-10: Familiar Seas, Familiar Friends.

Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south.  But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.  Overnight aboard the ship.  (B,L,D)

Day 11: There and Back Again.

Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.  You will be transferred to the airport in Ushuaia for your return flight to your final destination.  (B)

Day 5-6 Alternate Program (if the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice – a less than 50% probability).

Helicopters provide a great advantage in reaching the emperor penguin colony, but nature rules the itinerary.  If conditions are favorable, you spend the first two days at the penguin rookery.  The helicopter operation takes a full day, and the flight duration approximately 15 minutes.  Each helicopter can accommodate 4-6 passengers per flight.  The landing site is carefully chosen, making sure the emperor penguins are not disturbed.  Upon arrival, you can continue on foot.  fter a walk of about 45 minutes, you encounter the emperor penguins, one of the Antarctic’s prime wildlife attractions.  Keep in mind that you are in the world’s most remote area: There are no guarantees.  Conditions may change rapidly, which can have a profound impact on helicopter operations.  Please understand and respect this.  Safety is the greatest concern, and no compromises can be made.

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

Itinerary Map

Weddell Sea Emperor Penguin Voyage

Prices & Dates

Price per Person

Category Single Double Triple
Quad Cabin $11,400 $11,400 $11,400
Triple Porthole $12,300 $12,300 $12,300
Twin Porthole $22,440 $13,200 n/a
Twin Window $23,290 $13,700 n/a
Twin Deluxe $24,480 $14,400 n/a
Suite $25,840 $15,200 $13,933
** The prices shown above are in U.S. Dollars. See the cost of this tour in your currency at


  1. The above prices are valid until November 18, 2018.
  2. The single supplement is 1.7 times the Twin price.
  3. Singles willing to share a cabin pay the Twin/Triple/Quad price.

Departure Date

November 18, 2018.

What's Included

Price Includes

  • South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
  • Accommodations on board the M/V Ortelius.
  • Ship-to-shore helicopter transfers (with no specific amount of helicopter time guaranteed).
  • All meals scheduled on board, including snacks, coffee, and tea.
  • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program.
  • Zodiac expeditions conducted by English-speaking naturalist guides.
  • Use of rubber boots.
  • Evening briefings and lectures.

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare.
  • Domestic airfare.
  • Hotel nights before/after the cruise.
  • Transfers to/from the vessel before/after the cruise.
  • Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
  • Gratuities to ship crew and guides (Suggested $8-10/per/day for the naturalist guides and crew).
  • Bar, gifts, and personal items.
  • Travel insurance.

We will be happy to quote the cost of airfare and travel insurance and to make these arrangements for you.



Additional Details

Group/Private: All services included in this tour are operated on a group basis.

Elevations: N/a.

Passport/Visa: U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a valid passport (for the duration of your visit) and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Australian and Canadian citizens are required to pay a reciprocity fee of $100 and $75 respectively (subject to change without notice due to currency fluctuations or other reasons) online, and must show proof of payment prior to arrival. The reciprocity fee for U.S. citizens has been suspended until further notice. For citizens of Australia, this fee covers unlimited entries to Argentina for 10 years, while citizens of Canada are charged the fee every time they enter the country (or $150 for multiple visits within five years). The fee can be paid online at You will need to register in order to make the payment. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the embassy of Argentina in their country before traveling.

Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan. The operator of the ship requires that you purchase Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance (minimum recommended amount is $100,000).

To Book This Trip: Call or email us to confirm the availability of this ship for your desired dates of travel.  For reservations made more than 90 days prior to departure, the required deposit is between $2,400 and $3,000 per person, and may be higher for single passengers. The balance is due 90 days prior to departure.

Have Questions? Call 1-888-268-9753 to Speak to An Expert.