Last Modified: 20 Jan 2014
Crossing the Circle: Southern Expedition
Trip code: GQMS
Validity: 07 Jan 2015 to 21 Jan 2015
Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure tour to Antarctica, one of the most remote places on the planet. From Ushuaia in Argentina, retrace the path of early explorers as you sail across the Drake Passage on the Ocean Diamond. Explore the Antarctic coastline on inflatable motorised boats and marvel at the astounding variety of animals in Antarctica - from penguins in their rookeries and Weddell seals sunbathing on ice floes to whales feeding in the nutrient-rich waters. Be prepared, the pink skies at night and turquoise waters are truly breathtaking.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partner Quark Expeditions.
Table of Contents
- Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Day 1 Ushuaia
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Argentina.
Begin your Antarctic Explorer adventure with an overnight stay in Ushuaia – capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province, and southernmost city in the world.
Ushuaia, affectionately known as 'fin del mundo' (end of the world) due to being the southern most city of the world, has a lot to offer. A relatively small city of 42,000 people, it is easy to find your way around. Av. San Martin and the surrounding streets is where you will find most hotels and tourist services. Here you can stroll along and visit the shops, museums and restaurants. From Av. San Martin the streets start to run uphill. From the top of these streets you will have a good view of the Beagle Channel. Another option if you arrive early is a visit to Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is located 11km (7 miles) west of the city.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Embarkation
Today you join your ship and begin your trip by cruising through the beautiful Beagle Channel. Named for the British ship HMS Beagle, this channel is particularly rich with birdlife, and you may sight penguins, cormorants, petrels, and Black-browed Albatross.
Cruise ship (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Drake Passage
Prepare for rough seas, but don’t be disappointed if you experience smooth sailing across this legendary waterway. The 500-mile-wide passage separates the bottom of South America from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and was named for famed English explorer (and sometime pirate) Sir Frances Drake.
Cruise ship (2 nts)
Days 5-8 Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands
With the Drake Passage left in our wake, we make a final approach to Antarctica. Get your cameras ready, as the continent’s coastline will make its first appearance. Plentiful icebergs float by, and watch the ocean surface for curious whales spouting and breaching before your eyes.
As exciting as it can be from onboard the ship, our true exploration occurs when we disembark and set foot on the great continent. There are several potential landing sites we may visit, including Neko Harbor, Orne Harbor or Paradise Bay. While weather dictates which specific landing sites we can visit, each one presents a new collection of wildlife and natural attractions.
These days will be busy spotting wildlife and being mesmerized by the beauty of Antarctica. Watching penguins waddling on the beach and listening to the crackling and crumbling sounds of icebergs and glaciers will become your daily entertainment, while kayaking with whales and camping in Antarctica are a couple of optional activities available on selected voyages.
These days form the heart of your Antarctic adventure, and changing conditions mean each expedition is different. Your Expedition Team will make the most of whatever weather, ice or wildlife conditions present themselves to make sure you have an unforgettable visit. Here are just a few of the things you might find yourself doing:
* Sitting quietly on a pebbled beach, waiting for a curious penguin chick to approach
* Taking a “polar plunge” in the icy waters of Neko Harbour
* Listening to the boom and crack of a calving glacier near Petermann Island
* Zodiac-cruising among grounded icebergs in Pleneau Bay
* Scrambling to the top of a craggy hill for an unforgettable view of Port Lockroy
Cruise ship (4 nts)
Days 9-10 The Antarctic Circle
Crossing the Antarctic Circle is an impressive achievement. Few other expeditions to the Peninsula reach the imaginary line at 66° 33’ S. You may wish to celebrate with your shipmates in style with a glass of champagne.
This is a part of the world still visited by very few people and is home to the midnight sun, Weddell seals, and some of the most magical, odd ice formations you'll see anywhere in Antarctica.
Cruise ship (2 nts)
Days 11-12 Antarctic Peninsula
We spend the next two days travelling north along the western Antarctic Peninsula back up to the Drake Passage. We'll continue to journey onto land and out by Zodiac twice daily along the way. You Expedition Team will continue to be on the lookout for any species of penguins, seals or whales that you may have missed on the journey south.
Cruise ship (2 nts)
Days 13-14 Drake Passage
We leave Antarctica behind and head back across the Drake Passage. The Expedition Team will round up their series of lectures as well, perhaps with a slideshow of some of the great landing sites and wildlife you’ve visited over the course of your voyage before we cruise back to Argentina.
Cruise ship (2 nts)
Day 15 Ushuaia
In the morning we arrive back in Ushuaia where we have a shipboard breakfast before the trip ends. If you are flying out today you’ll be transferred to the airport for your flight home. If on a morning flight you will be taken directly to the airport from the ship. If flying later in the afternoon you'll be transferred to the town centre, and at a pre arranged time will be taken back to the airport. If you are spending more nights in Ushuaia then the transfer is not included.
When booking your flight please remember that delays can occur, so we recommend not booking a flight before about midday.
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
This is the least confronting of Intrepid's product range. English is the native language and the food, customs and access to services will be similar to home.
These trips are a relaxing break. You don't have to worry about doing anything physically demanding unless you want to.
Please note that some of our included activities are contingent on weather conditions. We'll arrange an alternative if an included activity is deemed unsafe.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES - ANTARCTICA
On some voyages we offer optional activities such as kayaking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountaineering. Numbers on these activities are extremely limited so it is important that you book in advance. Your consultant can advise what options are available on your voyage and the costs.
On some voyages there is also the option of a photography program. This includes a series of photography-focused lectures and shore excursions. There is no cost for this activity and it does not need to be booked in advance.
Some voyages also offer snowshoeing. There is no cost for this activity and it does not need to be booked in advance.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
The US Dollar is the standard currency on board. Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Discover Card and American Express are accepted on board for settling your shipboard account.
At the time designated in the shipboard program, please give the Hotel Manager the credit card you would like to use for all your incidental expenses. An account will be opened for your cabin for purchases aboard ship. This will include bar services, laundry, postage, and communication charges. A ‘chit’ system will operate for on board payments. You will sign for any bar, wine, communication charges, laundry, etc. An account for payment will be presented to you on the final day of the voyage. Final payment can be made using cash, travellers’ checks or major credit cards. Personal cheques are not accepted on board. If you are sharing a cabin and would like separate accounts, you must advise the Hotel Manager.
It is wise to travel with sufficient cash to pay for incidentals such as shipboard items on the last day of the voyage, airport taxes and taxicab transfers.
The voyage price does not include the customary gratuity to the ship’s personnel, which is divided amongst the crew, Expedition Team and Hospitality Team. We suggest this guideline for your convenience: aboard ship US $13 to US $15 per traveller, per day. The amount you choose to give is at your discretion. It can be added to your shipboard account.
Please allow US$36 for international airport departure tax.
An increased non-refundable deposit of A$2000 is required at time of booking. Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
Maximum of 189 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Cruise ship (13 nts), Hotel (1 nt)
All passenger cabins have exterior views, private facilities and climate control. Cabins are cleaned daily. Linen and towels are provided. There is a hair dryer and bathrobes in every cabin.
The different types of cabins available and their prices can be accessed via the Dates & Availability link.
There are seven different cabin types on board the Ocean Diamond:
Triple - 2 lower and 1 upper berth, private facilities, 2 portholes
Twin Obstructed View - 1 double bed or 2 twin beds, private facilities, picture window with view obstructed by lifeboats
Single Porthole - 1 double bed, private facilities, 2 portholes
Twin Window - 2 lower berths (double or twin), private facilities, picture window
Single Obstructed View - 1 double bed, private facilities, picture window with view obstructed by lifeboats
Suite - 2 lower berths (double or twin), private facilities, 2 picture windows
Balcony Suite - 2 lower berths (double or twin), private facilities, full-size window with sliding glass door leading to private deck
Please note that if booking the Suite or the Balcony Suite, we are unable to match you with another traveller of the same sex. If travelling on your own you will need to book the whole cabin and pay for two berths.
A deck plan showing the layout of the ship is below.
14 Breakfasts, 12 Lunches, 13 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the dining room. Hours of operation will be posted and are subject to change to accommodate the expedition. Coffee, tea and cocoa are available around the clock. The tap water on board is safe to drink.
We're able to meet most special dietary requests, as long as you have clearly indicated your requirements far in advance of your voyage. Kosher food cannot be prepared.
The Ocean Diamond was built in 1986, and was refurbished in 2012. The 124-metre ice-strengthened ship can carry up to 189 guests.
During the expedition we visit remote and isolated sites that are accessible only by Zodiac landing craft. The flat bottom design permits the craft to land directly onto the cobble and ice-strewn beaches although you should expect to walk through shallow water to reach the shore.
On the Ocean Diamond we will have 1 Expedition Leader and 1 Assistant Expedition Leader on board, plus at least 18 additional staff who will be a combination of specialists and Zodiac drivers. Final numbers will depend on the itinerary.
Your Ushuaia Hotel
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operators Emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
ARGENTINA TOURIST VISA
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
United States: Not required
ARGENTINA RECIPROCITY TAX:
The Argentine government charges a reciprocity tax which applies to Canadian, US and Australian citizens. The amounts are as follows:
Australians - US$100 (multiple entry for up to 1 year from date of issue)
Canadians - US$75 (single entry) or US$ 150 (multiple entry for up to 5 years from date of issue)
Americans - US$140 (multiple entry for up to 10 years from date of issue)
This fee can only be paid on line through the following website:
For instructions on how to process this payment, please visit:
A receipt for this payment must be produced at every border crossing into Argentina.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
You will be travelling to coastal regions during the austral summer, when conditions are mild – mean coastal temperatures are seldom far below freezing. However, sunny conditions can swiftly shift to storms with very cold winds and snow flurries. Be prepared for rapid weather changes. Average daytime temperatures in mid season are between 25 and 35 Fahrenheit or -4 and +2 Celsius. Wind and weather conditions, can make it seem colder. Daytime temperatures frequently drop below freezing.
Clothing on board ship is generally informal. For outdoor wear, please bring wind and waterproof outer layers. Tight clothing is not recommended as it does not allow insulating air to be trapped.Wool, silk and some of the new synthetic fibres, like fleece, retain heat. We do not recommend clothing made of cotton. Plan to dress in layers.
Boots - Rubber boots are provided on a loan basis for the duration of the voyage. You do not need to bring these with you.
Parkas - A complimentary parka will be provided on the ship.
Pants - Waterproof pants are essential for zodiac travel as well as activities on shore. These, over a pair of warm pants, will keep you warm and dry.
Gloves - To keep your hands warm and dry, pack a minimum of two pairs of gloves: a pair of thin polypropylene gloves to be worn underneath warm outer gloves. We strongly recommend that you bring at least one other set of gloves in case on pair gets wet or lost.
Hat and Scarf - Pack a warm, woollen hat or cap that covers your ears, as well as a scarf, neck gaiter or other face protection. A peaked or brimmed hat helps protect against the sun but needs some kind of retainer for windy conditions.
Socks - For maximum warmth we suggest that you wear two pairs of socks inside the rubber boots that are loaned to you. In addition, pack warm, long wool or cotton socks to be worn over a thin pair of silk or polypropylene socks. Bring several pairs.
Outer Clothing - Pack woollen or fleece sweaters and tops, plus several turtlenecks for layering.
Underclothing - Pack silk or polypropylene underwear since it will keep you warm without adding bulk. Many polar travellers prefer a lightweight version but this depends on your own personal thermostat.
Day Pack - To keep your hands free for shooting photographs bring a water resistant or waterproof daypack
Shoes - Bring shoes with non-slip soles for walking around the vessel. Slip-on sandals are not suitable for use on board ship.
Swimsuit - There may be an opportunity for a polar plunge during the voyage so we recommend that you pack a swimsuit.
Children - Children will be required to bring their own life jacket and rubber boots as child sizes are not provided on board.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of staff, any traveller is found to be unfit to complete the itinerary on the day of embarkation, they may be denied boarding and excluded from the trip without refund.
If you are taking prescribed medication, carry an extra week’s supply just in case of flight delays or other unforeseen circumstances. If you have particular health needs, please bring with you a signed and dated letter from your physician explaining your health problems and/or the dosage required for the prescribed medication. The letter will assist our doctor on board, and any emergency medical personnel to care for you should you become ill. Please hand the letter to the expedition doctor once you are on board.
There will be a licensed English-speaking physician on board. Your vessel will have a medical clinic with a limited supply of prescription medicines and basic first aid equipment. The clinic will not be stocked with every drug or piece of equipment required for every medical problem. If you are under regular treatment for any ailment, you must bring a sufficient supply of medicines for yourself. We cannot accept responsibility for not having a specific brand or type of drug on board.
You should anticipate some rough seas. The motion sickness medication that is available on board is for emergencies only. To avoid motion sickness, avoid alcohol, tobacco, excess liquids, and confined spaces. Most people feel better on deck looking at the horizon or lying still with their eyes shut. You will definitely feel better with some food in your
stomach, such as dry toast or crackers.
We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations and in some places anti-malarial medication may also be required. Bear in mind places being visited or transited en route to Antarctica. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental checkup is also highly recommended before departure.
As a ship registered for international voyages, the Sea Adventurer must comply with a variety of regulations, codes and industry standards. This regime of requirements ensures that internationally accepted standards for safety and environmental protection are developed, implemented and monitored within the company management system onshore and on board the ship. The ship adheres to regulations set by IMO (International Maritime Organisation) including ISM Code (Safety Management System), ISPS Code (for ship and port security), SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) and MARPOL (Maritime Pollution Prevention), the flag state and the classification society on an accredited system. In addition, as the Sea Adventurer spends considerable time in the Antarctic waters, Quark Expeditions, Inc is a full member of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) and a full member of AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators).
CHILDREN: The minimum age for travel is 8. If a child is travelling without their parent/legal guardian, their parent/legal guardian will need to fill out a waiver form. Children will also be required to bring their own life jacket and rubber boots as child sizes are not provided on board.
On your way to join your voyage, you may take advantage of the opportunity to visit a larger South American city such as Buenos Aires or Santiago. It is worth researching matters of personal safety and security in these places before your departure. Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the trip until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by our local representative.
If you have credit card insurance our local representative will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact telephone number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
As a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), Quark Expeditions are supporters of responsible tourism that mitigates the impact of our shore landings on the landscape or wildlife. Quark was the first operator to offer inclusive Carbon Neutral voyages on the Ocean Diamond. By doing so we have enhanced our commitment to ecological sensitivity and to minimising our impact on the areas we visit including:
• Having our vessels burn Marine Gas Oil (MGO) a clean burning fuel with a low emission factor.
• Conforming to all international regulations/policies governing disposal of waste at sea.
• Serving only sustainable seafood.
• Using only eco-friendly laundry chemicals and room amenities.
• Removing disposable water bottles from the ships.
• Making all our voyages virtually paperless by 2014 and having any paper used be 100% recyclable.
IAATO members also operate according to established rules of conduct, which, while you travel with us, we ask you to respect. A copy of the IAATO guidelines will be provided prior to travel and staff will brief all passengers prior to the first landing.
For more information on the responsible travel guidelines to Antarctica established by the IAATO please visit: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller.php
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.