One of the greatest expedition voyages on our planet! The Weddell Sea is a vast expanse of water to the east of the Antarctic Peninsula where few travelers have ventured.
The area is famous for Emperor Penguins and if you’re particularly keen on seeing these beautiful birds then the Weddell Sea Cruise is the best option.
Your cruise sets off from the port of Ushuaia before heading out into the notorious Drake Passage. Following the crossing, your ship (most commonly the Ortelius) will head into the Weddell Sea towards Snow Hill where there is a Emperor Penguin rookery 4,000 strong! However, because of thick pack ice, Snow Hill is generally not reachable (although it does happen) and your ship will get as close as possible before anchoring. From there you will be able to see Emperor penguins entering the water and take several helicopter journeys to see the penguins from above!
After seeing the Emperor penguins your cruise will continue to the other side of the peninsula where you will explore some of the more popular areas including deception Bay and Port Lockroy before heading back to Ushuaia.
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Weddell Sea Cruise – Route Map
Weddell Sea Cruise – Route Itinerary
Please be aware that all operators have varying itineraries. The itinerary detailed below is simply a typical Weddell Sea cruise itinerary, however, the journey is a long one and weather can have a major impact on itinerary.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN USHUAIA
Today you arrive in Ushuaia. The city itself is a lovely mix of interesting shops and tasty cafes and restaurants. Make the most of the day and have a little explore of the streets before settling down for a nice dinner.
DAY 2: EMBARKATION DAY
After a morning of relaxation (and more shopping perhaps!), you board your ship in the afternoon. For the remainder of the first day you make your way along the Beagle Channel before entering open water.
DAY 3-4: CROSSING THE DRAKE PASSAGE
The crossing of the Drake Passage will probably be one the most memorable experiences of the whole trip! The passage is notoriously rough and you’ll soon find your sea legs! During the two day crossing you’ll have a chance to get more acquainted with the crew members and your fellow passengers. Lectures will begin and your guides will point out any wildlife that is spotted along the way.
DAY 5-8: SAILING THE WEDDELL SEA
Your ship will push as far in to the Antarctica Sound as possible in search of emperor penguins. Here you will have the chance to take several helicopter rides to try and find individual emperor penguins. Almost every Weddell Sea Cruise sees emperors!
On top of this you will be greeted with some of the most impressive scenery in Antarctica. The landscape is a stunning mix tabular glaciers, layered sandstones, lava flows, blue hue ice-bergs and huge pack-ice. Not only will you be able to witness thus from the ship, but your operator will often give you the chance to take scenic helicopter rides above the land. Occasionally you will actually be able to land on the glaciers and step foot on an area of Antarctica almost never seen!
Depending on the weather and ice situation, your cruise ship may venture further into the Weddell Sea to visit Vega Island and Devil Island. Vega Island has a large colony of Adélie Penguins and fit hikers can take a walk to the top of the islands peak to witness incredible views.
DAY 8: VISIT HALF MOON ISLAND AND DECEPTION ISLAND
Today you begin by sailing to Half Moon Island where you will see Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins and walk ashore to greet them. In the afternoon you sail to the notorious Deception Island. The island has a long history of whaling and the remnants of that dark past is scattered across the land in the form of giant whale bones and huge copper colored oil drums. Here you will be able to walk around the bay and, if your brave, have a swim in the so called ‘hot springs’.
DAY 9-10: CROSSING THE DRAKE PASSAGE
After cruising the peninsula you will once again begin your crossing of the Drake Passage as you head back to Ushuaia. Look out for as many sea birds as possible and keep a sharp eye out for whales, particularly in the later part of the season.
DAY 11: DISEMBARKATION IN USHUAIA
After eating breakfast your ship will arrive back in port. All good things come to an end, but you will be left with a thousand new memories that will last forever! Wave goodbye to your fellow travelers and cruise staff.
How much fitness is required for the Weddell Sea Cruise?
The Weddell Sea Cruise is by no means extreme, however, having a basic level of fitness will make the cruise more enjoyable. Most of the cruise will be spent on board, but you will have the chance to go hiking and take several helicopter rides. There is no pressure to do these activities though and if you suffer from a bad back or heart problems then sitting something out is absolutely fine. There will always be a doctor on board.
What is included in the Weddell Sea Cruise?
Please be aware that all Antarctic operators offer slightly varying packages. The list below is what we would expect to be included for the Weddell Sea Cruise – 11 days.
•1 night hotel stay in Ushuaia before departure
•10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners (some operators do not include food)
•9 nights on-board the vessel
•Arrival and departure transfers to and from airport
•Daily zodiac or helicopter excursions once in Antarctica
•Expert on-board lectures
•Ratio of at least 1 expedition member per 10 guests
•Waterproof boots for shore landings
Weddell Sea Cruise – Cost
The Weddell Sea Cruise is offered by operators with an 10-11 day itinerary for around $10,000 – $15,000.
Please research your operator prior to booking and make sure you are aware of exactly what that operator offers. Quality of gear, food, accommodation and lectures will often be reflected in the price. We believe that you get what you pay for. If you want a double room or suite then expect to pay over US$15,000 per person. Whilst there is occasionally the chance to make a last minute booking, the Weddell Sea Cruise is a fairly rare cruise and last minute deals are generally not available. You will generally also have to be in Ushuaia to purchase a last minute deal.
For a detailed page on Antarctica cruise cost, please click here.
Best time to do the Weddell Sea Cruise
The Weddell Sea Cruise generally runs at the start and at the end of the season. Most commonly the Ortelius ship leaves around November and March. The trip is fantastic whatever month you choose, but if you’re after certain wildlife then you may want to choose more carefully. For example, if you’re keen on seeing penguin courtship then sailing early may be the best idea. The early season also has the largest icebergs and glaciers as the ice has not had the chance to melt at this stage. Later in the season however has far more whales and you will almost be guaranteed to see a few up close!
To see our detailed page on when to visit Antarctica, please click here.
What gear will I need for the Weddell Sea Cruise?
Because the cruise is conducted in the shoulder months, weather is quite cold and appropriate clothing is your number one priority. Make sure to wear layers and buy appropriate footwear. This includes high rubber boots for your zodiac shore landings. We also recommend bringing a sturdy camera and tripod.
To see our full packing list, please click here.
Do I need travel insurance for the Weddell Sea Cruise?
Absolutely. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Antarctica cruises. Make sure you do your research and check your policy carefully. Many insurers will not actually cover you when you leave the ship for shore landings, so check this carefully also. Emergency evacuation cover is needed, as is trip cancellation and delays.
For our detailed article on Antarctica insurance, please click here.
Ships that sail the Weddell Sea Cruise Itinerary
The Ortelius is an ice-strengthened vessel designed for extreme cruises to the Polar regions. The Ortelius holds 116 passengers and has basic, but comfortable accommodation. The ship is equipped with two dining rooms, a bar and a lecture theater room and a good amount of deck space.
For more information on the Ortelius including deck plans, photos and trips, please click here.
With stabilizers and an ice-strengthened hull, this ship is one of the steadiest in Antarctica! Very well equipped and spacious, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov carries 92 passengers and offer a nice modern feel. The interior spaces are large and the vessel comes with a separate lounge, bar, sauna, plunge pool and library.
Click here for a detailed page on the Akademik Sergey Vavilov.
This 96 passenger vessel is one the strongest in the water and comes with stabilizers and an ice-strengthened hull. Fully equipped with a modern feel, the Akademik Ioffe offers a complete lecture theater and wellness program which includes yoga instruction (select departures), registered massage therapist, daily meditation, hot water spa, sauna and a refreshing salt-water plunge pool!
Click here for more detailed information on the Akademik Ioffe.
The Ushuaia is one the most respected vessels in the Polar region and well up to the task of the Weddell Sea! Ice-strengthened and originally built for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the boat has now been refurbished to accommodate 88 passengers and nearly 50 suites! Large deck space, open bridge policy, open plan lounge and full media lecture room make this one the most popular vessels.
Click here for a detailed description of the Ushuaia.
Recommended Antarctica Cruise specialist
We have traveled to Antarctica extensively and have found one Antarctica specialist that we recommend above all others. These guys have been planning trips for years and are by far the most friendly and professional team we have ever used. In terms of personal service, cruise options and knowledge, they are way above the rest. If you would like us to put you in touch then please just click the button below and we’ll get you right on to them. Our chosen specialist works with every single Antarctic cruise operator out there to bring you the best options available.
Further Antarctica cruise itineraries
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Thank you and happy travels!