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Day 1 Santiago de Chile - So much to see
Welcome to Santiago, the vibrant capital of Chile. Even with just one night in Santiago, you will see that a mouth-watering merlot wine isn’t the only thing this city has to offer. Its plazas feature lovely colonial architecture and its neighborhoods house art galleries and award-winning restaurants. There are also a wide range of cultural venues and museums for your entertainment. Meanwhile, enchanting white glaciers beckon at the city’s border. As far as options go, you will have many things to choose from.
A panoramic 360-degree view of Santiago is one of the easiest things to recommend. At nearly 1,000 feet, Sky Costanera offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding Andes and Chilean Coastal Range. The scenery here is especially spectacular at sunset. Or visit La Chascona, one of three homes owned in the city by the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Stroll around the stalls of the bustling La Vega market and try the local chirimoya fruit.
If you really want to get to know this exciting city, come a few days early. Or, take this opportunity to add a Pre-Program to the amazing Atacama Desert or Chilean Patagonia before your cruise.
Day 2 Santiago de Chile/Punta Arenas - Setting off
Estimated time of departure is 6:00 PM
See Santiago from the air in the early morning light as your plane leaves for Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost port. Your polar vessel MS Fram and its crew await you here, ready to take you farther south than most people ever go!
After embarking the ship and checking in, all passengers must attend a mandatory health and safety meeting. Later on, you will meet some of the crew, and of course, the Expedition Team. They will be your guides, hosts, and travel companions for the next three weeks. You will have plenty of opportunities to get to know them during the welcome dinner and over the course of the expedition!
Day 3-4 At sea - The ‘Drake Shake’ … or the ‘Drake Lake’
The Drake Passage is more than just the final frontier between Cape Horn and Antarctica. Here brews emotion and anticipation. The Passage was named after the English sea captain and privateer Sir Francis Drake, who discovered it by chance in 1578 when heavy winds forced his ship south, unintentionally, proving that open water existed below the southern tip of Chile.
The Passage is famous for its high winds, large waves, and strong currents. As you can imagine, it was very difficult for the old sailing ships to handle these extreme conditions. Even though the waters of the Drake Passage are usually rough, they can also be incredibly still. This dual nature has won the Passage two nicknames: ‘The Drake Shake’ or ‘The Drake Lake’. No matter which one we encounter, our modern expedition ship MS Fram was built for these conditions—and worse, so you don’t have to worry about safety.
As we make our way south, the Expedition Team will begin its lecture series to inform you about Antarctica’s fascinating wildlife, geology, and history. You will also learn the importance of wearing our special boots when we are on shore. Doing so will leave the smallest impact, making your visit as safe and sustainable as possible, as per to IAATO guidelines. You will also have the option of joining Citizen Science programs to help collect data for current scientific research projects. All the new knowledge will make your Antarctic exploration much more enriching and interesting.
MS Fram is an explorer's dream. Its cutting-edge technology makes it a worthy adversary for any scenario the polar ocean can throw at it. That said, it is very comfy and cozy. Head onto the wide observation deck for fresh air, maybe accompanied by birds following the ship. You can also enjoy the views from the restaurants and the Explorer Lounge & Bar, which are the perfect places to do just that.
Day 5-12 Antarctica - The Great White Continent
This land mass holds about 90% of all the world’s ice, in an area twice the size of Australia. It is home to about 12 million penguins across seven species. Impressive statistics don’t do Antarctica justice, though. Numbers don’t capture its magnitude and magnificence, and words fail to describe the sensation of personally seeing a colony of several thousand penguins. You’ll know what we’re talking about once you’ve experienced it!
We will arrive here in the late austral Antarctic summer, which means fantastic sunsets and penguin chicks starting to molt into adult plumage. This is also prime whale-watching season. Imagine standing on the ship’s deck as whales breach close by, splashing saltwater high up in the air. Now imagine that same situation while sitting in a kayak (an optional activity)! Talk about your close encounters! Antarctica gives you the strange sensation of making you feel incredibly small amid all the grandeur and magnitude. Snow algae will also be blooming, dotting the normally pure-white landscapes with bright pink and green hues. A wide variety of seabirds, such as geese, skuas, shearwaters, and possibly even albatross, soar in the skies above and rest and feed on the shores below.
Our expert Expedition Team will guide you ice-cruising and out for landings by small boats (RIBs) to get you closer to this incredible world of ice and wildlife. We spend eight days exploring Antarctica with no fixed itinerary, attempting landings at several possible sites. After sailing these waters for so many years, we know the best places to go and what to do. Trust us to lead you to the best places at the best time. We work with (or sometimes around) the weather and sea ice to make the most of each day. It’s what makes this an authentic expedition and a true adventure!
Day 13-14 At sea - Attempting Cape Horn
After eight unforgettable days in Antarctica, MS Fram will carry you safely back across the Drake Passage. The Expedition Team will recap our experiences. Join them in the Science Center to study water samples of wildlife at a microscopic level.
Our return journey across the Drake Passage will last approximately two days, giving you plenty of time to relax and think about all your experiences. If you’re feeling invigorated after last week’s activities and landings, perhaps work out in the gym. This will also whip up a heightened appetite, which is easily quelled with the delicious dishes in the restaurant. Of course, we won’t hold it against you if sitting in the sauna is number one on your to-do list.
When we have the Drake Passage behind us, we arrive at Cape Horn. The tumultuous waters here are as notorious as the Drake Passage, maybe even more so. Should the winds and waves relent, we might attempt to land ashore. If we do, it will be due to both skill and of luck, and an accomplishment to boast about for years to come.
Day 15 Chilean fjords - Cruising through paradise
This wild and remote wonderland was once the domain of the canoe-faring indigenous people who lived, sailed, and hunted in these very fjords for centuries. Admire this serene maze of waterways surrounded by islands, glaciers and steep mountains.
If we have time and weather plays is in our favor, we might launch our small boats (RIBs) to take you on a scenic cruise of the fjords or to a landing site. If not, the fjords can also be enjoyed from out on deck. You might even spot wildlife such as Magellanic penguins—and maybe even elephant seals—along the coastline. If you’re lucky, you can catch a sight of dolphins and several whales species that are known to explore these waters.
Day 16-17 Puerto Natales - Gateway to the ‘Blue Towers’
Located at the opening of Última Esperanza Sound, the city of Puerto Natales was founded in 1911 as a port for the sheep industry. Today, it is mostly known as an entry point to Torres del Paine National Park, famous for its impressive three-pronged mountain peak that appears a shade of blue when the light is just right. As such, ‘Paine’ (pronounced ‘pie-nay’) means ‘blue’ in the native Tehuelche language, while ‘Torres’ is Spanish for ‘towers’.
We offer a very popular optional excursion to this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.. You can also just enjoy the chilled-out vibe of Puerto Natales itself. At the waterfront, views of the fjord and the mountains around it make for great photos, especially with the town’s monuments and sculptures in the foreground. The old pier, stripped of its former utility and now just a series of picturesque, stripped-down posts in the water, which is also popular to photograph. You can find this image on many of the Puerto Natales postcards. There are also an ever-growing range of bars, cafés, and restaurants that cater to the international hiking crowd, giving you plenty of options to wine and dine.
Day 18 Puerto Edén - Anchored - Half Day - Hard-to-reach village
At the end of a deep fjord surrounded by mountains, we will reach the village of Puerto Edén in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park. There are no roads to get here; it is only accessible by sea. You won’t find a village more isolated than this. To get around, you must walk on the pedestrian boardwalks that connect the houses and shops of the 250 residents. Don’t forget your umbrella or raincoat, though, Puerto Edén has among the highest number of rainy days a year in the entire world.
The 15 remaining full-blooded members of the indigenous Kawéskar people settled in Puerto Edén late in the 20th century. They make their living fishing and weaving wicker baskets, which they sell to the passengers in the passing cruise ships. This once-nomadic and seafaring tribe used to travel in canoes up to 30 feet long, capable of transporting an entire family!
Day 19 At sea - Fabled Patagonian waters
Your expedition cruise will continue north through the fabled waters of Patagonia. When Magellan sailed here in 1520 on his circumnavigation of the Earth, he and his crew somehow imagined the indigenous people here to be giants that were over 16 feet tall! He therefore named them ‘Patagons’ after a literary character in a Spanish novel that was popular at the time. While the indigenous people here were slightly taller than most Europeans at the time, they were far from giants. However, the name stuck. Thus, we have the region the world now knows as ‘Patagonia.’ Today, it is known more for the beautiful Andean seascapes, rather than its giants! There are plenty of interesting lectures to attend and engaging Citizen Science projects in which you can participate in the Science Center.
Day 20 Castro, Chile - Chilote charm
Castro is the capital of Chiloé Island and has a little something for everyone. One of the first things you will notice are the characteristic and colorful wooden ‘palafitos’, houses mounted on stilts along the water’s edge. There are also a number of artisan shops, making it a great place for shopping for souvenirs. For bargains and a glimpse of authentic day-to-day life here, Feria Campesina Yumbel is a busy farmers and fish market selling all sorts of fresh foods and household goods.
Another highlight is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Iglesia San Francisco, a church built in 1567 during the founding of the city. Art enthusiasts will enjoy the Museum of Modern Art of Chiloé, which is well worth a visit. There are a lot of great local snacks to try, too, so have a light breakfast on the ship and leave room for churros, and empanadas with sweet and savory fillings.
Day 21-22 At sea - The home stretch
Your expedition cruise is coming to an end, but it is not over just yet. Make the most of your remaining time on MS Fram! Watch for birds and wildlife out on deck, chat with your new friends, or enjoy your favorite drink in the Explorer Lounge & Bar. The Expedition Team will recap the highlights of your cruise and keep you engaged through lectures and science projects.
Day 23 Valparaíso, Chile - Homeward bound
Estimated time of arrival is 8:00 AM
When we dock at Valparaíso, your expedition cruise will come to an end. If you have time, we recommend spending a few extra exploring this unique city. The city’s many funiculars have been declared one of the world’s 100 most endangered historical treasures, and they’ll carry you up the colorful hilltop neighborhoods for panoramic views of the Pacific. If you want more adventure before going home, we recommend a Post-Program to Easter Island, a UNESCO Heritage Site famous for the mysterious statues of giant heads.
Whether you stay on or head home, it might be hard to say goodbye to the ship, the captain, the crew, the Expedition Team, and your fellow explorers. We hope you’ll never forget our three weeks together exploring the fabled continent of Antarctica and your trip up and sailing through Patagonia and its fabulous fjords.
We hope you remember your voyage with us as one of your very best adventures! May your fond memories inspire you to continue viewing the natural world with wonder and respect, and do everything you can to protect it.