King penguins on South Georgia Island (photo credit: Polar Latitudes)

The South Atlantic and Antarctica have been on our bucket list for a long time.

Well, at least as long as we’ve lived in Colombia (going on six years now). A couple of years ago John started watching fares from different Antarctic expedition companies for last-minute deals and other offers. And then a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came along: a repositioning cruise offered by Polar Latitudes starting in Ushuaia, Argentina on the far southern tip of South America, traveling north through the South Atlantic, and ending up in Cape Verde, an island nation just off the African mainland. The fantastic discount (typical of a repositioning cruise) was too great an opportunity to pass up.

We are currently in Ushuaia, Argentina, gearing up to board the ship and get underway this Friday, March 15. We’ll be at sea for 34 days, and while we won’t actually visit Antarctica, we’ll stop into places that few other travelers ever visit.  We’ll see birds and marine life galore, learn from shipboard naturalists and photographers, and get a much-needed dose of life at sea. To say we’re excited is a huge understatement!

The Ship: MV Seaventure

We hesitate to use the word “cruise” to describe this trip. To us, “cruise ship” conjures up a ginormous floating resort with thousands of passengers, stopping for only a few hours in over-touristed places. It’s the polar opposite (excuse the pun) of our preferred mode of travel.

MV Seaventure in Antartica. South Atlantic
Seaventure will be our floating home for 34 days! (Photo credit: Polar Latitudes)

But the ship on which we’ll be sailing, the MV Seaventure, is a different beast. She is small, a little over 110 meters, and only accommodates a maximum of 164 passengers and 90 crew (so far, only about 70 other guests have booked for our trip). She also holds a 1-A Super ice class rating, the better to explore hidden coves, bays, and channels when underway in Antarctica. Instead of a quick look around for just a few hours, we’ll be spending two to three days at each of our ports of call – enough time to get a real feel for the location.

While the accommodations will be plush and we’re looking forward to the highly touted food and beverage service, the emphasis onboard Seaventure is exploration, research, nature, and learning. One activity that especially intrigues us is the Polar Latitudes Citizen Science program, in which passengers are able to “play a small but meaningful role in recording and better understanding the increasing impact of climate change.” Projects range from counting penguins and ID-ing whales to cloud observations and phytoplankton sampling. The data supports the ongoing research of organizations like NASA and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Our itinerary

Beautiful Ushuaia from the Beagle Channel (photo credit: Reinhard Berlin per Wikipedia)

Our journey begins here in Ushuaia, the jumping off point for most Antarctic expeditions and Seaventure’s home base during the summer cruising season. Ushuaia really does feel like the “End of the World,” since it’s the gateway to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point in South America. We’ve had a few days to explore this beautiful place until we board Seaventure on Friday.

MS Seaventure route through the Southern Atlantic
Our route through the Southern Atlantic

From Ushuaia, we’ll sail to the Falkland Islands (or the Islas Malvinas to the Argentines, for which the islands are understandably a touchy subject). For many of us, the Falklands are only familiar because of the 1982 war in which almost 1,000 soldiers, both Argentine and British, lost their lives. But the Falklands are also a haven for wildlife, and we look forward to seeing penguins galore along with other seabirds.

From the Falklands, we’ll sail to South Georgia – an island paradise with snow-clad mountain peaks rising 9,000 feet and hundreds of glaciers tumbling down towards the sea. This is where we’ll see the largest colony of King penguins in the world, including maturing chicks who hatched in the summer. As huge Ernest Shackleton fans, we’ll pay our respects at his grave – which we understand involves a shot of whisky! (Side note: Check out Endurance, the definitive book about how Shackleton turned his failed 1914 South Pole expedition from a tragedy to a triumph – not a single man was lost!)

The next port of call will be Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island group in the world. Although it has a Portuguese name, Tristan today is part of the British Overseas Territories and is home to 250 hardy souls who make their living from the sea. We will visit the main settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, and will hopefully get to Nightingale Island, one of the most unique wildlife strongholds in the world and home to thousands of seabirds.

After Tristan, we’ll arrive at St. Helena – another British Overseas Territory whose claim to fame is that it was Napoleon Bonaparte’s home in exile and the place where he died in 1841. We’re looking forward to seeing St. Helena’s very British capital, Jamestown and witnessing the prolific birdlife.

Once we arrive in the Cape Verde islands, we’ll visit the lush volcanic island of Fogo and Praia, the capital city, before arriving at Sal and disembarking. We have planned a few more days in Sal before flying to Gran Canaria in the Canary islands. There, we’ll spend another few days before connecting in Madrid for our flight home to Medellín.

Praia, Cape Verde (photo credit: Polar Latitudes)

Why are we so excited about this trip?

It’s the trip of our lifetime (so far). The only others that come close are our visit to the Galapagos Islands in 2017 and our Inca Trail/Machu Picchu trek in 2018. Like those trips, this one will challenge and reward us in many unexpected ways. What will it be like to spend 33 days at sea, with only our allotted 200 MB of data? We’re really looking forward to finding out, and to being unplugged from the world for a month.

We’ll reconnect with our seafaring past. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two decades (!) since we sailed into Tampa Bay after spending three years exploring Mexico and Central America aboard our 42-foot sailboat, Compañia. We’ve covered a lot of ground since then, but we’ve never lost our love of Mother Ocean. While it might sound boring to some folks, spending such a long time at sea sounds like bliss to us.

Penguins! We love the little guys. But the only other time we’ve ever seen one in the wild was in the Galapagos Islands. We’re going to get our fill on this trip, and we can’t wait.

A rare Galapagos penguin that we spotted in 2017.

So what exactly is a repositioning cruise?

With the austral winter season bearing down on these southerly latitudes (officially April through August), conditions will soon be unfavorable for Antarctic expeditions. The cruise season here is coming to an end, and ships like the Seaventure who have spent the summer months ferrying folks to Antarctica are now headed north to warmer climes. We’re told Seaventure will spend the

In Ushuaia on Tuesday

next few months working the Mediterranean market before heading back down to Ushuaia. By definition repositioning cruises are one-way journeys, but not all of them cross oceans as we’re doing. These voyages are usually offered at a significant discount, and you can count on being aboard longer than the typical round-trip cruise.

Repositioning cruises are not easy to come by; John just happened to catch this opportunity while watching for deals from Polar Latitudes and other expedition companies. Here’s a site that tracks repositioning deals year-round.

Will we still go to Antarctica someday?

Absolutely. Although we won’t reach the world’s most southerly continent this time, we’re certain this trip will whet our appetites to make that voyage sometime in the future! John will keep watching those fares. And now that we’ll have one cruise under our belts with Polar Latitudes, we’ll be able to sail with them at a discounted rate.

See you on the other side!

 

21 Comments

  1. Janis Peace Reply

    I hope you have a marvelous adventure!!
    I will be thinking of you! Everything looks fantastic!! Much love. Janis

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Janis! Hugs 🙂

  2. This looks epic!! Hope you have a wonderful rest of your time in Ushuaia and throughout your trip. Enjoy all the penguins and natural wonders!

  3. Absolutely gobsmacked by your expedition of a lifetime or, at least, so far! Thanks for including the map as it provides an easy point of reference. I hope you have a great trip and I Iook forward to reading about your adventures. Be safe and have a blast!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Annie! The only thing different about the map is that we won’t be going to Ascencion, but they substituted Fogo Island. We can’t wait to see these places!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Aw, thanks, Alison! Hugs to you both.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Meg! We could not be more stoked. Hope I can get at least one post out while we’re underway (our internet access will be pretty limited). We’ll see!

  4. Muriel Kauffmann Reply

    You two are unbelievable. I’m so impressed. Go, go, go. Cheers, Muriel

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Haha, thanks, Muriel! Hope you’re well. Take care! – John and Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh, cool, you did this trip? What were your highlights? We had lots of nice sunshine in our three days in Ushuaia but it’s cold and overcast today.

  5. This sounds AMAZING! I hope you have the best time, and I can’t wait to read all about it!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Diana! Have a great day.

  6. I have never heard of repositioning cruise before, but I’m happy John found one. It’s amazing that you managed to book this trip given how rare this chance sounds like. Bon voyage and have a great adventure!

  7. This looks like an amazing cruise reaching destinations you don’t normally see on cruise routes. I’d never heard the term repositioning cruise before so learned something new. I hope you have a fantastic time and see lots of penguins! I’d love to see some in the wild one day.

  8. Holy cow, you two! This is incredible. I’m almost as excited as you both! The itinerary sounds fabulous. As a lover of animals – especially sea life – sailing, adventure, and new experiences, I’m only a tad envious. 🙂

    My parents just spent part of their winter in the Cape Verdes, a famous sailing destination, and I know St. Helen’s from circumnavigating sailing friends as well. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

  9. Nancy Klein Reply

    Sounds like a fantastic adventure! I look forward to reading all about it, Susan.

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