This is the final entry in a four-part series of posts on my cruise to Antarctica with Albatros Expeditions on the Ocean Victory cruise ship. And we finished this epic expedition voyage with the most magical day in Antarctica. The weather continues to be perfect for seeing all the sights, and we had plenty as we reached the Yalour Islands for our final excursions of the nine-day cruise.
Read Part One: Embarkation Day in Ushuaia
Read Part Two: Crossing the Drake Passage
Read Part Three: Out for Plenty of Adventures
Days 6, 7 and 8: Finishing Up and Heading Back North
Where We Were
Ocean Victory had one more day of navigation at the Antarctic Peninsula before we were scheduled to make our voyage back north to Ushuaia. So, we all wanted to make the most of our final day of adventures with Albatros Expeditions. The team planned for a morning visit to Petermann Island and an afternoon stop in the Yalour Islands.
We began our morning at 6 a.m. with a transit along the stunning Lemaire Channel. This is where we began to see the heaviest amount of ice of the trip. The Lemaire was filled with a soupy mix of brash ice, large bergy bits, automobile-sized growlers and even some sizable glaciers. The scene was amazing because we enjoyed our fourth sunny day in a row, and the white snow of the nearby mountains and glaciers in the narrow channel made it feel as though we were sailing within a painting.
Cruisers went ashore to see Adelie penguins colonies at Petermann Island, and we also enjoyed Zodiac tours there and at the Yalour Islands. Ocean Victory had sailed its farthest south of the Antarctica cruise season, going below 65 degrees south of the Equator at this point.
Cruising the super-narrow Lemaire Channel is a beautiful scenic spectacle, so you are urged to rise early and head to the outer decks or the Observation Lounge to get a view of the steep snow-carpeted and close-in glaciers. The captain and bridge team expertly navigated our passage through the channel, which was particularly challenging because of all the ice that surrounded the ship. It was a beautiful way to start the day.
The excursion in the morning landed on Petermann Island, and we had our first significant encounters with Adelie penguins. There are three types of penguins to see on this itinerary. The gentoos, chinstraps and Adelies, which make up the brush-tailed group of penguins. The Adelies like to nest in regions farther south, and we had finally entered their neighborhood.
In the afternoon, at the Yalour Islands, we had more close encounters with the icy conditions of the White Continent as our Zodiac cruise brought us around what is called an "iceberg graveyard." Icebergs that numbered in the hundreds were floating around the strait. The varied colors, sizes and shapes of the massive chunks that had separated from the nearby glaciers and tumbled into the water resembled beautiful sculptures. I would be more likely to refer to this place as an iceberg museum, as we were in awe, busily snapping pictures and video of these natural works of art.
The ride also took us to see colonies of Adelie penguins, as well as a few Weddell seals resting on the shore and a range of seabirds, too, like the tiny Wilsonâs petrel and Antarctic cormorants and terns.
This was my favorite excursion of the whole trip and an amazing way to wrap up a fantastic week in Antarctica.
The restaurant continued to deliver a wonderful range of food, with red fish, cod, short ribs, vegetarian-friendly Indian dishes, pizza, ziti bolognese, fried chicken, prime rib and pork loin among the range of offerings. For breakfast, I stuck to my favorite, a ham and cheese omelet, piece of bacon and some fruit, but also was happy to find some extras can fit onto my plate, too, such as chocolate chip pancakes or crispy waffles.
Having visited Antarctica three times now, I know that you certainly cannot count on the weather. Don't expect anything, and always plan for the worst and hope for the best -- with both your packing and basic mental preparation.
However, this had to be the most delightful weather conditions that anyone has even seen on a nine-day cruise to Antarctica. I was quite fortunate, indeed!
They take safety and biosecurity measures very seriously, as well.
The onboard program left large chunks of quiet time, making certain times while we were sailing a little boring, especially during the two days crossing the Drake each way.
Aside from the enrichment talks, there were bridge tours and activities like knot-tying offered.
Our cruise did not have a musician onboard, which I have enjoyed on my prior two expeditions to Antarctica with Abercrombie & Kent and with Atlas Ocean Voyages. I also was surprised to not see any trivia competitions offered, as these are typically a staple on these cruises.
I think this type of additional programming helps fellow cruisers break the ice and mix and socialize a little better.
I watched more than a dozen movies in my cabin from the on-demand selection available. There are no cable TV channels or on-demand TV series available.
Your cruise fare includes all meals and most excursions. The kayaking, snowshoeing and camping are premium excursions for an added fee. The ship offers a spa, with a range of massage treatments and other services. WiFi packages are not included and are expensive, but most travelers are in Antarctica to get unplugged and instead connect with the serenity of this place. Price tiers are as follows: $150 for 24 hours (login in and log out to optimize your usage); $550 for 7 days; $650 for 10 days; and $875 for 20 days.
There are two hot tubs and the polar plunge, so pack a swimsuit.
The end-of-trip slideshow and photos from the expedition photographer is a fantastic memento of your journey, too. We received an outstanding array of high-quality images from our photographer Werner, who really captured the magic of our sailing.
Drinks other than coffees, teas, hot chocolates, water and juices are extra. The beers, wines and mixed drinks are reasonably priced, though, around $6.
You get a parka provided by Albatros Expeditions that is yours to keep after your cruise, and boots and hiking poles are provided for use during your trip.
Overall, the expedition was an incredible experience, and we saw so many animals and inspiring landscapes.
During our last time out, cruising in a Zodiac around the Yalour Islands, our guide Mariam reminisced about our one-of-a-kind trip.
"We pretty much checked all the boxes available," she said, recounting one by one all of the incredible sightings we had.
Expedition team leader Phil Hunter later reinforced the idea that this was an extra-special voyage.
"I have trouble thinking of a trip where we've accomplished so much," said Hunter, who has been working in Antarctica for a decade. "You picked a good one."
Thanks for reading,