Travel Addicts Life

Review: Cruise to Antarctica and South America

Have you been considering a cruise to South America or Antarctica, or both?  In this review, we go on to describe our entire trip that we call a “ trip of a lifetime. ” Notably, we started planning for this incredible cruise almost two years prior.  We were onboard the Island Princess in May of 2018 when we heard that Princess cruises were introducing Antarctica in their South American itineraries for the first time in nearly ten years. No surprise, but we booked this cruise right away.

The itinerary was quite intriguing, with the right mix of ports of call in South America.  Additionally, there were to be four scenic cruising days in Antarctica.  Our departure date, January 5th, 2020.

Protests and Riots in Santiago de Chile

Santiago de Chile would be our starting point.  To be sure, we would be embarking on the Coral Princess cruise ship in San Antonio, about 90 minutes from Santiago.  Unfortunately, Santiago offered us some minor discomfort a couple of months before our departure.  For example, significant protests started to become more and more common in the city.  Additionally, the President said they were at “War.” Further, a state of emergency was declared, and a curfew imposed .

Naturally, we monitored the situation in Santiago carefully and begun to take precautions.  For example, we immediately booked a backup hotel, by the airport, just in case our downtown location was becoming unsafe.  For sure, it ended up being a good idea as the price of the hotel at the airport eventually quadrupled closer to the cruise date.

Our Poor Hotel, Ransacked

Then, just before Christmas, we heard our hotel, The Crowne Plaza in downtown Santiago, was shut down because protesters practically destroyed it.  It was just our luck as the hotel was literally in “ground zero” of the protest.  As a result, we had to make a booking at another hotel in a different location, just outside downtown.  This new hotel proved to be in a much quieter and safer area.

Crowne Plaza Destroyed by Protesters in Santiago - January, 2019 - Hopefully not an omen on our cruise to Antarctica and South America

What Should We Pack for our Cruise to South America and Antarctica?

First things first: A cruise to South America is pretty standard.  But, a cruise to both South America AND Antarctica is highly unusual.  To be sure, the Coral Princess’ route the Antarctic Peninsula occurred only three times of the 2019-2020 season.  Additionally, considering the weather in Santiago and Buenos Aires would be 30C (86F) and Antarctica 0C (32F), we were faced with our first problem: what should we bring?  For example, what kind of clothes would we need?  We were practically traveling from the beautiful warm summer of Santiago de Chile to the freezing icy cold weather of the Antarctica Peninsula and back to heat.

I usually found packing for a cruise effortless, not this time.  Indeed, we ended up bringing almost every single piece of clothes we have, and then some!

Flight to Santiago De Chile

After almost two years of planning, we boarded our 14.5-hour flight from Paris to Santiago De Chile!  The excitement was high!  And, there’s no better way to start a trip of a lifetime than on an Air France (787-9) Dreamliner, with Champagne in hand!  Cheers!

On the Plane

We arrived in Santiago around 9 pm, exhausted after such a long flight.  We try to find flight itineraries that get us to our destination in the evening, as it helps us avoid jet lag!

Our shuttle waited for us, and promptly took us and our bags to the hotel.  In no time, we went to bed, knowing we’d be ready for our new adventure to begin the morning after.

The Next Morning: Free Walking Tour in Santiago

In the morning, we were happy to meet our friends from Canada in the lobby and immediately started to explore the city.

We discovered that some volunteers were organizing a free walking tour of the city, and we decided to take it.  To be sure, it was an excellent tour.  The guide took us to all the famous monuments in the city, giving us some history and tips about what we were seeing. Our guide was both personable and knowledgeable, and we were able to see almost all downtown in four hours.

The tour included a stop for lunch in a friendly and hip part of town where we had the best beef empanada ever!

Unfortunately, the signs of the recent protests were everywhere. The city got covered in graffiti, and in some areas, you could still smell and feel the effects of the tear gas.

A church in Santiago - a few days before our Cruise to Antarctica

We enjoyed our walking tour, and we thought that our tour guide deserved a tip for his work. Overall the city was quite lovely and the people very friendly. We never felt unsafe during our tour.

The Morning After – Embarkation Day!

The morning after, our driver took us to the port of San Antonio for the embarkation on our cruise ship, the Coral Princess.  Notably, we were surprised at how much colder it was in San Antonio, Chile –  just 150km west of Santiago.

Day 1: Embarking on our Cruise to Antarctica & South America

Embarkation day on our cruise to Antarctica and South America

A Little About the Coral Princess

The Coral Princess and her sister ship, the Island Princess, got built to be able to transit the old locks of the Panama Canal.  As a result, the ship is narrow and long.  The Coral can accommodate up to 2000 guests and 895 crew, as per Princess’s website. Princess states that Medallion is scheduled for completion on the Coral in Oct 2020.

I look forward to giving it a try on the new Enchanted Princess this summer (At the time of this writing, the Enchanted Princess is still a few months away from inauguration).

Coral Princess in Ushuaia - On Our Cruise to South America and Antarctica

Embarkation was both comfortable and efficient.

Our Cabin B520 on The Coral Princess Cruise Ship – Taking us to South America and Antarctica

In no time, we had arrived in our cabin, B520, on the Coral Princess cruise ship.

Princess Cruises Balcony Cabin

Unfortunately, after the safety drill, the Captain announced our departure would be delayed 24 hours due to a refueling problem.  Additionally, a dramatic storm in the west would require that our itinerary be modified.  As a result, the port of Punta Arenas got canceled, and we’d move on.  Further, the Captain informed us that they were monitoring the storm and making adjustments to the itinerary to keep us both safe and comfortable on our cruise to Antarctica and South America.

To be sure, there were a few passengers who were upset about skipping Punta Arenas.  You see, Punta Arenas was the hub for the flight into the Antarctic Peninsula.  As a result of the cancellation, these passengers were not able to set foot on Antarctica as they had hoped.  Rick and I didn’t mind as we were told by someone who had previously visited that there wasn’t much to see.  To be sure, we felt that safety was more important.

Day 2: Still in the Port of San Antonio, Chile

While we were warned of potentially rough-seas on this cruise to Antarctica and South America, mainly through the Drake passage, we spent the first evening in port.  The running joke of the ship was that we had very smooth sailing last night.  We hadn’t moved an inch!

Many passengers chose to take advantage of the additional day in San Antonio and proceeded to take some local excursions.  Rick and I, however, decided to stay on board and explore the ship.

Some Photos Inside the Coral Princess

Rick and Andrea at the Martini Event on the Cruise to South America

The following afternoon we finally set sail and started our adventure.

Toward the evening, our Captain announced that the storm was getting more prominent with waves up to 8 meters high, and for that reason, they made further adjustments to our itinerary.  They decided to stop in the city of Puerto Montt, Chile, and cut our scenic cruise of Antarctica one day shorter.


Day 5: First Stop on our Cruise to Antarctica – Puerto Montt

Our first sea days toward Puerto Montt were quite rough.  Indeed, we saw some rather big waves. To be sure though, not as big as the one that we would have experienced had there been no adjustments to the itinerary not have been made.  Then, by the afternoon of the second sea day, we finally entered the sheltered water of the bay of Puerto Montt.  Finally, it was relieving to have calm seas once again.

Puerto Montt Bay

We decided to take a tour in Puerto Montt to the Osorno Volcano and the town of Puerto Varas. Unfortunately, the excursion was not very pleasant due to the torrential rain. We were not able to see the volcano at all.  Further, the temperature felt something like -5C.  To be sure, it was freezing and damp.  After, our bus stopped at the Petrohué Waterfalls.  Unfortunately, the rain was heavy, and we were not able to enjoy much of the excursion.

Our tour guide said Puerto Montt gets 300 days of rain.  Certainly, and in our opinion, this excursion should either have been canceled due to the weather. Alternatively, someone could have offered the passengers some umbrellas.

Osorno Volcano on our first Port: Puerto Montt on our Cruise to Antarctica

Day 7: Breathtaking Strait of Magellan

After leaving Puerto Montt, we had another rough day at sea before entering the sheltered water of the Strait of Magellan .  Indeed, this was an incredible sight.  For example, the mountain peaks of the Andes , most of the covered by massive glaciers, were creating deep fjords.  To be sure, I have to admit it was a beautiful sailing, and it reminded me of the Inside Passage in the Pacific Northwest.

Unfortunately, many of the peaks got covered by clouds.  Additionally, navigating in the strait was incredibly smooth, and it was delightful after being in very rough seas for so long.

Albatros flying in the Strait of Magellan

In the afternoon, our Captain gave us a very informative lecture about the Antarctica portion of our cruise. Then, during the talk, he showed us our revised itinerary and what we were about to see. Also, he informed us that sailing the infamous Drake Passage was going to be smooth … on the way down!  Unfortunately, no such assurances were made for the portion of the cruise back to South America (Falklands & Montevideo).

Day 8: The Charming Town of Ushuaia – The Last Stop Before Reaching Antarctica on Our Cruise

The following morning we woke up in the Argentian town of Ushuaia .  Indeed, Ushuaia was our last port of call on the West side of South America before cruising to Antarctica.

We disembarked first thing in the morning and proceeded to take a nice walk in town.  Also, we reserved an excursion for later in the afternoon to “the end of the world.”

Ushuaia is the capital of the “La Tierra Del Fuego” district.  Also, in the past, Ushuaia was used as a penal colony.  Then, the prison closed in 1947. Nowadays, the prision has a new life as a museum.

Walking in the streets of Ushuaia is both pleasant and exciting.  Moreover, it reminded me of walking in Juneau, Alaska.

A shipwreck in Ushuaia

Excursion to the End of The World

Then, later in the afternoon, we took the excursion to the “end of the world.”  Interestingly, we took the road that was built by inmates.  Notably, it’s the southern tip of the Pan-America Highway . This incredibly long road starts in Prudhoe Bay Alaska and ends 30,000km later in Ushuaia, Argentina.

During our excursion, we entered the “ Tierra del Fuego” National Park.   Here, we stopped several times to see some incredible mountain peaks, beautiful bays, and many birds.

Our excursion to the end of the world

We absolutely enjoyed Ushuaia and the National Park.  Indeed, it was a great stop before the five sea days ahead of us.  Time to brush on up on what to do on sea days!

Leaving Ushuaia

Day 9: Cruising around Cape Horn – And Down to Antarctica

Early in the morning, the Captain woke us up, announcing that we were approaching Cape Horn. And, due to the pleasant sea conditions, we were able to get up close to it.   Then, we quickly ran to the top deck to have a good view of the southern tip of the South American Continent. I have to admit, sailing there really gave me a feeling of reaching the end of the world.

Cape Horn - Leaving South America on our Cruise to Antarctica

Bye Bye South America & Chilean Pilots

After sailing for about an hour around the cape, we dropped off our Chilean Pilot and entered the Drake Passage.  Excitingly, our cruise to Antarctica is now getting real!

Pilot leaving at Cape Horn - Now we cruise to Antarctica!

Here we were about to reach the peak of our adventure.  Surely, we were to be sailing the famous Drake Passage towards Antarctica.  Thankfully, the Captain mentioned the ocean would be smooth and the cruising pleasant, all the way down to the Antarctic Peninsula.  Contrastingly, no such warranty was made for the journey back to South America!

Drake Passage - Cruising to Antarctica

Entering the Antarctic Sea

The Captain announced that we would cross the 60th parallel, the limit of the Antarctica Treaty Waters, around 8 pm.  Then, around the same time, we would reach a point where the water temperature drops to 1 degree Celsius.  Indeed, that was the real gateway to Antarctica.

Google Map showing our current location Cruising to Antarctica

The excitement, at that point, was getting high.

Updated Antarctic Peninsula Route Plotted By The Cruise Ship

Our Itinerary through the Antarctic Peninsula

That evening, we received our final itinerary for cruising in Antarctica.

 Day 10: Entering Antarctica!  Finally!

We knew we were close to Antarctica because the air was freezing, dry, and we started seeing big chunks of ice floating in the ocean.  Excitingly, our ship was scheduled to enter the Neumayer Channel at noon.  So, we went for our usual walk around the ship.  To be sure, we could feel the excitement among fellow passengers.  Indeed, more people than usual were outside on the promenade looking to spot something.

I checked Google maps.  Wow, we were to reach the Antarctica Peninsula!  And, after two years of planning and preparations, Antarctica was in sight.

Getting close - Our cruise well in to the Antarctic sea

Around 11:30 am we spotted the first lonely iceberg! That was it. We made it to Antarctica!

The first Iceberg on our cruise to Antarctica

We rushed back to our cabin to get geared up and ready for Antarctica.  Then, at noon, we began to see some fantastic mountains covered by massive glaciers. Incredible peaks were poking out the clouds, and the deep blue ice was shining. Wow, what a sight!

Entering the Neumayer Channel on our Cruise to Antarctica

Cruising the Neumayer Channel

We started sailing the Neumayer Channel shortly after. This channel was stunning. We were sailing in this narrow channel surrounded by majestic mountains covered in thick layers of deep blue ice. The ship was moving very slowly, allowing us to soak in the beauty that was surrounding us. The wind was frigid, but we didn’t care. We were completely mesmerized by what we were seeing. I was taking hundreds and hundreds of photos having difficulties deciding what I wanted to photograph. Everything was so beautiful.  Being here felt like I was in another world.

Neumayer Channel

While sailing, we passed by a big penguin colony and observed a seal peacefully resting on a big chunk of ice.

Penguin Colony in the Neumayer Channel - Antarctica

Entering the Gerlache Straight

At the end of the channel, we entered the Gerlache Strait. This strait had incredibly calm water with low clouds and hundreds of icebergs of all sizes. The view was incredible. What mesmerized me the most was the deep silence of the area. Everything looked frozen, even the time. It’s an awkward feeling to describe, but I felt like I was outside our planet, somewhere I could only imagine existing in science fiction. Some of the icebergs had penguins on them just sitting there looking at our giant cruise ship passing by.

Antarctic Icebergs on board the Coral Princess

We saw a few whales swimming between icebergs calmly and serene.

A Whale on our cruise to Antarctica - by an iceberg

After leaving Gerlache Strait, we had a few hours before reaching our next stop Charlotte Bay. That allowed me to download the 2000 photos I took and recharge the battery of my camera. I was still mesmerized by the incredible beauty we saw in just a few hours in Antarctica.

Bonus: Best Cabin Type for Antarctica

Balcony Cabin on board the Coral Princess on our Cruise to Antarctica and South America

Picking the best cabin types on a sea-intensive cruise is crucial.  Certainly, a Cruise to Antarctica is certainly sea-intensive, and for these types of cruises, we recommend a balcony cabin.

By contrast, port-intensive cruises such as our recent 21 Day Mediterranean Cruise are different.  For example, generally, port-intensive cruises don’t necessarily require a balcony as you generally only cruise at night.

If you really want to be picky, we recommend Starboard side Balcony cabins on cruises from Santiago to Buenos Aires.  If your cruise to Antarctica or South America starts in Buenos Aires and ends in Santiago, then we recommend Portside balcony cabins for optimal viewing pleasure.

While we are on this topic, we would highly advise against inside/oceanview cabins on sea-intensive routes, in particular on Antarctica routes.  You will find that booking a balcony cabin allows you the best opportunity to see the amazing wildlife, icebergs and everything else that Antarctica has to offer.

Scenic Cruising: Charlotte Bay

Around 7 pm, we entered Charlotte Bay , our last destination for the first day in Antarctica.  In the bay, we had water as smooth as glass with majestic mountains in the background. The bay was full of icebergs of all sizes. Some of those icebergs were as big as three-story tall buildings. The icebergs featured deep blue colors both in and out of the sea. The feeling once again was of complete calm and serenity in these smooth waters. We were also able to see a few whales jumping out of the water and feeding.

Whales visible on our cruise in Charlotte Bay, Antarctica

We sailed in the bay for a few hours.  The sun was beginning to set on the horizon, and the sunset colors started to tint the sky. The ice looked even more surreal.

Cruising Charlotte bay Antarctica on the Coral Princess

Our first day in the Antarctica peninsula was almost over. We went to bed very excited and looking forward to another day in the magical continent.

We set the alarm clock for 6 am because, at that time, we were reaching our next destination Deception Island . Unfortunately, once we reached the island, the fog was thick, and the visibility was only a few meters. For that reason, the Captain decided to move on to our next destination.

Day 11: Scenic Cruising in Admiralty Bay

We were entering Admiralty bay around 1030am. On this island, we could see two important scientific bases in Antarctica, the new Brasilian base and the Polish base. The Captain announced that he was able to speak with the scientists in the Polish bay. Consequently, he invited them on board at noon for an interview.  The interview proved to be quite exciting.

After sailing very close to the brand new Brasilian Base, we reached the deepest part of the bay where some massive glaciers were ending in the ocean. The view was quite impressive. We sailed in the calm waters by the glaciers for sometime before approaching the Polish base, the Arctowski Station , to let the scientists on board.

Glaciers in Antartica - Admiralty Bay on our Cruise to Antarctica

The Polish Scientists Interview

The scientists came on board around lunchtime, and the Captain started his interview. It was quite fascinating to hear how the selection process is to became a scientist in the base. They stayed with us for about an hour than they left, and we were on our way to our next and final destination in Antarctica Elephant Island.

Scientists Leaving our cruise ship

A time-lapse video of us Cruising Admiralty Bay, Antarctica

Cruising By Elephant Island, Antarctica

Our cruise ship reached Elephant Island Antarctica around 7:30 pm.  To be sure, Elephant Island is famous for being the refuge of the Endurance Expedition in 1916.

By the time we reached the island, the sun was out and getting low on the horizon, coloring the sky of a beautiful orange. Indeed, Elephant Island is rocky and mountainous.  Also, it features some rather impressive glaciers.   Best of all, we sailed very close to it and got to see the island with a stunning sunset.  And as per usual, a few more icebergs were seen floating around.

Antartica - Elephant Island

Cruising by Elephant Island was bittersweet because we knew that our time in Antarctica was over and we were leaving that magical place.

After sunset, we were back in the Drake Passage sailing towards our next destination, the Falkland Islands. Unfortunately, the passage was not as smooth as we had on the way down. In fact, by lunchtime, the following day, the ocean was getting rough.

Day 12: Fun Day at Sea!

We had a lot of sea days on this cruise.  To be sure, it was no surprise.  But, we used the time wisely.  For example, we started putting together our memories of the trip as it was nearing the end.  Indeed, here are some photos of the fantastic crew who went out of their way to keep us both informed and incredibly comfortable.

Formal night - got to meet the Captain

Day 13: Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands: The first cruise port in South America after Antarctica

After a pretty rough day at sea, we finally arrived at Port Stanley, the principal town in the Falkland Islands . The view from our balcony was quite interesting. We could see the little village of Port Stanley with its colorful houses.

We decided to explore the town before our excursion to Bluff Cove Penguin Rockery in the afternoon. The city is very British, with the typical red phone booth, the Royal Mailboxes, and old England architecture. We enjoyed our walk. We stopped by the church, and we were able to have a friendly long chat about the Islands with the priest. At lunchtime, we had a typical British Pub lunch in a very typical pub.

Rick and Andrea by a British Telephone Booth in Stanley, Falkland Islands on our Cruise to South America

What’s the Best Part about our Cruise to South America?  The Penguin Excursion!

At 2 pm, we had our cruise penguin excursion planned. To be sure, the penguin excursion was one of the most fun excursions we have ever done! It started with a short bus ride from Port Stanley to the Bluff Cove Farm. From there we took 4 x 4 Rover to the beach. Once we arrived at the penguin rookery, we were mesmerized by the incredible number of Gentoos penguins . It was amazing seeing all those beautiful animals up close. The penguins have no fear of humans, and they were walking around us freely. There were a lot of baby penguins walking among the adults — or feeding on their parents. We saw a vast amount of King Penguins nesting, as well.

Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery, 4 by 4 drive on our Cruise to South America

After an hour with the penguins, we were served tea, delicious scones, and cakes before our trip back to Port Stanley.

Undoubtedly, today is one that I will never forget.

Day 15: Sea Day / Coral Princess Ship Tour

On the 15th day, we got invited to visit the different areas of the Coral Princess.  The tour was a delight and a big surprise.  Naturally, we thank those who are responsible for setting it up (You know who you are).

First, we got to visit the bridge, where one of the officers told us about the steering, navigation, and propulsion systems.  Then, the Master in Command, Capt. Todd McBain came out to tell us more about the ship and our cruise.

Then we went on to visit the Galley, where all the food gets made for the dining rooms.  Last, we got to visit the laundry facilities.  To be sure, the laundry section was the most fascinating to me as I had never seen it before.

On future sailings, I look forward to checking out the M1 and the Engine room, however, that might take a little extra work 🙂

Here are some photos from this day.

Rick Andrea and Capt Todd McBain on the Bridge of the Coral Princess - on our Cruise to Antarctica and South America

Day 16: Montevideo- Our 2nd to Last Top on our Cruise to South America & Antarctica

Our adventure was approaching the end. We sailed two more days before reaching the cute port town of Montevideo. By then, the sun was back in the sky, and the temperature was warming up quickly. We did not plan any excursion in Montevideo, but we decided to explore the city and enjoy it.

Photo of a Door in Montevideo - a port of call on our Cruise to Antarctica

The city is rather small but very nice. It has some great colonial architecture. People in Montevideo are very friendly and helpful. The highlight of the town was the Mercado del Puerto . This cute little market is full of restaurants with a large woodfire grill where several cuts of meat are grilling. The smell is intoxicating, and the food is delicious. We decided to have a nice lunch there, and we were thrilled we did.

Montevideo Uruguay Market

Unfortunately, it was time to start packing. Our adventure was almost over. We only had a short sail to Buenos Aires, and then it was time to disembark.

Day 17: The Final Stop on Our Cruise in South America – Buenos Aires

We disembarked in Buenos Aires around 9 am. The weather was warm but with a little rain. After checking in at the hotel, we decided to go out and explore the city.

Our hotel wasn’t too far from Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada .

Casa Rosada Buenos Aires on our Cruise to South America

Just 10 minutes of walking. In the same piazza, we took a good look at the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires. The church where the Bishop Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, used to be.

Catedral Metropolitana on our Cruise to South America

We then hopped in a taxi to go to a restaurant that was recommended us by a friend.   The restaurant was just across the street from the famous Recoleta Cemetery. After lunch, we decided to have a look at it. Wow, the cemetery was not at all what I expected. The cemetery features ornate mausoleums with statues and columns. We walked to the most famous grave of all, the Eva Peron one.

Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Eva Peron Grave - on our Cruise to South America

It is quite an In the evening we decided to go for a drink in Plaza Dorrego. T is probably my favorite place in Buenos Aires. In this beautiful little piazza, friendly and calm, where it is possible to sit outside and have a drink while watching dancers dancing the Tango.

Tango in Buenos Aires - on our Cruise to South America

For dinner, we decided to go to the Puerto Madero area. Here, you will find the old port docks area that is now getting converted into an area with restaurants and nightlife. It is the perfect spot for a night stroll.

La Boca, Buenos Aires

The next morning, we visited the La Boca area of Buenos Aires. La Boca used to be the first port of Buenos Aires. La Boca got Neglected in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, it reinvented itself with extravagant explosions of kitsch. To be sure, nothing is sophisticated or subtle in La Boca: brightly painted walls, caricature figurines, papier-mache shop greeters, and gaudy graffiti scream in your face. Still, as a spectacle, it’s a treat. La Boca’s streets are a living, breathing performance art gallery for the 21st century. No one should leave Buenos Aires without this visual assault.

We walked at El Caminito La Boca’s most recognizable street, directly translates as “little walkway” and refers to an alley lined with the restored “conventillos” or colorfully painted tenements made of wood and corrugated zinc. Although the area has undoubtedly lost some of its authenticity (many say it has transformed into a tourist trap), it’s still worth visiting. Indeed, you’ll encounter elegant dancers tangoing to live music against a backdrop of local artists and stall owners hawking their wares.

La boca area - Buenos Aires

Palermo District & Plaza Dorrego

Umbrellas in Buenos Aires, our last stop on our cruise to south america and Antarctica

After spending the morning at La Boca, we ended up back in Plaza Dorrego for a cold beer and Tango viewing.

On our last night in Buenos Aires, we decided to go for dinner in the Palermo district. This area has some charming streets for a night walk full of restaurants and pubs.

Palermo District our last stop in buenos aires on our cruise to Antarctica and South America

The morning after, we had a few hours before going to the airport, and we decided to go for a walk to La Torre Monumental, the train station, and the Falkland war memorial. The area is very friendly and manicured, with a beautiful park perfect for a stroll.

Ficus Tree in Buenos Aires - on our Cruise to South America

That’s it our time in Buenos Aires was over, we had to make our way to the airport. Our incredible adventure was over.

Reflecting on our Cruise to Antarctica and South America

Overall, this was a fantastic adventure. For example, we saw some very unusual and magical places and met new friends and bonded with some old friends.  Surely, we had a great time both onboard and on land.  As usual, I was sad to leave the ship, but I am looking forward to our next adventure soon.  Finally, I want to especially thank our Master in Command, Captain Todd McBain for keeping us posted on a regular basis on what was going on with the cruise.  To be sure, it was the first time, for me, that a Captain was so detailed on everything that was related to our cruise.

-Happy Traveling

Rick and Andrea in front of an Iceberg on their Cruise to Antarctica

Andrea was born and raised in Northern Italy. At the age of 30, he moved to Vancouver Canada. Over the years he traveled extensively in North America, Europe, Central America, and Asia. He is passionate about traveling, cruising, and travel photography. He likes to write about his traveling and shows his travel photos.

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What a great blog! Excellent photos and well-written, entertaining and informative text. Thank you for sharing! In case you’re interested, I keep a photo blog of all my cruises, going back 30 years or so with different companies but nowadays pretty much always with Princess. I hope you like the photos. Cheers, Tim.

Thanks for your amazing review, myself and my husband did the cruise after you and were blown away by the wonderful weather and fantastic scenery

Hi Andrea, I love the penguins!. How much is this whole trip with the cruise?

Hello Jacky, It depends on what kind of cabin you pick, If you are ok with an inside cabin you can do the 16 days for as low as $3500

Thank you for the best review I have read in my 25 cruises with princess We will be boarding the coral on March 5 in santiago Chile ending in FLL We will not visit Antarctica on our cruise but we have a few more ports and Overnights Thanks agan……from Cranston, Rhode Island…USA

Great post! Thanks for sharing the details, pics, videos and insights!

Thanks for this review. I’ve had Antarctica on my list for years, and penguins are a must. I can’t use RIBs and so wondered what a non-landing Antarctic experience would be like. Your review ticks all my boxes, so maybe this coming winter for me:)

Hi Andrea Great blog! Thanks for sharing. We are booked on this cruise January 2021. When exactly did you travel? Thank you. We left Santiago on January 5th

Hi Karen, we left Santiago on January 5th arrived in Buenos Aires on January 21st.

Hi Andrea! Amazing trip and super helpful write up! I’m looking to book the same cruise and also be able to work from the ship on some sea days. Was wondering if you happened to use the wifi for things like streaming and video calls while you were on the boat and how your experience was? Brian

Hi Brian, thank you for your comment. We did use the wifi on board and it was ok. I was able to videocall, but it was a bit choppy. Unfortunately we have been back on another ship last August and the wifi was horrible. Andrea

What’s the difference between going with Princess Cruises vs regular expedition cruises that cost over $10,000 ?

Usually with the expedition cruises you are going with much smaller ships and you can actually get at shore in Antarctica.

So Princess doesn’t offer excursions that bring you to shore?

When we went, they only offered one from Puntarenas Chile, a plane ride to a base in Antarctica

Just wondering why you recommend a starboard side stateroom when cruising Santiago to Bueno Aires? I would think port side would be more scenic. Appreciate your thoughts.

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What Is A Princess Cruise to Antarctica Really Like?

I am sharing everything you need to know about what a Princess cruise to Antarctica is really like, including my packing list for the 4 days of scenic cruising in Antarctica.

A princess cruise to Antarctica

Last Updated on 01/17/24 by Rose Palmer

“This is unlike any other cruise you have experienced before! It’s an adventure and we are all explorers!” – Captain Todd McBain of the Sapphire Princess.

I wasn’t on board the ship for very long before the captain set the tone for the next 16 days – and he was right, it certainly was an unforgettable adventure!

For a short window during the middle of the Antarctic summer, Princess Cruises scheduled sailings around South America that also included 4 days of scenic cruising in Antarctica. I was on the last of those voyages, starting in Valparaiso, Chile on January 20, and ending in Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 5.

Like many, seeing Antarctica was a big travel bucket list destination for me. After doing a lot of research, I chose this Sapphire Princess itinerary because it provided a great value on a cruise line that I knew I liked.

Icebergs in Antarctica

I would not be landing on the Antarctic continent, but instead, I would have the chance to also see other ports in South America. It seemed like a fair trade off. And the fact that the cruise was over my birthday was ice-ing on the Antarctic cake!

Introduction to Antarctica

It’s important to grasp just how large Antarctica is – twice the size of the continent of Australia. Yet despite its size, the majority of the tours to the white continent really only touch a small portion of the Antarctic peninsula, the finger that pokes out from the main land mass, trying to hold hands with Cape Horn. That is actually not that far off an analogy as the mountains in Antarctica are a continuation of the Andes mountain range that form the spine of South America.

Views of Elephant Island

Besides being the easiest part of Antarctica to reach, we were told that the Antarctic peninsula also has the prettiest scenery. It is dotted with islands, bays, fjords, and scenic channels, all waiting to be explored. From what I saw, I think I would agree that it was stunningly beautiful.

Today, we take tourism to Antarctica for granted, forgetting that no human knew of its existence until about 200 years ago. For the first 150 years, Antarctica was visited by sealers, whalers and explorers, and its resources were mostly exploited.

Spotting whales in Antarctica

In 1959 the Antarctic treaty was put in place to protect this unique environment. Now, countries from all over the globe have set up research stations and work in peaceful union all across the continent, sharing information and data.

Increased tourism didn’t start till the late 1980’s, and since its discovery only about 1 million people have seen Antarctica – that’s about 0.01% of the total world population. Currently about 50,000 people visit each year through a variety of travel programs.

Looking at the scenery from the front of the Promenade deck

More than 99% of the continent is permanently covered in ice and though it’s counterintuitive, the Antarctic ice sheet is actually a desert because the annual precipitation is so low. This ice that has formed over millions of years is not static – it flows from the center toward the coastline at a “glacial’ pace which can take as long as 100,000 years to reach the water.

Another view of Elephant Island

When it finally reaches the ocean the ice will eventually break off, often, into large, flat sheets.

I learned all this Antarctica knowledge from the six destination experts that we had on board during the cruise. Two to three lectures were offered every day, covering a range of topics related to Antarctica and the other locations we were visiting. I liked that I could also watch the lectures on the TV in my room if I missed one of them live.

Watching the enrichment lectures on the TV in my room

Safety First

From day one, Captain McBain was very transparent on what we should expect: that mother nature dictated our schedule, flexibility was key, and safety was the operative word.

That this cruise and the team that guided her were special became evident when we were introduced to the leadership staff at a question and answer session in the big theater. This cruise did not have just one captain – it had four!

In Wilhelmina Bay

Besides Captain Todd McBain, there was a second Princess ship captain to assist along with two highly experienced ice pilots that each had over 30 years in the field as captains of ice breakers. (And as I later learned, Captain Todd was also Princess’ only licensed ice pilot).

In addition, for this cruise, the staff on the bridge was quadrupled relative to a warm water (and weather) cruise. All these extra bodies were there to provide more eyes to keep a lookout as we sailed.

It bears mentioning, that we also had two IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) representatives who boarded in Ushuaia and were there to observe the Princess ship as she cruised through the Antarctic waters.

Early morning views of the Antarctic scenery

As the captain stressed many times throughout the trip, his priority was the safety of the ship. Unlike expedition ships, the Sapphire Princess could not go through ice because she did not have an ice protected hull, so the goal was to avoid it. (DO NOT mention the name of the fateful ship that starts with the letter T while on board).

By sailing in the middle of the Antarctic summer during the midnight sun season, it also meant that the bridge had daylight visibility 24 hours a day. So while we were cruising at “night” to get to our next scenic stop, floating ice could always be seen from far off and avoided.

Close up of one of the ice bergs floating near the ship

Besides ice, the other common obstacle was the weather, highly variable weather. The Drake passage gets all the attention for horrendous waves, but the reality is that storms and winds continuously travel around the perimeter of the Antarctic continent in a clockwise fashion. In the Drake Passage the weather is amplified because of the bottleneck formed by the landmasses of Cape Horn and the Antarctica Peninsula.

Cruising on the Sapphire Princess to Antarctica

My cruise was on the Sapphire Princess, one of Princess’ smaller ships. The ship was designed for 2600 guests, though our cruise was not quit full with 2100 guests on board.

The Sapphire Princess has all the trademark elements that I enjoy on a Princess cruise: the International Café, Movies Under the Stars, their signature bedding and of course, lots of good food choices, drinks, and entertainment.

Cruising in Antarctica on the Sapphire Princess

But most important for the days of scenic cruising in Antarctica, the Sapphire Princess also had a lot of open deck space which meant there was plenty of room for 2100 guests to stand at a railing and get a good view of the incredible scenery.

I describe my complete Sapphire Princess ship experience in a lot of detail in my post Finding My Blue Heaven on a Princess Cruise – A Detailed Sapphire Princess Review With Photos .

So, what is a Princess cruise to Antarctica really like?

“It’s an adventure!”

This was a statement that our captain made many times throughout the voyage. Yes – like Shackleton and other pioneering visitors to this lonely part of the globe, our cruise had an element of uncertainty that required adaptation.

Cruising through Antarctica on the Sapphire Princess

I learned on this trip that an Antarctic itinerary is the hoped for plan but the weather dictates the reality. As Captain Todd said “it’s what we want to do, not necessarily what we can do”. This is true for any size ship, even the smaller expedition ships with the reinforced hulls.

In Antarctica, more than anywhere else, Mother Nature makes the rules!

South America and Antarctica cruise planned itinerary:

Jan. 20 – Day 1, board at Valparaiso, Chile and set sail by 6 PM

Jan 21 – Day 2, at sea

Jan 22 – Day 3, at sea

Jan 23 – Day 4, at sea

Jan 24 – Day 5, Punta Arenas, Chile

Jan 25 – Day 6, Ushuaia, Argentina

Jan 26 – Day 7, Scenic cruising around cape Horn, at sea

Jan 27 – Day 8, Antarctica, arrive 12 noon – see Elephant Island and Admiralty Bay

Jan 28 – Day 9, Antarctica scenic cruising – see Charlotte Bay and Wilhelmina Bay

Jan 29 – Day 10, Antarctica scenic cruising – see Neumayer channel and Paradise Island

Jan 30 – Day 11, Antarctica scenic cruising till 12 noon – see Deception Island

Jan 31 – Day 12, at sea

Feb 1 – Day 13, Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Feb 2 – Day 14, at sea

Feb 3 – Day 15. at sea

Feb 4 – Day 16, Montevideo, Uruguay

Feb 5 – Day 17, Dock in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Before we reached Antarctica, Captain Todd gave a navigational presentation explaining what his scenic cruising goal was for our 4 days in the Antarctic Peninsula for our specific cruise. We were also given a map that showed where and when we would be each day.

Map of planned sights to visit in Antarctica

Once again though, the captain was forthright and made it very clear that this was his wished for plan, but that the reality could be different, and it all depended on the weather and the sea conditions.

South America and Antarctica cruise actual itinerary:

Day 0 – jan 19.

I landed in Santiago, Chile in the early morning and took an airport taxi to my hotel in Valparaiso where we were scheduled to board the ship. It was about a 90 minute drive and cost about $140 which I paid for in cash with US dollars once I reached my destination.

Insignia of official airport taxi in Santiago

Travel tip: Make sure to use one of the Official Airport Taxis that are outside the terminal, waiting at the curb. An attendant that is wearing an Aeropuerto Taxi Oficial jacket, shirt, or tag and who speaks good English will help you. Agree on the cost ahead of time. Note that US dollars in cash were accepted as were credit cards. Do not accept offers for a taxi ride from any one else that approaches you.

In Valparaiso I stayed at AYCA La Flora Boutique Hotel , a very well rated, lovely, little B&B in the heart of the old town. Owners Anne and Alex made me feel very welcome and clearly went out of their way to provide a personalized experience to all of their guests.

The La flora Boutique B&B in Valparaiso

The UNESCO listed old town in Valparaiso is a fun mix of colorful houses, lots of unique street art and interesting graffiti. I spent the afternoon wandering this neighborhood on my own (I felt quite safe doing that), followed by an exceptional dinner at the nearby Restaurant La Concepcion . If you are at all into foodie and wine experiences, I highly recommend eating there.

The colorful streets in Valparaiso's historic old town

Day 1 – Jan. 20

Temp. 64 F.

Planned: board at Valparaiso, Chile and set sail by 6 PM.

Unusually high winds in the Valparaiso harbor prevented the returning Sapphire Princess from docking until 1 PM. Continued high winds made the disembarkation and the embarkation process, along with loading and unloading the ship, more difficult than usual. As a result, I was not able to board the ship until the evening.

I was scheduled to board at 11 AM, but was rescheduled for 7:30 PM instead. The kind hosts at the hotel let me hang out in their comfortable lounge area until boarding which was much more pleasant than waiting in the terminal. The hotel also set me up with a taxi for the short drive to the terminal.

The Sapphire Princess pulls into the port in Valparaiso

Note that the cruise terminal in Valparaiso is not located at the pier where the ship is docked (the pier and harbor are primarily designed for cargo ships). After going through the Princess check in process at the cruise terminal building, a shuttle bus took us to the ship’s boarding area.

Also note that Princess held on to my passport once I checked in, and then returned it toward the end of the cruise.

In the middle of the night the ship finally set sail, but only to the nearby port of San Antonio, Chile. I understand that my boarding experience in Valparaiso was quite an exception and that this type of weather event was very unusual.

Day 2 – Jan. 21

Planned: at sea.

Due to the previous day’s delay and challenging weather conditions, the Sapphire Princess needed this day to refuel and stock up the ship. We had a “sea day” while docked in San Antonio and I used it to familiarize myself with the ship’s amenities and to enjoy the warm weather on deck while I still could.

At 6 PM we finally set sail for points south.

coral princess antarctica cruise reviews

Day 3 and 4 – Jan. 22 and Jan. 23

Temp. 59 F.

At sea as planned.

Temperatures were getting noticeably cooler as we cruised further south. Day 4 was also the first formal night.

Enjoying the sea day in the hot tub on the Sapphire Princess

Day 5 – Jan. 24

Temp. 51 F; got colder as the day progressed and we continued further south.

Planned: day at Punta Arenas from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Because of the delay with embarkation and setting out from Valparaiso, the captain had announced on day 1 that we would be skipping the planned stop in Punta Arenas. We also sped up so that we could reach Ushuaia early in the morning in order to avoid the high winds that were predicted for the afternoon on the day of our arrival in Ushuaia.

Instead, Captain Todd provided a nice surprise as we sailed into the Straits of Magellan to avoid rough weather in the open ocean. As a result, we had a very pleasant day of scenic cruising through Chile’s Patagonia region with views of Tierra Del Fuego.

Cruising on the Sapphire Princess in the Strait of Magellan

The scenery was breathtaking, with snow capped peaks surrounding us on both side. Occasionally we had a glimpse of a hanging glacier or one that was marching its way into the ocean. This short introduction to Patagonia convinced me that I need to come back and spend a lot more time exploring this gorgeous scenery.

Day 6 – Jan. 25

Temp. 41 F, cloudy and raining in the afternoon.

Planned: afternoon and evening in Ushuaia, 12 PM to 8 PM.

We arrived in Ushuaia around 7 AM and stayed till 8 PM which gave us a much longer day in port than originally scheduled.

As soon as I boarded, I booked the Princess offered “ Penguin Rookery Navigation” excursion. Since we arrived in Ushuaia early, this worked out well because Princess adjusted the start time of the excursion accordingly.

Sapphire Princess docked in Ushuaia

The tour boat was docked at the same pier as our ship which made it very convenient. We cruised east along the Beagle Channel for about 5 hours, doing photo stops at some of the rock outcroppings that were home to imperial cormorants and sea lions. We also stopped at the popular Beagle Channel light house.

Cormorants and sea lions in the Beagle Channel

The ultimate goal was Isla Martillo, or Hammer Island, which was home to both Magellanic and Gentoo penguin colonies. Once we reached the island, the boat pulled up very close to shore and we got very good close up views of the many, many penguins that had made this broad beach their home.

My first view of Antarctica's Elephant Island

We watched the penguins for almost an hour and then headed back to town. Since it was raining and cold, I chose to go back on board early for a hot cup of tea and some scones.

Day 7 – Jan. 26

Temp. 39 F.

Planned: scenic cruising around Cape Horn.

The scenic cruising around Cape Horn was also cancelled due to high winds. Because of the weather, a local pilot could not get on and off the ship safely and the ship was not allowed to do this sailing without the experience of the local pilot on board.

We spent the day at sea crossing the famous (or infamous) Drake Passage. At first the waves were not too bad, about 2-3 feet, but by the end of the day, the waves reached about 10 feet in height.

Main course at the Chef's table dinner

It’s a good thing I am not bothered by sea sickness because this was the night I was schedule to partake in the Chef’s Table dinner which was fantastic.

Dessert at the Chef's table dinner

If you’ve never tried a Chef’s Table event, I highly recommend it. You need to put your name on the reservation list at guest services as soon as you board the ship. The dinner is served to only 10-12 guests a few times throughout the cruise. They will call you to let you know if you got one of the spots and on which night.

Day 8 – Jan. 27

Temp. 32 F, wind 15 mph, humidity 95%; overcast.

Planned: Antarctica scenic cruising – arrive 12 noon – see Elephant Island and Admiralty Bay.

Since we were not able to cruise around Cape Horn, our ship arrived at Elephant Island at about 7 AM. I was very excited to look out my window and get my first view of Antarctica!

My first views of Antarctica's elephant Island

Unfortunately, mother nature didn’t cooperate and only gave us foggy views. The captain kept us in the area for about two hours in case the weather got better, but when it became obvious that there would be no change, we moved on.

The Sapphire Princess continued cruising through Bransfield Strait to King George Island and into Admiralty Bay. King George Island has lots of research stations and penguins. Three species of penguins nest here-Chinstrap, Adelie, and Gentoo which you might be able to see with really strong binoculars. The bay is also home to three fjords and 7 named glaciers.

Scenery in Admiralty Bay

We reached Admiralty Bay around 5 PM. The weather was somewhat better with high clouds that allowed us to see the glaciers and the ice fields. The bay was quite calm as we cruised about 2 hours, taking in the spectacular views.

From the deck of the ship, it was quite hard to get a sense of how large the peaks and glaciers were. It was only when I saw a boat or a research station that the scale of the scenery became evident.

A research station is dwarfed by the surrounding mountains and glaciers

Day 9 – Jan. 28

Temp. 34 F wind 7.5 mph, humidity 92 %, a little light snow in the morning; overcast all day with high clouds; sun out all day.

Planned – Antarctica scenic cruising – Leave Bransfield Strait and plan to arrive in Charlotte Bay around 7 AM, crossing Gerlach Strait where we will see great scenery for around 1 to 1.5 hours beforehand. Then go to Wilhelmina Bay and try for Plata Passage.

What a wonderful day of scenic cruising this day was! Our actual itinerary was a little different than what the Captain originally wanted to do, but it was a spectacular day nonetheless.

Snow and ice in Wilhelmina Bay

Overnight, the Sapphire Princess had navigated further south along the Bransfield Strait and then into the Gerlach Strait. We did not go into Charlotte Bay, but instead we cruised around the bend into Wilhelmina Bay where we arrived at 8:30 AM.

For the next 4 hours, our ship glided slowly through the calm waters of the bay, This bay is also nick named Whale-helmina Bay and it certainly lived up to its reputation. We saw quite a few whales as we cruised, and even came upon a pair just hanging out near the surface, sleeping.

In Wilhelmina Bay

To say that the views were stunning is an understatement, and while I took a lot of photos, they don’t do it justice. This was the Antarctica I had come to see, and I was not disappointed.

Because the water was so calm, the Captain also took us into the Plata Passage, which was only the second time he was ever able to do this.

Cruising in the Plata Passage

At 12:30 we headed to our next destination, Neumayer Channel. We were expecting bad weather in this part of Antarctica the next day, so the Captain was taking advantage of the good conditions and showing us as much of the best scenery as possible.

Icebergs in Wilhelmina Bay

Day 10 -Jan. 29

Temp. 32 F, winds 35 mph, overcast, some light snow through the day.

Planned: Antarctica scenic cruising – go into Gerlache Strait where we may also see whales; then possibly go to Paradise Harbor. Later go through the Neumayer Channel where we will try to see Port Lockroy. Finally, continue through Bismarck Strait around Anverse Island.

A very bad storm in the Drake Passage was spilling over into our area and produced high winds and high waves. This meant that it was not safe for our ship to do any kind of scenic cruising near floating ice.

Instead, we had a bumpy day at sea as we cruised north along the wide Bransfield Strait. This was the roughest experience I have had on a big ship, and while it did not bother me, the captain did recommend that anyone prone to sea sickness should take their medication or remain in bed in their cabins.

Afternoon snack in the Piazza during sea day

Since it was cold, windy, and raining, the outside spaces were not usable, so all the indoor public spaces were very busy. The crew did a nice job planning other distractions, including three additional enrichment lectures.

On this cold and wet day, I took some time to enjoy the nice, warm  thermal suites in the spa which were actually not busy at all.  The thermal beds and steam rooms are located within the spa space and there is no additional fee to use them.

The thermal beds in the Spa on the Sapphire Princess

Day 11 – Jan. 30

Temp.  34 F winds, 23 mph, partly sunny in the morning; got lots windier as we went into the opean ocean; partly sunny most of the day.

Planned: Antarctica scenic cruising – arrive at Deception Island which is reached through a channel named Neptune’s Bellows. This is an active volcano and has the world’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins. In the afternoon start heading toward the Falkland Islands.

The weather did not cooperate for us to go to Deception Island, so we went to Elephant Island instead. The island is best known as the refuge for Ernest Shackleton and his crew after their ship the Endurance was crushed in the pack ice.

We reached Elephant Island around 7 in the morning and slowly cruised around the island until 9:30.  The scenery on the island was spectacular. There was one mountain after another with glaciers in between.

The beautiful scenery on Elephant Island

We then started crossing the Drake Passage toward the Falkland Islands. As we progressed through the channel the sea became rougher and we had 15 foot waves which made the boat quite rocky. It also made the second formal night a little harder to navigate while wearing heels.

Day 12 – Jan. 31

Temp. 48 F, winds 20 mph.

Today was a day at sea, as planned.

The Drake Passage was not too bad today – it was more of a Drake Lake than a Drake Shake. The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the Drake Lake, which was in itself an unusual event.

Sunset over the Drake Passage

Day 13 – Feb. 1

Temp. 60 F, beautiful sunny day but got windy in the afternoon and a little cloudy.

Planned: Port Stanley, Falkland Islands from 8 AM to to 6 PM.

The Sapphire Princess reached Port Stanley early in the morning as planned. This was a tender port and I picked up my ticket for the tender at 8:15. However, I did not actually get on the tender till almost 10. The wind kicked up and made it slow going for the tenders to get to shore.

Enjoying breakfast in the Piazza while waiting to get on the tender boat

The Falkland Islands are known for their penguin population. In fact, during the breeding season I was told there are 300 penguins for each person on the island.

Princess had a number of excursions to see the various penguin colonies. There are also many penguin tour options that you can book on your own. However, I booked my cruise late, and all the organized tours were fully booked.

King penguins on the Falkland

As it turned out, I did not need a tour. I had a wonderful day seeing three different types of penguins all on my own!

Port Stanley has a bus that transfers you in 20 minutes from the port to Gypsy Cove and then back. At Gypsy cove I saw three different species of penguins: Magellanic, King, and Gentoos.

Magellanic penguins on the Falkland Islands

The Magellanic penguins had made their nests in the ground on the hillside above the sandy cove. While mom and dad were out fishing, the juveniles were hanging out near their nests, just as curious about us as we were about them.

On the other side of the sandy cove I found a small group of juvenile King penguins, regally standing there, being admired by the tourists as they plucked the molting feathers off their bodies.

King penguin preening itself on the Falkland Islands

A few hundred feet away, there was a rookery of juvenile Gentoo penguins. Though most of these little guys and gals were sleeping lazily in the sand while the parents were away fishing, some were interacting with each other, totally oblivious to our presence.

I easily spent three hours here, happily observing all the penguin shenanigans on the warm and sunny beach. The Gentoos and their antics were especially fun to watch. But, once the wind started kicking up, I headed back to the pier (via the bus).

Gentoo penguins on the Falkland Islands

As the afternoon progressed, it got quite windy and a little more overcast. The winds were giving the tender boats a hard time as they slowly motored their way back to the Sapphire Princess. There was a line waiting to get onto the tender boats, but eventually, we all got on board and the ship was able to sail on, though a little later than originally scheduled.

Day 14 – Feb. 2

Temp. 62 F; sunny but windy.

Day at sea as planned.

This day was my birthday and I spent it by getting pampered like a princess. I slept in and then had a delicious room service brunch.

room service brunch on the Sapphire Princess

I followed this up with an afternoon at the spa, getting a facial, using the thermal beds and sauna and also the hot tub. I then enjoyed an afternoon tea snack with a view before getting dressed up for formal night.

This was the third formal night and the evening festivities started with the Captain’s Circle cocktail party. I followed this with a delicious dinner at Sabatini’s where the staff brought me a special cake while singing (embarrassingly) happy birthday very loudly and exuberantly.

A glorious sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

The night ended with a glorious sunset, a lively show in the theater, and a final cocktail with music in the Piazza.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a better birthday! There is nothing better than living like a princess on a Princess ship!

Day 15 – Feb. 3

Temp. 66 F.

Another relaxing day at sea as planned, taking advantage of the ship’s facilities; especially Movies Under the Stars now that it was warmer again.

Watching Movies Under the Stars

Day 16 – Feb. 4

Planned: Montevideo, Uruguay from 8 AM to 5 PM.

We docked as scheduled at the port in Montevideo. From the pier it was an easy 10 minute walk to the pedestrian friendly area near the port with lots of meat serving BBQ restaurants in the Puerto Market.

In Plaza Independencia in Montevideo

I am always on the lookout for excursions that I could not easily set up on my own and I think I found it in Montevideo. I signed up for the Princess “Montevideo and Carnival Excursion” which drove us to see the main sights in Montevideo and then ended at the Carnival Museum.

A few of the Carnival costumes on display at the Carnival Museum in Montevideo

After learning a little about the history of the costumes on display in the museum, we were treated to a unique Murga performance just for our group. Murga is a type of musical theater that is special to Uruguay, especially Montevideo, and is only performed during Carnival season from late January to early March. Our show was on the stage inside the museum which was made to look like one of the local neighborhood stages.

Murga performance in Montevideo

The troop was made up of 13 vocalists, 3 percussionists and a leader. Performances are usually on community stages which are called tablados.  The performers were dressed up in wild, colorful costumes and their faces were also elaborately painted.

For about 30 minutes we were treated to this typically local musical style which was very different from anything I had ever heard before. After the performers finished their show, they invited us all to also get dressed up and take part in the singing and dancing which was a lot of fun.

Murga performance in Montevideo

The nice thing was that the Carnival Museum was very close to the pier where we were docked, so it was easy to walk back to the ship after I explored the area a little more.

Love being greeted with cold drinks

Day 17 – Feb. 5

In the early morning I disembarked in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

My cruise was over, but my holiday was not. I was flying on to spend a few days in the Iguazu area to see the famous waterfalls.

Best spots for Antarctica photography on the Sapphire Princess

One of the things I really liked about the Sapphire Princess was how much outdoor deck space there was for all the guests to use during the Antarctica scenic cruising days. The Promenade level and the Sun level had outdoor deck spaces that wrapped around almost the entire ship.

As I wandered about taking photos, I found the following locations to be some of the best for photography:

  • Front of Deck 8 which is the upper level of the Promenade Deck.  This area puts you closer to water level and more eye to eye with the icebergs. It is also covered which makes it a good spot if it is raining or snowing. However, since it is at the front of the ship it can also be more windy and more bouncy.

Sapphire Princess deck 8

  • On the front of Deck 15 there is an observation area on top of the bridge that is accessed by a few stairs. This gives you full, unimpeded views looking forward and at a higher level, so you will be looking down at the ice and any wildlife. Because this space is completely open it is also windier and will feel colder.

Viewpoint over the bridge on deck 15 on the Sapphire Princess

  • My favorite spot was the back on Deck 16 in the area called The Oasis. This space was more protected, so it wasn’t as windy. It was also usually less crowded and it also provided easy access to both the port and starboard sides so I could easily walk from one side to another for photos.

Deck 16

  • The middle of deck 15 also had a lot of open railing space but it tended to be busier.

Deck 16 on the Sapphire Princess

  • For the best indoor views, Skywalkers Lounge on deck 17 aft provided the best option.

View from Skywalker's Nightclub

To help you get your best Antarctica photos, I have put together a list of 19 Antarctica Photography Tips for All Skill Levels .

Antarctica packing list

I am sharing my list of what I packed specifically for the Antarctica portion of the trip. Packing for this cruise was somewhat more challenging than usual since I needed clothes that spanned a temperature range of 32 F to 90 F.

I needed warm weather clothing for a tropical climate, comfy clothes for sea days on the ship, nicer clothes for dinners, a formal outfit, and all the extra cold weather clothes for Antarctica. And it had to all fit into one 26 inch checked bag (and a small carry on for miscellaneous items).  Yes – I managed it.

My key to packing for the cold weather was merino wool which kept me dry and warm and did not take up a lot of space.

1 pair merino wool long underwear 

1 pair fleece lined hiking pants 

2 long sleeve merino zip up turtlenecks

1 fleece pullover

1 pair merino wool glove liners

1 pair convertible gloves

1 wool hat 

1 wool neck gaiter

4 pair wool hiking socks – Kirkland brand from Costco

1 pair fleece lined Minnetonka shoes

1 pair warm winter boots – Lands End

1 mid length puffy coat with a hood – Lands End

I was fortunate in that I already had all these items from previous cold weather trips to Alaska and Wyoming. I ended up not wearing the boots and only needing the fleece Minnetonka shoes which kept my feet very warm while I was outside on deck all day.

selfie in Antarctica

What I loved about this Princess Antarctica cruise

  • The scenery in Antarctica was incredibly beautiful.
  • I couldn’t get enough of the penguins on the Falkland Islands.
  • I really appreciated the captain’s full transparency about what we were doing and why. His daily briefings were more detailed than those on any other ship I have been on.
  • The quantity and variety of enrichment programs.
  • Plenty of open deck space for everyone that wanted to be outside. It never felt crowded.
  • The Chef’s Table dinner was fantastic.
  • Compared to expeditions cruises, this one was much easier on the travel budget.

I booked this cruise expecting to cross Antarctica from my bucket list. Instead, it only whetted my appetite and made me want to see more. I think there will be at least one more trip to the white continent for me in the future.

In the meantime, I too am now an Antarctic ambassador.

Become an Antarctica ambassador

If you are interested in a Princess Antarctica and South America cruise similar to the one I did on the Sapphire Princess, please visit the Princess cruises website .

Please note that I received a media upgrade from Princess cruises. All Content is my own.

Other Princess cruising stories you may like:

My favorite photos from my Antarctica cruise: Penguins, and Ice, and So Much More – My Favorite Antarctica Cruise Photos

How to see the penguins on the Falkland Islands: An Unforgettable Day With the Falkland Island Penguins

My favorite Norway cruise photos : Beautiful Storybook Norway Photos to Inspire Your Next Trip

Thanks for visiting.

My post shares my experiences on a Princess cruise to Antarctica.

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Traveler Reviews

A ship’s traveler rating is provided under license by , which manages one of the largest databases of cruise reviews and ratings by travelers. A total of 822 guests have reviewed Coral Princess , giving it a rating of 4 on a scale of 1-5.

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Reviews by traveler type, most recent reviews.

28-Night Round Australia Cruise

Dec 29th, 2023

Overall, this circumnavigation cruise of Australia took us to amazing destinations in a more efficient manner than flying from place to place...and we only had to unpack once!

Traveler Type


Dec 26th, 2023

PRINCESS MEDALLION CLASS: THE SO-CALLED PRINCESS MEDALLION CLASS (SYSTEM) IS MANDATORY AND APPEARS TO BE A SCAM AND A LICENCE FOR PRINCESS TO PRINT MONEY AT YOUR EXPENSE. ANY STAFF MEMBER CAN CHARGE ANY AMOUNT TO YOUR ACCOUNT AT ANY TIME – YOU CANNOT SIGN FOR ANY CHARGES AND YOU DO NOT GET A COPY OF, OR ANY DETAILS OF ANY ITEMS CHARGED TO YOUR ACCOUNT ! We queried 8 or 9 items on our bill and most were acknowledged AS BOGUS AND WERE WITHDRAWN ! The MEDALLION appears to also used to spy on you – THEY USE IT TO KNOW EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU’RE DOING AT ALL TIMES ! THE FOOD: THE FOOD AT THE CAFETERIA (HORIZONS) IS THE BEST OF A VERY AVERAGE LOT ON THE SHIP. HERE YOU WILL FIND THE MOST CHOICES PLUS THE FOOD QUALITY, WHILST VERY AVERAGE, IS BY FAR SUPERIOR TO THAT IN THE DINING ROOMS. The food we were served in the dining rooms was RATHER PATHETIC BOTH IN CHOICE AND QUALITY. THE SHIP: The old, drab and poorly-designed ship Coral Princess is way past its “Use by” date and in our opinion, should have been scrapped or sunk years ago. THE CABINS: We had a “mini-suite” on deck 11 and found it VERY SMALL, POKEY AND DRAB IN APPEARANCE. I need to use a walker for balance and mobility reasons and our cabin doorway was so narrow, I WAS FORCED TO FOLD MY WALKER UP EACH TIME JUST TO GET IT INTO OUR CABIN. The bed was comfortable but THE PILLOWS WERE PITIFUL. THERE WAS ONLY ONE TINY GRAB RAIL IN THE SHOWER. IT IS QUITE A CHALLENGE TO HAVE A SHOWER WITHOUT ALSO HAVING A SERIOUS FALL, IF YOU ARE ELDERLY OR UNSTEADY ON YOUR FEET. EXCURSIONS (Princess organised) We went on the “Devonport Village & Auckland’s North Shore” Princess excursion. After driving around for a little over 3 hours, I asked the driver if we could stop for food or at least a drink. I advised him that, as a diabetic, I needed to have food or at least a drink every 3 hours. His reply was “I AM CONTRACTED BY PRINCESS TO DRIVE YOU AROUND FOR 3 ½ HOURS AND THAT’S WHAT I’M GOING TO DO” When other passengers also asked about a food/drink stop, the driver’s response was “I’VE NEVER HAD SUCH A GRUMPY LOT OF OLD BASTARDS AS YOU LOT” However, he drove us to a wharf with shops and stated “Everyone who wants food or drink, get off here. About half the passengers got off the bus there. When I asked him how we would get back to the ship, his reply was “THAT’S YOUR PROBLEM” After having a snack and a drink, we managed to catch a ferry across the harbour and return to the ship As a result of this experience, my wife then immediately cancelled all other booked excursions except the “TE PAPA MUSEUM AND CABLE CAR” in Wellington, as soon as she returned to the ship. THE STAFF: Our cabin steward seemed to try hard but was very forgetful and WE HAD TO OFTEN ASK EVEN FOR BASICS. On the positive side, we did ENCOUNTER SOME AMAZING STAFF (ESPECIALLY THOSE FROM BRAZIL AND INDIA). THEY HAD AN EXCELLENT “NOTHING WAS A PROBLEM ATTITUDE” ACCOMPANIED BY A MARVELLOUS SMILE AND WERE ALWAYS COMPETENT, POLITE, COURTEOUS AND RESPECTFUL. SMOKING AREAS: If you are a smoker, don’t even consider a cruise on this ship ! There are ONLY TWO SMOKING AREAS – tiny wind and rain-swept areas out on deck, at either end of the ship. The one at the front of the ship is on deck 15 that is ACCESSIBLE ONLY BY A STEEP FLIGHT OF STAIRS ! SMOKING IN THE PURPOSE-BUILT FOR SMOKING, CHURCHILL CIGAR LOUNGE IS NOW BANNED – I wonder whose stupid idea that was ! ROOM SERVICE: We used room service on 3 occasions. Each time or order was ridiculously incomplete – ABSOLUTELY INCOMPETENT AND HOPELESS ! First day: They sent one cup only and no sugar even though two teas with sugar were ordered ! Second day: They sent one cup only again and no butter or marmalade which was again specifically ordered ! Third day: No toast or butter was received even though again these were specifically ordered ! I MEAN HOW HARD IS IT TO ASSEMBLE TEA AND TOAST FOR TWO ? DISEMBARKATION AND LUGGAGE HANDLING: They managed to COMPLETELY TRASH AND RIP OUR SUIT BAG (see pic below) containing tuxedo and reefer jacket on the journey between our cabin and the luggage collection are onshore.

A Great Time was had

Sep 15th, 2023

This was a cruise to nowhere for us....just wanted to see friends and family up north, and to generally veg during our time away. It was really relaxing. I enjoyed catching up with some ex Navy types. Shopping for pressies was fun too.

2-3 cruises

Another great cruise from Princess!

May 21st, 2023

This is one cruise everyone need to do! Panama Transit.

Cruise of a lifetime

Apr 25th, 2023

This was one of the best cruises I have experienced from a overall service, quality of food and entertainment and destination perspective. All of the ship staff we engaged with were courteous and professional and wanted to ensure we had the best experience possible. We met a number of folks on the ship and all were very friendly and polite. Originally we thought this was once in a lifetime for us, however we would go back if we have the chance.

An amazing cruise as always

Feb 21st, 2023

Yet another amazing experience with the only downside being so many old entitled people. The staff were all amazing

Large Group

Brisbane -New Zealand Return

Feb 20th, 2023

Beautiful ship with loads of space and plenty of pool choices. Well looked after by medical, guest and room services after hubby tested positive on 12th and myself on the 17th. Reimbursed drinks packages for the isolation days and missed 2 x ports.

Great cruise

Dec 1st, 2022

Great to get away again on a cruise to someware hot and a beautiful place with great beach to swim and snorkel worth going too

Inaugural Season Transition to Alaska

Nov 21st, 2022

Short 2 night cruise up to Vancouver for the weekend, then flew back to SFO after a few days. It was a wonderful ship, the food was great, the entertainment was also good

Sep 29th, 2022

Had a great time on this 4 day cruise on Coral Princess. Everything went really well and can't wait to cruise again.

Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by

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South America & Antarctica Cruises

Experience rhythms, passions and natural splendor.

Indulge in a feast for the senses on an epic South America cruise with Princess®. Feel the rhythm of more than a thousand years of history and culture while savoring an incredible variety of regional cuisine. Marvel at captivating views of the legendary Amalia Glacier, make friends with the famous Falkland Island penguins and sail to the very bottom of the world with our all-new Antarctica cruise itineraries. Spectacular monuments, stunning natural beauty and one-of-a-kind experiences from ship to shore will both inspire and surprise you. Enjoy the adventure and excitement of a South America cruise and come back new®.

South America Cruises

Journey outside San Antonio and discover a world of history and culture. Revel in the sights of Viña del Mar, known as the “Chilean Riviera.” Sip and savor the sun-kissed wine regions of Casablanca and Maipo. And watch a thrilling Chilean rodeo followed by a traditional meal.

Antarctica Cruise Vacations

Visit the most isolated continent on Earth on an Antarctica cruise. This rugged landscape is some 1,200 miles long, and reaches beyond the Antarctic Circle. Sail along glacial waters and enjoy views of Elephant Island, Antarctic Sound and Gerlache Strait. From your balcony stateroom, marvel at glaciers and icebergs along the peninsula that have been carved into unique shapes by the wind and waves.

South America Cruisetours

One of the great cities of the world, Buenos Aires blends European elegance, cowboy culture and the sultry sounds of the tango. See Belle Époque palaces and visit Recoleta Cemetery before departing for such storied ports as Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia.

Why Cruise to South America & Antarctica?

South America cruise highlights

Antarctica & Cape Horn

You’ll experience the distinct cultural offerings of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Punta Arenas and Santiago — and witness the unforgettable beauty of Cape Horn and Antarctica.

Cape Horn & Strait of Magellan

Set sail on an amazing voyage around the legendary Cape Horn, embodying the determined spirit of the sailors who made the historic voyage in years past aboard small clipper ships. Along the way, your cruise highlights will include an encounter with the icy wonder that is the Amalia Glacier, and abundant wildlife. After embarking from Santiago or Buenos Aires, you’ll visit a plethora of unforgettable ports.

Brazilian adventure

Sail along the eastern coast of South America, highlighted by red cliffs, untouched beaches and dense rainforests of Brazil and wind your way through the Caribbean. With an overnight stay in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll have a chance to taste traditional Brazillian cuisine and visit historic sites such as the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain.

South America Cruisetour Vacations

5 to 6-day land tours for South America

Iguazu Falls

Stand in the presence of a waterfall taller and wider than Niagara Falls: Iguazú Falls. Experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site from both Brazil and Argentina, then gaze up at Rio de Janeiro’s revered Christ the Redeemer statue and iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Machu Picchu explorer

Touch the clouds over dramatic Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”. Tour ancient fortresses in the Incan capital of Cusco and view the extravagant architecture of the Historic Center of Lima – all three Peru highlights are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

2024-2025 South America & Antarctica New Cruise Itineraries. Learn more

South America and Antarctica Travel Articles

Explore the world-class wines, cuisine, and rhythm of the most diverse continent on the planet on a cruise to South America.

Explore Chile's Pristine Coastline on a South America Cruise

A selection of Chile's highlights that can be explored as part of a South  America cruise.

Explore the History of Chile on Your Next South America Cruise

Explore the rich history of Chile on your next South America cruise, journeying through sand dunes, islands, cities, and mountains.

Cruise to South America to Experience Buenos Aires, the Cultural Capital of Latin America

Experience Buenos Aires, a world-famous city for dancing, dining, and rich  colonial history, on your next cruise to South America.

2 Attractions to Visit on South American Vacations

There's no shortage of evocative sights to behold on South American  vacations. Two can't-miss attractions include Tijuca National Park and Tambo Colorado.

Travel, Airfare, & Hotels: Let Princess Get You There

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Remove the hassle from air travel and give yourself the gift of flexibility, time and a thicker wallet with Princess EZair flights. We negotiate lower rates with the airlines, allow you to modify your flight up to 45 days prior with no penalty and protect you if your flight is late or canceled.

EZair flight quotes are available on our cruise search result details pages.

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Let Princess pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your ship or hotel when you arrive, even if you didn't book your airfare through us. A uniformed Princess representative meets you at the airport after you've retrieved your luggage and transports you directly to your ship or hotel without you having to worry about the logistics of navigating a new city.

Cruise Plus Hotel Packages

Stay longer and relax

Extend your cruise vacation, and simplify your travel plans with a hotel stay at the beginning or end of your cruise. With a Cruise Plus Hotel Package, a Princess representative meets you at the airport and pier, transporting you to and from your hotel. The package includes the cost of your hotel stay, transportation, luggage handling and the services of the representative.

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