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Emblematic Antarctica
A trip to Antarctica is a bucket-list adventure for many, and with Ponant’s years of experience as the leader in polar expeditions, the company is an obvious choice when it comes time to book your cruise to the frozen white continent. Their 11-day Emblematic Antarctica itinerary hits the highlights—a crossing of the famous, or infamous, Drake Passage; two of the Antarctica Peninsula’s most stunning ports of call, Neko Harbor and Paradise Bay; the flooded caldera of Deception Island; and the maze of icebergs in the Weddell Sea. The ship’s captain and crew are also experts at making sure that you see the wildlife that is one of the prime reasons to visit Antarctica: its seals, whales, and, perhaps the popular favorite, the iconic penguins. 

The journey is aboard the intimate 122-room Le Lyrial, which, like all of Ponant’s ships, combines the feel of a private yacht with the amenities of a larger ship—with two restaurants, an open-air bar, a panoramic lounge, and a spa complete with a hammam. You may be following in the footsteps of some of history’s most fearless explorers as you sail to Antarctica, but it will be in a luxury they could only dream of. 

Note: This itinerary is subject to ice and weather conditions. The expedition highlights and itinerary described here illustrate possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed.
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    Day 1
    You’ll board your ship in Ushuaia, which sits on a broad bay along the Beagle Channel at the southern tip of Argentina—it is the southernmost city anywhere in the world, in fact. The snow-capped Martial Mountains loom over the colorful houses of this city at the end of the world. Depending on your interests, you may want to visit the appropriately named End of the World Museum, which covers some 8,000 years of natural and human history, from the indigenous Yámana and Selk’nam peoples to later explorers and merchants who sailed around the tip of South America over the centuries. If you want to venture into the Tierra del Fuego National Park, a heritage railway with steam locomotives departs from Ushuaia. Originally built in the early 20th century to transport prisoners, it was reconstructed in 1994 to offer travelers a glimpse of the soaring peaks of the park while catering to them with champagne and meal service.

    At the end of your day exploring Ushuaia, you’ll board Le Lyrial and depart on your adventure to Antarctica and the islands along the Antarctica Peninsula.
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    Days 2 and 3
    Drake Passage
    The Drake Passage, which separates South America from Antarctica, is one of the most famous or perhaps more accurately, infamous, bodies of water in the world. The passage takes its name from the English explorer Sir Francis Drake—one of his ships was blown south into it in 1578, though it would be almost another 40 years before anyone would sail along its length from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. (The Dutch explorer Willem Schouten was the first to make that journey, in 1616.)

    Today it still presents a challenge to navigators as the so-called “furious fifties” winds blow through at such force that it is often impossible for some ships to make any progress. The passage is also, however, an area of remarkable biodiversity with a variety of wildlife drawn to the places where the cold currents of Antarctica meet warmer ones coming down from the north, and seabirds including albatrosses and cape petrels circle above as they feed on the fish that are abundant here. You can also be assured that despite the often rough conditions, the crew of Le Lyrial and the state-of-the-art ship will make the sailing as smooth as possible.
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    Day 4
    Neko Harbor and Paradise Bay
    Your first stop on Antarctica is Neko Harbor. Sitting beneath a towering glacier, this landing spot is frequently described as one of the most beautiful places on the continent. Although it was first discovered by a Belgian expedition led by Adrien de Gerlache, it takes its name from the Neko, a Norwegian ship that visited here at the beginning of the 20th century. You’ll head out on a Zodiac excursion with opportunities to see some of the remarkably diverse animals that are drawn to Neko Harbor. Seabirds common here include gulls, cape petrels, and cormorants while marine mammals include seals and orcas and other species of whales. Exploring the harbor by Zodiac also allows passengers to get close to the icebergs and visit a nearby penguin colony.

    Later in the day, you’ll continue on to Paradise Bay. It is hard to imagine a natural harbor much more spectacular than this one, surrounded by glacial peaks that rise dramatically from the sea. While the bay was first discovered and named by whalers, visitors today come only to admire and not hunt the humpbacks that congregate here, along with gentoo penguins, Antarctic cormorants, leopard seals, and sheathbills. During your Zodiac excursion, you’ll also have a chance to explore the Almirante Brown station, built and maintained by Argentina and used by research scientists during the summer.
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    Day 5
    Pleneau Island and Port Charcot
    You’ll start today at Pleneau Island, named for Paul Pléneau the photographer on a French expedition from 1903 to 1905 led by J.B. Charcot. Just under a mile long, the island is often surrounded by icebergs in shades from white to blue, and every hue in between. Much of the surface of the island is coated in red algae which contrasts with the white snow. The island has large populations of gentoo penguins, elephant seals, and fur seals, all waiting to be photographed.

    J.B. Charcot, the leader of the 1903 to 1905 expedition, named your next stop, Port Charcot, after his father, the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. There are still remains of Charcot’s stone cabin that you can visit when you go ashore—he conducted important studies on magnetism while on the island. Nearby is a colony of gentoo penguins and if you are feeling ambitious, you can climb to the summit of the island to take in the views of the island and the icebergs scattered across the bay.
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    Day 6
    Port Lockroy
    Today you’ll visit Port Lockroy, a natural harbor on Wiencke Island, the southernmost island of the Palmer Archipelago. The island has long been home to research stations maintained by a number of different countries, and while Port Lockroy was first discovered by Charcot, it later was used as a British military base and is now home to a research station maintained by the United Kingdom. It’s one of the most popular ports in part because of the museum located here which provides a glimpse of life in an Antarctica research station in the 1950s. There’s even a small gift shop if you want to buy a souvenir and a post office where you can send postcards to friends back home from the southernmost post office in the world.
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    Day 7
    Deception Island
    Deception Island which is in the South Shetlands archipelago off of the northern tip of the Antarctica Peninsula gets its name because, at first glance, it looks like any other island, but in the center of it there is a bay. The island is a volcano with a collapsed caldera at its heart that is one of the most sheltered harbors in the region. That made it an appealing place for whalers to establish stations, and abandoned sheds and equipment are reminders of that period in the island’s history. It is now home to Chilean and Argentinian research stations, as well as the largest colony of chinstrap penguins on the Antarctica Peninsula, as well as elephant and fur seals.
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    Day 8
    Weddell Sea
    The Weddell Sea sits between the east coast of the Antarctica Peninsula and the east coast of Coats Land. The sea at its widest point is roughly 1,200 miles and its total area extends for more than one million square miles. An ice shelf covers much of the sea year-round, but in that part that is navigable, it’s dotted with icebergs—that the captain of Le Lyrial is an expert at navigating. You’ll be able to spot fur seals and penguins atop many of the icebergs, as well as albatrosses and other seabirds. The Weddell seal is common here and is known for its haunting cry that carries far in this otherwise silent seascape. According to old sailors’ tales, green-haired mermen can be spotted in the unusually crystalline clear waters of the sea, but Ponant is unable to promise any sightings of them.
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    Days 9 and 10
    Sail to Ushuaia
    After touring the Weddell Sea, you will return across the Drake Passage back to South America. This also gives you an opportunity to organize your photos from your trip and gather email addresses from new friends you have made onboard. Most staterooms have balconies where you can watch seabirds circling the ship. Whether you want to make use of the library, fitness center, or spa, you’ll have two days to enjoy life aboard your private yacht meets expedition ship.
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    Day 11
    Disembark in Ushuaia
    Your cruise ends today when Le Lyrial returns to Ushuaia. You can then choose to either travel home, via Buenos Aires, or continue exploring by extending your trip with a four-night “Patagonia, Land of Contrasts” itinerary that includes stays in El Calafete and Torres del Paine National Park. Ponant can also arrange post-cruise extensions in Buenos Aires, if you want to explore Argentina’s sophisticated and fascinating capital.