From December 2021, Silversea will offer its passengers an Antarctica Bridge Program, which will facilitate fast-track travel to the seventh continent.
Silversea will work with a local partner, Antarctic Airways, which offers business-like air services to the frozen continent.
Travelers will fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands. This will save passengers a total of four days at sea and create shorter, nine-night holiday options to discover Antarctica.
Conrad Combrink, Silversea cruises’ senior vice president of expeditions, tour operations and destination management is the mastermind behind the initiative.
“With the growth of our fleet and the expedition industry, I’m always looking for ways to enhance our product offering. Antarctica Bridge was almost an easy one for us to decide. I looked at fly-cruise, which only a few other companies do. We’re not inventing fly-cruise; it’s been done for a while already, but I realized that there’s not a single luxury operator doing it. So, over the past year I started working with Antarctic Airways, our local partner, and they are the only company that has aircraft capable of operating this unique experience,” Combrink said during an interview on the Silversea blog.
The flight from South America to Antarctica takes less than two hours.
“For me, having been in the expedition industry for over 20-odd years, to get on a plane and fly down to Antarctica is quite amazing,” he added.
Antarctica Airways uses BAe 146 airplanes, built for short runways. The aircraft have been adapted for the gravel runway in Antarctica by adding rubber protection to the belly and the landing gear. Combrink said that the pilots are “former Chilean navy, with more than 10,000 hours of flying time.”
Silversea’s program will offer an exclusive experience, as out of the around 50,000 people who travel to Antarctica as tourists every year, only a few thousand of them do so by plane. The service onboard will be premium and customized by Silversea, with the planes bearing the cruise line’s logo and cabin crew in the Silversea uniform.
“The program is going to appeal to the traveler who has limited time, who wants to reduce the amount of time that they are away from home but would like to still have the full Antarctica experience. Or, it will appeal to the traveler that maybe wants to make a wider South American trip and only wants to dedicate 4-5 days to Antarctica,” Combrink pointed out.
Silversea has 12 departures for Antarctica Bridge and the program is only available on the Silver Explorer.
“We just simply don’t have the airlift to offer it on Silver Cloud or Silver Wind where we have larger passenger numbers. And we can use two, maximum three aircraft to fly to Antarctica, and with Silver Wind or Silver Cloud you’d need more,” he added
Also in 2021, Silversea will be launching its first-ever expedition World Cruise, on the Silver Cloud.