Expedition Cruise Lines Weigh Antarctica Season Adjustments

The 2021-2022 Antarctica cruise season should be kicking off from Ushuaia, Argentina, in October, but with Argentina closed to cruise traffic, operators are quickly planning for alternative scenarios.

In the 2021 Cruise Industry News Expedition Market Report, a number of brands outlined back-up and contingency planning options. 

Silversea has already shifted one ship to Puerto Williams in Chile, taking its reliance off Argentina. 

Most cruise operators believe that Ushuaia may allow operations under a bubble scenario, with cruise lines having to use charter flights. Other options, moving outside of Ushuaia, include homeporting in Punta Arenas or Puerto Williams in Chile.

“It’s wait and see, a constant job of monitoring developments. We are making projections and adjusting plans,” said Francesco Contini, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Antarctica21, which operates a fly-cruise seasonal expedition program.

Contini said he was concerned about the 2021-2022 season, and despite positive developments in Chile, where the company flies guests into, it still needs Argentina to launch its season and help provision ships.

“In this industry you need a plan A all the way down to Z,” added John McKeon, president of Polar Latitudes, which will operate the Seaventure this coming season. “We have a plan to use charter flights out of Santiago.”

Should the industry get the green light guests would fly into the Chilean city, overnight in a hotel, and then board a charter flight for Ushuaia.

“It’s a bit complicated – it’s not undoable. We are pretty good at logistics – we can sort this out,” McKeon continued. “What we need is clarity on what the rule is going to be.”

If Argentina remains closed, the plan is to homeport in Punta Arenas in Chile, which adds a bit of sailing time and fuel burn to Antarctica trips.

“We have a parallel season setup out of Chile. We have one season out of Ushuaia, and one out of Punta Arenas. We can do either one or we can pivot and change as needed.

 

 

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