Photographer and group of emperor penguins on pack ice

Emperor penguins

Emperor penguins, largest of all penguin species, breed on the stable pack ice near the coast of Antarctica.  Around 80,000 pairs breed in the Ross Sea area.

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The Ross Sea route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $24,950  
Length: 32 days
Arrive: Bluff, New Zealand
Depart: Ushuaia, Argentina
Lodging: 31 nights aboard a deluxe expedition ship
Meals: All meals aboard ship included
Activity: Wildlife & Natural History, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level: 32-day expedition cruise, nature walks on uneven ground, Zodiac cruising with wet landings, often rough seas and cold weather


  • Visit Scott and Shackleton’s sites from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration
  • Experience the wonder of the massive Ross Ice Shelf, visit teeming penguin rookeries
  • Explore by Zodiac with expert Antarctic naturalists

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Voyage deep into the wild Ross Sea to explore a rarely visited wilderness that holds some of the most evocative sites from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration along with incredible wildlife, spectacular ice cliffs, and massive icebergs. Scott and Amundsen’s race to the South Pole began in this stunning realm, and aboard the Ortelius, we navigate to historic sites such as Scott’s 1911 Terra Nova Hut. Helicopter excursions allow us to land on the Ross Ice Shelf itself. As we explore this glittering ice world, regal emperor penguins, throngs of Adelie penguins, and Weddell and leopard seals are all around us.


Days 1-2
Bluff, New Zealand / At Sea

Arrive in Bluff, embark aboard the Ortelius, and spend the next day at sea as we sail to Campbell Island

Day 3
Campbell Island

Campbell Island is a sub-Antarctic New Zealand Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a luxuriant and blooming vegetation. The fauna on Campbell Island is fantastic with a large and easily accessible colony of southern royal albatrosses on the main island and breeding wandering, Campbell, greyheaded, blackbrowed, and lightmantled sooty albatrosses on the satellite islands. Also three penguin species, eastern rockhopper, erect-crested and yellow-eyed penguins breed here. In the 18th century, seals were hunted to extinction, but elephant seals, fur seals, and sea lions have recovered.

Days 4-6
At Sea / Scott Island

At sea en route to Scott Island. Our naturalists offer fascinating presentations on Antarctica’s wildlife and exploration lore as we pass by the island and work our way through the sea ice at the entrance of the Ross Sea.

Day 9
Cape Adare

Cape Adare is the place where people for the very first time wintered on the Antarctic Continent. The hut where the Norwegian Borchgrevink stayed in 1899 is surrounded by a large colony of Adélie penguins, which are now in autumn moult.

Days 10-11
Cape Hallett and Drygalski Ice Tongue

Sailing southward along the west coast of the Ross Sea, we pass by Cape Hallett, the Italian base in Terra Nova Bay that operates a summer research station, and the Drygalski Ice Tongue, habitat of emperor penguins.

Days 12-16
Huts of Scott and Shackleton

In the Ross Sea we intend to visit Ross Island, guarded by Mount Erebus, Mount Terror, and Mount Byrd with all the famous spots that played such an important role in the dramatic British expeditions of the last century, such as Cape Royds with the cabin of Ernest Shackleton. We also intend to visit Cape Evans with the cabin of Robert Falcon Scott; from Hut Point, Scott and his men set out for the South Pole. We will further make attempts to visit the US-station McMurdo and Scott Base (New Zealand). If ice and weather conditions are favorable, we will use the helicopters to offer landings. From Castle Rock we will have a great view across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. We will have a view into Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, where on our planet you are closest to the conditions on Mars. For the Dry Valleys we plan to use our helicopters. This is just one example of helicopter use during this epic voyage.

Days 17-18
At Sea / Helicopter Landing

We sail east along the Ross Ice Shelf, a plateau of snow-topped glacial ice the size of France. The following day we intend to offer a helicopter landing on the Ross Ice Shelf itself. In the Bay of Whales at the eastern side of the shelf, close to Roosevelt Island (named by the American aviator Richard E. Byrd in 1934 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt), Roald Amundsen gained access to the Shelf and ventured to the South Pole, where he finally arrived on December 14, 1911. Also, the Japanese explore Nobu Shirase had his camp in this area at Kainan Bay in 1912. For us it is a chance to be flown to the ice shelf.

Days 19-24
Amundsen Sea

We sail through the Amundsen Sea along and through the outer fringes of the pack ice that—depending on ice-conditions—will give us glimpses of the Antarctic Continent, while we take advantage of the west-going Antarctic coastal current. The sailing along and through the ice is very lively, with sightings of single straggling emperor penguins, groups of seals on ice floes, and also orcas and minke whales along the ice edge, often accompanied by different species of fulmarine petrels.

Day 25
Peter I Island

Peter I Island is an uninhabited, 11-mile-long volcanic island in the Bellingshausen Sea. It was discovered by von Bellingshausen in 1821 and was named after the Russian Tsar Peter I. It is claimed by Norway and considered a territory of its own. It is sporadically visited by passenger vessels. On earlier landings we saw groups of elephant seals and colonies of southern fulmars and Cape pigeons.

Days 26-29
At Sea / Antarctic Peninsula

After two days cruising through the Bellingshausen Sea, we arrive in the Antarctic Peninsula. We plan to visit Fish Island and Detaille Island, sail through Penola Strait, visit Petermann Island and Pléneau Island, all islands with a lot of Antarctic wildlife, and sail through the Lemaire Channel before heading into the Drake Passage

Days 30-31
Drake Passage

We sail through the Drake Passage toward Ushuaia.

Day 32

We arrive in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and disembark.

Note: This cruise is not an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.

2015 Cruise Collection Brochure

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Download our online digital brochure to view on your computer or mobile device, or as a PDF! Or request a printed copy to be sent by mail, or by calling 800-368-2794.

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 1+, Easy. You will be travelling to a very remote destination. You must be able to complete on board safety drills and emergency evacuation procedures without the assistance of others. Rolling seas and windy conditions require you to be stable on your feet, especially when walking on slippery decks or up and down steep gangways. Shore excursions often require hiking over uneven terrain without the benefit of a developed trail. Some agility is required for getting in and out of the Zodiac landing crafts. While several Zodiac landings are dry, many will require that you step in the water to get ashore. Zodiac and shore excursions are weather permitting.

Explanation of Trip Levels



Jan 9-Feb 10, 2015
Feb 11-Mar 14, 2015

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Quadruple with Porthole $24,950
Triple with Porthole $27,200
Twin with Porthole $31,800
Twin with Window $32,850
Twin Deluxe $34,500
Superior $36,200
Single supplement (standard surcharge): 70%

Deck Plan


Cabin Descriptions

The vessel offers simple but comfortable cabins and public spaces

  • 4 quadruple cabins with bunk beds (these can also be used as triple or twin cabins)
  • 2 triple porthole cabins with bunk beds (these can also be used as quads or twin cabins)
  • 25 twin porthole cabin with 2 single lower berths
  • 10 twin cabins with windows and 2 single lower berths
  • 6 superior cabins with double beds and a separate day room
  • 1 suite with a double bed and a separate day room. All cabins are spacious outside cabins with a minimum of two portholes or windows per cabin and all cabins have private shower and toilet


Trip Cost Includes:

  • Voyage aboard the designated vessel as indicated in the itinerary
  • All meals aboard ship included
  • All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac
  • Ship-to-shore helicopter transfers (with no specific amount of helicopter time guaranteed)
  • Free use of rubber boots
  • Pre-scheduled group transfer from a meeting point (contact our reservation department), to the vessel in Bluff
  • Pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation)
  • Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff
  • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program
  • Comprehensive pre-departure material

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

Any airfare whether on scheduled or charter flights, re- and post land arrangements; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore, gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard; baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is strongly recommended); excess baggage charges; possible fuel surcharges; all items of a personal nature such as passport and visa expenses, laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges.

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 25% of trip cost
120 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $850 per person
120-91 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
90 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.


The 106-guest, ice-strengthened Ortelius is an excellent vessel for expedition cruising in the Arctic and Antarctica. Built in 1989, she has the highest ice-class notation (UL1 equivalent to 1A) and is very suitable for navigating in solid one-year sea ice and loose multi-year pack ice. The vessel has simple but comfortable cabins, ranging from four quadruples with bunk beds to superior cabins and a spacious suite with double beds and separate sitting areas. All cabins are spacious outside cabins with a minimum of two portholes or windows per cabin,  and all have private shower and toilet. The Ortelius’ public areas include lots of open-deck space, two restaurants, and a bar/lecture room. She carries a fleet of Zodiacs for shore excursions and has a staff and crew of 46.