2 adult emperor penguins with tall bodies stand touching beaks with a large group of gray chicks in front, in Antarctica.
Back row of adult emperor penguins & front row of gray chicks, seen on the Emperor Penguin Quest in Antarctica.
2 zodiacs with Antarctica travelers in bright jackets cruise amongst a snowy arch during an emperor penguin expedition.
Antarctica traveler photographs a giant iceberg at dusk beyond the window of a helicopter on the Emperor Penguin Quest.
Lone adult emperor penguin with white belly, black back & yellow & orange colorings stands atop the snow in Antarctica.
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Polar Regions Antarctica Cruise

Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill

Visit the remote emperor penguin colony near Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Sail past masses of dense ice and thick, tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea to experience the legendary rookery, which now numbers 4,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins. Today, it is one of the most exclusive wildlife viewing experiences on the planet. Embrace the thrill of the search as by setting out to visit the emperor penguins at Snow Hill Island. Walk across the thick sea ice to stand within meters of the most coveted penguin species on the planet. Anticipate scenes reminiscent of “March of the Penguins” and BBC’s “Frozen Planet.” Just imagine the penguins tobogganing across the ice towards the sea. Such wildlife moments are too precious for words!

The highlights are many on this emperor penguin expedition. Embrace the expeditionary spirit on a quest to reach the colony of thousands of pairs of emperor penguins and their chicks. Spend 5 days in the vicinity of Snow Hill, either on tour to the colony, or immersing in custom-designed Weddell Sea experiences. Enjoy helicopter sightseeing and Zodiac cruising for unique perspectives of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Experience this true polar quest aboard Ultramarine, a ship equipped with two twin-engine helicopters to fly to the vicinity of the rarely-visited Snow Hill rookery. While she has capacity for 199 guests, on these departures Ultramarine only takes 150 guests, translating into one expedition team member for every four guests. This modern, purpose-built polar expedition vessel also features an innovative, internal hangar that launches Zodiacs in a modern way. And her specialized, cutting-edge safety features provide added security in remote environments like Antarctica. All of these features make her an ideal basecamp for luxury Antarctica cruises.

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Antarctica cruises and trips to Antarctica.



Itinerary

Emperor Penguin Quest Itinerary

The Emperor Penguin Quest begins and ends in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with charter flights to and from Ushuaia. Spend 5 special days in the vicinity of Snow Hill and its emperor penguin colony, with included helicopter sightseeing.

Route map of Emperor Penguin Quest Antarctica voyage sailing round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina, with a visit to Snow Hill, bookended by round-trip Buenos Aires flights.
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Day 1
Arrive Buenos Aires, Argentina

Arrive in Buenos Aires between 12:00pm Noon and 8:00pm on Day 1. Upon arriving in this splendid city, known for its architecture and rich European heritage, independently transfer to the group hotel (pre-expedition hotel night included in mandatory transfer package).

Accommodations

Hotel TBA

Meals

n/a

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Day 2
Fly to Ushuaia & Embark

After an early breakfast at the hotel, take the group  transfer to the airport and board a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. Upon arrival, be transferred from the airport to a central downtown location to enjoy free time to explore quaint Ushuaiathe world’s southernmost citybefore making your way to the pier. After a late afternoon embarkation, sail along the historic Beagle Channel, which transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America. Enjoy the air of anticipation as the ship departs—the next land will be the Antarctic!

Accommodations

Ultramarine

Meals

breakfast, dinner

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Days 3 - 4
Drake Passage

The unpredictable and exciting Drake Passage, which lies at the confluence of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Southern oceans, is an adventure unto itself. While being well taken care of by the expert onboard staff and expedition team, take plenty of time to gaze out at the expansive ocean waters, photograph seabirds as they swoop around the ship, and get to know the expedition team and fellow travelers.

Accommodations

Ultramarine

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 5
Navigating Into The Weddell Sea

Onboard presentations by world-respected experts will enrich this polar quest and convey what it was like a century ago for the brave polar heroes who embraced the unknown. Also learn more about the ice-dwelling emperor penguins.

Accommodations

Ultramarine

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 6 - 10
Weddell Sea & The Quest to Land at Snow Hill

The journey toward Snow Hill Island will put you in explorer mode as the captain and expedition leader keep you updated through weather briefings, meteorological and sea ice condition reports. The thickness of ice will determine how close the ship can get to Snow Hill Island, then the ship’s twin-engine helicopters will take over. Like summitting a mountain from base camp, parties will set out from the ship towards the emperor penguin colony.

The adventure begins with an extended helicopter transfer that will reveal a landscape of snow-capped peaks and apartment-building-sized tabular icebergs. The rookery itself is located on the sea ice off the south coast of Snow Hill Island and the landing will be as close to the penguins as possible, yet at a safe distance to avoid disturbing the birds. Upon landing, your party will walk across the ice to the fabled emperor penguin colony. The wind. The ice beneath your feet. Walking next to paths in the snow carved by penguins that came before. And then there are the incredible sounds of the penguins in the distance as you march toward one of the rarest wildlife opportunities on the planet: the colony of approximately 8,000 rarely-seen emperor penguins.

The goal of the expedition is to get every guest to the remote colony at least once. The expedition team and special experts will be close by to answer your questions and ensure you take in everything there is to see. The emperor penguins behave as a tight-knit community, they care for their young, and they body surf across the ice in a way that can only be described as quirky yet efficient. The helicopter expedition in search of the emperor colony might just be the adventure of a lifetime!

And while at base on the ship with your attentive expedition team, you’ll be immersed each day in the polar experience of the Weddell Sea. Daily activities can include Zodiac cruising among the icebergs, paddle-on-top
kayaking, or working with the team to observe the weather forecasting and ship operations up close.

A particularly enriching component of your voyage will be the bespoke educational programs tailored specifically for this expedition that offer both traditional (lecture format) and hands-on opportunities for learning about this fascinating region. Each day your polar experts, who include penguin scientists, biologists and polar historians, will present on various aspects of emperor penguins and their behaviors, ice formations such as the tabular icebergs which you’ll see from the deck of your ship, and the experiences of polar explorers who braved the Weddell Sea over a century ago.

Or you might, on one of these days, decide to take the polar plunge, or test your balance on a stand-up  paddleboard. Then again, maybe you’ll enjoy a little pampering. If so, you can choose from the ship’s excellent onboard amenities, including the spa, sauna and fitness room.

The emperor penguin colony at Snow Hill is the goal of this expedition. However, if weather or ice conditions prevent you from visiting the colony or shorten the duration of your visit, then you may explore some other sites. Your possible landings in Antarctica will take place on the eastern side of the Peninsula, which is an extension of the Transantarctic Mountains and is the most northern stretch of Antarctic land.

Accommodations

Ultramarine

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 11 - 13
Drake Passage

The journey back across the Drake Passage provides a final opportunity to enjoy the invigorating Southern Ocean air. Spend time on the deck watching for seabirds and scouting for whales, enjoy presentations by the expedition team, and celebrate the experiences shared getting off the beaten track in the remarkable world of Antarctica.

Accommodations

Ultramarine

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 14
Disembark Ushuaia, Argentina, Fly to Buenos Aires & Depart

Arrive in Ushuaia in the morning and disembark after breakfast. The mandatory transfer package includes a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park for a taste of Patagonia, after which be transferred to the airport for the return group charter flight to Buenos Aires.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Mandatory Transfer Package (approximate package price is $995 for the 2025-26 season and includes one night’s pre-expedition hotel night in Buenos Aires on Day 1 with breakfast on Day 2, group transfer from hotel to airport in Buenos Aires, charter flight from Buenos Aires (AEP) to Ushuaia, arrival and departure transfers in Ushuaia, charter flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires (EZE), and combined airport transfer and, if available, express bus tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park [before embarkation or after disembarkation] in Ushuaia); shipboard accommodation with daily housekeeping; all meals, snacks, soft drinks and juices on board; beer, wine, standard spirits and cocktails during dinner and bar service hours; complimentary WiFi; all shore landings per the daily program; leadership throughout the voyage by experienced expedition leaders; all Zodiac transfers and cruising per the daily program; formal and informal presentations by expedition team and special guests as scheduled; a photographic journal documenting the expedition; waterproof expedition boots on loan for shore landings; an official Quark Expeditions® parka to keep; coffee, tea and cocoa available around the clock; a hair dryer and bathrobes in every cabin; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; all luggage handling aboard the ship; emergency evacuation insurance to a maximum benefit of US$500,000 per person; one 10- to 15-minute helicopter flightseeing excursion (weather and logistics permitting).

Exclusions

International airfare; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned above; meals ashore unless otherwise specified; baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance (strongly recommended); excess-baggage fees on international and domestic flights; mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac cruising, and any other gear not mentioned above; laundry, bar, massage services and other personal charges unless specified; phone and internet charges; additional overnight accommodation; optional adventure activities; voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for shipboard staff and crew; arrival and departure transfers, except where explicitly stated.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 25% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 120 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
Up to 180 days – $1,250 fee
179 to 120 days – 100% of deposit
119 to 90 days – 50% of total trip cost
89 to 60 days – 75% of total trip cost
59 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The Emperor Penguin Quest begins and ends in Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE), with charter group flights to and from Ushuaia (note: the charter flight to Ushuaia is via the domestic airport, Aeroparque/AEP). We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. Plan flights to arrive to Buenos Aires ahead of the 12:00-8:00pm window for luggage weighing and tagging on Day 1. Arrange your own independent transfer to the included Buenos Aires hotel on Day 1. Plan flights to depart Buenos Aires no earlier than 9:00pm on disembarkation day. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Internal Flights

Group charter flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia are required on this trip’s itinerary; see the Mandatory Transfer Package information listed above under Inclusions. The flight to Ushuaia (via the domestic airport AEP) is expected to depart early on Day 2 of the itinerary. There is a luggage limit of 50 lbs (23 kg) checked luggage and 17 lbs (8 kg) cabin baggage on the flights to and from Ushuaia. Should you have additional luggage, it can be stored at the hotel in Buenos Aires; there is no option to pay for additional luggage. On the final day of the itinerary, the ship is scheduled to arrive at the pier between 7:00 and 8:00am local time. Disembarkation follows breakfast, with an included short tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park before transferring to the airport for the return charter flight to Buenos Aires (note: This tour may happen prior to embarkation).

Activities

Included are optional hiking, Zodiac cruising, daily presentations, photography guides, the polar plunge and a 10- to 15-minute helicopter flightseeing excursion (weather- and logistics-dependent). Various optional activities may be available on your Emperor Penguin Quest, for guests aged 16 and older. Per-person prices for the 2025-26 season: stand-up paddleboarding $295. One-time paddling excursions are available for $295 per person, per outing, for those who want something less in-depth than the full sea kayaking program; no experience is necessary. Each departure’s first paddling excursion may be pre-booked and all subsequent outings are booked on the ship. Please contact AdventureSmith to reserve activity space with your booking.

Room Configuration

Select double-occupancy cabins may be available for single occupancy with a single supplement fee. Solo travelers willing to share can reserve a triple or twin-shared cabin, where you will be matched with a person of the same gender. If the other cabin berth goes unsold, you will be guaranteed the double rate. Single travelers wishing to book a double-occupancy cabin may do so at 1.7x (2x for Premium cabins) the per-person listed rate in select cabins based upon availability. Premium Cabins are as follows:
Ultramarine: Deluxe Balcony Suite, Terrace Suite, Penthouse Suite, Owner’s Suite & Ultra Suite

Families & Children

At date of embarkation, a minimum age restriction of 8 years and minimum height and weight requirements (weight of 64lbs or 29kg and 48 in. or 1.2 m. tall) must be met. Children under 16 years of age must be supervised by a parent/guardian at all times and may not participate in adventure options.

Travel Insurance

Emergency evacuation insurance to a maximum benefit of up to $500,000 USD per paying traveler provides coverage between the first and last day of ship-based travel and is included in the cost of this trip. For ship- and land-based trips, additional days of travel pre- and post-expedition are not covered. Travelers are responsible for having adequate international medical coverage prior to embarkation, with a minimum benefit of $50,000 USD. In addition, we highly recommend our travelers also protect their investment with travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and other benefits. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice, weather conditions, wildlife encountered and the captain’s discretion. Flexibility is the key to the success of any Antarctica expedition. Visits to research stations depend on final permission.

Rates & Dates

Cruise Rates & Dates

Rates are variable per remaining availability and are subject to change.

Nov 15 - Nov 28, 2025
Ultramarine • 14 days
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From $21681USD
Per Person
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Accommodation

Learn About The Small Ship on Your Itinerary

Expedition Ship
Ultramarine

The new Ultramarine 199-passenger polar ship is purpose-built for safety and far-off exploration in Antarctica and the Arctic. Dual helicopter pads and an incredible 70-day cruising range allow access to the hardest-to-reach places.

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Current Deals on This Trip

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Expert Review

Reviews from Our Experts So You Know What to Expect

Andrew Browning • December 1st, 2023
Expert Aboard: Ultramarine Ship Review

Read a detailed ship review from our expert who was aboard Ultramarine, plus see traveler ratings on everything from the food & helicopters to his Greenland itinerary highlights.

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Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill