Fur seal sits on sandy beach with many king penguins, grassy hills & dark mountains behind on a sunny day in South Georgia.
Bust of Sir Ernest Shackleton sits atop rusty platform with penguins underneath & large iceberg behind at Point Wild.
Large rusted & abandoned ship at Stromness, South Georgia Island, sits among grassy hills & rusted out whaling buildings.
Group of king penguins with white bellies, orange & yellow collars & silver backs stand in green grass on South Georgia.
Black, white & yellow helicopter flies above large blue shelf iceberg on the Remote Weddell Explorer Antarctic cruise.
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Polar Regions Antarctica Cruise

Remote Weddell Sea Explorer Cruise

On this special 28-day voyage, cruise round-trip from Ushuaia on the trail of famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his ship Endurance, experiencing South Georgia and the Weddell Sea’s amazing wildlife and tabular icebergs before returning via Elephant Island. Complete this rarely offered, historic route aboard the comfortable, 108-guest Ortelius. Along the way, enjoy lectures on wildlife, landscape, history and more.

The continental borders of the Weddell Sea are formed by huge floating sheets of ice. These ice shelves produce the massive tabular icebergs that are so abundant in the Weddell Sea. Scientists have declared the waters of the Weddell Sea to be the clearest water of any sea on Earth. The tabular icebergs and other ice formations offer fantastic landscapes and unique photo opportunities.

The Weddell Sea is home to a large number of orcas, humpbacks and minke whales as well as leopard, Weddell and crabeater seals. Several penguin species can be seen there too.

This voyage employs helicopters in areas where Zodiacs cannot be used, for attempted landings on land and sea ice when weather permits. Ortelius is equipped with three helicopters with one supporting. Especially on the east side of the Weddell, the chance of landings can be limited due to ice formations. Zodiac cruises are wonderful alternatives, if conditions allow.

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Antarctica cruises and find more Falkland Islands and South Georgia cruise itineraries.



Itinerary

Remote Weddell Sea Explorer Itinerary

The Remote Weddell Sea Explorer Including South Georgia – South Sandwich Islands – Neuschwabenland – Vahsel Bay – Larsen Ice Shelf – Paulet & Devil Island – Elephant Island, Including Helicopters cruise operates round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina, clockwise, on a rarely traveled route that retraces Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Route map of Remote Weddell Sea Explorer Cruise, round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina, that retraces Shackleton's famous voyage.
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Days 1 - 3
Embark Ushuaia, Argentina & At Sea

Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.

Enroute to South Georgia, cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature cools considerably within the space of a few hours, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions and skuas.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

dinner (Day 1); breakfast, lunch and dinner (Days 2-3)

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Days 4 - 6
South Georgia

Entering the South Georgia Maritime Zone, one of the largest protected waters in the world, sail past the Shag Rocks. These impressive rocks lay 150 miles west of South Georgia and are home to several thousand South Georgia shags. The area around the rocks is known for its abundance of larger marine mammals, which feed on this comparatively shallow area of the South Georgia Ridge.

After reaching South Georgia, you will have the chance to visit some of the following sites:

Fortuna Bay
A beautiful outwash plain from Fortuna Glacier is home to a large number of king penguins and seals. Here you may also have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall, and as the terrain is partly swampy, be prepared to cross a few small streams.

Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbor
These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for Antarctic fur seals. Literarily millions breed on South Georgia during December and January. By February the young fur seals are curious and playful and fill the surf with life and fun and large elephant seals come to the beaches to moult.

Grytviken
In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place – because they basically do. Here you might be able to see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.

In the afternoon of Day 6 and depending on the conditions, start sailing southwards in the direction of the South Sandwich Islands.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 7 - 8
At Sea

Like Shackleton in December 1914 on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Endurance Expedition, leave South Georgia and aim for the South Sandwich Islands and the Weddell Sea. There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 9
South Sandwich Islands

While landings are not possible here, you may be able to make a Zodiac cruise among the amazing scenery of this active volcanic area. Passing between Thule and Cook Islands will be one of the trip’s many highlights and will make an everlasting impression. There is a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales in this area. On and around the islands, you also have the chance to spot brown skuas, chinstrap or Adélie penguins and several species of albatross: grey-headed, black-browed and wandering.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 10 - 12
At Sea

Next sail toward the Antarctic continent in the direction of Queen Maud Land and Neuschwabenland (New Swabia) on the northeast side of the Weddell Sea.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 13 - 14
Neuschwabenland / New Swabia

Your first destination in Antarctica is New Swabia, between 20°E and 10°W in Queen Maud Land. This area was explored by Germany during the third German Antarctic Expedition of 1938–1939, led by Alfred Ritscher. The purpose was to find an area in Antarctica for a German whaling station and scout a possible location for a naval base.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 15 - 23
Deep Weddell Sea: Filchner, Ronne & Larsen Ice Shelves

Sailing deep into the Weddell Sea, chances are you can spot crabeater, leopard or Weddell seals. With luck, you might even see emperor penguins. Humpback, orca and minke whales are also present in this area, along with various birdlife.

Ice conditions in the Weddell Sea vary seasonally. Encounter a vast nautical wilderness of sea and while heading to high latitudes (far south), enjoy the raw beauty and power that makes Antarctica so special. It will become apparent why it took so long to discover the Great White Continent and how tough it must have been for Shackleton’s expedition.

Make a circular route toward the Brunt Ice Shelf and along the Luitpold Coast, discovered and named during the second German Antarctic expedition (1911–1912) of Wilhelm Filchner. If conditions allow, enjoy Zodiac cruises and possibly an ice floe landing.

Next head west toward the Filchner–Ronne Ice Shelf before changing course north, following the coast along the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and Larsen Ice Shelf. This brings you close to the spot where Shackleton’s vessel Endurance was trapped in pack ice during his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17), drifting toward the Antarctic Peninsula before ultimately sinking. In an exciting conclusion to this story, the wreck was discovered on March 5, 2022, the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s burial, after 107 years below the Weddell Sea waves. While you can’t get close to the discovery site due to pack ice, you will be in the area where the ship was trapped and abandoned. There are colonies of 6,500 emperor penguins nearby, so hope to see one or more in this area.

As you reach the northern section of the Antarctic Peninsula, enter the area of Erebus and Terror Gulf. Far-wandering emperor penguins often perch on Snow Hill Island’s numerous ice floes, possibly offering you another opportunity to spot these emblematic creatures. If conditions allow, attempt a landing on James Ross Island.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 24
Brown Bluff & Kinnes Cove

This morning, hope to land at one of the most scenic locations in the northern Antarctic Continent, with a large Adélie penguin rookery. Gentoo penguins and nesting snow petrels are also to be found. Sheer canyon walls, fallen boulders and beautiful volcanic creations capped with ice make Brown Bluff a truly unforgettable location. Across the Antarctic Sound is Kinnes Cove, where you can see the nearby Madder Cliffs with their subtle red coloration as well as possible gentoo penguins.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 25
Elephant Island

This is the starting point from which Shackleton left to find help for his stranded crew. Using only a small lifeboat, the James Caird, he and five of his men sailed to South Georgia, then walked 36 hours to Stromness. It’s hard not to marvel at how they accomplished that herculean feat.

Twenty-two members of his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Endurance Expedition, were stranded on Elephant Island after their vessel Endurance sank in the Weddell Sea. It took four and a half months to complete the legendary rescue.

Conditions on Elephant Island are severe. The coastline is mostly made up of vertical rock and ice cliffs highly exposed to the elements. If possible, you will take the Zodiacs to Point Wild, where the marooned members of Shackleton’s expedition miraculously managed to survive.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 26 - 27
Drake Passage

Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you might see some of the same wildlife encountered at the start of your voyage: albatrosses, petrels, maybe even a minke whale spouting up sea spray.

Accommodations

Ortelius

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 28
Disembark Ushuaia, Argentina

Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Voyage aboard the indicated vessel as indicated in the itinerary; all meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; free use of rubber boots and snowshoes; luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on the day of embarkation in Ushuaia; pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation); all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; comprehensive pre-departure material; ship-to-shore helicopter transfers, with no specific helicopter time guaranteed.

Exclusions

Any airfare whether on scheduled or charter flights (scheduled helicopter rides included); pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; baggage and cancellation insurance; personal insurance (mandatory); optional activities; excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard; fuel surcharge (your Adventure Specialist will provide details).

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 20% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 90 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 90 days – 100% of deposit
89 to 60 days – 50% 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 Remote Weddell Sea Explorer cruise begins and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina (USH). Embarkation time is between 4:00 and 5:00pm on day of departure. We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. The ship sails around 6:00pm on day of departure. Disembarkation is after breakfast on final day between 8:30 and 9:00am. Plan flights to depart Ushuaia anytime after noon on the final day. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Activities

Hiking:

Hiking time for most landings will be a couple of hours round-trip with lots of time to stop to study, photograph and enjoy the flora and fauna.

Helicopters:

The Remote Weddell Sea Explorer cruise includes helicopter rides via a minimum of two onboard helicopters that each carry 4-6 passengers per flight. If the conditions are favorable, there exist added special helicopter rides to see emperor penguin rookeries. The use of helicopters has a great advantage and can support the goal to reach the scheduled landing sites, that otherwise are inaccessible; other times you observe from the sky. But, these voyages are operated in the world’s most remote areas, ruled by the forces of nature. Providing the conditions, such as but not limited to ice and weather conditions, are suitable, the captain of the vessel will position the vessel at a safe and (for the helicopters and helicopter pilots) feasible distance from the intended landing site. Every passenger who participates in those mentioned voyages, understands and accepts that no guarantees can be given, including a specific amount of helicopter time. For further information contact AdventureSmith Explorations.

Room Configuration

Single travelers wishing to book a double-occupancy cabin may do so at 1.7x the per-person Twin or Superior listed rates. Single travelers wishing to book on a “sharing basis” may do so at no additional cost in Twin, Triple or Quadruple categories upon availability.

Families & Children

Upon request, children under 16 years old traveling with parents may receive 40% discount in Superior, Triple (sharing with 2 parents/adults) and Quadruple Cabins (sharing with 3 parents/adults). Some voyages may be excluded.

Travel Insurance

Emergency medical evacuation insurance is mandatory for this trip, with a minimum recommended coverage of $100,000 per person. Trip cancellation insurance is optional but highly recommended. 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

Feb 11 - Mar 10, 2025
Ortelius • 28 days
From $24700USD
Per Person
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Feb 14 - Mar 13, 2026
Ortelius • 28 days
From $26500USD
Per Person
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Accommodation

Learn About the Small Ship on Your Itinerary

Expedition Ship
Ortelius

The 108-guest M/V Ortelius is an ice-strengthened small ship designed for polar expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctica. She offers passengers a quality exploratory wildlife program to spend as much time ashore as possible.

Book with the confidence that comes from experience.

100+ combined years of experience, 7 continents explored, decades of expedition cruising around the world & here to help you find & book your dream trip.

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Our team is adept at matchmaking you with a trip & we’re happy to provide a personalized trip recommendation any time. To keep researching yourself, head to our comprehensive Antarctica Cruise Finder, or narrow in on more Falkland Islands Antarctica cruise options by viewing our curated collection of trips to South Georgia.

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Remote Weddell Sea Explorer Cruise