Stella Australis review - a day on a Patagonia cruise
Andean Trails’ travel expert Tom Shearman describes a day aboard a Patagonia cruise ship, among the fjords of Chile.
He spent four days aboard the Stella Australis on the Punta Arenas-Punta Arenas route.
Wildlife seen included penguins, dolphins, seals and albatrosses, amongst pristine fjords and mountains.
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It was 8am and the sun hadn’t risen above the snow-capped Cordillera Darwin mountains on this cold, Patagonian September morning.
Being right up close to the Parry glacier wasn’t warming us up much either. Looking around, all my zodiac compatriots had big smiles.
“Don’t forget, we get hot chocolate and whisky when we get back on the ship!” piped a Sylvester Stallone lookalike. He was the main raconteur from our dining companions, the rather jovial Table 14.
Life aboard the Australis was full of snippets of camaraderie like this. You’ll enjoy fine food and comfort, all in some of the most remote and challenging environments in South America.
You usually wake early for breakfast but never before opening the curtains to see which new natural wonder the ship has anchored in front of.
Christmas cake mountains covered in fresh snow stand behind waters replete with small, floating icebergs.
A warming feed is followed by everyone donning plenty of warm clothes, camera, lifejacket etc. and then waddling into the zodiacs.
Some days you’ll head ashore for a short hike, other days it’s a ride to a glacier or to spot wildlife – from leopard seals to elephant seals.
It’s so quiet that you’ll hear every piece of ice crack in the warming sun, every leaf rustling in the wind or dolphin fin breaking the sea’s surface.
At 10-11am, hot chocolate and whisky in hand, you’ll be back aboard looking out at the views – perhaps a cocktail from the free bar? - and readying yourself for the three course lunch.
A post prandial nap, or more wildlife watching, is followed by another swaddling of oneself for another journey out from the boat.
The snow in these areas is so white it seems other worldly, and the glaciers radiate a blue of topaz, folded like agate.
Short walks through forests that survive here show how life can hang on to even the most extreme environments.
Back aboard (hot chocolate and whisky, sir?) you can get ready for a marvellous dinner by listening to an informative lecture given by the experienced – and highly qualified – guides.
Many are field experts with many years experience and can answer any question about this pristine Patagonia environment.
After dinner, relax with your new friends, talk to guides or – as we did – enjoy looking the night sky (wrap up warm!). We were very lucky and saw a blood red super moon – incredible.
Most people head to bed fairly early on, waiting for the morning announcement.
This is a cruise that combines taking you to very special places in a stylish manner. It’s not active and yet it is exploration.
It wraps relaxing, observing and appreciating the environment with a dab of allowing us to consider how lucky we are that places like these still exist.
Beagle Channel Cruise with Cape Horn
The Stella Australis and her sister ship the Ventus Australis offer twice weekly sailings between Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina (and vice versa) sailing the Beagle Channel and visiting Cape Horn. The season is from September to April.
Contact us for more information.