The 210-passenger Ventus Australis was launched in January 2018 as a sister to Stella Australis, both owned by Chile-based expedition cruise line, Australis. Both ships operate itineraries in the Southern Hemisphere during summer, September to April, between Ushuaia in Argentina and Punta Arenas in Chile, exploring the misty sounds and inlets, forested islands and massive glaciers of Tierra del Fuego and Chilean Patagonia.
There are many highlights in these voyages, although a landing at wind-swept Cape Horn is a bucket-list item for a lot of people, as is a chance to follow in the wake of the great explorers through the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan, retracing their many searches for a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Ventus Australis builds on the success of its sister and, in fact, is very similar: same size, same number of cabins, same arrangement of lounges and almost the same layout. The main difference is the decor, which is, as you might expect, more contemporary on the newer ship; furnishings have a more luxurious, stylish feel.
Ventus is a proper expedition ship -- compact, with a shallow draft for navigating the tidal fjords and sounds, and equipped with powerful Zodiacs for shore excursions. The guides who escort every foray ashore are superb, full of anecdotes about life on the edge and have intimate knowledge of the ecology. This voyage is all about wildlife, scenery and the extraordinary story of everyday survival in one of the wildest spots on Earth, so you won't find any fancy entertainment or fripperies like a spa or live music. At most, documentaries are shown after dinner and evenings center around chatting in the Darwin Lounge. There are no TVs in the cabins and no Wi-Fi or cellphone signal, which is a bonus; you really find yourself immersed in your surroundings without the distractions of the outside world.
Days onboard fall into a pattern of early breakfast, a morning hike or Zodiac tour, a lecture or briefing, lunch, a second trip ashore, drinks in the bar, dinner and a documentary or bed. When the ship is sailing, there's an almost dreamy quality to life onboard thanks to the big picture windows that are a feature of every lounge and of the cabins; with no electronic interference, you just find yourself staring out at the scenery for hours.
A degree of fitness is required for these voyages. All trips ashore are by Zodiac, so you have to be fit enough to get on and off these in potentially choppy sea, although the aft boarding platform is very stable -- and the crew's attention to safety is second to none. Shore excursions involve some reasonably challenging hikes, although there is always an easy option offered.
An expedition on Ventus Australis shouldn't be seen as an alternative to Antarctica, or a cheaper, easier way of having a similar experience. It's actually completely different. This is coastal cruising at its purest, the ship's small size allowing it to get close to the extraordinary scenery of Patagonia; towering cliffs, ribbon-like waterfalls, creaking glaciers and curious evergreen beech forests known locally as "lenga," draped with lichen. The human side of the region's history -- of indigenous tribes, explorers, settlers, convicts and, today, conservationists -- is fascinating. You will see birds, including penguins, skuas, condors and cormorants, and probably sea lions, and possibly whales and dolphins. But, more than anything, there's a sensation of being alone in the wilderness. Sister ship Stella aside, no other company offers these itineraries.
Category B cabins 202-204 measure 177 square feet and are located on the Magallanes Deck. Standard-size twin beds.
Includes Cabin: 202, 203, 204
Category A cabins 205-244 measure 177 square feet and are located on the Magallanes Deck. Standard-size twin or double beds.
Includes Cabin: 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244
Category AA cabins 305-344 measure 177 square feet and are located on the Tierra del Fuego Deck. Standard-size twin or double beds.
Includes Cabin: 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344
Category AAA cabins 407-420 & 423-434 measure 177 square feet and are located on the Cabo de Hornos Deck next to the Sky Lounge and Bridge. Standard-size twin or double beds.
Includes Cabin: 407, 409, 410, 411, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 423, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434
AA Superior cabins 321 & 322 measure 220 square feet and are located on the Tierra del Fuego Deck. Double beds.
Includes Cabin: 321, 322
AAA Superior cabins 421 & 422 measure 220 square feet and are located on the Cabo de Hornos Deck. Double beds.
Includes Cabin: 421, 422
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