December 19, 2021 to January 6, 2022
Mike and Judy Henderson

Judy has always wanted to go to Antarctica.  In late October we received some email advertisements about Antarctic trips from Crystal Cruises, and that started our research on what was available.  I wanted to go to the Falkland Islands, as well as Antarctica, but I was not particularly interested in going to the South Georgia Islands.  That narrowed down the options.  We eventually chose this Silversea cruise which sailed during the Christmas and New Year's holiday season.

One factor in our choice of Silversea was our experience on their Silver Origin ship on our Galapagos trip.  If you followed us on that trip you know that we found the Silver Origin to be an exceptionally well designed and appointed ship, and the Silversea staff to be excellent.

In contrast to our usual habit of choosing cruises/tours a year or two in advance, we made arrangements for this cruise just 45 days before the cruise date.  I called Silversea on a Friday (our travel agent, Jennifer Cole, was out of town) and by Monday afternoon, Jennifer had everything arranged.  Arranging the air travel at this late date was difficult and expensive - we wanted to travel business class with lie-flat seats - we're just too old to travel that distance in economy.  You know the old saying, "Travel first class or your kids will."

This will be our seventh continent.  We will not cross the Antarctic Circle - the Antarctic circle is 66˚ 30' south, and the furthest we will go is about 63˚ south.

The itinerary changed after we signed up for it.  The picture on the left is the original itinerary and the picture on the right is the modified itinerary.


Preparations:  I'm including this section primarily for the readers who might consider an Antarctic cruise, especially a Silversea Antarctic cruise.  If you just want to see what our tour/cruise was about, you can click here to skip to the first day of the tour.  After the cruise is over, I'll update this page to say what worked and what didn't.

Why Silversea?  Click here to skip this section.

We got started on this cruise because of an email advertisement we received from Crystal Cruises.  We wanted an all-inclusive, small-ship cruise that went to Antarctica and also the Falkland Islands.  Crystal has one that departed on December 21 that included free charter air from Miami and return.  I called Crystal and asked them about the availability of business class and was told that business class was very limited on the charter and only had reclining seats, not lie-flat seats.  Additionally, business class was reserved for those who took Penthouse suites or higher.  I considered booking a penthouse suite, but the lack of lie-flat seating was a serious problem.  Since the charter was based in Miami we would have to fly cross country to get to Miami and then back home from Miami.  All-in-all, there were too many problems.

Additionally, the guy I talked with at Crystal was somewhat abrupt, and he just didn't seem interested in working with me to find a solution.  He certainly could have suggested that we could  make our own flight arrangements and would receive a discount on the cruise fare (if Crystal does that).

After that, I went searching for other Antarctic cruises and found this Silversea cruise that went to the Falkland Islands and Antarctica.  But Silversea offered free economy air and we really wanted business class.

I called Silversea to see if we could pay for an upgrade to business class.  It took some effort but by Monday morning I had discovered that the tour started and ended in Santiago, and that while Silversea could not offer us business class, they would give us a credit of $1,500 per person if we made our own flight arrangements.

Our problem then was to find flight arrangements that worked within our constraints - Judy was playing a concert on the 18th, so we couldn't leave until the 19th, and we had to be in Santiago on the 20th.  But Jennifer, our travel agent found flights for us.

Travel Arrangements and COVID Requirements  Click here to skip this section.

Even if Silversea makes your travel arrangements, check the COVID information here.

The first thing I want to point out is that this Silversea cruise starts and ends in Santiago, not Punta Arenas, or Puerto Williams.  You have to arrive in Santiago the day before the start of the cruise - in our case, the required arrival date was December 20th and the trip officially starts on December 21st.  Silversea will pick you up at the airport and put you up in a hotel for the night.  The next morning you will take a charter flight to your port of departure.  Unfortunately, this information was not available on the web site and the Silversea agent I spoke with on Friday and Saturday was not very forthcoming with details.

Review carefully the Chilean entry requirements for COVID.  This information is believed to be accurate as of December 2021.  Check the US Embassy in Chile website for up-to-date requirements.  The process for entry to Chile is lengthy and complex.  Follow the directions below carefully.

You need to apply for a "Mobility Pass" 45 days or less before your arrival in Chile at this web site.  Information I received says that it can take two to three weeks to process your submission so apply as soon as you can - Judy and I did this immediately after we finalized our reservations.  Judy received her approval eight days after her submission.  I received mine the next (9th) day.  Part of the Mobility Pass submission is to submit copies of your vaccination certificate.  I had to specify which brand of vaccine we received, the lot number, and where we received it.

You must have a PCR COVID test 72 hours (or less) before boarding the actual flight to Santiago.  That is, if you have flight connections, the 72 hour test applies to the departure time of the flight segment that actually takes you to Santiago, not the departure time of the initial flight in your journey.  [Update: We met a couple whose flight out of LAX was delayed.  The delay put them beyond the 72 hour limit so they had to go find a quick, expensive PCR test ($400 each).  They missed their delayed flight but the airline was able to put them on a later flight.  However, there was no room in business class so they were forced to fly (10 to 11 hours) in economy.  They were not happy.]

You must go to this web site 48 hours (or less) before arriving in Chile and fill out the "C19 Entrance to country" there (the Chilean customs people just call this the C19 document).  Since we arrive in the morning of the 20th, I needed to do this after the morning of the 18th.

This form can be confusing to fill out.  Some information you might need follows.  It is not clear as to what to do.

          1.   Follow this link, you will be taken to a page where you can log in with the same credentials that you used for "Mobility Pass".  You'll have some selections on the left.  The bottom selection will allow you to choose English.

          2.  Then click on "C19 Entrance to the country".  This will bring up the screen with an image of an airplane and "C19".  Click on C19. that brings up a dialog window that says "Redireccion a".  click on OK.

         3.  This brings up a page that says "Create new affidavit"  Click on that.  You'll get a dialog asking of you've visited any of a list of countries.  Choose "I declare I have not visited any countries" and then click Continuar.

         4.  Then you get a dialog box that asks you what kind of traveler you are.  Choose "Tourist". 

         5.   Then you get a form to enter the address where you will isolate.  For Region, the first entry, choose "Metropolitana".  For "Comuna", choose Las Condes.

         6.  The street address of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is "Presidente Kennedy Avenue, #4601, Santiago, Region Metropolitana, Chile".

        7.  The next entry is phone but they don't say whose phone. The first field is the country prefix, which for the USA is +1.  You'll find USA listed with the "C's" as United States/Canada. Then enter your phone number.

          8.  You will be asked to upload a copy of your negative PCR test, so have a scan of that test.  A PDF is probably best.  

         9.  The next entry asks you to upload a scan of your health insurance. 

For the 10 days after you enter Chile you will receive an email health survey from the Ministry of Health so you need to make sure you connect your smartphone or computer to the Wi-Fi system on the ship.  They say that responding is mandatory - I don't know if not responding would affect you when you depart through Chilean customs.  [Update:  No, it doesn't.]

Dealing with the this 10-day reporting is also confusing.  The first time you go to the site pointed to by the email they send you, you have to create a profile, including a password.  Look for the box that says something about creating a profile - it's not obvious.  You'll also get a "prove you're a human" type thing, so enter the characters in the box.  That will get you in so that you can answer the questions about your health.  Entering that site after the first time will require you to enter your passport number and the password you created earlier.  [Update:  We received reminder emails but couldn't get the web site to work most of the time.  Judy and I did maybe two surveys out of the ten.  It had no impact on our departure from Chile.]

When clearing customs to enter Chile, you will be given a PCR test and will have to isolate in the hotel until you receive a negative result (about 6-8 hours).  Results will be reported to you by email.  If you get a positive result, you will be barred from the cruise.  [Update:  This worked fairly well.  We had to go to a web site to check our results.  Most of us got our results fairly quickly (I got mine around 2pm, Judy a bit later) but I talked to one person who didn't receive his results until 8pm.  He said Silversea people were helping by calling the customs people but couldn't get it any faster.  It's nerve wracking waiting for the results.]

While isolating in the hotel, Silversea will administer an antigen test to everyone.  Apparently, this is a Chilean requirement for boarding the charter flight to Punta Arenas.  Failure to show up for the test will bar you from the charter flight and the cruise.  Antigen tests are not as accurate as a PCR test so if you test positive on the antigen test and negative on the Chilean customs PCR test, I expect they accept the PCR test. 

One thing that's important to note is that you're limited to one (1) checked suitcase on the charter flight to Punta Arenas.  You can also take one carry-on and a purse or computer bag.  [Update: I don't think this reduced the amount of baggage.  People brought carry-on suitcases and some also had a backpack.  Board early or you'll be stuck with no overhead space.]

Finally, you must have traveler's health insurance with a minimum value of $30,000 that covers necessary medical treatment, including treatment for COVID.

You can find (most) all of this information on the USA embassy in Chile website.  Travel is getting very complicated these days!

To summarize:  To enter Chile, you need the following:

          1.  Your passport.

          2.  Negative results of a PCR COVID test taken 72 hours or less before your flight to Chile.  Bring a paper copy.

          3.  Your "Mobility Pass", described above.  You will receive an email when it's approved.  Bring a paper copy.

          4.  You need to have filled out your "C19 Entrance to country" 48 hours before departure and submitted it electronically.  In response to your submission, you will receive a C19 document with a QR code.  Make SURE you bring this in paper form.

          5.  Proof of medical insurance that includes treatment for COVID with a minimum value of $30,000 for each traveler.  Bring a paper copy.

          6. Bring your vaccination card - we were asked for it a number of times as we traveled to Santiago - in LAX, at JFK before we boarded the flight to Santiago, and during the Chilean customs process.  I think someone without proof of vaccination would have a difficult time, even to the point of being refused boarding or entry.

You will also need a face mask during your flight, during customs processing and for use in Santiago, Punta Arenas and on board the Silver Cloud.  Bring more than one, perhaps even a box of the disposable "surgical masks".  Last time we traveled, LATAM required that we be double masked with surgical masks - not cloth masks. [Update:  LATAM only required one mask this time, and the ship provides surgical type masks.]

At the conclusion of the cruise Silversea will fly you back to Santiago on the disembarkation date, which is January 5th for our cruise, with arrival in Santiago about 5pm that same day.  Silversea will arrange for a COVID antigen test, probably the morning of the disembarkation day, with results available prior to flight departures to the United States.  This test is required to board the aircraft to the US and must be done within 24 hours of flight departure (US requirement today). [Update:  Silversea administered the antigen test on-ship, the day before arrival.  The US requirement is "one day before departure", not 24 hours before departure.  No problems when we checked in for our flight to LAX which was scheduled to depart just before midnight.  If your flight leaves after midnight, I expect you'll need another antigen test.]

[Update2:  We didn't depart Punta Arenas until 3:30pm and arrived in Santiago about 6:30pm.  Then there's collecting your bags, waiting in line to check-in, waiting in line to clear customs (to depart) and more waiting in line for security.  It was about 9:30pm before we made it to the LATAM lounge.  Make sure your flight leaves very late in the day.  Our flight was scheduled to depart just before midnight.]

Available Blogs  Click here to skip this section.

I found some very informative blogs about Antarctic cruises, including a Silversea cruise, and they were essential in helping us understand what we might need.

Perhaps the best was from a couple who went a few years ago (pre-COVID) - click here.  His blog does not have a link from day-to-day but I contacted the writer, Paul Kay, and he suggested going to his first page which provides a pointer to the days. 

Here's another, not as detailed as the one above.

Clothing  Click here to skip this section.

An Antarctic cruise is different from a warm weather cruise.  Even though it will be summer in the Antarctic we expect it will be cold (average temperature about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but  could be much colder).  Dressing properly for that cold is important.  Additionally, we could encounter rain or snow while on an excursion.  Getting wet in cold weather is dangerous, so the clothing chosen should be waterproof.  [Update:  You WILL get wet in one or more zodiac trips.]

Silversea has a web page with packing recommendations for the Antarctic trip, and I found this checklist on one of the blogs mentioned earlier.


Judy and I live in Southern California, where it never gets very cold, so we do not have the kind of clothes required for Antarctica. 

At Marshalls, a discount clothing store, we purchased knit beanie hats with fleece lining, socks that are thick and long for use with the boots, neck gaiters, and for me, several long sleeve T-shirts for under layer and a set of thermal underwear.  I'll bring some sweaters to wear over the T-shirt layer and a puffy vest.

Silversea provides a parka for each person, and we decided to rent boots from their supplier, who will deliver the boots to our suite on the ship.  The rental cost of the boots is somewhat high but we have no use for boots after the cruise, and if we bought our own, we'd have to pack them to and from the cruise, which would take a lot of suitcase space.  [Update: The boots are pretty heavy but they work very well.  My feet were never cold and I only wore one pair of socks.  Renting was absolutely the best way for us - we got good boots and didn't have to carry them in our luggage.]

They also recommend a lightweight rain jacket for arrival in Santiago, and we both have those.  Note that Santiago will likely be quite warm since it's summer there - expect temperature in the high 80's during the day. [Update:  You probably don't need this rain jacket.]

We each bought a pair of waterproof pants from Columbia and I bought three pair of athletic pants from Marshall's to wear under the waterproof pants.  I'll wear an athletic pants along with the long underwear if it's really cold.  If that's too hot, I'll leave off the long underwear.  [Update:  You absolutely need waterproof pants.  You will get sprayed in the zodiacs.] 

I also bought some gloves that hopefully will keep my fingers warm, but allow me to use my iPhone and camera to take pictures.  [Update:  None of my gloves worked well to use the camera or iPhone - I had to go bare-handed.  When not using a camera, I stuck my hands in my pockets.  Bring gloves and put them in your pocket, in case you need them.]

Judy has some nice gloves from her snow skiing days and will try to coat them to make them waterproof.  We both purchased an extra pair of waterproof cold weather gloves, so we each have two pair.  I looked at battery operated heated socks but decided against them.  If you go that way, Snow Deer got the best reviews.  [Update: If you go with the rental boots you absolutely do not need heated socks.]

[Update:  All-in-all, we probably over packed.  We used the laundry service on the ship so we always had clean clothes.  I brought too much "dress" clothes.  One nice shirt and pants would have been enough.  I also brought too many sweaters and polo and t-shirts.]

Judy put together this packing list for us.  It's a general packing list, not just for this trip.

I'll edit this section after the cruise to let you know what worked and what didn't.

Miscellaneous  Click here to skip this section.

We have walking sticks from the Galapagos tour and will bring those.  We also have backpacks from that same tour but Silversea provides backpacks on this cruise (source of this information).  [Update:  we used the walking sticks on the excursions where there was a lot of snow and were thankful we had them.]

A number of people have recommended the HotHands disposable hand warmers but we decided against bring that.

Neither Judy nor I like lugging binoculars, so we'll pass on those.  [Update:  A camera with a long lens worked well for us instead of binoculars.]

If you're interested in Shackleton's Expedition and their time on Elephant island, the best book about the expedition is "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing

And if you're interested in the Falklands War, a good book (easy to read) on the war is "The Falklands War" by Martin Middlebrook.  My interest in visiting the Falklands is to view (from a distance) some of the terrain around Stanley where the last battles were fought - and, of course, the town of Stanley, itself.  However, we received an itinerary revision that we are not going to visit Stanley. 

Photography  Click here to skip this section.  This will take you to the first day of the tour.

I've gone through a number of cameras since we started traveling.  I don't like a camera swinging around my neck, so originally I wanted a camera that would fold up and fit into my pocket.  But the images produced by those cameras were not that good - the imager is just too small and you get a lot of noise in the image.  Eventually, I gave up on being able to put the camera in my pocket and tried a Panasonic mirrorless 4/3rds camera and then a Nikon DSLR APS-C.  The Nikon did well but was BIG and noisy because of the mirror flapping (I sold the Nikon).

In the meanwhile, the smartphone people were improving their cameras with computational photography techniques.  I had an iPhone 11 Pro and found it produced good photos, even in difficult lighting, but telephoto shots were sub-par.  The iPhone 13 is supposed to have improved telephoto quality so I purchased an iPhone 13 Pro for this trip.  I received it before the trip and did some testing with it - telephoto is still not great - not nearly as sharp as a camera telephoto - so I'll take my Panasonic 4/3s for telephoto shots.  I have an Olympus 12-200 zoom for it.  That's equivalent to a 35mm lens of 24mm to 400mm, so it's plenty of reach. 

I took a large zip-lock bag to put the camera into when we were in the zodiac and there was lots of sea spray.  They make special "dry bags" for cameras but I didn't buy one.

But the iPhone is so much more convenient because I can put it in my pocket when not using it - I'll get a lanyard for it so I don't drop it overboard.  I'm sure I'll do most of my shooting with the iPhone, especially any pictures taken on the ship. 

[Update:  The camera with the long lens worked well, but I wish I had a longer lens in some situations.  The problem is changing lenses in "dirty" situations (lots of blowing sea spray).  A long zoom with an acceptable short length is probably the best. I had some problems with the autofocus seeking in some situations, especially low light where the subject didn't have sharp edges.]

[Update 2:  After the cruise, I purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III camera body (it's a 4/3s camera).  One thing it has is a digital 2x zoom built into the body.  Using that reduces the resolution of the picture, but since I put pictures on the web, I'm usually reducing them in size quite a bit anyway.  Using my 12-200 Olympus lens (which is equivalent to a 24-400 lens on a 35mm body) I can now have the equivalent of an 800mm lens on a 35mm camera.  That's a lot of reach.




Click here to go to the first day of the cruise