Antarctica Bridge: The Quickest, Most Luxurious Way to Get to Antarctica

Louise Goldsbury

Last updated
Mar 13, 2023

Read time
6 min read

Sponsored by Silversea

Silversea has chartered two aircraft especially for this Antarctica season, taking out 16 seats and increasing the seat pitch; as well as including delicious home cooked meals, personalized service and unlimited wine and beer.

The Fly-Bridge means you can skip the notorious Drake Passage both ways, so taking four days off a typical Antarctica itinerary -- landing on King George Island in just over two hours where your Antarctica expedition begins. We tried it out.

A Red Carpet to the White Continent

A red carpet to the white continent welcomes guests on the luxury adventure of a lifetime. At a private terminal in Santiago, Chile, we arrive for our chartered flight on Antarctica Airways -- two hours by air, instead of two days by sea -- to reach the polar peninsula.

Travelers have come from around the world for Silversea’s Fly-Cruise Antarctica Bridge experience. The trip begins at your home with a private executive transfer to the nearest airport for an international flight. On arrival, another transfer awaits to a five-star hotel for a one-night pre-cruise stay. Greeted by Silversea representatives, we receive our complimentary expedition gear (parkas, waterproof pants, rucksack) and join a ‘bon voyage’ dinner to meet our fellow passengers.

In the morning, a domestic flight delivers the group to Punta Arenas, the world’s southernmost city, to catch the private plane to our ultra-luxury expedition ship, Silversea’s new Silver Endeavour. Anticipation builds as each step unfolds, getting closer to our destination in comfort and style.

And by skipping the long sailing across the Drake Passage, Antarctica Bridge guests go straight to the heart of the action, immersed in its icy splendor for every day of vacation. In total, flying both ways takes four days off a typical Antarctic itinerary.

Excited and eager to get there, we board one of the two aircraft that Silversea has chartered for the five-month season. The nose of our black-and-white plane is painted like a chinstrap penguin; a cute preview of sights to come. Every seat is a European-style business class, so not flat-bed, but with a generous seat pitch, in-flight movies via an app and personalized service. Friendly flight attendants serve unlimited wine and beer, along with authentic regional dishes using traditional recipes. A Silversea-branded menu includes a Chilean green salad with home-made bread, a delicious and hearty charquicán (beef and vegetable stew), and a mousse dessert made from local calafate berries.

As we approach the southern tip of South America, our aerial view changes from the rocky peaks of Patagonia to the spectacular, snow-capped Osorno Volcano. Two hours later, touching down at King George Island, Silver Endeavour can be seen shimmering just off the beach.

Refreshed and ready for the fun of this frozen wonderland, we are escorted to the shore where Zodiacs take us to the ship, our floating home for a week, kick-starting our adventure straight away. Antarctic Bridge guests are swiftly checked into balcony suites, welcomed by butlers and Champagne on ice.

Silver Endeavour Allows Guests to Explore Antarctica in Luxury

For the next five days (up to nine nights, depending on the itinerary), Silver Endeavour will explore the incredible landscape, wildlife and serenity along the coast of Antarctica. It promises to be an unforgettable spectacle of adorable penguins and seals, pods of whales and dolphins, towering walls of snowy mountains and glaciers, and dazzling icebergs that glow in translucent white and blue beauty.

As we set sail, I explore Silver Endeavour, which has an impressive 1:1 crew ratio with 200 crew for up to 200 passengers. The outstanding Expedition Team comprises marine biologists, anthropologists, ornithologists, a climatologist, historians and a nature photographer/videographer. Throughout the voyage, they are easily found in designated venues around the ship or joining each excursion on land, to provide information and answer any questions.

Toward the end of the week, the weather starts to turn; a storm is on the way. The captain assesses the situation and concludes that we will need to return to King George Island one day early. Immediately, the Silversea team mobilizes to reorganize our disembarkation, producing a new plan. The chartered flights are brought forward by one day, and hotel rooms are booked to spend our last night in Punta Arenas.

When it comes time to leave the luxury of Silver Endeavour, our consolation is the comfortable return to land with Antarctica Airways. Zodiacs take us to shore to board our penguin-painted planes on the airstrip, where Silversea has its own waiting area. The amazing journey ends as it began – flying between two continents and skipping the Drake Passage in all-inclusive Silversea style.

And in true Silversea style, we're not left to our own devices for the day. If plans go awry (as they sometimes do), Silversea has a back up plan for guests who have had to leave the ship a day early: shore excursions in Patagonia.

In our case, we visited a huge estancia, a vast working farm at the start of the Patagonia steppes, where we were taken on an exclusive tour by the owner, followed by a barbecue of roast lamb. Then it was off to spot condors, who nest a few miles from the farm.

All of us agreed, that this in itself felt like a hugely enriching aspect of our journey; although we missed a day in Antarctica, we gained one in Patagonia.

The Antarctica Bridge Saves Four Days on a Typical Antarctica Expedition

Peter Shanks, managing director UK and Ireland, Silversea Cruises, says polar adventures have soared in popularity, particularly since the introduction of the company’s Antarctica Bridge Fly-Cruise program.

“Our Antarctica expeditions are incredibly popular with our guests, and we’ve seen demand for these itineraries continually growing. However, for some that are keen to visit the region, the amount of time needed has been the main challenge for them being able to travel to the seventh continent,” Mr Shanks said. “The Silversea Antarctica Bridge offering was therefore created to allow greater flexibility for those keen to explore the region but with limited time. By skipping the Drake Passage, they save a total of four days, landing directly in the heart of the destination.”

Guests can also choose to sail one-way across the Drake Passage on a fly-cruise itinerary, departing from the Chilean port of Puerto Williams (pictured above), allowing the opportunity to experience both types of crossings.

“Approximately, 25 percent of our ‘new-to-Silversea’ guests are flying via the Antarctica Bridge, while about 20 percent of Venetian Society members are opting for the fly-cruise option, which we anticipate will continue to grow in popularity,” Mr Shanks said.

The partnership with Antarctica Airways has been key to the success of the program, in line with Silversea’s commitment to providing a personalised experience for guests at every stage of their journey.

“Our senior vice president of expeditions, destination and itinerary management, Conrad Combrink, and his team have worked for years to deliver this amazing partnership,” said Mr Shanks. “Everything has been customised for Silversea, from the onboard films to the high-end service and branding.”

Silver Endeavour Will Return to Antarctica in November 2023 to March 2024

Silversea’s door-to-door fares include private transfers from your home and back again, airfares and pre/post-cruise hotel accommodation. For those who prefer to make their own travel arrangements, port-to-port fares are available on select itineraries. All fares include dining, drinks, 24-hour room service, butler service, excursions, kayaking, Wi-Fi, gratuities, waterproof pants and parka (to take home) and waterproof boots to use throughout the cruise.

From November 2023 to March 2024, Silver Endeavour will operate regular cruises to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, departing from King George Island or Puerto Williams, Chile. From November 2024 to March 2025, an extended polar season adds 14 more cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula – including brand-new landing spots, exclusive to Silversea.

Publish date March 13, 2023
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