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Stella Australis Review

4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating
49 reviews
6 Awards
Stella Australis
Editor Rating
4.5
Very Good
Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic U.K. Managing Editor

Stella Australis is one of two ships in the fleet of Chile-based cruise line Australis, and spends September through April sailing exclusively around the Chilean fjords, the southernmost point of South America. A sister ship, Ventus Australis, launched in January 2018, offering exactly the same itineraries. Both ships are the only cruise ships built in Chile and are specially designed to navigate the narrow fjords and shallow bays in this part of the world -- for a ship this size it has an extremely shallow draught of just 3.4 meters (11.2 feet). They are also the only ships that offer this Chilean fjord itinerary.

Pros

Breathtaking scenery, knowledgeable guides, comfortable ship, superb food, great service

Cons

A hot tub would be welcome; lack of entertainment beyond lectures

Bottom Line

A unique opportunity to discover one of the wildest places on earth in a degree of comfort

About

Passengers : 200
Crew : 64
Passenger to Crew : 3.13:1
Launched : 2010
Shore Excursions : 0

Stella Australis offers three-, four- and seven-night cruises between Punta Arenas in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina. The area in which it sails is full of names that capture the imagination -- Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel -- and the ship calls in at or passes through all these spots. It also offers a unique opportunity to visit the southernmost tip of South America -- Cape Horn National Park.

The guides are outstanding and help bring the fascinating history of this part of the world alive through lectures and stories.

This is an expedition cruise, so do not expect live music, local entertainment or a casino onboard; the ship is not the star -- it's the landscape, the animals and the shore excursions that are the focus of the cruise. There's also no Wi-Fi onboard, nor a phone signal for much of the journey, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on whether you wish to be connected. 

However, neither will you be roughing it: This is a fine ship, with good-sized cabins, lovely public rooms, excellent food and great service. Life onboard is convivial and is spent mainly getting ready for an expedition, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, eating, having a few drinks in the upstairs lounge or sleeping. You'll be assigned a table at the start of the cruise where you'll eat all your meals. There is a bar at the top of the ship, where lectures are held and documentaries screened. 

Stella Australis cannot be billed as a hardcore expedition cruise -- this might be the southernmost tip of South America, but Antarctica it is not. The excursions are mainly gentle walks around flat islands (though there are options for more challenging outings). There are no wet landings (the crew kindly transport a metal gangplank ahead of the first passenger Zodiac), and the only tricky part is getting on and off the ship and stepping onto the Zodiacs in a swell. If you use a walking stick you should be able to participate. The ship typically offers at least one, and sometimes two, expeditions a day.

The highlights are the glaciers, the penguin colonies and the chance to spot dolphins (if you're lucky) and even orca (if you're very lucky). And, of course, the opportunity to visit the southernmost point of the earth, Cape Horn National Park. 

But it's the ever-changing landscape and weather that you can watch from your picture window in your cabin or from the various lounges around the ship, that really gives you a sense of this extraordinary part of the world

Fellow Passengers

Passengers are predominantly North American couples or tour groups, with the rest coming from various European countries, plus a few South Americans. The average age is 65, going up to 80 or so. Note that all the excursions are in Zodiacs, often in choppy waters, and there are no facilities for the less able or infirm. All announcements are in English and Spanish and if there is a large group from another country onboard, in that language too. The ship's crew make a great effort to keep all those with the same language together in groups so no one misses the commentary. Families are welcome onboard and there is no minimum age limit for children, though there are limited facilities.

Stella Australis Dress Code

There is no dress code. Passengers may wear what they like, and there is no formal night, though there is the Captain's Dinner, when people dress up slightly more formally (men wear a jacket, women a dress). When you book, you will receive a list of suggested clothes to bring, which includes: waterproof pants, jacket, gloves, walking boots, sunglasses, hat and fleece. You might be able to borrow one-off necessities such as rubber boots, but it's best to take what you need as there is a limited supply.

Your cruise fare includes all shore excursions and drinks onboard; there are no shuttles into town and all shore excursions are by Zodiac boat. Gratuities are not included; the suggested amount for tips is $15 per day, per person, but this is discretionary. An envelope for tips is left in your cabin on the final night, or you can pay by credit card. The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

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Stella Australis Cruiser Reviews

Amazing experience

The Stella Australis Patagonia cruise took us on an extraordinary expedition where we found some of the greatest landscapes on the planet.Read More
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mvargasj

2-5 Cruises

Age 40s

Outstanding cruise with a quarantine ending

We were the last sailing of the Stella Australis for 2020 from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas. We were lucky to have great weather.Read More
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silverllama

2-5 Cruises

Age 60s

Visit parts of Patagonia you could not otherwise get to

We would have appreciated the opportunity to do some rather more vigorous walking when on zodiac trips, but we were at the younger and maybe more able bodied end of the spectrum (early 50s) Overall we would recommend this trip to anyone visiting Southern Patagonia as a unique opportunity to visit some areas.We had a severely delayed start to the trip as wind prevented the ship from docking at Punta Arenas at the end of the inbound trip.Read More
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AppleAnna

First Time Cruiser

Age 50s

A four stars + hotel sailing through the Chilean fiords

Last but not least, security was always the first consideration, both at the time of deciding when to navigate - the cruise started a few hours late because the sea was a bit too rough - and about the sanitary measures to be taken as Covid was already present in many countries - our body temperature was measured before we were allowed into the cruise and we also had to ask a health questionnaire.This cruise is one of the best trips I ever did.Read More
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Marcopolina

2-5 Cruises

Age 70s

Australis Fleet
Stella Australis
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