The Mare Australis to set sail for Cape Horn

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PUNTA ARENAS, Chile -- The Mare Australis makes its maiden voyage from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, Argentina, on Nov. 30, replacing the Terra Australis, which for many years sailed this popular expedition cruise around the bottom of South America.

The ship will sail the waterways of Tierra del Fuego on three Patagonian circuits -- seven-, four- and three-night cruises -- through one of the world's most pristine areas, including the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, and on its newly expanded route, Cape Horn.

Built as an oceangoing vessel, the ship offers new levels of technology, such as roll stabilizers, a bow thruster, a global positioning system and sonar, that permit it to reach Cape Horn, a feat not possible when cruising on the Terra Australis.

The four-deck Mare Australis accommodates 129 passengers in 63 cabins, all of which have either twin or double beds and panoramic window views. Cabins are equipped with such amenities as private bath with shower, heating and air conditioning, a chest of drawers, a bedside table, internal phones and 110-volt electrical current.

Panoramic views continue in the air-conditioned dining room, bar and forward observation lounge; additional public facilities include a library and boutique, and the ship carries a crew of 40.

All meals are included, accompanied by free wine, beer and soft drinks, and on excursions to the glaciers, whiskey and hot chocolate are served.

According to Kurt Kutay, president of Wildland Adventures in Seattle (the city in which the Mare Australis was designed), the ship includes a few small amenities more than the Terra Australis, but it offers essentially the same experience.

"The reason we have incorporated this expedition voyage into our programs is because the company has truly changed the program to become much more 'expeditionary' in nature," said Kutay.

"Gone are the organized parties and enhanced is the natural-history experience, including better landings, trained naturalist guides from the region and evening lectures about the history of exploration around the tip of South America and cultural aspects of the lands that were once the domain of the Yamanas, Oanas, Alacalufes and Tehuelches peoples."

The seven-night cruise, departing on Saturdays, sails roundtrip from Punta Arenas; the four-night sailings cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia; and the three-night cruises board in Ushuaia for the cruise to Punta Arenas.

Highlights of the seven-night cruise include the D'Agostini fjord and Serano glacier; a Zodiac boat trip at Condor Bay and Glacier; sailing the Strait of Magellan and the glaciers of the Beagle Channel to Port Williams, Chile, the world's southernmost town, where passengers have a chance to book flightseeing over Cape Horn.

Sailing from Port Williams to Ushuaia, optional tours are offered to Tierra del Fuego National Park or Escondido or Fagnano lakes.

On the return from Ushuaia, the ship sails to Cape Horn, and passengers disembark at Walaia Bay, a Yamana Indian archaeology site on Navarino Island, as well as into the Garibaldi Fjord with its glacier, snowfields of the Darwin Range and colonies of sea lions. The final highlight is a stop on Magdalena Island, home to more than 100,000 penguins.

Costs per person, double, for the seven-night cruise during high season (Dec. 16 through Feb. 28), twin cabin rates, range from $1,659 to $2,537; mid-season (Nov. 30 through Dec. 15 and all of March) from $1,452 to $2,052; low season (April) from $1,152 to $1,627.

Sample high-season costs for the shorter cruises start at $1,244 for the four-night cruise. The high-season rate on the three-night cruise starts at $1,078.

Air fare from the U.S. to Santiago, Chile, and returning from Buenos Aires is not included in the price; however, flights within Chile and Argentina are included.

Many tour operators will be offering this cruise on their South American programs. In addition, Mare Australis' owner company, Cruceros Australis, has a representative in the U.S.

Contact Cruceros Australis at (877) 678-3772 or visit the Web at www.australis.com.

Journey by land and sea

SEATTLE -- Following the lead of explorer Ferdinand Magellan, Wildland Adventures is introducing a 14-day tour program, In the Wake of Magellan, exploring Patagonia overland and traveling by sea aboard the Mare Australis' four-night itinerary linking Chile and Argentina.

The tour starts in Santiago, Chile, with a flight to Punta Arenas, located on the frigid waters of Tierra del Fuego, that serves as the gateway for Torres del Paine National Park. Day hikes here are stunning, revealing spectacular views of the Paine Massif and Grey Glacier as well as sightings of herds of guanaco, a relative of the llama.

Returning to Punta Arenas, passengers board the Mare Australis to cruise through the Strait of Magellan and the fjords of Tierra del Fuego, habitats for cormorants, penguins, sea lions, fur seals and dolphins.

The comfortable and informal expedition ship offers daily excursions into scenic coves and bays, complemented by evening lectures presented by naturalist guides.

On the final leg of the cruise, the ship enters the Beagle Channel, and then makes final anchorage at Ushuaia, Argentina, where tour members travel overland to hike in beech forests of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego National Park as well as travel by Zodiac to Isla Redonda in Lapataia, home to cormorants, sea lions and albatross.

Following a flight from Ushuaia to Calafate, the next stop is Lago Argentino, whose massive Perito Moreno Glacier is at the edge of the Patagonia Ice Cap; hikers will have the opportunity to walk out over the ice cap before flying to Buenos Aires, where the tour ends.

When not cruising aboard the Mare Australis, guests overnight in small mountain and forest lodges featuring exceptional views, local hospitality and regional cuisine.

The inclusive land and cruise cost of the Wake of Magellan Adventure starts at $4,410 per person, double. The program runs from November through March.

For reservations and additional information, contact Wildland Adventures at (800) 345-4453 or visit the company's Web site at www.wildland.com. -- C.H.

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