Antarctica awaits us!
The Antarctica season will begin in a few short months, and we are so excited to get back to our beloved White Continent! Ship operators, governments, local providers, and all stakeholders have been working hard to put in place comprehensive, safe protocols for the operation of small ship expedition cruises.
Most ship operators have announced that vaccines will be required to embark on a voyage, there will also be some pre-voyage testing. Requiring 100% vaccinated ships (guests and staff) will create the safest environment for all onboard. With guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), they have crafted thorough safety plans, allowing you to explore Antarctica with that same feeling of freedom, confidence, and adventure that have always been a hallmark of the Antarctica experience.
The borders of Argentina and Chile are still closed to tourists, however the vaccination efforts are having success in Chile where 80% of the country has received two doses. Operators have prepared logistics to depart from Punta Arenas, Chile should Argentina not open its border. These plans are in place and awaiting execution. We hope for an update on opening during the month of August.
Below are some of the most common questions we are getting, with honest and the most up-to-date answers we have.(Updated August 2021)
Will I be required to have a COVID vaccine?
Yes. To embark on Antarctica voyages, you will need to show proof of full vaccination at least 14 days before your trip departs.
Will I need to be tested for COVID?
Probably. We don’t yet know if Argentina or Chile will require a negative test to enter the country, or whether some countries or airlines will require negative tests to travel. We do expect all staff and passengers to be tested for COVID-19 before embarkation. We also assume there will be testing involved during the trip to ensure the safety and peace of mind of everyone traveling. It’s important that you check regulations in your home country and make sure you comply with all protocols.
What happens if I can’t travel due to COVID restrictions?
At FreeStyle we work with more than 10 different ship operators who have different COVID policies. While the fine print varies, all have the same option: If you are unable to travel due to government restrictions, COVID-related medical reasons, or restrictions on the ship itself, the company will re-book you on a future Antarctic voyage within the next two years.
There are a limited number of companies offering refunds of deposit, but the majority are offering peace of mind to rebook and travel at a later date.
Wondering more about booking policies? Contact us!
What about Argentina? Will I have to quarantine or be tested?
We are closely following the government guidelines in Argentina and do not anticipate a quarantine requirement by October 2020. There may be the requirement to be vaccinated or to show a negative test within 72 hours of traveling. We will keep travelers updated about how things evolve here.
How is the COVID situation in Ushuaia (the port of departure for most Antarctica trips)?
Ushuaia and the province of Tierra del Fuego have seen the fastest rollout of vaccination in all of Argentina. More than 50% of all residents have received at least one dose and second doses are being administered as quickly as they arrive. We have been receiving national tourists since December 2020 with clear protocols and have not had a spike in cases.
Are masks required in Ushuaia?
Yes. In Ushuaia and in all of Argentina, masks are required in all shops, restaurants and any other public spaces in Ushuaia.
Will masks and social distancing be required on trips?
This will depend on each ship and operating company, however we assume there will be limits to the number of people in certain spaces onboard to reduce crowding. There may also be one-way paths for guests and social distancing markers in walkways and hallways. Travelers may have to wear masks inside the ship during briefings or zodiac loading where there will be close contact with others.
Will vaccinated travelers need to wear masks?
For now, yes. Science tells us this is still important, but we will be following guidelines over the coming months to decide if this will be necessary or not.
Will Staff & Crew be vaccinated?
Yes. The plan is for all staff and crew to be vaccinated onboard Antarctic vessels.
How will meals work on ships? Can everyone eat together?
Dining will look different during the upcoming season, as the usual buffets at breakfast and lunch will no longer be used. All meals will be table service and servers will wear masks. There may be more than one time for meals, so you eat with your group or ‘bubble’ onboard instead of eating with the whole vessel. There will also be strict cleaning in the dining area and QR or laminated menus to lower contact.
What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19 during the trip?
All precautions are being taken to prevent this from happening, but ships are also preparing for the very unlikely event it does occur. Anyone exhibiting symptoms will be tested and separated from the rest of the group as needed. There will be dedicated isolation cabins and the medical clinic will be stocked with protective equipment, testing and treatment materials. Ships are also working to have oxygen supplies and a simple ventilator onboard. All situations will be handled by the medical personnel onboard and the utmost care will be taken to ensure the health and safety of everyone onboard.
Have more questions? Send us a message! We can’t guarantee we will have the answer, but we will work to get you a response as best we can!
Remember that the public health situation is changing week to week, so these answers will likely change before you travel. We will update you as we know more.