Australian expedition line Aurora has a new ship – but already, some of its journeys to the polar regions are sold out.

The Sylvia Earle joins the Greg Mortimer for the 2021/22 season of journeys to Antarctica and the South Sandwich Islands, Ireland,  Costa Rica and the Arctic.

The new ship comes at a time when demand for journeys to the polar regions is running at unprecedented levels.

Antarctica is sold out this year, and 85 per cent sold next year for the two-ship Australian line, whose vessels take just 126 passengers and are known for their exclusive Ulstein X-bow. The Arctic is 97 per cent sold this year, and 50 per cent sold next.

The cost, time and environmental controls keep the annual pilgrimage to regions like Antarctica small – fewer than the number of people who go on Ovation of the Seas for three months, as one writer observed recently.

The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators says 40,665 tourists arrived in Antarctica in the 2018-2019 season, from November to March. But that was up 60% over the 25,341 who landed in the 2014-15.

Aurora Expeditions held an event in Sydney to announce its new ship, named after Dr. Sylvia Earle, a legendary marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer.

Sylvia Earle
Sylvia Earle

Global Head of Marketing, Victoria Primrose, said in a statement: “We’re thrilled to launch our new program that will be run across our two world class, purpose-built expedition ships.

“The variety of our unique small group expeditions that allow passengers to experience these otherwise extremely difficult to reach destinations, has resulted in phenomenal demand.”

Aurora is not the only line ramping up journeys to the ice. Lindblad’s National Geographic Endurance will feature two clear igloos designed to provide a unique perspective on the Antarctic region when it launches later this year.

Silversea is launching the Antarctica Bridge, a business-class jet service that will enable passengers to avoid the two-day notorious sailing across the Drake Passage between South America and the tip of Antarctica.

The line has 12 departures of its Silver Explorer in 2020-2021 which offer guests the chance to avoid the often rough passage, instead giving guests a two hour ride on a jet specially modified to land on King George Island, about 75 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula.

It will cost extra. The Antarctica Bridge is priced at $17,500 each for a couple, about $6,000 more than the typical entry-level Antarctic voyage.

Ponant is also be offering Le Commandant Charcot next year, the French line’s first custom-built polar vessel.

Aurora is offering an early bird deal of up to 30 per cent off fares for the new 2021/22 program on new voyages booked and deposited by 31 March 2020.

Greg Mortimer
Greg Mortimer in Antarctica

Some of the main highlights of the new Aurora Expeditions 21/22 program:

South Georgia & Antarctica Odyssey –  25 Days Sailing on the Sylvia Earle

On this epic voyage, passengers will explore the famed white continent and far-flung South Georgia, and will also sail to the South Sandwich Islands, a chain of seldom-visited volcanic islands, an experience unique to Aurora Expeditions.

Guanacaste, Costa Rica7 days Sailing on the Greg Mortimer

Costa Rica is blessed with abundant nature, pristine beaches and immense biodiversity. In Guanacaste, passengers will explore a slice of Costa Rica rarely visited by expedition vessels including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Guanacaste Conservation Area, hiking in wildlife-rich rainforests and venturing to peaks in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, where archaeological sites offer a glimpse into Costa Rica’s ancient past.

Ireland’s West Coast – 13 Days Sailing on the Greg Mortimer

Perched on the edge of the Atlantic, Ireland’s rugged west coast is a journey through hundreds of islands, enchanting peninsulas and fjords, soaring cliffs, crumbling castles and unique flora and fauna. With special guest Greg Mortimer, passengers can expect a truly memorable expedition.

Subantarctic Safari – 17 days Sailing on the Sylvia Earle

Steeped in history, the Falklands/Malvinas is also a beacon for bird lovers. Expeditioners will see the incredible diversity of penguin species including king, macaroni, rockhopper, magellanic and gentoo.

NEW Solar Eclipse – Antarctica -16 days Sailing on the Sylvia Earle In December 2021

A full solar eclipse will occur in the Weddell Sea region, offering passengers the rare and historic opportunity to witness this remarkable spectacle in Antarctic waters. This once in a lifetime voyage will visit the incredible white continent and the spectacular island of South Georgia.