Cruceros Australis
A shore excursion in Wulaia Bay, Chile, with Cruceros Australis.
Photograph by Matte Sieber
The success of Antarctic departures has sparked interest in Tierra del Fuego, the southern tip of South America — launch central for many polar expeditions. Chile-based Cruceros Australis makes a specialty of this rugged, island-filled region ofPatagonia in southernmost Chile and Argentina.

From September to April each year, the line offers three- and four-night itineraries between Punta Arenas, Chile, and Ushuaia in Argentina, traveling the region where Charles Darwin spent two years studying the flora and fauna, a quest experts believe influenced his theory of natural selection before he got to the Galápagos.
Cruceros’ newest ship, the Stella Australis
Courtesy Cruceros Australis
Cruises visit calving glaciers, iceberg-choked channels, teaming elephant seal colonies, and national parks. Zodiacs land for hikes through the Darwin Mountain Range and up-close viewing of Magellenic penguins. Some routes also sail around treacherous Cape Horn.

In December 2010, the 20-year-old cruise line launched its third ship, the 210-guest Stella Australis, which joins the Via Australis and the Mare Australis, both accommodating 128 passengers. All three ships offer the Ushuaia-Punta Arenas itineraries, which include onboard lectures on history, wildlife, glaciology, navigation, and, of course, Darwin.

Aqua Expeditions
The world’s largest river, the Amazon, is the big specialty of the tiny cruise line Aqua Expeditions, the chief luxury operator on the river. In April, its lone ship, the 24-passenger M/V Aqua, will be joined by the 36-guest M/V Aria, doubling departures in Peru.

These South American safaris revel in the Amazon, home to one-third of the world’s animal species, offering sightings of pink river dolphins, colorful macaws, screeching monkeys, cute capybaras, and fearsome anacondas. Three-, four-, and seven-night departures ply the Amazon’s many tributaries and the largest wetland preserve in the world, the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve.
Ex-periencing the Amazon with Aqua Expeditions
Image courtesy: Aqua expeditions
Via motorized skiffs, passengers can further explore jungle creeks, visit indigenous villages, stalk caimans at night, and take rain forest hikes.

The 24-passenger M/V Aqua
Image courtesy: Aqua expeditions
Floating the river, the three-story Aqua maintains guests’ comfort in air-conditioned, window-walled cabins with full bathrooms. Celebrated chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Lima designed the menus served on board. The new Aria will debut an exercise room and, on the rooftop, a Jacuzzi and a sundeck. The ships operate year-round, including the sunny South American summer and the winter, when high water allows skiffs deeper access into the forest.