A Chilean company Antarctica21 is planning 17 Antarctica cruises this coming season, leaving from Punta Arenas, the first of which is scheduled for December 3rd, with an only vessel the Magellan Explorer.
It's great news because at least we can plan the coming season, which will be a reduced season. We will be working with a third of our capacity for a normal season, according to Jaime Vasquez, the president of the Antarctica 21 which has been organizing cruises to Antarctica for a decade.
Last year we had three vessels, one of the them the Magellan Explorer, inaugurated in the 2019/20 season, and we finally had 3,000 passengers. Now however with the Magellan Explorer we are planning 17 cruises and some one thousand passengers. If all works as planned it will be a kind of relief, given the global sanitary emergency.
Under the Chilean government green bubble rules, foreign passengers must access Santiago's airport with a negative PCR, full vaccination certificate from the country of origin, an antigen test and board a charter o private plane directly to Punta Arenas and the vessel. In case of any delays passengers will have to stay at transitory hotels in Punta Arenas, without leaving the building or visiting the city. Conditions for the return trip will be similar with an antigen test on board the vessel.
We were expecting Chile to authorize some trips. Protocols are very demanding and we must comply with them. We also trust that with the evolution of Covid vaccination in Chile the pandemic will ease, and with time the strict sanitary measures. However we are not sure if we can finally convince a thousand passengers, admitted Vasquez.
Besides we are also abiding all instructions from IAATO, the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which has become a reference, and have completed several sanitation procedures on board the vessel.
This includes an air purifier system, sanitized rooms in anticipation of any Covid case emerges in the vessel, with the patient totally isolated from the rest of passengers and crew members. Finally the Magellan Explorer currently moored in Puerto Montt should be ready to sail in November and make effective its first cruise on 3 December.