A once-in-a-lifetime Antarctica cruise aboard Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess has had multiple disruptions, including a cancelled port visit and rough weather, along with internet outages impacting how guests can stay in touch with family and friends back home during the holidays.
These disruptions are not uncommon to these types of voyages, but certainly make it a different type of sailing than what most passengers expect for a cruise vacation.
Guests on the current sailing of Sapphire Princess were not able to make their scheduled call to Ushuaia, Argentina due to rough weather that closed the port on Christmas Eve. The rough weather is expected to continue and impact the ship’s crossing through the infamous Drake Passage.
“We expect further adverse weather conditions for our crossing of the Drake Passage on our planned route,” a notification letter delivered to guests’ cabins read. “To get ahead of the expected weather conditions, we will begin crossing the Drake Passage earlier than scheduled and will no longer conduct scenic cruising of Cape Horn.”
By accelerating the schedule and moving across the Drake Passage sooner, the ship can keep to smoother water for a more comfortable experience for everyone aboard while maximizing the time spent in the Antarctic Peninsula.
All Princess shore excursions booked for Ushuaia are being automatically refunded back to guests’ onboard accounts.
“We know the cancellation of this experience is disappointing, regardless of the reason,” the letter read. “When we create itineraries, we look forward to taking our guests to the exciting destinations we have selected. When unexpected issues occur that require a change in our itinerary, we share in your disappointment.”
The 16-night cruise departed from San Antonio, Chile on Tuesday, December 19, 2023, and is spending several days not only exploring ports in Chile, Argentina, the Falkland Islands, and Uruguay, but also offering outstanding scenic cruising in Antarctica itself, before arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Thursday, January 4, 2024.
The 115,875-gross-ton, modified Grand-class (now considered Gem-class) Sapphire Princess can welcome 2,670 passengers aboard, and is also home to 1,100 international crew members.
Antarctic cruises are often disrupted by poor weather, which is common around the Drake Passage. Ships sailing in the region have many tactics at their disposal to ensure the most comfortable and smoothest experiences for guests, including the use of ship stabilizers and other technology, adjusting speed, or taking more sheltered routes to avoid higher winds and swells.
In addition to rough weather impacting port visits, Sapphire Princess is likely to experience internet outages during the voyage. Because of the remote locations the ship is visiting, these outages are not unexpected and the cruise line has provided warning to guests so they are prepared for the disruption.
“In advance of our crossing through the Drake Passage, we wanted to share some important information regarding our internet connectivity in the Antarctic region,” guests were notified on Christmas Eve. “Our antennas routinely shift between satellites that cover specific regions of the globe, but Antarctica is a remote area that can sometimes experience low to no connectivity.”
The outages were expected to be most challenging between December 25 and December 31, and Princess Cruises urged guests to send holiday greetings to loved ones and friends prior to that period.
It can be tough to be out of contact during a Christmas cruise, but the team aboard Sapphire Princess is offering additional activities and entertainment each day to ensure a fun and memorable cruise.
“We appreciate your understanding of the challenges that accompany sailing in this region,” the letter concluded.
Princess Cruises has been rolling out Starlink internet across the fleet throughout 2023, but coverage in the Antarctic region continues to be scarce. This will undoubtedly improve over time, as SpaceX continues to launch additional Starlink satellites to further expand the coverage and improve internet speeds.
Do you want to learn more? click on the link