MV Stella Australis Review and Specifications
Specifications of MV Stella Australis
|Year built||2010 / Age : 9|
|Builder||ASENAV Shipyard (Valdivia, Chile)|
|Class||ice-strengthened expedition ship|
|Owner||Australis Cruises Patagonia|
|Operator||Australis Cruises Patagonia|
|Speed||13 kn / 24 kph / 15 mph|
|Length (LOA)||89 m / 292 ft|
|Beam (width)||14 m / 46 ft|
|Gross Tonnage||4508 gt|
|Passengers||100 - 210|
|Decks with cabins||3|
Current position of MV Stella Australis
Review of MV Stella Australis
MV Stella Australis cruise ship is owned and operated by the Chilean travel company Australis Cruises Patagonia. The polar expedition vessel was ordered by and specifically built for the Australis cruise company. It was constructed in 2 years and launched in 2010. Its sister-ship and fleet mate is MV Ventus Australis (2018).
The ship is luxurious, with yacht-like design and able to navigate the Chilean Fjords and Patagonia's shallow bays and narrow fjords at the tip of South America. This region is the only zone of operations of the cruise line (September through April). Stella Australis cruises either on one-way or roundtrip 3- to 7-night itineraries leaving out of Ushuaia (Argentina) or Punta Arenas (Chile).
The Australis cruise line is owned by the Patagonia-based Menendez family. During the late 1800s, their business was focused on seal hunting and sheep breeding. Currently, the company owns and operates two expedition cruise ships (Stella Australis and Ventus Australis (launched 2018). Its ship Via Australis was sold in 2016 to Lindblad and renamed National Geographic Endeavour II. The Australis company's current business is run by 3 brothers. They acquired the first ship, "Terra Australis" (formerly Savannah), in 1990, and ran weekly cruises roundtrip from Punta Arenas. In 2002, the company built Mare Australis. About that time, Murray Channel was opened to commercial traffic, which opened the door for itineraries to Cape Horn via a direct route.
The Chilean cruise line specializes exclusively in the archipelago making up the most remote Patagonia's part - Tierra del Fuego. The fleet operates on 5 itinerary routes between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, including Beagle Channel and Strait of Magellan. Australis is among the few cruise lines to offer the opportunity to go ashore at the World Biosphere Reserve "Cape Horn National Park" (often called "the end of the earth").
For an expedition ship, Stella Australis cabins are relatively larger and with either double bed or twins. The contemporary decor is in white and nautical blues. En-suite bathrooms are shower-only (with WC and sink vanity). Though there are 6 cabin categories (2 grades on each of the 3 cabin decks), actually there are just 2 layouts. Standard staterooms measure 16 m2 (177 ft2), while the 4 superior cabins (located midship) are 20 m2 (220 ft2) and have larger double beds. All cabins are with picture windows. Cabo de Hornos deck rooms are with floor-to-ceiling windows, which cover nearly the room's entire outside wall.
Patagonia Dining Room (on ship's lowest deck) also has picture windows. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style. Dinner, which is a mix of international and local fare, is always served. Entree selections usually include fish, chicken, beef or lamb. Wines from Chile and Argentina are included in the Australis cruise fares.
Public rooms consist of 3 lounges for lectures, socializing and relaxing. The smallest (Yamana Lounge) is a forward-facing observation lounge. The aft (Sky Lounge) is where lectures about Patagonia’s history, sights and wildlife take place, given in line’s two official languages, English and Spanish. Darwin Lounge (on the upper deck) is the largest, with a bar, cocktail tables and armchairs.
The crew is generally made up of locals. The bridge is open to passengers at most times. Room service is not available. Currency onboard is USD.
Although the ship has no dress code, there is a list of suggested clothes, including hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sweater, waterproof (gloves, pants, hiking shoes or boots). At the Captain's Dinner, for men is recommended to wear a jacket, for women - a dress.
Australis Cruises itineraries
- 3-night from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas (with Stella Australis) - Day 1 (Ushuaia), Day 2 (Cape Horn - Wulaia Bay), Day 3 (De Agostini Sound - Aguila Glacier), and Day 4 (Magdalena Island (in September and April replaced with Marta Island) and Punta Arenas.
- 4-night from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas (with Ventus Australis) - Day 1 (Ushuaia), Day 2 (Cape Horn - Wulaia Bay), Day 3 (Pia Glacier - Garibaldi Glacier), Day 4 (De Agostini Sound - Aguila Glacier - Condor Glacier), and Day 5 (Magdalena Island (in September and April replaced with Marta Island) and Punta Arenas.
- 4-night from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia (with Stella Australis and Ventus Australis) - Day 1 (Punta Arenas), Day 2 (Ainsworth Bay - Tuckers Islets / in September and April replaced with Brookes Glacier), Day 3 (Pia Glacier - Glacier Alley / in September and April replaced with Brookes Glacier), Day 4 (Cape Horn - Wulaia Bay), and Day 5 (Ushuaia / no excursion day).
- These 3 one-way itineraries can be combined in 7-day or 8-day roundtrip cruises (departing from either Ushuaia or Punta Arenas).
Australis cruise fares are inclusive of all shore excursions (guided Zodiac boat landings / 1 or 2 per day, each with duration about 1/2 day), onboard enrichment program (lectures, media presentations), onboard meals and drinks (including coffee, tea and juices, plus wines at lunch and dinner). Gratuities are not price-included. Suggested discretionary tipping is USD 15 pp per day (tips envelope is left in the stateroom on the last cruise night / optional credit card payment).
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The following table shows an exemplary cruise itinerary to Antarctica operated by Stella Australis roundtrip from homeport Punta Arenas.
7 nights / 8 days Chilean Fjords and Antarctica (themed "Darwin's Route") with prices starting from around USD 3400 per person (USD 490 pp per day, double-occupancy "Standard Cabin" rates / Porthole stateroom)
|01 Oct||Departing from Punta Arenas, Chile Antarctica|
|02 Oct||Ainsworth Bay, Chile Antarctica|
|03 Oct||Chilean Fjords, Patagonia|
|04 Oct||Puerto Williams, Navarino Island, Chile Antarctica|
|04 Oct||Cape Horn, Chile Antarctica|
|05 Oct||Ushuaia, Argentina|
|06 Oct||Cape Horn, Chile Antarctica|
|07 Oct||Beagle Channel, Glacier Alley, Chile Patagonia|
|08 Oct||Magdalena Island, Chile|
|08 Oct||Arriving in Punta Arenas, Chile Antarctica|
Note: In Beagle Channel (Glacier Alley) the ship visits either Pia Glacier, Aguila Glacier or De Agnosti Sound.
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