Overall rating 9/10
Launched last year the 210-passenger Ventus Australis has been designed to navigate shallow waterways in and around Tierra Del Fuego’s remote fjords, without compromising on comfort and style. She joins sister ship Stella Australis on sailings in Chile. An international clientele, including a mix of European and American guests appreciate life ‘off the grid’ with no phone, Wi-Fi or TV throughout the sailing.
Tasteful, understated luxury with a nautical feel. Driftwood sculptures and regional artwork, huge leather sofas and comfortable chairs grace the light-filled lounges.
Floor-to-ceiling windows for scenic cruising bring the outside in to the 100 cabins which are all the same size and thoughtfully designed for maximum use of space. Furniture includes a wooden desk and mirror with brass trim, a leather chair, bedside lamps plus comfortable beds with fluffy pillows and quality linen. Bathrooms have an easy-to-use shower with curtain, vanity bowl, a double cabinet and heated towel rail. Storage is limited to a single hanging wardrobe and a set of shelves because dressing up on this ship means waterproof trousers, warm jackets and walking boots.
Food and drink 8/10
Guests sit at tables set for four, six and eight at one sitting. Menus created by chef Emilio Peschiera integrate Patagonian cuisine with a tasty international menu. The breakfast buffet includes bacon, eggs, fruit and cereals, pastries and juices. Themed buffet lunches feature Chilean, Japanese and Italian cuisine while locally sourced king crab and Argentinian beef are highlights of three-course a la carte dining. Wine is served with lunch and dinner including a good choice of South American wines from Cabernet Sauvignon to Malbec.
There are three comfortable lounges where you make your own entertainment. The Darwin Lounge has a bar and is used for socialising and nightly lectures on the next day’s tours. The smaller Sky Lounge offers all-day self-service coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juices and pastries while the forward-facing Yamana Lounge is a quiet, intimate space with two games tables and sofas for reading or enjoying the view.
Life on board revolves round twice-daily excursions on zodiacs to explore the region on foot. There are zodiac rides to visit glaciers and remote islands and the knowledgeable crew who are passionate about wildlife and the environment lead tours to Agostini Sound, the Strait of Magellan and (landing-permitting) Cape Horn. There is a choice of walking levels but there can be four seasons in one day in Tierra del Fuego so all tours are weather dependent. A visit to Magdalena Island to see the Magellanic penguins is a highlight.
Value for money 9/10
All meals, drinks, gratuities and tours are included. For further value, the cruise can be booked as an add-on to Saga Holidays’ Patagonian ‘Tour to the Ends of the Earth’ where flights and transfers are included.