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Cruises from Cape Horn to South Georgia in the footsteps of historic adventurers

Pretty much every corner of the world’s oceans can be reached on a cruise today, making it easy not to give much thought to the extreme dangers encountered by the first explorers and navigators 

Shine on: see Cape Horn's lighthouse on a cruise
Shine on: see Cape Horn's lighthouse on a cruise

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the naming of Cape Horn, the point where the Atlantic and Pacific meet, at the tip of South America. In 1616, the southernmost headland of Tierra del Fuego was named by two sailors after their hometown of Hoorn in north Holland.

A number of mainstream lines offer two-week round South America cruises between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso (the port for Santiago) in Chile. On a March day, cruising with Celebrity Cruises (0845 456 0523; celebritycruises.co.uk), I experienced a calm sea, with albatrosses soaring and a clear view through binoculars of Cape Horn’s lighthouse. Holland America Line (0843 374 2300; hollandamerica.com) and Princess Cruises (0843 374 2402; princess.com) also cruise around the Horn with fares starting at about £1,200pp excluding flights.

Rare opportunities to go ashore at Cape Horn are offered by Chilean line Australis (00 34 93 497 0484; australis.com). Landing is by rubber Zodiac to clamber up the basalt rock to boardwalks crossing the bleakly beautiful, tiny Cape Horn Island.

On a one-week cruise you’ll also visit spectacular Glacier Alley and Wulaia Bay, where Darwin landed from the Beagle in 1833. Cruises departing from November to March when the weather is best, on luxury ship Stella Australis from Punta Arenas in Chile, cost from US$3,781pp (£2,701) including excursions and drinks but not travel to the ship.

The centenary of Ernest Shackleton saving his entire crew when their ship Endurance was crushed by ice in Antarctica also falls this year. He and four shipmates arrived on South Georgia in 1916 after a perilous 800-mile journey in a tiny lifeboat, and from there organised the rescue of the rest of the men who had been stranded on Elephant Island for four months.

Most expedition cruises to South Georgia (where Shackleton is buried) spend only three days there, but One Ocean (00 351 962 721 836; oneoceanexpeditions.com) has a South Georgia in Depth cruise, which gives you eight days to explore.

The 14-day voyage departs 15 October from Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, sailing aboard polar vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov from £7,652pp in a twin cabin. The cost includes flights from Punta Arenas to Stanley (flights from the UK can be arranged), through Swoop Antarctica (0117 369 0696; swoop-antarctica.com).

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