Skift Take

Ushuaia is trying to stay ahead of the curve with this expansion, maintaining leadership on Antarctica trips and standing out among nearby ports, in a time when cruise ship companies continue to add vessels for this route.  

Aiming to capture growing demand for trips to Antartica – and shed its standing as a stop-over port – the city of Ushuaia in Argentina is set to debut an expansion that will allow for more cruise ships and a build out of its offerings for travelers.

The project is a year and a half in the making. For the first step, the cruise ships pier has been extended from 500 meters to 624 meters at a cost of about $7.7 million, or 1.7 billion argentine pesos. That adds space for two more cruise ships. 

Now the city is trying to arrange financing for an additional 200 meters and to add a new “world class” terminal for cruise ships and catamarans. The goal is to be able to receive some 8,000 passengers a day and will include a new immigration office, a VIP room and security features. There will also be shops and a cultural space dedicated to information about Antarctica. 

Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the Americas and it is looking to boost its tourism economy.

“Our operations were limited by our space and the amount of bookings we receive for the pier,” said Dante Quercialli, president of the Argentino de Turismo (INFUETUR). “Sometimes, this meant that not all passengers got to descend. With the extension, we aim for ships to be able to plan longer stays but also offer them better services regarding food supply, fuel recharge, garbage disposal, etc.”

The investment represents a greater focus on tourism, he added. “In the long term, the goal is to keep this port exclusively for tourism operations and move all commercial and fishing operations to another location.”

Cruise ship operators are eager for the expansion. “We applaud the investment made by Argentina and the local stakeholders in Ushuaia,” said Trey Byus, chief expedition officer for Lindblad Expeditions. “The new facilities are very welcome and an excellent addition for our turn-around operations.”

The operator said it has seen an increase in demand and now has three vessels operating in the region.

At least 14 cruise ships companies – including Celebrity, MSC and Norwegian – operate in Ushuaia. It is the largest departure and arrival port for Antarctica trips, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Last summer, a new addition for Antarctica trips was the Marina vessel, operated by Oceania Cruises, a subsidiary of Norwegian.

Cruise ship traffic in Argentina has fully recovered from the Covid drop: A record 580,000 passengers on 687 cruise ships traveled through Argentina last summer, a gain of nearly 5% from the prior season. Ushuaia received 132,279 passengers with a total of 504 arrivals.

According to Argentina’s National Ministry of Transport, five ships traveled for the first time to Buenos Aires and then Ushuaia and Antarctica during the last season, including Oosterdam, Sapphire Princess, Aidamar y Fridtjof Nansen. For the 2023/24 season, Roberto Murcia, Tierra del Fuego’s General Port Director, said the Ushuaia cruise ships port already has booked 540 arrivals and that there’s 250 confirmed cruise ships booked for next season. 



The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: antarctica, argentina, celebrity cruises, cruise ships, msc cruises, norwegian air, norwegian cruise line, ports

Photo credit: An MSC ship at the port in the city of Ushuaia in Argentina. Source: Dirección Provincial de Puertos de Tierra del Fuego

Up Next

Loading next stories