ANTARCTICA CRUISE

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CRUISE

Cruises To Antarctica

A quick search of Antarctica cruise options on the internet brings thousands of results back that can often seem a little overwhelming.

This is enhanced by the fact that there are literally hundreds of Antarctica cruise operators all offering different cruises and at varying prices.

So how do you decide on your perfect Antarctic Cruise?

With over 70 Antarctica cruise itineraries, we know it can seem daunting, so we’ve pooled all our resources and produced a detailed page that will help you choose the ideal Antarctica cruise. 

There are many factors that need considering, such as budgetitinerarycruise sizedestinations, what activities you’re looking to do and lastly, what to look for in a great Antarctica cruise operator.

This page deals with all of the above mentioned factors in detail and by the end of the page you should have a great idea of what Antarctica cruise you’re after.

We have also listed the most popular Antarctica itineraries to give you a flavor of what your typical Antarctica cruise operator might offer. Please use the quick-links below if you want to jump to a particular section. Otherwise, read on! 

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Antarctica Guide do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Types of Antarctica Cruises

The first thing you need to decide upon when travelling to Antarctica is the type of cruise you’re looking for.

Assuming you want to see the wildlife-rich peninsula, you have three options: either a standard cruise from Ushuaia, a Fly-cruise from Punta Arenas or a luxury cruise.

All three options have their positive points as we discuss below.

Standard Cruise from Ushuaia

last-minute-antarctica-cruise

By far the most popular option for Antarctica tourists is a standard Antarctic cruise from Ushuaia.

This means sailing from the port of Ushuaia to the Peninsula and returning either straight back or via the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, depending on your itinerary.

All operators offer on-board lectures and, depending on your vessel size, you’ll have the option to go ashore.

To reach the Antarctic Peninsula via boat, you need to first cross the notoriously rough Drake Passage. This is an experience in itself and the more hardy travelers relish the crossing.

Not only do the rough seas make for an exciting journey, there is also the chance to see whales and seabirds on the crossing. The crossing usually takes 48 hours, depending on weather and many travelers consider the crossing as rite of passage to reach Antarctica.

Fly Cruise from Punta Arenas

If the Drake Passage doesn’t sound like your thing, then the other option is to do what is known as a fly-cruise.

This is a great option for people who suffer from sea sickness or for people who have less time on their hands.

A Fly-cruise allows you to fly (usually from Punta Arenas) to King George Island and then take a cruise around the peninsula before flying back to Argentina. Many operators also offer the option to fly one way and cruise the other.

The seas around the peninsula are much calmer than the Drake Passage and people who struggle with constant motion should be fine on the peninsula.

For more detailed information on Drake Passage sea sickness, please see our here.

If you suffer from sea sickness quite considerably then the only option open to you would be to fly into the interior of Antarctica and take an expedition camping tour. You’ll need to be quite hardy though as temperatures are extremely cold in the interior, however, you have the chance to see the elusive Emperor Penguins!

Luxury Antarctica Cruise

Like most cruises across the world, there is the option of a luxury cruise. Luxury Antarctica cruises cost more than your typical Antarctica cruise and not every operator has a luxury option.

A luxury Antarctica cruise provides better facilities with a higher on-board service. This means that all cabins will be larger than standard, have ocean views and private en-suite with a bath. Suite rooms and state rooms come with a personal butler and 24 hour room service.

You’ll be able to sit where you want in the ships dining room and all beverages, including fine wine and champagne, are included in the price.

The guides provided on the ship will be world experts and you’ll also have access to professional photographers, authors and destination experts on-board. If you have the money, a Luxury Antarctica cruise is certainly worth considering as the experience is like none other.

Antarctica Cruise Budget

Your budget is super important as this will probably have the biggest impact on what Antarctica cruise itinerary you can choose.

An Antarctica cruise is a big investment, so you want to be sure you’re choosing a tour that is right for you. There are three major price determinations for Antarctica cruises – itinerary, cabin accommodation and extra activities.

Accommodation can vary quite dramatically, especially as some ships are purpose-built for Antarctica cruises whilst others are ex-research vessels. If you’re concerned, the best thing to do is to request photos from your chosen operator.

Please see out Antarctica cruise price graph to help get a better understanding of the average prices.

antarctica-cruise-price-graph

Lower Budget

Firstly, don’t be shocked by the high prices, Antarctica cruises cost far more to run than normal cruises and often provide more activities (like shore landings).

Most Antarctica cruises start at around US$7,500. At that price you’ll be looking at a fairly short itinerary of around 11 days and you’ll also need to be in a cabin of 4 people.

If you are traveling solo then the price will be more expensive.

Some Antarctica cruise operators offer twin rooms for two solo travelers to share, however, this is not always the case and you will need to check before booking.

If you want to avoid crossing the infamous Drake Passage then you’ll need to budget for a fly-cruise which is more expensive.

Generally a fly-cruise trip will last 8 days and will cost roughly US$9,000. Again, this is a budget price and you’ll be sharing a cabin once on-board your ship.

People often write that it’s possible to camp out Ushuaia and wait for a last-minute booking price. Although this is possible, in our experience, it’s not as frequent and easy as people believe. You’ll need time on your hands – which costs money – and you’ll need to be lucky as most Antarctica cruises book out months in advance.

Please keep in mind that lower cabins tend to be less affected by motion and if you do suffer from sea sickness, a lower cabin will be the best option. Lower cabins will also be less expensive on average. Remember, not only do cabins cost different amounts, but also ships. Antarctica cruise operators will often run more than one ship and these vessels will usually be kitted out differently inside which will impact price. If you notice an operator offering two different prices for the same itinerary, this will usually be the reason.

Higher Budget

If you can afford to splash out a little more than your itinerary and cabin options open up considerably.

A standard cruise to the peninsula for 12 days in a nice double cabin will cost anywhere between US$10,000 – $15,000.

Whilst it is considerably more, if you can afford it then go for it as it makes the whole experience much more pleasurable.

If your budget is above US$10,000 then you can potentially lengthen your trip to take in the spectacular Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Cruises to the peninsula via the Falklands and South Georgia usually start at around US$10,000 for 20 days.

Once again, this is in shared accommodation. If you would like a longer itinerary with your own well-appointed cabin, you should budget more towards $20,000.

Whilst the graph above is a good indicator of general itinerary prices, it is by no means a 100% accurate and every Antarctica cruise operator will charge slightly differently and offer slight variations in itinerary.

This is often the case where certain activities are offered such as Kayakingcampingscuba divingswimming etc.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Antarctica Guide do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist please complete the form.

quote-left

Great recommendation, thanks!

Mark W

USA

Choosing The Right Antarctica Cruise Ship

Your cruise ship will impact your travel experience considerably.

Antarctica cruise ship sizes range from vessels that carry less than hundred passengers to vessels that carry over 500!

If your goal is to go ashore as often as possible then you should consider a small vessel as ships carrying less than 200 passengers have access to most landing spots along the peninsula.

Ships with more passengers are often heavily restricted on where they can land and vessels carrying over 500 passengers cannot land at all.

Whilst the smaller ships have the advantage of landing spots, larger ships are generally better appointed and have a much more luxurious feel.

Larger ships also have the added benefit of swaying less in the rolling seas – an important note for people who suffer from sea sickness.

If you want a cruise to Antarctica that allows you to go ashore and get up close and personal with some of the wildlife, then a smaller vessels may be your best option. Cruise boats that carry less than 200 passengers have the right to land at most places, whereas larger ships are more restricted. Cruise ships carrying over 500 people cannot land at all.

Another option is a small yacht. This is not a common option and tourists generally stick to bigger ships. However, there are several registered yacht tours and these tours have great versatility in terms of landing options. Yachts are more affected by sea motion though and tend to cost far more than a cruise – generally in the region of US$1,000 per day per person.

For our full list of Antarctica cruise ships please click here. Here are some of our favourite ships.

Antarctica Cruise Destinations

Choosing what you specifically want to see and do on your Antarctica cruise can go a long way in helping you decide what tour itinerary to choose.

Below we have listed the most popular destinations and which itineraries include them.

For more information on popular destinations in Antarctica, please see read our detailed page.

Antarctica Peninsula

The Lemaire Channel

The Antarctica Circle

Hope Bay

Paradise Harbor (or Paradise Bay)

Deception Island

South Georgia and Falklands Island

Antarctica Cruise Activities

Activities are another important factor when budgeting for your cruise to Antarctica. Zodiac rides and shore landings are usually included in the cruise price, however, if you want to go kayaking, scuba diving, skiing, camping or climbing, you’ll need to arrange this with your operator and pay extra.

Prices for each activity vary considerably and you’ll need to ask your operator.

Kayaking is the most popular activity and generally costs around US$750 – $1,000 on top of your base cruise cost.

Camping, skiing and climbing all cost in the region of US$500 per person. Paddle-boarding is usually the cheapest activity costing around US$150, however, not every operator offers this option.

Scuba diving is one of the most expensive option and will cost you upwards of a US$1,000.

When booking your cruise to Antarctica, make sure you consult with your operator as to what activities are included on your Antarctica cruise. Most operators are very transparent about this, but it’s always good to check. If you are very keen on activities then some companies operate ‘Adventure Tours’ which is a combination of skiing, camping, climbing and kayaking all rolled into one.

For more information, please see our detailed activities page here.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Antarctica Guide do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Choosing An Antarctica Tour Operator

The first thing to make sure of is that your Antarctica cruise operator is a member of The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

IAATO is an umbrella industry group that have set strict standards for all Antarctica cruise operators in an attempt to protect the pristine and unspoiled environment of Antarctica. Your tour operator should be a member of IAATO and adhere to their guidelines at all times.

Knowing Their Ship

All good Antarctica cruise operators should know their ship. This means being able to tell you exactly what cabin would suit you, what vessel would suit you and what on-board activities would suit you. For example: If you often feel slightly sea sick, but still want an ocean view, your operator should know which cabin is least affected by motion but still has an ocean view.

Food quality & Options

All operators offer something slightly different when it comes to food. Make sure your Antarctica cruise company can cater to any specific food requirements you have. Ask how often hot meals are served. Some operators offer buffet style meals whilst others offer menu course. Dinner can range from one course to three – check with your operator.

Lectures & Guides

One of the most important aspect about your Antarctica cruise will be your lectures and your guides. When it comes to guides, a good ratio to look for is 1 guide for every 10 passengers. This varies slightly from operator to operator. As you’ll want tons of information on the Antarctic wildlife and scenery, the more guides the better. Most Antarctica cruise operators will provide highly knowledgeable biologists, naturalist and historians (depending on itinerary). On-board lectures should occur at least twice a day and really good operators will usually provide on-shore talks as well. Top cruises will often provide photography experts also.

Eco-friendly

Choosing a conscientious Antarctica cruise operator is vitally important. The environment should be everyone’s number one concern and this should be reflected in your choice of operator. Many operators work with charities and there are several ships now that have a carbon neutral scheme.

Antarctica Video

Below is a stunning video detailing what it’s like to travel to the White Continent. Film by Chris Stanley.

Antarctica Cruise Itinerary Options

When choosing an Antarctica cruise itinerary, always make sure to look at the route map.

This is particularly important for the peninsula section as there are a number of varying routes around the region and some itineraries will simply visit the tip of the peninsula whilst other itineraries will explore further south.

Ones that explore further south are usually knows as ‘Antarctic Circle’ tours or something similar. Below are the most popular Antartica cruise itineraries. 

Classic-Antarctica-itinerary-map-1

Prices from: US$6,000 pp | Trip length: 10-12 days

The Classic Antarctica itinerary is the quintessential Antarctic trip. By far the most popular option among travelers, the classic cruise takes its visitors across the Drake Passage, before exploring the Antarctic Peninsula. Highlights include several shore landings, swimming in Deception Bay and viewing whales, penguins and seals. Being the cheapest option, the classic cruise is the ideal option for tourists who want a first-time taste of Antarctica and for tourists on a budget.


Antarctica circle Via Falklands And South Georgia Cruise

Prices from: US$10,500 pp | Trip length: 20-22 days

Probably the second most popular Antarctica itinerary available, the Antarctica via Falklands and South Georgia cruise offers travelers the chance to explore not only the stunning landscape of the peninsula, but also the wildlife rich islands to the north. The Galapagos of the Antarctic region, both the Falkland Islands and South Georgia are abundant in wildlife, often displaying over a million seals and penguins on one beach, including the charismatic King Penguins. This is generally one of the more expensive cruise, but certainly one of the best.


Antarctica-circle-itinerary-map

Prices from: US$8,500 pp | Trip length: 14 days

The Antarctica Circle itinerary is the perfect option for those wishing to explore further down the continent’s peninsula. The circle cruise has a similar start to that of the Classic Antarctica Cruise. You begin by crossing the notorious Drake Passage before arriving at the peninsula. After exploring for several days, the circle cruise continues south taking in the western coast of Antarctica, an area that not many on earth have seen. You’ll celebrate with your fellow travelers and guides as you cross the Antarctic Circle.


Antarctica-express-itinerary-map

Prices from: US$8,500 pp | Trip length: 8 days

The Antarctica Express itinerary is the ideal option for travellers who don’t have much time on their hands or for people who suffer from severe sea sickness. The express cruise itinerary avoids the 2 day Drake Crossing, instead, travellers take a flight from Punta Arenas which then lands at King George Island. Once landed, you will have the chance to explore the island before embarking your ship to explore the peninsula region. Afterwards you take a flight back.


Antarctica-fly-south-itinerary-north-tour-map-1

Prices from: US$10,000 pp | Trip length: 10 days

The Antarctica Fly South – Cruise North itinerary takes visitors one way by plane and the other by ship. The fly south -cruise north option is perfect for travelers who are short on time but still wish to experience the epic Drake Passage crossing. Many people believe the crossing is a rite-of-passage for Antarctic visitors and it’s certainly unforgettable. After flying in to King George Island, you’ll board your chosen ship and sail around the main peninsula attractions, viewing stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife.


weddell-sea-itinerary-map

Prices from: US$10,000 pp | Trip length: 11 days

The Weddell Sea itinerary is a true expedition voyage. If you fancy something totally unique, then this may be the cruise for you. After crossing the Drake Passage, you begin by exploring the western peninsula like other Antarctic itineraries, however, you then sail around to the eastern side of the peninsula to explore a region less traveled. Here you will take several helicopter journeys and search for the famous emperor penguins, an animal that is rarely seen, even in Antarctica.


Prices from: US$5,500 pp | Trip length: 10-12 days

One of the most remote areas on our planet, the Ross Sea is a region steeped in human exploration history. Few people have ever stepped foot in the region and the area provides a fascinating mix between incredible wildlife and polar exploration. The highlights are without doubt the Ross Sea ice shelf and the wildlife rich sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand. People with a sense of curiosity will be delighted every day as you visit penguin rookeries, seal colonies and historic exploration huts.


Classic-Antarctica-itinerary-map-1

Prices from: US$7,000 pp | Trip length: 11-12 days

The Basecamp Cruise is the ideal cruise for active people with an adventurous spirit! Unlike other peninsula cruises that explore the region, the Basecamp Cruise itinerary focuses on activities such as kayaking, mountaineering, camping and snowshoeing! The cruise is anchors in only one or two spots (basecamp) whilst you attempt all the fun activities on offer. Unlike other Antarctic itineraries, these activities are all included in the price. You not only conduct your activities, but you also get the chance to visit some of the most spectacular areas in the region including the Lemaire Channel and Port Lockroy! You’ll also get the chance to get up close and personal with some of the amazing wildlife.


Antarctica via Chilean Fjords itinerary map

Prices from: US$8,500 pp | Trip length: 15-18 days

The Antarctica Peninsula via the Chilean Fjords itinerary provides a fantastic mix of landscapes! On the one hand you experience the incredible harsh and stunning environment of Antarctica, on the other you experience the isolated islands, tall green mountains and quiet bays of the Chilean Fjords. The contrast is something to behold! Your trip takes off from Punta Arenas where you explore the fjords for a few days before heading across the Drake Passage to reach the Antarctic Peninsula where you make daily landings.


Antarctica circle Via Falklands And South Georgia Cruise

Prices from: US$14,000 pp | Trip length: 23 days

The Antarctica Circle via Falklands and South Georgia is one of the most in-depth Antarctic cruises that can be done. Not only do you take in the wildlife-rich islands of South Georgia and the Falklands, but you also sail much further down south along the Peninsula than most other Antarctic itineraries to cross the Antarctic Circle! This really is one of the most amazing cruises on offer in the region and is a great option for wildlife lovers and people with a real spirit for adventure.


Antarctica and Coastal Patagonia-map

Prices from: US$11,000 pp | Trip length: 18 days

The Antarctica Peninsula and Coastal Patagonia itinerary is the perfect option for people who not only wish to explore Antarctica, but also explore the coast of Chile and Patagonia. The cruise sets out from Ushuaia across the Drake Passage before reaching the Antarctic Peninsula. After exploring the region and making a number of landings, the cruise then sail back across the passage and begins its journey northwards along the Chilean coastline. This Antarctica itinerary takes in stunning fjords, isolated villages and vibrant towns as you make your way up to Santiago.


East Antarctica itinerary map

Prices from: US$16,000 pp | Trip length: 27 days (weather dependent)

The East Antarctica itinerary is one of the few Antarctic trips that leaves from New Zealand. The journey explores one of the least visited places on earth – East Antarctica. Your cruise explores wildlife rich islands, historical huts and desolate landscapes of ice and rock. You’ll visit Mawson’s hut, see the only breeding area of Royal penguins and even spot an Emperor penguin or two! This is the perfect cruise for wildlife lovers and people with an adventurous spirit. Please note that this is a long cruise in ice conditions and exact shore landings cannot be guaranteed.


Epic-Antarctica-cruise-map

Prices from: US$15,000 pp | Trip length: 22 days (weather dependent)

The Epic Antarctica itinerary is probably the most comprehensive Antarctica itinerary ever offered! Only polar researchers spend more time on the ice. You take in both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula, including the much less visited Weddell Sea region. You explore the peninsula for an unprecedented 16 days whilst also heading further south to cross the Antarctic Circle! This is the perfect cruise itinerary for adventure lovers who want to explore every inch of the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Antarctica Guide do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist please complete the form.

quote-left

Great recommendation, thanks!

Mark W

USA

Other Useful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you’ve enjoyed this page. If you have any further questions about choosing the right Antarctica cruise, please just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

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