Often termed ‘Crossing the Circle’, the Antarctica Circle cruise takes you on a journey down the Antarctic Peninsula and explores the region in much more depth than any other cruise.
You’ll explore the upper region of the peninsula before heading past the Antarctica Circle into the wilderness of the huge continent. Here you’ll see long forgotten icebergs, rare Weddell seals and pods of whales. The Antarctica Circle Cruise is perfect for people with a real sense of adventure. Unlike a standard cruise you’ll be landing in less frequented sites where you’ll have ample opportunities to visit penguin rookeries and seabird colonies. Because these colonies are so remote, they’re often much larger than their northern neighbours, some being in their millions!
Not only is the wildlife incredible, but you are venturing into a region that few on earth have ever been. The history of the region is kept alive with on-board lectures and you’ll learn about the fascinating geography of the peninsula as you venture further and further south, finally reaching your goal of 66 degrees 33.7′ south.
If you love adventure, huge icebergs, and remote wilderness and want to be part of a select group of travelers, the Antarctica Circle Cruise is the option for you.
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Antarctica Circle Cruise – Route Map
Antarctica Circle Cruise – Route Itinerary
Please remember here that all cruises have slightly differing itineraries. The itinerary below is the standard for most operators in Antarctica. Also note that weather is often a major factor when it comes to sailing in Antarctica and not all voyages will stick rigidly to a set itinerary.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN USHUAIA
Today you arrive in the bustling city of Ushuaia. Here you can explore the vibrant streets and many boutique shops and cafes on display. If you have some extra timer you could also consider visiting the stunning Tierra Del Fuego National Park.
DAY 2: EMBARKATION DAY
After a morning relaxing you will board your cruise ship in the late afternoon. You begin by sailing out into the Beagle Channel. The channel cuts through the small islands of the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. You will straight away have the opportunity to photo seabirds before heading out into the open seas. You won’t see land again until you reach Antarctica!
DAY 3-4: CROSSING THE DRAKE PASSAGE
The Drake Passage is often seen as a right-of-passage for Antarctic travelers due to its notoriously rough seas. You should hope for calm waters, however, if you do experience rough weather, it is a great chance to get your sea legs before reaching the continent. The first day will be taken up with meeting the crew, safety procedures and simply taking in the fresh sea air.
The second day will be lecture day! You’ll be given a wide variety of lectures from geography to history by professional experts. These lectures are great way to get into the spirit of Antarctica before arriving.
DAY 5-7: SOUTH SHETLAND ISLANDS AND ANTARCTICA PENINSULA
Today the White Continent will come into sight, so get your cameras ready! Immediately you’ll spot enormous blue-hued icebergs as you cruise towards the peninsula. If you’re lucky you’ll see a curious whale or two popping up to look at your cruise ship.
However, the real adventure begins when you make your first shore landings. This is when you experience Antarctica at her best. Depending on weather, you’ll be landing at sites like Neko Harbor, Paradise Harbour or Orne Harbour. Here you’ll get close to penguin and seabird colonies and finally feel the cold ice beneath your feet. You’ll have the option to photograph the wildlife or take short hikes up in the local hills.
The more adventurous among you may want to take optional activities such as kayaking, snow-shoeing or camping!
DAY 8-9: CROSSING THE CIRCLE
This is what you have come for, to reach a part of the world that few have or will ever reach – 66 degrees 33.7′ South. You’ll celebrate in style with a well-earned glass of champagne on deck as you drift past rarely seen ice-bergs. The wildlife is unsurpassed down here and you’ll be hard pressed to miss some of the large pods of whales or lounging seals.
DAY 10-11: NORTHBOUND ALONG THE ANTARCTIC PENINSULA
By now you will be proficient in telling the difference between penguin species and you’ll be able to spot a Weddell seal or leopard seal from way off. Your lectures will continue to enlighten you as you head back up north and you’ll continue to take small zodiac excursions into unknown territory. Every turn is different, even for the crew as the landscape of Antarctica changes almost daily.
DAY 12-13: CROSSING THE DRAKE PASSAGE
Today you begin your journey home, leaving behind the White Continent. You’ll have pictures and memories that will last a lifetime and the two day crossing will seem to pass very quickly as you reflect with your fellow passengers on what an incredible experience you have had. The lectures will continue and you’ll be able to witness a slideshow of the great sites and species you’ve seen along your voyage.
DAY 14: DISEMBARKATION AT USHUAIA
All good things must come to an end. Today you arrive back in Ushuaia port early to allow you time to connect to your flights. The team say one last farewell before leaving for home.
The Antarctica Circle Cruise does have several variations.
Antarctica Express Circle Cruise
This variation is essentially the same cruise, but you fly to the Antarctic Peninsula instead before boarding your ship. You will generally fly from Punta Arenas in Chile and arrive in King George Island. This is an ideal option for people who suffer from severe sea sickness or for people on a tighter schedule.
Crossing the Circle via Falklands and South Georgia
This is an extended version of the standard Circle Cruise. This cruise also takes i the wildlife-rich islands south Georgia and the Falklands. This is a fantastic option for photographers or for people with some extra time. By taking in the sub-Antarctic islands you will visit colonies of seals and penguins over a million strong! The cruise generally takes 5 days longer.
How much fitness is required for the Antarctica Circle Cruise?
The Antarctica Circle Cruise does not require any real level of fitness. Only light activity is conducted throughout the cruise and you will always have the option to stay aboard or sit down if you feel the need. People with slightly more energy will have the option to do some hiking, however, this is by no means mandatory.
What is included in the Antarctica Circle Cruise?
Please note here that all cruises will offer slightly different packages. The list below is what we would expect from a standard Antarctica Circle Cruise of 14 days.
•1 night hotel stay in Ushuaia before departure
•12 nights on-board the ship
•13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 10 dinners (some operators will not include food)
•Arrival and departure transfers to and from airport
•Waterproof boots for shore landings
•Daily zodiac excursions once in Antarctica
•Expert on-board lectures
•Ratio of at least 1 expedition member per 10 guests
•Optional activities offered at extra cost – kayaking, hiking etc.
Antarctica Circle Cruise – Cost
The Antarctica Circle Cruise is often one of the less expensive options and you certainly get a great deal of bang for your buck. Most operators offer the circle cruise on a 14 day itinerary for around US$9,000. However, if you wish to have a suite or accommodation ion the upper deck, you should expect to pay upwards of US$13,000.
Please make sure you do your research before purchasing a ticket. There are many operators out there and some are definitely better than others. We generally find that with Antarctica cruise, you get what you pay for. An Antarctica cruise is no small thing and finding out specifically what each operator offers is vital before deciding. If you want the cheapest option possible then you can try purchasing a last minute ticket. However, this is inhibiting in the sense that you have no idea when you’ll be leaving and you often need to actually be ready in Ushuaia to take advantage of such offers. This is not a luxury we can all afford sadly.
For a more detailed page on Antarctica travel costs, please click here.
Best time to do the Antarctica Circle Cruise
Like all Antarctic cruises, the Antarctic Circle Cruise runs throughout the continent’s summer period. This is generally from early November to late March. When you going during the summer should really depend upon what you want to see. If you want to see huge ice-bergs before they have had a chance to melt then go as early as possible. The early season is also great for seeing penguin and seabird courtship rituals.
The middle part of the season is often the ideal time to view young chicks and see parents hard at work bringing in food. This period is also the warmest and temperatures along the peninsula often exceed 10 degrees Celsius! The latter part of the season is great for whale watching. You’re guaranteed to see tons of whales in the latter part of the season and have a far better chance of getting up close and personal with them. It’s an astonishing feeling to feel the spray from a whale’s blowhole! No matter when you go though, your trip will truly be an unforgettable experience.
To see a more detailed page on when to visit Antarctica, please click here.
What gear will I need for the Antarctica Circle Cruise?
Cold weather gear is the main concern for any Antarctic voyage. Whilst it is summer there, weather is still extremely cold at times and you will need to bring some nice thermal clothing with you. The key is layering up. Gloves and parka are often included by operators, but you will still need some base layers and a fleece or two.
The other major piece of gear is your camera! Most people want to photograph the stunning landscape and wildlife and you’ll need certain cold weather gear for your camera gear, including several dry bags! For more information on Antarctica photography please click here.
To see our full Antarctica packing list, please click here.
Do I need travel insurance for the Antarctica Circle Cruise?
Yes. Travel insurance is a must for all Antarctica cruises. Cruise operators will not allow you on the boat without it. Make sure to read the policy wording closely however as some policies don’t actually cover you when you leave the ship for shore-landings! Make sure you have a high enough cover for emergency evacuation at sea.
For a detailed article on Antarctica insurance, please click here.
Ships that sail the Antarctica Peninsula Itinerary
One of the most modern ships in the region, the Ocean Diamond is a classy vessel that offers space for 189 passengers. The ship is equipped with a wellness program, several bars, polar library, theater-style auditorium and gym. Rooms are comfortable and spacious and the deck area is large and perfect for viewing wildlife.
Click here for more detailed information on the Ocean Diamond, including photos and deck plans.
The Ortelius is an ice-strengthened vessel designed for extreme cruises to the Polar regions. The Ortelius holds 116 passengers and has basic, but comfortable accommodation. The ship is equipped with two dining rooms, a bar and a lecture theater room and a good amount of deck space.
For more information on the Ortelius including deck plans, photos and trips, please click here.
With stabilizers and an ice-strengthened hull, this ship is one of the steadiest in Antarctica! Very well equipped and spacious, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov carries 92 passengers and offer a nice modern feel. The interior spaces are large and the vessel comes with a separate lounge, bar, sauna, plunge pool and library.
Click here for a detailed page on the Akademik Sergey Vavilov.
This 96 passenger vessel is one the strongest in the water and comes with stabilizers and an ice-strengthened hull. Fully equipped with a modern feel, the Akademik Ioffe offers a complete lecture theater and wellness program which includes yoga instruction (select departures), registered massage therapist, daily meditation, hot water spa, sauna and a refreshing salt-water plunge pool!
Click here for more detailed information on the Akademik Ioffe.
One of the larger research vessels, the Plancius can take up to 116 passengers and is fully ice-strengthened for those tough Polar regions! The ship has a comfortable feel and there is loads of deck space to wander around. The bar has large, panoramic views and the observation lounge also doubles as a presentation room. A basic, but tough and cozy ship with great views.
Click here for detailed more information on the Plancius.
One of the larger expedition ships in Antarctica, the Ocean Endeavour can take up to 199 passengers. perfectly equipped for polar sailing and passenger comfort, the Endeavour comes with a full ice-strengthened hull, large sundeck, spacious restaurant and several large lounges! The sauna, gym, juice bar and many zodiacs make the Endeavour one of our favorites.
Click here for more detailed information on the Ocean Endeavour.
With 116 passengers, the Sea Spirit is one of the smaller Expedition style vessels. However, the ship has a nice cozy and friendly feel because of this and the lounges are spacious and the library is well stocked. The outside deck area has a hot tub and area to serve bistro meals in good weather. Perfect and intimate vessel for Antarctica.
Click here for more detailed information on the Sea Spirit ship.
One of the more luxurious vessels in Antarctica, the Le Boreal can house just under 200 passengers and comes with several restaurants, several lounges, salon, steam room, spa and gym. The decor is modern and stylish and the ship even comes with an elevator! Expect large open deck space and well appointed cabins on this luxury Antarctica vessel.
Click here for more detailed information on the Le Boreal.
The French Connection! The Le Lyrial is very similar to its sister ship – Le Boreal. Incredibly luxurious for an Antarctica ship, the Le Lyrial is equipped to handle 199 passengers and provides extensive deck space and seating areas throughout the ship. The vessel has a spa, gym, sauna, several restaurants and lounges, lecture theater and extensive library. Often, there is far more non-English speaking guests on board.
Click here for more detailed information on the Le Lyrial.
This small expedition ship carries a 132 passengers ans was completely refurbished in 2009. Thanks to this, the cabins are large and well appointed, each one being window facing! Deck space is large and ideal for wildlife viewing whilst the interior areas are comfortable and cozy. Much of the common space has large windows for ideal viewing.
Click here for more detailed information on the MS Expedition.
Named after the ship used by Norwegian Explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the Fram was purpose built in 2009 and is one of the largest vessels in Antarctic waters with space for 269 passengers! Items from the original Fram are positioned around the ship which makes for a nice touch. As can be expected from a ship this size, the Fram contains several Jacuzzi’s, a gym, several restaurants and lounges and a full spa facility.
Click here for more detailed information on the Fram.
In June 2016, the 116 passenger ship underwent a multi-million dollar restoration project to bring the vessel into the modern age – and it worked. The Hebridean Sky now boasts state of the art stabilization, fuel efficiency and communications system. The ship is ideal for people looking for a feel of camaraderie, similar perhaps to a yacht experience.
Click here for more detailed information on the Hebridean Sky.
The Sea adventurer carries 132 passengers and was purpose built for Polar cruises. This fact can be seen everywhere – the cabins are all window facing and the large lounge, dining room and library are all totally lined in glass so you never miss a single view point! Food is to die for and the staff are extremely friendly. Deck space is considerable and there are several zodiacs for frequent shore landings.
Click here for more information on the Sea Adventurer.
The Ushuaia is one the most respected vessels in the Polar region and well up to the task of the Weddell Sea! Ice-strengthened and originally built for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the boat has now been refurbished to accommodate 88 passengers and nearly 50 suites! Large deck space, open bridge policy, open plan lounge and full media lecture room make this one the most popular vessels.
Click here for a detailed description of the Ushuaia.
Recommended Antarctica Cruise specialist
We have traveled to Antarctica with numerous operators and found one that stood out above the rest in professionalism and knowledge. If you haven’t already booked your cruise then we would be very happy to put you in touch with our chosen specialist. In terms of service, cruises range and price options, these guys really are the best. Perhaps more importantly, our operator works for every single Antarctica cruise ship and allows you to compare each itinerary, ship and price against each other to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for!
Further Antarctica cruise itineraries
If you have any further questions or queries regarding the Antarctica Circle Cruise, please just leave a message below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.
Thank you and happy travels!