Classic Antarctica Cruise: Most Popular Cruise to Antarctica


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The Classic Antarctica Cruise is the quintessential Antarctica experience.

The cruise is generally run over 10 or 11 daysand takes you to the Northern most section of Antarctica – the Antarctic Peninsula. 

This is by far the most popular cruise to the White Continent and is generally the cheapest option for those wishing to visit Antarctica.

You get a lot of bang for your buck though as the Classic Antarctica Cruise takes you to some of the most popular sites along the peninsula coast, including Deception Island, huge sculptured icebergs and numerous penguin rookeries. You’ll see many lounging seals and spot some of the giants of our world – whales! Along the way you’ll learn about the history of Antarctica and discover fascinating insights into the fauna of the region via on-board lectures.

Your Classic Antarctica Cruise begins with a voyage across the infamous Drake Passage, a notoriously rough section of sea that many people view as a right-of-passage. People who suffer from severe sea sickness should probably consider the Antarctica Express Cruise instead. In our opinion, the Drake Passage is one of the highlights of the trip!

Once you reach the peninsula you will be making two shore landings a day (depending on weather and cruise size). During these landing you’ll have a chance to get up close and personal with some of Antarctica’s most iconic wildlife, including Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adélie penguins. Most cruises will also offer passengers the chance to do some kayaking and possibly even a swim or two!

The Classic Antarctica Cruise is the perfect option for first timers or for people with a slightly tighter budget.

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Classic Antarctica Cruise

Route Map

Route Map for the Classic Antarctica Cruise

Route Itinerary

Please note that all operators have slightly different itineraries. The one detailed below is the typical itinerary that most operators adhere to. Please also remember that operators must sail to the weather and that exact landings and visits cannot be guaranteed in advance.

Day 1: Arrive in Ushuaia

Today you arrive in the port city of Ushuaia, the southern most city on the planet. If you feel like arriving early you will have time to explore the many boutique cafes and restaurants the city has to offer. You may also want to visit the nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park. With a population of over 60,000, Ushuaia has a very nice feel to it and is the perfect departure point for your Antarctic adventure.

Day 2: Embarkation Day

Today is the day, you board your ship to Antarctica! Most operators leave in the late afternoon and sail out into the historic Beagle Channel. The Beagle channel cuts through the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the southernmost tip of South America. The next time you berth will be in Antarctica!

Day 3-4: Crossing the Drake Passage

The Drake Passage is notoriously rough, however, the seas are unpredictable and sometimes it will be dead calm. This is the perfect chance to get your sea legs going before you reach the White Continent. The first day will be spent going over safety briefings and meeting your fellow crew and guests. Make sure to look out for whales!

Day 5-7: South Shetland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula

This is what you have been waiting for! Day 5 will see your ship entering Antarctic waters and sailing pas the South Shetland Islands. Every cruise is different and you’ll be treated to unique wildlife displays and iceberg formations.

Your operator will provide lectures during these three days in which you’ll find out about everything Antarctic, including ornithology, glaciology, marine biology, geography, history, geology and the environment. You’ll take several zodiac trips a day, making shore landing to get closer to the natural environment. You’ll also sail into famous bays and take short trips down several picturesque channels.

Your operator will also stop at Deception Bay where you will have the chance to swim! Your guide will tell you the water is warm there because of the dormant volcano – it’s not (be warned!). You’ll visit several penguin rookeries and have the chance to do some hiking up local hills to get spectacular 360 degree views!

Each day will be carefully laid out by your operator to give you the best and most varied experience possible. Often you’ll have several options, including hiking or photographing wildlife.

Day 8-9: Crossing the Drake Peninsula

You now return back across the Drake Passage. Having gained your sea legs this journey will feel far better than the outward crossing! You will also have your eye in and you'll be spotting all manner of species from the boat. Look out for whales and seabirds in particular.

Day 10: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

All good things must come to an end. You will arrive early back in port so that you can take any connecting flights or transportation onward.

Trip Variations

The Circle cruise takes in the Antarctic Peninsula like the classic cruise but then pushes further south to cross the Antarctic Circle! See the full Antarctic circle cruise itinerary

The Basecamp Cruise takes travelers to the peninsula where your ship anchors for a number of days whilst you take part in a wide array of activities including kayaking, snowshoeing, zodiac trips, photography workshops and mountaineering. All activities are included in the price. See the full Basecamp cruise itinerary

The Express Cruise is ideal for travelers with less time on their hands. Instead of making the two day crossing to Antarctica, you will take a flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island where you will board your vessel. Also a good option for people who suffer from sea sickness. See the full Express cruise itinerary

One of the best cruises in our opinion, the Antarctica Peninsula via Falklands and South Georgia not only visit the peninsula in detail but also takes in the wildlife-rich islands of South Georgia and the Falklands. Itinerary is almost a week longer and the price reflects this. See the full South Georgia and Falklands itinerary

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Classic Antarctica Cruise FAQ

How much does this cruise cost?

The Classic Antarctica Cruise is generally the cheapest Antarctica cruise option most companies will offer the 10 day itinerary for around $5,000 – $6,000. However, if you want a room on the upper deck or want to book a suite, you should expect to pay upwards of US$10,000.

We always recommend that you read reviews and do your homework on each company offering the cruise. Whilst some agencies will charge less, you must consider quality of food, lectures, gear, accommodation and safety. We take the stance that you get what you pay for – this has certainly proved true every time we have visited the continent. People often talk of securing last minute trips for much cheaper prices, however, this actually requires being in Ushuaia for a long duration as you wait for a cruise to have a last minute space. Most people don’t have the luxury of being able to do this sadly.

Please see our detailed page on Antarctica cruise costs.

What's usually include?

Please note here that all operators offer slightly different packages. The list below is what we would expect to be included for the Classic Antarctica Cruise – 11 days.

  • 1 night hotel stay in Ushuaia before departure
  • 9 nights on-board the vessel
  • Arrival and departure transfers to and from airport
  • Daily zodiac excursions once in Antarctica
  • Expert on-board lectures
  • Waterproof boots for shore landings
  • Expedition parka
  • 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners (some operators do not include food)
  • Ratio of at least 1 expedition member per 10 guests
  • Optional extra activities offered for additional cost – kayaking, hiking etc.
What is the best time for this cruise?

The Classic Antarctica Cruise is run throughout the continent’s summer months from early November through to March. The cruise is fantastic whichever period you decide to sail. However, when you go should really depend upon what you want to see. For instance, if you’re keen on viewing whales then you should book later in the season around February and March as this is when whales are much more common.

On the other hand, earlier in the season is the best time to view courtship rituals between penguins and young chicks hatching. The earlier part of the season also provides the most dramatic icebergs as they have yet to melt. If you feel the cold more than others then you might consider going in the high summer season in Late December/early January as temperatures during this period can reach a barmy 10 degrees Celsius on the peninsula!

Please see our detailed page on when to visit Antarctica.

What gear do I need to take?

Weather is obviously quite cold on the cruise and you will therefore need appropriate clothing. This includes gloves, parka, beanie, cold weather boots and wool layers. We also recommend bringing camera gear so you never forget the experience! You will need several zip-lock bags and filters to get the best out of your Antarctic photography. Please see our Antarctica photography tips page for more detailed information.

Please read our full Antarctic packing list.

Do I need travel insurance for this cruise?

Absolutely. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Antarctica cruises. You will need to look closely at the insurance policy offered to you as many insurers don’t actually cover you whilst you are on-shore! You also need proper emergency evacuation cover.

Please see our detailed article on Antarctica travel insurance.

What level of fitness do I need for this cruise?

The Classic Antarctica Cruise is not an extreme tour and only light activity is conducted.

There will be several shore landing per day in which you will be on your feet for some time (1-2 hours) whilst you wander the shoreline.

However, if you struggle on your feet for long periods no one is stopping you from simply sitting down at any point.

There will be the chance to do some hiking, however, this is purely optional. No real fitness is required for this cruise, just a strong sense of curiosity!

Ships that sail the Classic Antarctica Cruise Itinerary

Hebridean Sky

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.

Hondius

The only registered Polar Class 6 civilian ship in the world, the m/v Hondius is currently the safest Polar vessel on earth. Designed specifically for Polar travel, the Hondius offers passengers a modern ship with plenty of wildlife watching opportunities thanks to its spacious deck. 

Island Sky

One of the smallest expedition ships in Antarctica, the Island Sky is the perfect vessel for wildlife watching. Equipped with 11 zodiacs and excellent deck space, you’ll never miss a thing. 

The interior is elegant and the facilities are excellent. All cabins are outward facing and come with private en suite bathrooms.

Le Boreal

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.

Le Lyrial

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.

MS Expedition

This small expedition ship carries a 132 passengers and 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.

Magellan Explorer

Accommodating just 73 passengers, the Magellan Explorer is a purpose built Polar ship that gives people maximum time upon shore. Built with a Polar Class 6 ice-class and the latest stabilisers, the Magellan Explorer is one of the smoothest and safest ships operating in Polar waters today. 

MV Ushuaia

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.

National Geographic Explorer

This luxury vessel houses 168 passengers and is one of the most state of the art polar ships out there! Fully stabilized and equipped with a Wellness Specialist and Spa Therapist, the National Geographic is a favorite among many.

All 81 cabins are window facing and there is tons of deck space to wander about in comfort.

National Geographic Orion

Slightly smaller than its Explorer brother, the Orion is extremely well appointed, cozy and elegant. The ship holds 102 passengers and comes equipped with a spa facility, outdoor cafe, library and dining rooms.

Probably one of the most comfortable ships in Antarctica, the Orion is always highly recommended.

Ocean Diamond

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.

Ocean Endeavour

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.

Ortelius

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 theatre room and a good amount of deck space.

Plancius

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.

Ocean Adventurer

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.

Sea Spirit

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.

Silver Cloud

Carrying just 200 passengers, the Silver Cloud is the smallest luxurious ship in Antarctica. Interior is modern and deck space in large. There are five dining options, including a Relais & Châteaux restaurant!

The ships has a number of shops, internet cafes and panorama lounges. If you need to unwind then the full spa facility will do just that.

Silver Explorer

Probably the most luxurious ship in the Polar Regions. The Silver Explorer takes only 132 passengers, but boasts facilities of a much larger vessel. Facilities include a spacious library, Internet Cafe, full-service spa, boutique shopping, beauty salon, fitness center, sauna and two top-deck Jacuzzi’s! The ship also boasts 8 zodiacs so no one ever has to wait for landings! If you can afford it, this is a very cool ship.

The Fram

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.

Janssonius

One of only several Polar Class 6 civilian ships in the world, the Jansonnius is a purpose built Polar vessel designed to navigate the toughest waters on earth. Equipped with the latest technology and facilities, the Janssonius feels both modern and homely. It comes with excellent wildlife watching spaces and a dedicated lecture deck.

Get a Cruise Quote, Now!

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.

FAQ

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