Luxury cruises to Antarctica: Everything you need to know

Luxury cruises to Antarctica: Everything you need to know

May 17th, 2024 / Burnham Arlidge

While Antarctic exploration was once the domain of rugged adventurers and scientists, today's travellers can experience the wonders of the White Continent in unparalleled comfort and style aboard luxury cruise vessels.

If we think back only 10 years, the luxury cruise realm had not hit Antarctica in any meaningful way. Nowadays however, there is a whole host of luxury operators offering small-ship expeditions in breathtaking comfort.

Forget the old research-style vessels that had four people sharing in one tiny, windowless cabin, luxury expedition vessels offer guests private balconies and floor to ceiling windows as standard.

Is the luxury experience worth the extra price? That is a question that really comes down to the traveller. Whilst sharing a windowless cabin with three strangers may sound less than ideal, it does get you to Antarctica for less than $6,000 - $7,000.

On the other hand, a trip to Antarctica aboard a luxury ship will cost you at a bare minimum of $10,000 - $11,000. If you want to go for the ultra luxury in a top-tier cabin then you could easily spend upwards of $40,000.

Below we have given a breakdown on the extra facilities and activities that you could expect when sailing aboard a luxury ship to Antarctica.

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Dining experience

One of the main differences between budget and luxury cruises is the dining experience on board. Gourmet food prepared by world-class chefs using the finest ingredients sourced from around the world is standard on luxury cruises.

Meals are often four or five courses and are served with a wide variety of beverages such as cocktails, wine, champagne and beer. The staff are incredibly attentive and do their best to make the meals perfect for their guests.

The settings of the restaurants are beautifully elegant and generally come with floor to ceiling windows to give diners the best dinner views of their lives.

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Bar experience

On many luxury vessels in Antarctica the beverages come free of charge. The bar staff are highly trained and you can have your pick of cocktails from a Manhattan to a Negroni.

If you like the really good stuff then there are plenty of top notch whiskey and wine options, you just might have to pay a surcharge for them.

Spa facilities

Another big difference between luxury and budget Antarctic cruises are the spa facilities. To put it simply, budget ships do not have any spa facilities, whereas luxury ships have incredibly high level spas.

Most luxury Antarctic vessels come with heated pools, jacuzzis, saunas and steam rooms. Imagine sipping champagne in a hot tub whilst looking out over a glacier-strewn bay… It is truly a magical experience.

On top of this, you will find excellent spa packages onboard including massages, head rubs, facials, manicures - the list goes on.

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Ship comfort

The interior of luxury Antarctica ships far outstrips any standard vessel. Beautiful lounges that look forward over the bow with floor to ceiling windows are generally standard, as are luxurious polar libraries and gorgeous dining areas.

Generally, you will find purpose-built lecture theatres and mud rooms. Because there are so few people onboard, the public areas feel very laid back and never rushed.

Cabin facilities

As mentioned above, there is a big difference in cabins when you pay the extra cost and travel on board a luxury vessel to Antarctica.

Cabins themselves are a lot larger which instantly makes the experience nicer. They are also better appointed in terms of cupboard space, bed comfort, bathroom size etc.

Most luxury cabins have a private balcony which is the perfect way to get a bit of Antarctica to yourself. Having a coffee in the morning on your balcony and taking in the view is an amazing way to start the day.

Little things like shower pressure, bed size, movie options and mini bars are all much better on board luxury vessels. Although not deal breakers, it all adds up to a better holiday feeling.

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Extra touches

Luxury Antarctic vessels often come with little extras that, although not essential, add to the overall luxury experience.

Several ships have cigar rooms and whiskey tasting areas. These rooms are usually sumptuously decorated with a classic fireplace and leather padded chairs.

Some ships have science areas where you can use a microscope to look at certain Antarctic flora and fauna. There is also often a photography studio on board where you can speak to a photographer and edit your own photos.

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Although it may sound like a fairly futuristic and expensive operation, a number of luxury expedition ships come with a fully immersible submarine.

This provides guests with a rare and memorable experience of going under the water and seeing Antarctica and its wildlife from a completely new angle.

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Like the submarine, a helicopter tour gives you a new angle to experience Antarctica from. Flying high above the landscape allows you to appreciate just how vast the White Continent truly is.

Helicopters are also used to get to areas inaccessible by ship, such as the emperor penguin colony at Snow Hill.

Science rooms

Whilst Citizen Science programs are run on many expedition ships, including non-luxury, very few ships have dedicated rooms to this pursuit.

Having a dedicated area to study things under the microscope or to have a chat with the expedition team is a really rewarding experience.

What elements of luxury Antarctic cruises are the same as standard or budget Antarctic cruises?


No matter if you are sailing aboard a luxury vessel or a standard vessel, the itineraries are usually very similar across the board.

All itineraries are weather-dependent, but there are certain sites dotted all the way up the Antarctic Peninsula that expedition ships use.

The variability in your itinerary really comes from how many passengers are aboard the ship. Small ships with fewer than 20 passengers can generally perform two landings per day, whilst the bigger ships will often only operate one landing per day.

This is due to the rule that only allows 100 people ashore at any point at a single landing site.

Expedition Team

Whilst expedition team members do vary quite significantly in their knowledge base and skill set, this is not ship or operator dependent.

Moat expedition team members will work across a variety of operators and ships and paying more for a ship is no guarantee that you will get the most knowledgeable team onboard.

Saying this, you can rest assured that most expedition team members know their stuff incredibly well and you will be in safe hands throughout your journey, no matter what ship you sail on.

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As stated above, itineraries do not vary hugely and there are a set number of landing sites throughout the Antarctic Peninsula.

This means that the wildlife also does not vary depending on which ship you sail on. In terms of whales and seals, then it is pretty much luck of the draw. However, penguins are always guaranteed.

Posted on May 17, 2024

About the Author Burnham Arlidge

Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has visited some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet - his most memorable experience is Antarctica!

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