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The 7 top antarctica cruises for 2024 + tips from an expert.

Plan your next epic adventure to the White Continent.

The Top Antarctica Cruises

The MS Roald Amundsen from Hurtigruten Expeditions in Orne Harbour, Antarctica.

Yuri Matisse Choufour | Courtesy of Hurtigruten Expeditions

Experience otherworldly beauty on an Antarctica cruise.

An expedition to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for intrepid travelers who want to explore this remote destination at the bottom of the world. The landscapes are surreal, with eerily blue icebergs, towering ice-capped mountains, dramatic weather conditions that change within seconds and species of wildlife that exist nowhere else on Earth – it's hard to imagine until you've made the long journey yourself.

The fifth-largest continent is home to the largest ice sheet on the planet, the Antarctic Ice Sheet, as well as the Transantarctic Mountains, with peaks soaring more than 14,700 feet into the sky. West Antarctica has volcanoes that are part of a tectonically active area around the Pacific Ocean known as the "Ring of Fire." This incredibly diverse and magical part of the world also has the coldest temperature ever recorded at -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit in 2010.

U.S. News has compiled a selection of seven different Antarctic experiences to help you plan your bucket list adventure to the White Continent.

Book an Antarctica cruise on GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

Atlas Ocean Voyages: 11-night Ushuaia Roundtrip

Atlas Ocean Voyages cruises kayaking in Antarctica.

Courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages

This 11-night expedition with Atlas is available on several dates in 2024. One highlight of the voyage is crossing the Antarctic Circle, along with four days exploring Antarctica and two days spent in the South Shetland Islands. You'll also have two days en route to Antarctica and two days on the return trip on the famed Drake Passage – also known as the "Drake Lake" (on smooth days) or the "Drake Shake" (when the seas are rough).

During your days at sea, take in all the onboard lectures and films about Antarctica, and head outside on the decks to see petrels and albatrosses soaring overhead. This is the perfect opportunity to practice your photography skills before reaching the Antarctic Peninsula, where you want to take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.

Atlas' Jan. 14 expedition is on the line's newest ship, World Voyager. The purpose-built yacht-style vessel features a hydro-jet propulsion system that's quieter and less disruptive to the fragile ecosystem. This feature also provides the opportunity for guests to see more wildlife during up-close encounters. Pricing is all-inclusive on board the ship with free open bars; all meals, wines, spirits and craft beers; a stocked in-room minibar; all landings, Zodiac excursions and lectures; the use of kayaks, walking sticks, knee boots and binoculars; and a souvenir Atlas jacket to take home. Fares also include a one-night pre-cruise stay and private charter jet service round-trip from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Aurora Expeditions: Antarctic Peninsula in Depth

The Greg Mortimer from Aurora Expeditions in Antarctica.

Tyson Mayr | Courtesy of Aurora Expeditions

Aurora offers a 14-night Antarctic intensive voyage sailing round-trip from Ushuaia on Nov. 6, 2024, aboard the 132-passenger purpose-built expedition ship Greg Mortimer. This vessel was the first passenger ship to utilize the state-of-the-art Ulstein X-BOW, which provides a smoother, quicker and more efficient transit across the ocean. The ship also incorporates many environmentally conscious features, including low energy consumption and virtual anchoring, which protects the sea floor and minimizes damage caused by traditional anchors.

Guests will find expansive observation decks and hydraulic viewing platforms for optimal wildlife viewing on board. Other highlights of the expedition are nine full days to explore the Antarctic Peninsula in nearly 24 hours of daylight at the peak of summer. During this time, you can expect to see whales arriving to feed on the plentiful krill, fur seal pups and many entertaining penguins.

Prices are mostly all-inclusive, with a one-night hotel stay before boarding the ship; all meals, snacks and complimentary nonalcoholic beverages; beer and house wine at lunch and dinner; the use of Muck Boots for the expedition; all shore excursions and Zodiac cruises; educational lectures; and more. Adventurous explorers can add on activities (at an additional cost) such as sea kayaking, snowshoeing, camping, and skiing or snowboarding. The line also offers longer 20- to 24-day expeditions that include South Georgia Island.

Read: Sustainable Cruises: The Top Lines Making Progress

Hurtigruten Expeditions: Antarctica, Patagonia and Chilean Fjords Expedition

The MS Roald Amundsen Antarctica from Hurtigruten Expeditions in Antarctica at sunset.

Dan Avila | Courtesy of Hurtigruten Expeditions

For an extended adventure that includes crossing the Drake Passage twice, spending up to five days in Antarctica and then landing on Cape Horn in Chile (weather permitting), consider the 25-night grand expedition cruise aboard the Hutrigruten Expeditions' MS Roald Amundsen. Additional highlights are scenic cruising in Garibaldi Fjord in Alberto de Agostini National Park to see the Garibaldi Glacier; visiting the town of Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park ; and seeing the longest Southern Hemisphere glacier outside of Antarctica (which grows by as much as 150 feet a day), the Pio XI Glacier in Bernado O'Higgins National Park. This epic adventure begins March 9, 2024, in Buenos Aires and ends in Valparaíso, Chile.

The ship for the voyage, MS Roald Amundsen, is a hybrid vessel that reduces CO2 emissions by using electrical propulsion – and it's designed specifically for use in polar waters. The vessel carries just 500 guests (to adhere to regulations for visiting Antarctica) and features all exterior cabins with Scandinavian inspired decor. Guests will also find an Explorer lounge and bar, three dining venues, the Science Center, a sauna and spa, and other amenities. Fares are mostly all-inclusive, covering a complimentary expedition jacket; the use of expedition equipment like boots and trekking poles; landing activities; most dining options; and wine, beer and soft drinks at meals.

Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic: Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent

A small excursion boat off the Lindblad Excursions National Geographic Resolution ship on Peterman Island, Antarctica.

Ralph Lee Hopkins | Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions was the first company to bring citizen explorers to Antarctica in 1966, pioneering travel to this remote destination. The line's 13-night expedition to Antarctica is offered nearly 20 times throughout the summer season in 2024 on one of three ships. Depending on the ship, guests will have one evening in either Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile , before flying to Ushuaia the next morning to embark the vessel.

With about five days to explore Antarctica, you'll have time to take in the awe-inspiring landscapes and look for seals and blue-eyed shags up close from Zodiacs. On land, watch thousands of Adélie and gentoo penguins as they playfully slide down the snow-covered hills on their bellies – one right after the other – diving headfirst into the icy waters. After the adventure, a private charter flight will return you to either Buenos Aires or Santiago before your return flight home.

The line's newest expedition vessel, National Geographic Resolution, accommodates just 138 guests – and there are two new cabins for solo cruisers . Guests on the Polar Class 5 vessel will have a National Geographic photographer and a Lindblad-National Geographic-certified photo instructor and video chronicler documenting the trip. Onboard amenities include a yoga studio, a wellness specialist, infinity-style hot tubs, two restaurants and a chef's table, and plenty of indoor and outdoor viewing areas. This ship also carries an ROV (a remotely operated vehicle) for underwater exploration and other high-tech video gear.

You can even book an overnight stay in an igloo (on a first-come, first-served basis) and spend the evening under the polar sky. Fares are mostly all-inclusive and include all onboard meals and most meals ashore; nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages; transfers; excursions; a complimentary jacket; and more.

Silversea: King George Island to King George Island (Antarctica Bridge)

The Silver Endeavor in Orne Harbour, Antarctica.

Courtesy of Silversea

Silversea's six-night Antarctica Bridge expedition takes guests round-trip by a business class flight directly to the Antarctica Peninsula, flying into King George Island from Punta Arenas, Chile. This itinerary is offered several times throughout the season for guests who don't have extensive time to travel – or are nervous about sailing the Drake Passage. Silversea 's pricing is all-inclusive, and guests can choose between door-to-door or port-to-port fares.

While the weather determines the specific itinerary in Antarctica, guests can expect to have several excursions in the Antarctic Sound and as many as nine excursions on the Antarctic Peninsula that include hiking, kayaking and scenic Zodiac cruises with the expedition team. There's also one excursion in the South Shetland Islands, where you can look for massive elephant seals. There will be an abundance of bird and animal viewing on wildlife-rich King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, which is home to Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins as well as Weddell and leopard seals.

Oceanwide Expeditions and Swoop Antarctica: Quest for the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island

Emperor penguins on Snow Hill Island in Antarctica.

Getty Images

Swoop Antarctica's 10-night adventure-filled journey takes wildlife and history enthusiasts into the ice-choked waters of the Weddell Sea, past towering tabular icebergs, in search of the emperor penguin's rookery on Snow Hill: one of the most remote penguin rookeries on the planet. The incredible itinerary also sails through the same waters where famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, sank in 1915 – and to the rarely seen west slopes of the Antarctic Sound.

Other highlights include Zodiac and helicopter landings (weather permitting) to additional remote locales, including Seymour Island, where the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901 to 1904 spent a winter season; Brown Bluff, one of the most scenic places on the northern tip of the Antarctic Continent and home to a large Adélie penguin rookery; and the volcanic crater of Deception Island.

There are two sailings in November 2024 on board the 1A-class, ice-strengthened Oceanwide Expeditions' Ortelius: a 108-passenger former Russian research vessel. Fares includes all meals and nonalcoholic beverages, all Zodiac and shore excursions, educational lectures, helicopter transfers, and group transfers. Optional adventure activities, alcoholic beverages and other personal expenses are at an additional cost.

The onboard helicopter pad is one of the features of the vessel and is used on select expeditions in the Weddell and Ross seas. It's important to note that very few companies offer expeditions to the Weddell Sea that include Snow Hill Island. While Ortelius is not a luxury vessel like other ships mentioned in this list, it is a stable expedition-style ship built for these icy – and at times treacherous – waters and weather conditions.

Viking: Antarctica & South Georgia Island

Viking Octantis in Antarctica with large iceberg in foreground.

Courtesy of Viking

Viking's 18-night Antarctica and South Georgia Island expedition begins with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires followed by a flight the next morning to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. The first two stops on the expedition are in the Falkland Islands, where you'll find beautiful scenery with imposing cliffs, many types of marine birds and five species of penguins. In South Georgia, watch for king penguins and seals. Then, it's on to Antarctica for days 12 through 16. Guests will have the option to reserve a spot on the Viking DNV-classed submarine for a thrilling journey into the depths of the frigid waters in Antarctica. The return sailing, by way of the Drake Passage, disembarks in Ushuaia.

In 2024, this itinerary is available Jan. 31 and again Dec. 15 on Viking Octantis. The purpose-built Polar Class 6 vessel accommodates up to 378 guests and offers many of the same venues found on Viking's ocean ships, including the Explorers' Lounge, World Café, Mamsen's, Manfredi's Italian Restaurant and the Nordic Spa. There are also expedition-specific features, such as Expedition Central, the Science Lab and – for educational lectures and briefings – the Aula theater. Viking's fares are mostly all-inclusive, with all meals and wine and beer served with lunch and dinner; 24-hour specialty teas, coffees and nonalcoholic beverages; a keepsake Viking jacket; complimentary use of the excursion gear; and more.

Find an Antarctica cruise on GoToSea.

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Expert tips on Antarctica expeditions

There are many factors to consider when planning an Antarctica expedition, including where you want to travel to, the length of the trip and whether you want to sail the famed Drake Passage twice.

To provide helpful insights and information to plan your trip, U.S. News reached out to an expert in the region, Aurora Expeditions' expedition leader, Ashley Perrin , for tips on planning your adventure to the White Continent. Perrin has degrees in both geography and oceanography from the University of Southampton. She was appointed as the first woman boating officer in Antarctica by the British Antarctic Survey in 2009, and has led multiple expeditions to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands.

Which month is best (in your opinion) to travel to Antarctica and why? 

Perrin: "My favorite time to travel to Antarctica is the end of December or beginning of January, because the penguin chicks are starting to come out and you get the most wildlife spotting opportunities, with marine mammals, penguins and albatross – on top of the spectacular scenery."

What length of trip do you recommend for first-time visitors?

Perrin: "The 10- to 12-day Spirit of Antarctica or Antarctic Explorer (with Aurora Expeditions) is a fantastic introduction to the Antarctic Peninsula. If you had the additional time and opportunity, ideally you would also opt for a voyage that visits South Georgia. For many travelers, this is really the jewel in the crown of the Antarctic experience because of the incredible wildlife opportunities here."

What should you look for in an expedition ship/tour when planning a trip to Antarctica?

Perrin: "Travelers should look for a high-quality educational experience, including lectures and opportunities for Citizen Science. This is such a fascinating and important destination, and you want to ensure you can learn and take as much in as you can. A pivotal factor in this is also choosing a company that offers low passenger numbers.

"Travelers don't have enough of an understanding of the impact of this on their voyage. In the Antarctic Peninsula only 100 people are allowed on land at one time, while at some sites it is 30 to 50 people. Having smaller groups enables passengers to have more time off ship exploring and connecting with nature, and this has such a significant impact on your experience.

"If you like to be a little more active, I would also highly recommend an operator that offers activities, such as kayaking in Antarctica. This allows you to see Antarctica from a different viewpoint and the silence is amazing. You still have opportunities to do landings as well, so I think it's the best of both worlds."

Do you prefer the combination fly/sail for the Drake Passage or sailing the Drake Passage both ways?

Perrin: "I prefer to sail both ways as it's how you earn your right to get to Antarctica! You also get more opportunities to see wildlife like seabirds, and it gives you extra time to prepare for the Antarctic experience through pre-lectures and education. Travelers arrive with more of an understanding of what to expect."

Any other tips, advice or comments you'd like to share?

Perrin: "Do your research into the operator you are choosing and their different offerings – things like passenger numbers, expedition team experience and off ship activities – as these can all have a significant impact on the travel experience. There is also a big difference between traditional cruise operators and expedition operators and what travelers can expect. We ensure that our passengers are exploring and getting off the ship as much as possible.

"I would also add that it's important to do your research into the areas that you're most interested in. For example, it could be history, exploration and walking in someone's footsteps (such as Sir Ernest Shackleton), or the types of wildlife you might see. Having a deeper understanding of the history and the region really does enhance the experience once you are there."

Frequently Asked Questions

An expedition where you get off the ship and make landings on the Antarctic peninsula typically costs about $10,000 per person for a 10-night voyage. However, depending on the cruise line, the ship and dates of travel – and whether you sail or fly the Drake Passage – you could spend as much as $29,000 per person for a 12-night expedition or more. There are slightly lower prices for some expeditions, such as a few with Hurtigruten Expeditions, and you can find reduced fares and deals with lines like Atlas Ocean Voyages and Quark Expeditions. In addition, there are extended polar expeditions that range from a 14-night trip to the 94-night Pole-to-Pole Ultimate Bucket List Expedition Cruise with Hurtigruten Expeditions, which is priced at close to $48,000.

If you're not interested in getting off the ship in Antarctica to see penguins and seals up close (but no closer than 15 feet, according to the Antarctic Treaty), you can opt for a voyage on a large cruise ship that sails around the continent for a much lower cost. Just know that you won't be able to disembark at any point in Antarctica. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has a 14-night Antarctica and South America voyage that makes a round trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina, for as low as $999 per person. You may be able to find even cheaper fares from lines such as Celebrity Cruises or Princess Cruises.

It's important to note that by the rules set forth in the Antarctic Treaty, only ships carrying 500 or less passengers are permitted to make landings on the Antarctica peninsula. The Antarctic Treaty, along with the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, has strict conservation protocols and regulates that no more than 100 passengers are allowed to go ashore at one time. The IAATO works with more than 100 Antarctica outfitters to create the guidelines and safety procedures to protect the fragile environment and wildlife in this remote part of the world.

The following cruise lines offer small ship expeditions in Antarctica with no more than 500 passengers. You can also look at tour companies – such as Abercrombie & Kent, G Adventures, Adventure Life and Swoop Antarctica – that exclusively charter ships or help navigate the decision-making process for their clients and book individual expeditions with the cruise lines.

  • Atlas Ocean Voyages
  • Aurora Expeditions
  • Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
  • Hurtigruten Expeditions
  • Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic
  • Quark Expeditions
  • Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
  • Seabourn Cruise Line

These larger cruise lines offer sailings around the Antarctic Peninsula, which may include scenic cruising in and around the Gerlache Strait, Elephant Island, Paradise Bay and Schollart Channel.

  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean International

The answer depends on the expedition. The majority of passengers will depart from South America in either Ushuaia, Argentina – which is also known as the "End of the World" – or Punta Arenas, Chile. Then it will take approximately two days to cross the Drake Passage to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. Some lines also offer chartered flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica, which only take about two hours. Some passengers who have taken the flight say it can be as unnerving as sailing the Drake Passage, since weather conditions can delay the flight for up to several days where you could potentially miss the trip.

Cruises on larger ships that only sail around the Antarctic Peninsula may embark in Buenos Aires; Santiago, Chile; Puerto Williams, Chile; Rio de Janeiro; ports in Florida or New Zealand; or even the South Shetland Islands.

The expedition and cruise season to Antarctica extends from November to March, which is during the austral summer in the Southern Hemisphere. But Antarctica is still the windiest, coldest and driest continent on Earth, so weather conditions are unpredictable and can change quickly – even during the summertime. One minute the sun may be out, and the next minute it can be snowing and extremely windy and cloudy.

Visitors in November can expect temperatures between a low of 25 degrees to a high of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures are typically in January, when you'll find days ranging between 33 to 36 degrees before they start to drop again in February.

Most expedition companies provide jackets that you can take home, so you won't need to bring a heavy parka if it's given to you on board. They may also provide waterproof boots that you'll need to use for wet landings. It's best to check with your expedition line to see what's available on the ship, what you can rent or buy, and what you'll need to pack and bring with you. Due to the unpredictable weather, it's advisable to bring different types of layers.

Here are some of the items you'll want to pack:

Layers: Pack at least two top and two bottom quick-drying base layers (or more, depending on the length of your expedition) that wick moisture, such as those made of silk, wool or bamboo. It does get toasty when you're layered up and moving around ashore, so choose lightweight options that will layer easily under the rest of your clothing and keep you warm and dry. For your mid-layer top, go with a lightweight polar fleece or vest; for the bottom, quick-drying warm tights or fleece pants are a good option.

You'll also want to layer what's on your feet, starting with a wicking pair of socks made from silk or synthetic polypropylene, followed by a good pair of merino wool socks from a brand like Smartwool. Glove liners are another must, especially if your hands tend to get cold. If you can, buy insulated waterproof gloves with removable liners to save packing an extra item. You may also want to toss a few hand and foot warmers in the suitcase in case you need extra warmth. Bring a lighter pair of insulated gloves for warmer days off the ship.

And don't forget a lined wool beanie, a set of earmuffs, and a balaclava or fleece neck gaiter to keep your ears and face warm and your nose and mouth protected from the cold air and wind.

Waterproof gear: The parka and tall waterproof boots may be provided on the ship, but if they're not, you'll need to bring your own. You'll also need wind- and waterproof pants to go over your base layer and mid-layers. If they're tapered at the bottom, you should be able to tuck them into your boots. Perrin says this is one of the most important items you should purchase and pack for your expedition.

Comfy clothes ­and shoes for around the ship: Most people dress casual on Antarctica cruises, so bring clothes that will be comfortable for days and evenings around the ship. It can get rough when crossing the Drake Passage, so you'll want flat or low-heeled shoes for those days at sea.

Other items you'll want to pack:

  • Waterproof dry pack
  • Sea-Bands and medications for motion sickness
  • Camera and accessories with a waterproof cover
  • Hiking poles (unless the ship has them available)
  • Swimsuit (you may want to take the polar plunge!)
  • Other necessary medications
  • Hydrating lip balm and a good protective moisturizer
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Books on the history of early exploration in Antarctica and the incredible wildlife

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed on nearly every type of cruise ship built, including the newest megaships, paddle-wheelers on the Mississippi River, and an 18-stateroom river ship on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia. She has also cruised on a traditional masted sailing ship and on a small luxury expedition vessel in Antarctica crossing the notorious Drake Passage twice. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications including U.S. News & World Report.

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Best Antarctica cruise ships: 11 stylish expedition vessels exploring the White Continent

Gene Sloan

There's never been a better time to travel to Antarctica -- at least when it comes to getting there in comfort and style.

The last few years have brought a stunning new crop of small "expedition" cruise vessels specifically designed for Antarctica sailings that are far more upscale and elegant than anything seen before.

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Built by longtime leaders in polar cruising such as Lindblad Expeditions and Hurtigruten Expeditions, as well as a few newcomers to the niche, these are vessels that are more spacious, more amenity-filled and more stable than Antarctica cruise ships of old -- and they're fundamentally changing the way travelers are experiencing the destination.

The best Antarctica cruise ships: Then and now

Tourists have been visiting Antarctica in small numbers since 1966, when adventure tour pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad led a small group of "citizen scientists" to the Antarctic Peninsula on a chartered Argentine navy ship. But for many of the 56 years since then, a trip to Antarctica has meant a sailing on a relatively spartan vessel.

Like Lindblad's chartered navy ship, many of the early vessels used for tourism to the White Continent were tough-built government or scientific ships that were designed with navigating icy areas but not necessarily comfort in mind.

Related: An untamed world: Discovery the wild dreamscape of Antarctica

My first voyage to Antarctica, back in 2004, for instance, was on Akademik Ioffe -- a hardy, ice-class Russian oceanographic research vessel that was often chartered by adventure tour companies in those days for polar trips. I slept in a no-frills cabin originally designed for Russian oceanography researchers and ate with my fellow tourgoers in a cafeteria-like dining space. The crew mostly spoke Russian.

A lot has changed since then -- mostly in the last couple of years.

The new crop of vessels being built for Antarctica sailings have all the creature comforts that travelers have come to expect on cruise vessels in other parts of the world, including spacious and upscale cabins, often with balconies; elegant eateries with diverse menus; spas and fitness centers; and even pools and deck-top hot tubs.

Some of the fanciest of the newcomers also have such over-the-top amenities as helicopters for sightseeing from above and submarines for seeing what lurks just under the water. At the very high end, some ships feature all-suite accommodations with butler service.

In all cases, these are ships specifically built for "expedition cruising" -- a type of cruising that involves traveling to remote, hard-to-reach places on small, hardy vessels that carry their own landing craft. All of them sail with a large number of rigid inflatable Zodiac boats for landings and have strengthened hulls and other design features that let them operate in icy areas.

I've sailed on nearly all of these new vessels, in many cases in polar regions, and have been consistently amazed by just how much of an upgrade they really are.

Here, my picks for the 11 best new expedition cruise ships sailing to Antarctica:

National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution

Operator: Lindblad Expeditions.

antarctica cruise operators

These Lindblad Expeditions ships may be my favorite all-around picks for an Antarctica cruise. Sailing since July and November 2021, respectively, National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution each are designed to hold no more than 126 passengers -- a notably low number that allows for an intimate experience when exploring the White Continent.

They're also very stable ships, thanks to an unusual new sloping bow design -- something that can make a big difference when sailing to and from Antarctica across the notoriously rough Drake Passage.

Lindblad was the original pioneer of tourist trips to Antarctica, and it has years of experience in the region that has helped shape the way it designed these nearly identical vessels, both specifically built for polar travel.

Each of the ships has a polar class rating of PC 5 Category A (a notch above many Antarctica vessels), allowing them to travel through icy areas with ease. They're also loaded with observation areas for viewing the passing scenery. They carry kayaks, snowshoes and cross-country skis for polar exploring in addition to Zodiac boats for landings, and they have remotely operated vehicles -- just in case you want to see what's going on down below.

Each vessel has two glass-walled "igloos" on its top deck where passengers can spend the night under the stars. Comfortable, state-of-the-art rooms with balconies; stylish restaurants and lounges with upscale, Scandinavian-inspired decor; a spa; and a yoga studio with wall-to-wall windows round out the onboard experience.

Related: I just spent the night in an igloo in Antarctica -- here's how you can, too

The details: Fares for 11-night Antarctica cruises on the two vessels start at $16,780 per person, based on double occupancy. Fares include a pre-cruise, one-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Santiago, Chile; flights from Buenos Aires or Santiago to Ushuaia, Argentina; drinks, including spirits and wines; and prepaid gratuities.

Note that as part of a 3-year-old partnership between Hyatt and Lindblad, World of Hyatt members can pay for a Lindblad cruise using Hyatt points — or earn 5 base points per dollar on eligible spending (excluding incidentals), plus the standard bonuses for Hyatt elite members, as well as elite tier-qualifying night credits. All members — regardless of status — will enjoy a $250 onboard credit to use on incidentals.

World Navigator

Operator: Atlas Ocean Voyages.

antarctica cruise operators

Just unveiled in August 2021, World Navigator is the first vessel for Atlas Ocean Voyages , an all-new cruise operator that's focused on "luxe adventure" trips -- and it's already high on my list of favorite ships for polar exploring.

Like the Lindblad vessels, it's designed to carry relatively few passengers (up to 184 on Antarctica sailings) and is loaded with indoor and outdoor observation areas including an innovative, close-to-the-waterline outside deck area with heated seating called The Water's Edge. High-tech touches include a GPS that lets it hover in sensitive areas without dropping anchor.

Built tough for polar exploring (it has a PC 6 rating, one notch below the Lindblad vessels), it also is designed to be upscale with elegant, 1940s-influenced decor, such pampering touches as a L'Occitane spa (the first at sea) and butler service in the top cabins.

Related: First look at World Navigator, a stylish new adventure ship

World Navigator is the first of five nearly identical sister vessels that Atlas Ocean Voyages will roll out by late 2024, many of which will sail regularly to Antarctica.

The details: Nine-night voyages to Antarctica start at $10,499 per person, based on double occupancy. Fares include drinks, including spirits and fine wines; shipboard Wi-Fi; prepaid gratuities; and emergency medical evacuation insurance for every passenger (the latter being a rare offering among companies cruising to Antarctica).

Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen

Operator: Hurtigruten Expeditions.

antarctica cruise operators

Hurtigruten Expeditions, a Norway-based expedition cruise company, has a long and storied history in polar travel, so it's no surprise that the company broke new ground in the polar cruising niche when it unveiled the 528-passenger Roald Amundsen and sister ship Fridtjof Nansen in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

Named after famous Norwegian polar explorers, the ships are the cruise industry's first to run on electric hybrid engines. This not only saves fuel but also allows for noiseless operation in sensitive polar areas where silence can make all the difference (near a penguin rookery, for instance, or a calving glacier).

Other unusual features include a full-blown science center with state-of-the-art gadgets and underwater drones for passenger use.

Related: These 8 books are must-reads before an Antarctica trip

Both of these vessels sail with a maximum of 500 passengers when operating in Antarctica, which is on the high side for an Antarctic-based vessel. If you're eager to make a lot of landings in Antarctica during a trip to the continent, Hurtigruten's newest ships may not be the best choice. With Antarctic regulations limiting landings to 100 people at a time, these ships only can land a small fraction of their passengers at any given time.

For that reason, I am partial to the older but more intimate Hurtigruten polar vessel Fram, which carries just 200 passengers when operating in Antarctica. But Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen have one big advantage versus that ship and many others operating in Antarctica, which is that their starting rates for trips to the region are significantly lower. As bigger ships, they also may feel more stable at times.

The details: Fares for 11-night Antarctica cruises start at $7,334 per person, based on double occupancy. Fares include a pre-cruise, one-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires; round-trip flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia; beer and wine with meals; and free Wi-Fi.

Scenic Eclipse

Operator: Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours.

antarctica cruise operators

Unveiled in 2019, this super-swanky, 228-passenger "discovery yacht" was the first oceangoing vessel for luxury purveyor Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours -- a brand better known for river cruises.

Like Scenic river ships, Scenic Eclipse is a high-end vessel with all-suite accommodations (and we're talking real suites, with separate living rooms), butler service for all and a wide range of onboard dining options including a sushi restaurant. It has a whiskey bar stocked with more than 110 whiskies and other high-end liquors, plus a spa and a yoga studio.

Scenic Eclipse also was the first Antarctica-bound cruise vessel to boast helicopters to take passengers on epic (and pricey) Antarctica excursions -- and it has a submarine for underwater exploring, too. Having experienced a helicopter excursion from the vessel, I can say that it's truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the downside, the helicopter pad and hangars eat up a lot of space on the vessel's top deck, as do the suites along the vessel's sharply sloping front. The combination leaves less available room for observation areas. The result is a ship with less outdoor space for viewing scenery than is typical for small vessels operating polar trips.

The details: Fares for 12-night Antarctica trips start at $15,655 per person, based on double occupancy. Fares include a pre-cruise, one-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires; round-trip flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia; drinks, including spirits and fine wines; and prepaid gratuities.

Le Soleal, Le Boreal, Le Lyrial and L'Austral

Operator: Ponant.

antarctica cruise operators

Launched between 2010 and 2015, these four sister ships are regular visitors to Antarctica -- both under the banner of Ponant, a French brand, and as vessels chartered to high-end, U.S.-based tour companies Tauck and Abercrombie & Kent.

A pioneer in polar travel, Ponant has a long tradition of operating voyages to Antarctica, and this series of ship was specially designed for such trips. They all are hardy (with 1C ice class ratings from Lloyd's Register) but also stylish, with contemporary interiors and comfortable rooms.

Note that the onboard ambiance of these vessels sometimes can be significantly different depending on whether they are sailing on a trip marketed by Ponant (where announcements and onboard programming will be in both French and English, with many of the passengers being French-speakers) or by Tauck or Abercrombie & Kent (where the onboard experience will have a much more distinctly American vibe).

Related: This new luxury tour gets you to Antarctica faster than most

In September 2021, Ponant unveiled an even tougher polar vessel, the 270-passenger Le Commandant Charcot. Equipped with ice breaking capabilities, it's able to sail to polar areas that most other polar cruise vessels can't reach. Note that, currently, its Antarctica sailings are being mostly marketed by Ponant itself, which means they may draw mostly French-speaking travelers.

The details: Fares for 11-night Antarctica trips start at $11,350 per person, based on double occupancy. Fares include a pre-cruise, one-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires; and round-trip flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.

Viking Octantis

Operator: Viking.

antarctica cruise operators

Just unveiled in early 2022, Viking Octantis is fast-growing Viking's first-ever expedition cruise ship, and it boasts some unusual features that make it one of the best cruise ships for exploring Antarctica.

Most notable is The Hangar, an enclosed marina that allows passengers to transfer to small Zodiac boats for landings while still in the protected interior of the ship. It's a first for an expedition cruise ship.

Viking Octantis also has what may be the most stunning lecture hall ever at sea. Located at the back of the vessel, the high-tech room has sliding walls behind the spot where lecturers will stand that can open to reveal the surrounding scenery through floor-to-ceiling glass.

Viking Octantis is designed to carry 378 passengers, which is on the high side for Antarctica cruise ships. Like Hurtigruten's Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, it isn't able to land all or even most of its passengers at once in Antarctica.

Like Scenic Eclipse, Viking Octantis carries a submarine for underwater exploring, as well as kayaks. In a first for polar expedition cruise vessels, every cabin has floor-to-ceiling glass walls that slide partially open from the top to create a balcony-like feel. Public areas feature the same elegant Scandinavian design found on Viking's ocean ships and river ships, as well as such familiar Viking venues as Italian restaurant Manfredi's and a top-of-the-ship, glass-walled Explorers' Lounge.

A sister vessel to Viking Octantis, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022 and also will sail to polar regions.

The details: Fares for 12-night Antarctica trips start at $13,995 per person, based on occupancy. Fares include a pre-cruise, one-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires; beer and wine with lunch and dinner; and shipboard Wi-Fi.

Planning an Antarctica cruise expedition? Start with these stories:

  • Dreaming of Antarctica: How to book the trip of a lifetime
  • Skip the Drake Passage: What it's like flying to Antarctica on a chartered plane
  • 7 tips for visiting Antarctica before it's too late
  • The ultimate packing list for an Antarctica trip

Best Antarctica Cruises & Cruise Lines

Line of polar travelers in orange coats hikes up snowy hillside in Antarctica as small ship with blue hull sits in distance.

As a leading authority of  Antarctica cruises , we are often asked “What is the best Antarctica cruise?” Or “What is the Best Antarctic cruise line?” Below is our answer—a list of the best cruise lines that go to Antarctica. We profile each Antarctic tour company and why you should consider cruising with them.

More important than finding the best Antarctic cruise is finding the right operator, ship and trip for you. Our experts know the differences between cruise lines, ships and polar regions. We will help match you with the perfect fit. See our list below then contact us to find the best small ship Antarctica cruise for you.

IN THIS POST – Best Cruises to Antarctica: Antarctica 21 Antarpply Expeditions Aurora Expeditions G Adventures Intrepid Travel Lindblad Expeditions Oceanwide Expeditions Polar Latitudes Ponant Poseidon Expeditions Quark Expeditions Selecting the Best Antarctic Cruise Our Recommendations More Resources

FIND YOUR BEST CRUISE

Jump to the top 6 cruises that showcase these best Antarctica cruise lines, or view them all.

The Best Antarctica Cruises

The logistics of operating cruises in Antarctica are formidable and not to be taken lightly. These Antarctica travel companies are the best in the business. Each cruise company is committed to safety, service, guest experience and environmental stewardship. We are proud to partner with the best Antarctica cruise lines in the world. Wondering what cruise lines go to Antarctica? Your answer is below (in alphabetical order):

Antarctica 21

Antarctica 21 , an Antarctica only cruise line based in Punta Arenas, Chile, pioneered the concept of air cruises to Antarctica . This innovative concept of combining flights from Chile to the Antarctic Peninsula gave birth to an entire industry. Since their first cruises in 2003, many polar operators have copied the idea. In 2019 they applied their cumulative experience to design, build and launch the Magellan Explorer , custom built their Antarctic Air Cruise .

Why Cruise with Antarctica21

The logistics of operating a fly-and-cruise program in Antarctica are enormous. Antarctica21 has the right mix of strategic partnerships, operational experience and exceptional leadership that it takes to be at the forefront of this unique niche in expedition travel. More than an Antarctic cruise line, they are an air cruise institution. Of all the cruise lines that go to Antarctica, they are the fly cruise specialists. A21 is the best Antarctica air cruise option.

As part of an Air Cruise itinerary a white air plane lands on a grey run way in the middle of a snowy mountainous Antarctica landscape.

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See the full list of itinerary options, plus reviews.

Antarpply Expeditions

Based in Ushuaia, Argentina, and operating only one ship of the same name, Antarpply Expeditions offers some of the most intimate and affordable Antarctic cruises available. Originally built for the United States agency NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), the 90-guest Ushuaia is one of the smallest ships operating in Antarctica .

Why Cruise with Antarpply Expeditions

Antarpply keeps operations simple and straightforward, with one ship currently sailing all their itineraries. This offers guests a consistent onboard experience, with more specialized operational touches that only a small Antarctica cruise company, and a small ship like the Ushuaia, can provide. Antarpply is among the best Antarctica tour companies for affordability.

Aurora Expeditions

With a history of pushing the boundaries of expedition travel, Aurora Expeditions is known for pioneering several activities such as scuba diving and climbing in Antarctica. Indeed, they distinguish themselves from other small cruise lines by their selection and quality of extensive off-vessel activity options. They were the first adventure cruise company to introduce a passenger vessel, the Greg Mortimer , featuring Ulstein X-Bow technology. 

Why Cruise with Aurora Expeditions

Choose to cruise with Aurora Expeditions for more extensive adventure such as camping, sea kayaking, snowshoeing, ski and snowboard touring, scuba diving, snorkeling, trekking, ice climbing and stand-up paddleboarding. Aurora is also a certified B Corporation, 100% climate neutral, and their Sustainability in Action program features reduced fuel consumption and single-use plastics, women in conservation, environmental volunteer projects, and eco-friendly products aboard and in the office.

An Antarctic landscape of floating icebergs and a ship, guests riding an inflatable zodiac, a group of kayakers plus a group of penguins on a snowy shoreline.

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Intrepid Travel

Intrepid has been an industry leader for over 30 years, using travel as a force for good. They are the largest travel industry B Corporation, and they’ve been raising standards since 2018, creating benefits for all stakeholders: travelers, staff, suppliers, shareholders, and the environments and communities they visit. The Intrepid Foundation, Intrepid’s philanthropic non-profit, provides visibility, connection and financial support to various organizations around the world.

Why Cruise with Intrepid Travel

Cruising in Antarctica with Intrepid is a feel-good opportunity. Your Antarctica voyage is carbon-neutral; in fact, 125% of emissions are offset. The company is working toward 100% renewable energy. And in Antarctica, Intrepid partners with World Wildlife Fund researchers, sources sustainable seafood, avoids single-use plastics and provides biodegradable toiletries. Also, they can get 100 guests off the ship via an impressive fleet of 22 Zodiacs.

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Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is a pioneer in small ship expedition cruises and one of the biggest names in small ship cruising today. The company is synonymous with exploration, education and conservation. Operating under the idea that a cruise is passive but an expedition is active, Lindblad delivers an authentic and exhilarating travel experience through all-five-senses engagement with the world’s most exotic locations worldwide.

Why Cruise with Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad’s reputation for being at the top of the expedition market is well deserved. A cruise aboard any one of Lindblad’s small ships is marked by a top-notch expedition team with some of the best service in the industry. Despite Lindblad’s luxury price tag, the onboard atmosphere is casual and practical in an expedition style. The true value is in the naturalists, historians, undersea specialists, guest lecturers, highly trained guides and partnership with National Geographic. Lindblad Expeditions is the best Antarctica cruise line if you are seeking the highest quality onboard educational programs and intellectual stimulation.

Guests wear red parkas and hike up a snowy hillside in Antarctica as part of a daily shore excursion provided by Antarctica cruise lines.

Oceanwide Expeditions

Oceanwide Expeditions is a Dutch vessel operator specializing only in polar cruising. Like the Dutch cartographers of their namesake ships, they follow meticulous attention to detail and refinement because safety and experience depends on it. Their fleet of three expedition ships are not fancy but known for excellent standards of service and comfort. Oceanwide operates a unique Antarctica basecamp cruise which is popular with travelers seeking ample opportunities for active exploration.

Why Cruise with Oceanwide Expeditions

A five-time winner of the World’s Leading Polar Expedition Operator award, Oceanwide is passionate about polar expedition cruising. The company distinguishes itself from other operators with an emphasis on educational lectures by experienced guides and by delivering an active shore program.

A guest wearing snowshoes lays on the snow, in the distance a blue and white ship navigates the polar ocean in front of white Antarctica mountain landscape

Polar Latitudes

Founded in 2010 by a group of veteran polar specialists, Polar Latitudes wanted to buck the trend of ever larger ships with more berths. The company aims to preserve the atmosphere and camaraderie, as well as the level of service, that can only be sustained aboard smaller vessels.  

Why Cruise with Polar Latitudes

People and passion distinguish Polar Latitudes. The company only cruises in Antarctica and this singular focus results in a deep knowledge of the continent. They are founder-owned-and-operated and it may be the only Antarctica cruise line where you might find an owner driving you on a Zodiac excursion.

On a sunny blue sky day in Antarctica guests sit on the top deck of the ship and enjoy an outdoor BBQ lunch in front of a snow covered jagged rock formation.

Ponant is the world’s only French cruise ship operator specializing in intimately sized luxurious small ships all flying under the French flag. Their fleet of small expedition ships are the finest available. The “French touch” is exemplified by the presence of French Naval officers, elegant cuisine and internationally recognized interior design. French and English are spoken on board.

Why Cruise with Ponant

If you are seeking to explore aboard the most luxurious Antarctica ships available, Ponant is for you. You will not sacrifice experience for comfort as the off-vessel expedition program is exceptional. Ponant is the best Antarctica luxury cruise .

antarctica cruise operators

Poseidon Expeditions

Poseidon Expeditions is one of the leading providers of polar expeditions in the cruise industry. Founded in 1999, the company is a recognized leader in icebreaker cruises. Poseidon is very well known for their Arctic cruises and has successfully navigated to the North Pole well over 100 times. The company brings this expertise to Antarctica with an experienced expedition crew, a luxury expedition ship and a commitment to sustainability. 

Why Cruise with Poseidon Expeditions

Poseidon offers an upscale ship and one of the best staff-to-passenger ratios in Antarctica. Choose this Antarctica cruise line to combine the spirit of adventure with a generous measure of onboard comfort and well-being.

A female traveler in sunglasses and a blue jacket leans against the railing of a ship in Antarctica with the calm ocean and white-capped mountains behind her

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Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions is a recognized leader in polar cruising and offers the widest array of Antarctic expeditions on the planet. The company boasts a number of firsts including the first non-scientific visits to emperor penguin rookeries, first circumnavigation of Antarctica for commercial passengers, and the discovery of the emperor penguin rookery at Snow Hill Island. In 2015 they were recognized as the World’s Leading Specialty Cruise Line at the World Travel Awards.

Why Cruise with Quark Expeditions

When you cruise with Quark Expeditions, you can rest assured that you are traveling with one of the most conscientious companies in the polar expeditions industry, from safety standards to customer service and sustainability. Many of the most interesting itineraries and routes are offered by Quark Expeditions. 

Mud room aboard Quark Antarctica cruise line ship. Yellow parkas are hung up in open long cubbies with a bench seat on the floor.

How Does AdventureSmith Select the Best Antarctica Cruises & Cruise Lines? 

We created this list of the best Antarctica tour companies based on several factors. First and foremost is operational safety and experience in polar cruising. Off-vessel exploration and activity program logistics are an important consideration. Onboard programs, lectures and the experience of the expedition crew are critical for a top ranking.

The ships themselves must be polar class but ship amenities are a secondary consideration. There are ships for every style and budget, from simple research ships to extravagant luxury expedition ships. Take a deep dive to learn more about Antarctica expedition cruise ships . 

We personally inspect every ship and work with Antarctic cruise companies for many years before they make it on our best list.

Which Antarctica Cruise Lines Do We Recommend?

Each of the Antarctica cruise lines on our list is a good choice. We feel it is not our role to play favorites. Our job is to match the traveler with the right itinerary, ship and cruise line for their interests, budget and schedule. We take this commitment to our clients seriously and endeavor to personalize our recommendations. Ultimately the best cruise to Antarctica is the one that fits your style and budget.

View our full selection of partner small ship cruise companies and our full list of small expedition ships . Learn more about choosing a cruise in our Antarctica travel guide .

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Book Aboard the Best Antarctica Cruise Line

Now that you know the best Antarctica cruise lines, it’s time to find the best cruise for your budget and interests. Browse our top Antarctica trips, or follow the link to view all and filter results. Our experts specialize in helping clients find the right trip at the best price, and are standing by to assist you find your match.

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Best Antarctica Cruise – Ultimate Guide to Who & How [2024]

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  • Last Updated: March 28, 2024

If you’re planning on going on the world’s most epic bucket list adventure by booking an Antarctica cruise there’s a few things you need to know first. In our ultimate guide we draw on our personal experience from multiple trips to share the how, who, when and why of travelling on a cruise to Antarctica!

Whether you’re ready to book, doing more research or simply interested in the idea of visiting Antarctica, there’s some very important things you need to know before dropping your hard-earned money on an expedition to the 7th continent.

We’ve been travelling and working in Antarctica since 2017, first as photographers and content creators, then as tour guides taking our own groups to this beautiful part of the world.

One thing we’ve discovered over the years is that no two Antarctic expeditions are the same – both in experience, and in service.

A quick Google will show that there are over 100 operators registered to IAATO, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, to run trips down here, and then there are a handful of private enterprises and sailers that visit each year as well.

So how do you know which operator to book with? What time of year should you go? Why are some companies more expensive than others? And with so many different itineraries now available, which one should you choose?

That’s what we have set out to answer for you in this comprehensive guide.

By the end of this article you will have a great understanding of the differences between the best Antarctica cruises and which companies we recommend based on personal experience and intimate industry knowledge.

Ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime? Let’s dive into it!

READ MORE: Dive deep into our complete guide on travelling to Antarctica !

Penguins On Ice Best Antarctica Cruise Expedition Operator

Table of Contents

Can You Travel to Antarctica in Winter?

Crossing the drake passage vs flying the drake passage, crossing the antarctic circle, the weddell sea and snow hill, falkland islands (islas malvinas), south georgia, the ‘trio’ – antarctica, south georgia and falkland islands, the ross sea from new zealand or australia, quark expeditions, aurora expeditions, hurtigruten, other operators, navigating antarctic waters, does a more expensive trip mean a better experience, 7 days – express (fly the drake), 10/11 days – classic antarctic peninsula, 14 days – crossing the antarctic circle or visit the weddell sea/snow hill, 20 days – falkland islands, south georgia island and antarctica, 21-24 days – trio and crossing the circle, 28 days – ross sea or ‘sailing’ to antarctica on a yacht, zodiac cruises, landings and hiking, onboard seminars, polar plunge, wildlife watching, sea kayaking, day paddling, mountaineering and climbing, skiing and snowboarding, scuba diving, photography workshops, citizen science programs, environmental responsibility when choosing an antarctica cruise operator, when is the best time to go on an antarctica cruise.

All commercial operators that run trips to Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere’s spring and summer months, stretching from late October to March, with the majority being between November and February.

Each month offers travellers a very different experience.

In November, as the continent emerges from its icy slumber, voyagers are greeted with pristine and untouched snowy landscapes.

Antarctica is at its most beautiful, but it also brings challenges for expedition teams due to weather, sea ice and snow density, meaning some landings might not be possible.

December and January are the peak months of the Antarctic summer, with the warmest temperatures (sometimes never dropping below freezing except at night), very long daylight hours, and the heartwarming sight of penguins nurturing their freshly hatched chicks.

It’s also the busiest time of year though on the Peninsula.

As the season progresses into February and March, the continent witnesses the awe-inspiring migrations of thousands of humpback whales and penguins shedding their feathers in the molting season.

The Peninsula might look it’s ‘dirtiest’ though, with much of the ground snow melted.

While the scenery is mesmerising throughout, the choice of month can tailor very different wildlife encounters and unique experiences.

We’ve written another full guide on the best time to visit Antarctica , but personally we prefer to travel early season (November) for landscapes and penguins, and late season (February and March) for whales.

After our very successful tour to Antarctica this season, we are going to be running another exclusive adventure down to the Peninsula in 2025, this time crossing the Antarctic Circle! Check out the tour page if you’d like to learn more.

Unfortunately tourists cannot visit Antarctica in winter due to the extremely cold weather and huge congestion in sea ice limiting access.

Zodiac In Front Of Iceberg Antarctica Expedition

Antarctic Cruise Itineraries

There are a variety of different itineraries that are available to book for cruises to Antarctica.

Depending on your style, budget, interests and length of time available you’ll find some trips that are common (for good reason), and others that are very unique and only happen once every few years.

Here are the main Antarctic cruise itineraries you can book.

Antarctic Peninsula

The most common itinerary to Antarctica is a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, most often departing from the port of Ushuaia in Argentina, at the very southern tip of South America.

These trips usually take around 10-12 days, with 5-7 days spent on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula (the rest of the days are travelling over the Drake Passage), and no two trips are the same.

Some of the main destinations that you might visit on an Antarctic Peninsula cruise are:

  • Deception Island
  • South Shetland Islands
  • Vernadsky Station
  • Elephant Island
  • Paulet Island
  • Damoy Point
  • Portal Point
  • Cuverville Island
  • Errera Channel
  • Gerlache Strait
  • Lemaire Channel

Just because it’s the most common tour doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. A Peninsula trip is truly mind-blowing, and allows you to officially step foot on the 7th continent.

Errera Channel Antarctic Peninsula

When researching Antarctic Peninsula cruises you’ll probably see that the majority of the itineraries sail across the Drake Passage , the infamous stretch of sea between South America and Antarctica, while a couple fly over the Drake to King George Island.

Many people are worried about the Drake Passage, which is understandable – it has the reputation for being the roughest sea in the world.

But one thing to keep in mind is that you’re not sailing to Antarctica in a little boat. You’re on a large expedition ship which is designed to handle much worse conditions than the Drake.

Seasickness might be a concern, but there’s medication to help with that and every trip has a doctor onboard.

The alternative is to fly the Drake from Punta Arenas in Chile, and while this is very tempting (it saves 4 days of travel and no rough seas to cross), there’s one very important thing to keep in mind:

Weather at King George Island is very unpredictable, and with just one scheduled flight a day allowed, cancellations are very common.

Visibility needs to be very clear down there and the right direction of wind for the pilots to land safely. If they don’t think they can land safely, they don’t depart Chile.

If your flight to Antarctica is cancelled on one day, the company usually only has one more attempt to get their guests down there before they have to forfeit their spot for the next company’s charter.

So if you’re unlucky and just so happen to get two days of bad weather in either Punta Arenas or Antarctica during your scheduled days of departure, your entire trip can be cancelled.

For that reason we do not recommend flying over the Drake Passage to Antarctica unless you are 110% positive that you mentally cannot handle the sea crossing.

Plus if you do cross the Drake by sea you get that added sense of achievement.

Great Southern Petrel Drake Passage

If stepping foot on the Antarctic continent isn’t enough, you can become one of the 0.001% of the human population who will ever cross the fabled Antarctic Circle at 66º southern latitude.

A few companies offer Antarctica tours that aim to cross the Circle (we say aim because nothing is guaranteed down here), and these itineraries are usually around 14 days (with 7-10 days on the Peninsula).

One thing to note is that there isn’t really anything ‘different’ once you cross the circle – the landscapes and wildlife are more or less same.

But you get more time in Antarctica, and get to venture to one of the most remote places on the planet.

Mushroom Iceberg Danco Island

Some Antarctica tours go to the eastern side of the Peninsula and enter the Weddell Sea, which promises a different experience again and is not often visited by travellers.

There’s a lot of fascinating history in the Weddell Sea, especially around Sir Ernest Shackleton and his legendary tale of survival from the Endurance with his crew, so if this is of interest it’s worth looking for an itinerary that follows this path.

One unique tour that’s popped up recently, and has been pioneered by Quark Expeditions and now also offered by Ponant, is a trip to the emperor penguins of Snow Hill .

This trip is only offered once every couple of years in the early season (October) and requires either an icebreaker ship or a Class 1A ice-strengthened ship with helicopters, which allows guests to get close to the emperor penguin colony.

It’s known as one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences, and has the price to match.

We’ve never personally done this but hope to one day.

Adelie Penguin Colony Paulet Island

The Falkland Islands, or Isla Malvinas, is a truly spectacular archipelago about 1.5 days cruising from Ushuaia.

You’ll find some fantastic itineraries that include Falkland Islands, either as part of the trio (below), or sometimes starting in the Falkland Islands.

If you love British history, or just want something a little different, it’s worth looking at an itinerary that includes the Falklands.

The wildlife here, while not as dense as South Georgia, is especially fascinating for birdlife like albatross.

Black Browed Albatros West Point Falkland Islands

Known as the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean, South Georgia is one of the most incredible wildlife destinations on the planet.

Boasting dramatic mountains, huge glaciers and beaches filled with hundreds of thousands of king penguins, elephant seals and fur seals, it really is a sensory overload and we’ve seen quite a few people shed a tear when they’ve seen Salisbury Plain or St Andrews Bay for the first time.

In all honesty, as amazing as Antarctica is, most people who visit South Georgia end up saying that this spectacular island is their real highlight of the trip.

There are a few itineraries that only visit South Georgia (usually after flying into Stanley in the Falkland Islands), but the majority will either include the Peninsula and possibly the Falklands.

Adding on South Georgia adds significant expense to an Antarctic trip due to how remote it is, but it is 100% worth it.

Check out our guide on the best time to visit South Georgia based on our personal experience.

King Penguins South Georgia

Considered to be the pinnacle of best Antarctic tours is a trip that includes the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, often referred to as the ‘trio’.

These itineraries are usually around 20 days long, with quite a few days spent at sea navigating between each destination, so if you can find a longer itinerary that includes more days at each place it’s worth exploring.

This is the Antarctic cruise itinerary we most recommend.

Our own group tour on the trio includes the most amount of days in each location available.

Zodiac Cruise In Antarctica

An Antarctic cruise to the Ross Sea from either New Zealand or Australia is a very rare occurrence, with only a small number of companies making the journey, and is usually booked by people who have been to the Peninsula before and want to see a different side of the continent.

A trip to the Ross Sea involves a lot of sea days and can be very expensive, but they visit very important research bases, follow the explorers Mawson and Shackleton’s history and includes penguin colonies not often seen, or located on the Macquarie Islands in the Subantarctic.

Heritage Expeditions is one such operator that runs two trips a year to the Ross Sea, via the Subantarctic Islands.

As of 2025 Aurora Expeditions, the award-winning Australian polar company, will be returning to the Eastern side of Antarctica from Hobart on their newest X-Bow ship, the Douglas Mawson.

CEO Michael Heath says, “We are equally delighted to be offering passengers new itineraries departing from Australia as part of the ship’s inaugural season, including an exploration of Mawson’s Antarctica, which will visit Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, and New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands.

“AE Expeditions has pioneered expedition travel to the world’s most remote places for more than three decades, and we know that exploration is not just about what you see, but how you see it.

“That is why we are committed to delivering life changing experiences with the newest, most advanced technology available, and with the most experienced and passionate team in the industry,” he added.

Blue Iceberg In Antarctica

Our Best Tips for Choosing the Right Antarctica Expedition for You

Choosing the right Antarctic cruise is essential for crafting an unforgettable polar experience.

This remote, icy frontier promises unparalleled adventures and sights, but the vast array of cruise options available can be overwhelming.

From the more than 100 different companies that operate down there, different ship sizes and amenities and of course the nuances of itineraries and activities, every detail plays a big part in shaping your journey.

With such a significant investment of time, money, and anticipation, it’s crucial to make informed decisions.

As you dream of gliding past enormous tabular icebergs and observing wildlife in its purest habitat, here are our best tips to ensure you select the right Antarctic cruise and best Antarctica tour company that aligns perfectly with your expectations and desires.

The Best Antarctica Cruise Company – Our Recommendations

With more than 100 operators running trips to Antarctica it’s very easy to be overwhelmed with who to go with.

And if you ask for opinions from a travel agent, they’ll just tell you the one that either a) pays them the most commission or b) is going to offer them a free trip if they sell X number of spots.

Then if you ask in one of the popular Facebook groups, the answer will almost inevitably be whichever company that particular person went with, and they have nobody else to compare them to.

We’ve travelled with a whole variety of polar operators, and here’s our top 5 recommendations and why.

Canadian company Quark Expeditions is one of the true pioneers in polar adventures.

Established in 1991, this trailblazing company has spent decades perfecting the art of delivering unparalleled experiences in the planet’s most remote regions.

They were the the first to organise trips to Snow Hill and revolutionised North Pole tours, so they’re always looking for what’s next in the world of polar voyages.

Quark has an impeccable safety record and has a fleet of ice-class vessels, including the new, luxurious MV Ultramarine , which allows them to execute really unique itineraries.

All of their ships have under 200 passengers too, meeting IAATO regulations for number of people off the ship at any one time.

After lots of research, personal testing, and fielding quite a few (better) offers from competitors, we decided that Quark Expeditions is the company we trust to operate our own group tours to Antarctica.

EXCLUSIVE – We have partnered with the world’s top polar tour operator, Quark Expeditions, to offer readers of NOMADasaurus a very special deal on any trip to Antarctica or the Arctic! Contact us ( [email protected] ) if you’d like to learn more about this exclusive Quark Expeditions discount.

Ocean Adventurer Quark Expeditions

Australian enterprise Aurora Expeditions has carved a niche for itself in the realm of polar travel for being a bit more adventurous than the rest, without compromising safety.

Their focus leans towards a genuine and immersive experience rather than mere sightseeing, with activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving and stand-up paddleboarding available to purchase.

Aurora has a small fleet of luxury ships and a fantastic team of seasoned expedition guides, so travellers are in good hands.

They are also B Corp certified , a testament to their commitment to sustainability.

“Our pioneering spirit leads us to explore rarely visited locations and introduce unique itineraries for every season,” Hayley Peacock-Gower tells us, who is the Chief Marketing Officer of Aurora Expeditions.

“We pride ourselves on innovation and pushing the boundaries of discovery to provide unique, immersive experiences for our expeditioners while maintaining a light footprint.

“We’re constantly seeking new places to explore while on a voyage and want to share these findings with our expeditioners, so we’re comfortable adjusting our schedule to make the most of unexpected wildlife or scenic displays.”

In 2025 Aurora Expeditions will also be welcoming the brand new, 154pax X-BOW vessel, the Douglas Mawson, to their fleet, which will prove to be one of the most capable, luxury ships in the industry.

Their trips however are on the pricier side, which is something to consider. In our opinion though the quality product that you receive with Aurora is worth the price, and they are known in the industry for being one of the top operators.

For those seeking a thoughtful and authentic polar journey, Aurora Expeditions is a good choice.

Aurora Exepeditions Sylvia Earle

One of the most famous names in polar travel, Hurtigruten , hailing from Norway and originally started as a ferry company, offers excellent budget-friendly trips to the Antarctic and Arctic.

Their itineraries are fantastic and the service for guests is excellent. They also have an excellent onboard science program.

However , their ships are very large, with between 250 and 500 passengers on each trip, meaning your actual time spent off the ship is limited.

If price is a major factor for you they are a good option and they do have a great product, but the size of their ships is something to consider. Remember, in Antarctica, bigger isn’t better.

Intrepid is famous around the world for organising amazing small group tours around the world, and as of recently have now moved into the polar regions.

They operate a large, older ship, the Ocean Endeavour, but limit passengers to 199 to skate under the 200 pax limit.

Their trips attract a younger demographic and a lower price point, but they’ve worked hard to secure some of the best expedition team members in the industry.

Jarryd travelled with Intrepid this year as an expedition photographer in partnership with Sony Australia, and absolutely loved their service.

The average age onboard an Intrepid trip is around 45, so it’s an entirely different atmosphere compared to something like Ponant or Lindblad that has an older average age.

Neither is better or worse, just something to consider based on your own style.

Intrepid Ocean Endeavour

Scenic is an old hand in the luxury river cruise industry, they have since branched out into polar tours and are doing an amazing job at it with their beautiful ships and brilliant expedition team.

They have some pretty unique offerings, including a submarine that you can book for seeing Antarctica beneath the surface, and really fun activities.

Many of our expedition guide friends are now working at Scenic as well, and we can vouch for just how good they all are.

Of course that’s just scratching the surface and there is plenty of other operators out there. These are some others worth considering:

  • Islands and Ice – Small tour company run by the legendary expedition leader David Sinclair, chartering the MV Polar Pioneer for adventurous trips of less than 50 people.
  • Ponant – Uber-luxurious cruise operator. If you like your icebergs with a side of caviar underneath a chandelier, this is the company to go with.
  • G Adventures – Similar to Intrepid in that they focus primarily on small group trips in other parts of the world, but their Antarctic product is quite good.
  • Oceanwide Expeditions – Small groups with under 100 passengers, operating some cool itineraries.
  • Albatros Expeditions – Nice, sustainable operator with great ships and decent expedition team.

Akademik Ioffe Lemaire Channel Antarctica

Ship Size Matters on Antarctica Cruises

You might be tempted to book a tour onboard a larger cruise ship for a number of reasons.

More space and amenities, cheaper price, familiarity with a particular company such as Carnival, etc.

But trust us when we say bigger is not bigger in Antarctica!

IAATO , the body that regulates tourism in Antarctica, has strict rules around the number of passengers from any one ship that can leave the vessel at any one time.

  • Less than 100 passengers – Everybody can leave the ship at the same time and step foot on the continent at the same time
  • Between 101-200 passengers – Everybody can leave the ship at the same time, but only 100 people can step foot on the continent at any one time, so the rest of the guests will often do a zodiac cruise
  • Between 201-500 passengers – Only 200 people can leave the ship at any one time, so 100 maximum people will land on shore, 100 people maximum will go on a zodiac cruise and the rest waits on the ship for a group to come back.
  • More than 501 passengers – Nobody leaves the ship at all.

So as you can see if you are booking a trip to Antarctica on a large ship, you run the risk of not even getting off the ship.

You don’t really want to spend all that money just to get down there and look at the continent from your balcony.

For that reason we don’t recommend booking a trip on a vessel that carries any more than 200 people total, and ideally less than 100 people if you can find one.

Let us say that again;

DO NOT BOOK A TRIP WITH MORE THAN 200 PASSENGERS!

Besides that, there’s other considerations when it comes to ship size and choosing the best Antarctica expedition.

People Looking At Penguins Neko Harbour

Smaller ships have much better manoeuvrability, which allows them to navigate through narrow channels and into tight bays to allow you to access Antarctica close up.

A smaller ship often means a shallower draft too, so they can get into some areas that may not be deep enough for larger vessels.

This might not be something you think about, but when you book a smaller ship you have a greater sense of intimacy with your fellow guests and expedition team.

There is often just the one dining room and one, maybe two, lounges to relax in. That means everybody congregates in the same areas and it doesn’t take long to start getting to know everybody.

The larger ships can feel like a labyrinth, and we’ve heard of people going entire expeditions and not ever finding the library for example.

Personally, we prefer smaller ships.

Penguins At Neko Harbour

How Much is a Cruise to Antarctica?

Heading off on an Antarctic adventure is both a dream and a significant financial undertaking.

With such a wide variety of cruise options, ranging from small, older vessels to high-end luxury ships, it can be hard to determine what is worth spending your money on.

At the budget-friendly end, less extravagant ships may lack the luxurious amenities, but they often deliver an authentic, intimate connection with the Antarctic wilderness.

These ships focus on the adventure and Antarctica expedition with an authentic flare, where you feel encouraged to be out on deck or in the lounge areas when you’re onboard rather than sprawled out in your cabin.

On the other hand, luxury cruises offer plush accommodations, gourmet dining, spa services, and even onboard entertainment.

Some of them even have helicopters and submarines onboard, opening up a whole new world that isn’t possible with other operators.

While these amenities come at a premium, it ensures an unparalleled level of comfort amidst a wild Antarctic backdrop.

Essentially, you get what you pay for when it comes to the ship; the more you pay, the nicer the onboard experience.

So how much should you expect to pay for a cruise to Antarctica?

On average, USD$10,000 per person for the standard itinerary, and around USD$18,000 for a trip that includes the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Of course you can sometimes find trips for as long as USD$5,000 per person if you book it super last minute on a special deal, and ones as expensive as USD$50,000 or more.

Penguins On Ice Floe

However when you look at the individual itineraries for different operators, you might notice something interesting…

They are often the exact same, whether you’re playing $8,000 or $20,000.

A typical 10-day ‘Best of Antarctica’ itinerary, which actually only includes 4.5 days in Antarctica, has the same number of days and excursions on the continent, often doing the same thing (zodiac cruises, landings, ship exploring, etc).

Adventure activities, such as kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and camping, usually have an additional cost no matter which company you’re with too.

So really, in most situations you’re paying more money for a nicer ship and cabin.

There are exceptions of course, especially if your ship has helicopters.

But if the company you’re looking at doesn’t have any obvious benefits such as helicopters or more days at sea, most of the price increase is for better food and nicer rooms.

Is that worth it the difference in cost?

That’s a question only you can answer.

Either way, it’s paramount to really look into what’s included in your package. Some voyages may seem very cheap upfront but then charge extra for essentials like shore excursions, gear rentals, or even certain onboard facilities.

All of the operators we recommend though include daily excursions, all meals and gear rental included, regardless of price and itinerary.

And if you have some flexibility in your travel plans, there’s a big potential to lock in some remarkable last-minute deals.

Subscribe to the newsletters of Antarctic cruise operators or follow their social media channels to see what’s available.

Or get in touch with us for the best price possible with our current favourite operator, Quark Expeditions, even better than what they advertise to the public.

Zodiac In Front Of Iceberg Antarctica Expeditions

How Long Should You Book to Visit Antarctica?

The length of Antarctica cruises vary quite a bit, with options ranging from a week right up to an entire month.

The length of your voyage determines not only how much of Antarctica you get to explore but also how much time you spend on the open sea versus the continent itself.

The sweet spot is the classic 11-day itineraries, which just visits the Peninsula, but let us break down the general ones you’ll find.

One thing to keep in mind though is that the length of time the companies advertise is not how much time you get to spend in Antarctica.

For example an 11-day itinerary often means just 4-5 days in Antarctica, and the rest of the time is spent before the trip in Buenos Aires or Ushuaia and the two days each way on the Drake.

Misleading? Perhaps. But that’s just what it is.

For those that are on a super tight schedule or really, really don’t want to cross the Drake, you can fly down to join your cruise to Antarctica.

You’ll usually have one full day in Punta Arenas, Chile, then schedule to fly to King George Island the next day. Then you’ll have 4 days on the ship, before flying back for another night in Punta Arenas.

This is the trip most people do.

You’ll meet your group in Ushuaia on the first day, then jump on the ship the next day (or start in Buenos Aires and take a charter flight the next morning).

After that it’s two days sailing across the Drake Passage, 4 days to explore Antarctica, then two days back to Ushuaia.

You wake up in Ushuaia and the trip either ends there for you, or you jump on a charter flight back to Buenos Aires.

Essentially the same structure as above, but you’ll have an extra couple of days to travel the distance required to hopefully cross the Antarctic Circle, or sail around to the east side of the Peninsula to get into the Weddell Sea and maybe see the emperor penguins.

Our personal favourite length, as it ticks off all the major highlights.

Starting in Buenos Aires or Ushuaia, you then have one sea day to make it to Falkland Islands, then usually have two days exploring around the British archipelago.

Then it’s two more days at sea to get to South Georgia, with 3 to 4 days spent visiting the most spectacular place on earth.

You’ll then have a massive three sea days to get to the Peninsula for your 4 days hanging around here.

Then back across the Drake you go.

As above, but with a few extra days to cross the Antarctic Circle.

Basically the ultimate Antarctica trip.

If you have a month up your sleeve you can either take the historic Ross Sea trips from New Zealand or Tasmania, or be a real adventurer and jump on tall ship to sail down to Antarctica.

Damoy Point Drone Image

Activities and Excursions on Antarctica Trips

When you’re heading down to the Antarctic region on an expedition cruise ship there’s quite a few activities that you can do.

Some are included in the price for everybody, and others have limited availability for an additional cost.

Here’s what you can expect for what to do in Antarctica :

There are no ports in Antarctica that allows for a ship to dock, so the only way to get off the ship and explore land is on a small, inflatable boat called a Zodiac.

Zodiacs not only allow you to step food on land, but they also let you get up close to icebergs, glaciers, and wildlife.

Zodiac cruises offer an intimate and immersive experience, allowing passengers to navigate through stunning icy waterways.

The frequent Zodiac landings, integral to most Antarctic cruises, transport passengers from the ship to the very heart of the continent.

Setting foot on the Antarctic mainland, or one of its many islands, is an indescribable moment.

Zodiac excursions are included in most small ship cruises.

Once you’ve used a zodiac to get to shore you have a few other included activities – landings and hiking.

You can wander around a predetermined path, set out by the expedition guides, to visit research stations and viewpoints, or get closer to penguin colonies.

Hiking In Antarctica

Any decent company, like the ones we recommend above, will also have daily onboard seminars from guides, scientists, biologists and historians to share information about the continent.

They fill the sea days and evenings, and you shouldn’t miss any.

If you want the ultimate bragging rights after your trip to Antarctica make sure you don’t miss the polar plunge.

What is it? Well, it’s going for a swim in Antarctica, of course.

You wander down the gangway, strap a harness and rope to you, and literally jump off a perfectly good (and warm) ship into the icy water.

It’s included in most trips, weather permitting, and you’ll get to come home with some cool photos to prove you did it.

Polar Plunge Antarctica

Of course Antarctic wildlife watching is always free and included in your trip.

Some of the animals you could see are many penguin species such as gentoos, adélie penguins, Magellanic penguins, rockhoppers, chinstraps, king penguins, emperors (if you’re super lucky) and macaronis.

You can see lots of whales too such as humpback whales, minke whales and orca (killer whales), and occasionally blue or southern right whales in the Southern Ocean.

Sea birds also make part of the abundant wildlife, with albatross, skuas, petrels and terns commonly found.

And if you like seals in their natural habitat, there’s southern elephant seals, weddell seals, ross seals, leopard seals, crabeater seals and Antarctic fur seals.

Sorry, there’s polar bears down here. You’re thinking of the Arctic.

Humpback Whale Antarctica

Optional Activities on your Antarctic Cruises

While almost all Antarctic cruises offer shore landings and Zodiac cruises as standard, there’s a whole bunch of optional activities for those eager to try something different down in the continent.

If you’re ready to step up the adventure, here’s a guide on what’s on offer and how to ensure you don’t miss out.

Gliding silently through the icy waters, kayakers get an intimate perspective of Antarctica’s coastlines.

As icebergs loom majestically overhead and seals laze on floating ice, you can navigate through a surreal world rarely experienced by others.

When you book a sea kayaking package you are given a dry suit and instruction from your experienced guides, and the goal is to get out as much as possible during your itinerary.

Most expedition ships that offer kayaking in Antarctica have a limited number of kayaks, so early reservation is crucial.

It’s also only suited for those with some prior sea kayaking experience.

Kayaks In Antarctica

If you love the idea of kayaking but don’t want to do it every single day on your trip, many companies now offer what’s called ‘day paddle excursions’, where you sign up for a once-off and jump in an inflatable kayak for an hour or two.

It’s absolutely beautiful and is perfect for those that just want to try it once.

Imagine sleeping under the Antarctic sky , surrounded by snow and ice, with the distant calls of penguins lulling you to sleep.

Sounds majestic doesn’t it?

Truth is it’s not comfortable at all, most people get anxious about it and there’s the fear of being too cold to sleep, but we’ll let you in on a little secret – Camping in Antarctica is nowhere near as bad as it sounds and is the ultimate experience.

You are given strict instructions on how it works and will be given your own bivvy sack to sleep in (not a tent), which is rated to the temperatures down there so you won’t freeze.

Given the stringent environmental regulations and the limited gear available, only a few spots are open per cruise. Book in advance.

If you’re a hardcore mountaineer or experienced rock climber there are a number of small expedition companies that offer these activities on certain itineraries.

With the guidance of expert mountaineers, you can ascend icy peaks or navigate glacial routes for an epic bucket list adventure.

You must be an experienced climber, and be able to prove it, before a company will accept your booking for these challenging adventures.

A couple of companies now also offer skiing and snowboarding trips to Antarctica.

As above, you need to prove you have backcountry skiing/snowboarding experience, all the right gear and avalanche rescue training before you can sign up.

Fancy doing a bit of scuba diving in Antarctica? Well you can…on the condition that you have the right tickets and experience.

Diving in Antarctica is a very unique experience where you can see marine mammals, krill and ice, but it does require advanced PADI certification, ice-diving certs and at least 20 logged ice dives.

There’s also only a couple of companies that are equipped for this and it’s quite expensive.

While most ships have an expedition photographer onboard whose job it is to document the entire trip, providing the images and videos to the guests at the end, most companies don’t have dedicated photography workshops.

There are some exceptions, Intrepid being a notable one who Jarryd worked with as a photography guide this year, where you join a small group of people to get daily workshops on photography techniques, camera settings, composition, creativity, editing and more.

For those who wish to contribute to our understanding of this remote region, some companies collaborate with research institutions to allow passengers to participate in data collection and other scientific activities.

Details are often available in cruise itineraries, and early registration ensures you’re part of these enriching experiences.

Photography Program In Antarctica

Finally, remember that it’s a privilege to visit Antarctica and you should always make sure you do so responsibly .

Only every book a trip with a company that is registered of IAATO, which is an official organisation that designates Antarctica purely for the purpose of science and research.

Newer ships produce less emissions and are more fuel efficient, so consider spending a little bit more money for a ship that wasn’t built in the 80s.

Protect the unique wildlife, stunning environment and exploration history of one of the world’s most spectacular places by selecting a reputable company to travel with, like the ones we recommended in this article.

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Alesha and Jarryd

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Antarctica Cruises & Tours

Pair of travellers smiling standing on an ice platform in the Antarctic Circle, with waters behind

Explore Antarctica on an out-of-this-world adventure 

With us, it’s good trips only. And as far as good old-fashioned adventures go, this is the big one. You’ll cross the infamous Drake Passage and set foot on the Antarctic Peninsula. Explore ice-dotted bays by Zodiac. Marvel at waddling gentoo penguins and spot migrating blue whales. The reasons why you should visit Antarctica are endless. By traveling with us, you'll experience this incredible part of the world in a way that builds human connection and gets closer to nature while respecting the environment. 

'Antarctic cruises' doesn't really do it justice. These are Antarctic adventures. 

Our Antarctica trips

The ocean endeavour: inside our expedition ship.

The Ocean Endeavour, is built tough to withstand even the harshest conditions, yet provides additional comforts like warm, 3-course meals, spacious common areas and extra amenities – including our day spa. With an enviable 1:8 crew-to-passenger ratio, you’ll enjoy a more personal, informative and comfortable trip. 

Why choose us

Our Ocean Endeavour is built tough; designed to handle the harsh Antarctic wilderness with ease while ensuring your safety at every step of the adventure.

Our experienced expedition team are at the top of their fields. You’ll find out everything you want to know from our Antarctic experts, including naturalists and ornithologists.  

We don’t call them hands-on, feet-on adventures for nothing. Get closer to the action with, not one, but two daily excursions on land and, via Zodiacs, at sea. 

Our onboard creature comforts will warm you up after your Antarctic outings. Expect 3-course meals, 24/7 tea and coffee and fascinating evening seminars.  

We’re committed to providing the highest safety standards, which is why the Ocean Endeavour, and all our operations teams undergo regular safety audits.

We’re deeply committed to being a responsible business and take considered steps to minimize our impact, support vital research and promote conservation in the Antarctic.  

Antarctica tour reviews

Filter by rating

Journey to the Antarctic Circle (Ocean Endeavour)

Articles of Antarctica

Giant daisies, polar bears and a full circle moment: how Liz Carlson is living out all of our wildest dreams 

My trip to Antarctica was like grown-up summer camp at sea 

12 hours in the shoes (or muck boots) of a traveller visiting Antarctica  

When your day job is leading expeditions to the bottom of the earth in Antarctica 

Globetrotters share what it’s like to spend your birthday with Intrepid

This is what it’s like to collaborate with real scientists in Antarctica

Everything you need to know about the Ocean Endeavour

Arctic vs Antarctic cruises: How to choose your polar expedition

Antarctica Optional Experiences

Antarctica Camping

Polar Kayaking Adventures

Antarctica Snowshoeing

Antarctica photography

Antarctica Day Paddle

Antarctica Stand-up Paddleboarding

Extend your adventure

Beyond the Ocean Endeavour

Popular regions

Antarctica at a glance.

(UTC+13:00) New Zealand

CALLING CODE

Electricity.

Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)

Learn more about Antarctica

Eating and drinking.

Eating and drinking in Antarctica is done aboard your expedition ship, with all meals provided for the duration of your journey. Tea and coffee, as well as soft drinks and juices, are ready to greet you when you come back from a shore landing and at meal times, while alcoholic beverages are also available, but for an additional price.

Breakfasts and lunches tend to be buffet style, while dinners are typically served tableside and usually feature three courses. The range of food is diverse, with professional chefs preparing a wide selection of gourmet dishes, and a vegetarian option is always included. Afternoon tea, with pastries or cookies, is also provided every day.

If you have any dietary requirements or food allergies, please let us know before the trip starts. If you have a more restrictive dietary requirement (vegan, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, etc) it is likely you can be catered for. Unfortunately, we are unable to cater for a kosher diet.

There may not be any stores on the Antarctic Peninsula, but that doesn't mean you can't do any shopping. The Ocean Endeavour has its very own polar boutique equipped with every little knickknack and thingamabob you might need to help commemorate your journey to the seventh continent (think all the essentials, clothing and souvenirs).

Geography and environment

Encompassed by the Antarctic convergence (an uneven line of latitude where the cold waters of the Antarctic merge with the warmer waters of the world's oceans), Antarctica is both cold and remote, located in the Southern Hemisphere. Due to its south-polar position, the Antarctic continent is covered in ice and experiences very harsh conditions unsuitable for permanent human residency.

While plenty of animals live in Antarctica (such as various species of whale, penguin, seal and bird), there are very few humans that call Antarctica home, instead using the region as a base for research. There are no cities in Antarctica but there are several research stations positioned on the continent belonging to various countries like Russia, the United States and Australia.

History and government

Antarctica was formed around 35 million years ago and remained undiscovered until around 1820 when Russian explorers spotted the mainland. However, this may have only been the first documented discovery of Antarctica, as it's believed that Pacific Islanders may have reached the white continent in 650 AD.

There were many attempts to set foot at the South Pole in the early 20th century, so much so that it was dubbed the 'Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration', with many trying and failing until a Norwegian explorer by the name of Roald Amundsen reached in 1911. Exploration didn't stop there though with a total of 17 major expeditions launched in the following years from 10 different countries, the last one being Ernest Shackleton's last ill-fated voyage in 1917.

Antarctica isn't owned by one single country, instead governed internationally through the Antarctic Treaty system signed in 1959 by 12 countries who had sent scientists to Antarctica during and around that time. These countries included Argentina, Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Further reading

Antarctica travel faqs, where is antarctica.

Antarctica refers to the seventh continent of the world and is largely situated in the Antarctic Circle - a line of latitude sitting at around 66.5° south of the equator - at the base of the globe.

The Antarctic refers to the region made up of south polar zones that include the seas and some outlying islands. 

What country is Antarctica in?

Antarctica isn't part of one single country, rather it is a continent governed under a series of recognized guidelines and agreements called the Antarctic Treaty System.

What are the possible landing sites in Antarctica?

Each expedition includes stops at various landing sites around the Antarctic, but when and for how long you stop often depends on the weather, sea ice and wildlife movement. 

What types of animals live in Antarctica?

While Antarctica may not be hospitable to human life, there are plenty of animal species that call the seventh continent their home. This includes penguins, whales, sea birds, seals, and more. 

What is it like travelling solo on a cruise to Antarctica?

While you can't embark on an expedition to the world's seventh continent alone, you can travel solo on a group tour to Antarctica.

This means you'll still have plenty of free time to do your own thing (and use the ship's excellent amenities) but also have the comfort of knowing expert leaders are handling the pesky logistics.

You can also choose from a variety of accommodation arrangements, from single cabins to room-sharing, depending on your preference. 

When is the best time to visit Antarctica?

Antarctica is best visited in the summer months from November to March when the weather is warmer and the sea ice has melted enough to get closer to the island shore.

What is the weather like in Antarctica?

The climate in Antarctica is the coldest one on Earth with cold summers and freezing winters. The warmest month is January with averages of around 50°F.

What do I wear in Antarctica?

You have to be prepared and thorough when packing for Antarctica due to its remote location. Make sure you bring lots of layers, gloves, sunscreen, and moisturizer among other items.

Is there internet, wi-fi, email or telephone access available on the ships?

Internet access is available on most Antarctic ships, at a cost. Alternatively, there may be a ship-based email system where you will have an email account to stay in touch with family and friends. Because of the remoteness of Antarctica, connections can be slow, so all ships charge for data used rather than time spent online. Please refer to your detailed pre-departure information for more information on Internet facilities on your ship.

Will my cell phone work in Antarctica? 

Your cell phone will not work during your Antarctica cruise as the continent is still considered extremely remote and doesn't have the right telecommunication infrastructure in place.

Can my family and friends contact me while I’m on board in the case of an emergency at home?

Yes. There is a number to call the ship and you can purchase data for the wi-fi onboard, although the connection is intermittent and not to be relied on.

How do I choose an Antarctic cruise?

Deciding on the Antarctic cruise that suits you best comes down to figuring out the time of year you want to go, the itinerary, and how long you want the cruise to be.

How much does a cruise to Antarctica cost?

The cost of an Antarctica cruise largely depends on the departure date, how long the cruise goes for, and the type of cabin you book on the ship but most cruises start from USD$4,500.

How fit do I need to be to travel to Antarctica?

While the destination itself might conjure up images of nefarious voyages only the fittest can endure, you only need to be in good health and be able to move around freely to participate in and enjoy Antarctica's numerous activities and adventures.

If you have an average fitness level (and above) you are compatible with Antarctica travel, so you don't need to spend hours in the gym before considering booking a trip. 

How do we meet our responsible travel targets in Antarctica?

This question is something we thought long and hard about before deciding to run our own ship in Antarctica. We’re deeply committed to being a responsible business and understanding the impact we have on the places we visit. All Intrepid trips are  100% carbon neutral , but we are driven to do more, from committing to science-based decarbonisation targets to and recently updating our  Seven-point Climate Action Plan . 

We’ve approached responsible travel in Antarctica with three areas of focus that we believe will create the greatest positive impact: inspiring travellers, supporting science and protecting the environment. 

Does my trip to Antarctica support The Intrepid Foundation?

Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. In fact, we make a donation on behalf of every traveller. Trips to Antarctica directly support our foundation partner, WWF.

WWF-Australia is a well-established conservation organisation helping protect our natural environment. Donations from our trips help their pioneering whale research and conservation efforts to establish marine protected areas around Antarctica and save whale species from extinction. 

Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Want to learn more about Antarctica?

Want more of a taste of what an adventure to the Great White Continent would be like? Our free guidebook shows you what wildlife you might see, the places you might go, how to be a responsible traveler, gives you tips on what to pack and more.  

Full list of Antarctica FAQs

If your question hasn't been answered,   read our full list of Antarctica FAQs   or contact us.

Can’t find what you’re looking for or want to know more? You can  contact us  24 hours 7 days a week, with any burning (or shall we say freezing?) questions. Our Antarctic specialists are here to help.

Mundy Adventures

9 Best Small Ship Expedition Cruises to Antarctica

Published 2nd November 2023 in Travel Advice By Edwina Lonsdale /adventure-news/travel-advice/best-antarctica-cruises

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An expedition cruise to Antarctica is a truly remarkable adventure, a voyage to a pristine land of ice and snow, populated by an all-star cast of penguins, seals and whales. These are 9 of the best Antarctica cruise ships and expedition cruises to Antarctica to book now.

But with ever more expedition cruises visiting the 'White Continent', it can be tricky to work out which ship is the right one for you. As you would expect, trips to Antarctica are not cheap, so this is an important decision to get right. For some travellers, luxury and comfort will be of the utmost importance, while others will be more concerned with the quality of the onboard expedition team or the tools and gadgets on offer to facilitate in-depth exploration.

With this in mind, we've put together this guide to the best Antarctic expedition cruises.

9 of the best expedition cruises to Antarctica to book now

1. silversea expeditions.

Excitingly, in 2022 the new Silver Endeavour , formerly the Crystal Endeavour, replaced Silver Explorer in the area leaving Silversea operating one of the best and most luxurious purpose-built expeditions vessels in the region; along with their ships Silver Cloud and Silver Wind , which both joined the expedition fleet after being converted from a 'classic' ship in 2017 and 2022 respectively, offering enhanced comfort levels on board.

The Silversea all-inclusive proposition ensures you avoid any added extras to the (admittedly high) up-front cost. Most cruises depart from Ushuaia or Puerto Williams , and Silversea offer a chartered air connection from Buenos Aires or Santiago. You can also avoid the Drake Passage crossing with Silversea's 'Antarctica Bridge' itineraries, which include return flights between Punta Arenas and King George Island, though some would argue that if you haven't sailed the Drake, you haven't really been to Antarctica!

Lectures are of a high standard, and you can expect to always be with an expert, whether in the zodiacs or ashore, as a result of the excellent guest to guide ratio of about one guide to every 12 guests. You can expect two landings per day, weather permitting.

best-antarctica-cruises

2. Quark Expeditions

Quark's expertise is specifically polar - they focus on Arctic and Antarctic sailings only. With a variety of Antarctica cruise ships and price points, you have quite a choice of different itineraries, including a rare opportunity to sail as far south as the Antarctic Circle (66 degrees 33). Of their fleet we recommend the Ultramarine, their newest vessel and the first fully Quark-owned and operated ship and the World Explorer, which launched in 2019.

Look out for sailings with included opportunities for camping, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, which distinguish some Quark vessels from the competition. Those wishing to avoid the potentially bumpy journey across the Drake Passage can fly the Drake from Punta Arenas and join their ship in King George Island. This is an interesting option but one that may suffer from adverse weather conditions.

best-antarctica-cruises

Find out more about Antarctica...

Our expedition cruising guide to Antarctica will tell you everything you need to know, including when to visit, what to see and how to get there.

3. Lindblad Expeditions

The pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first ever citizen-explorer expedition to Antarctica in 1966, inventing the concept of expedition travel. Experience matters, particularly when you are travelling way off the beaten track. For safety and insight, Lindblad, with hundreds of Antarctic expeditions under their belts, really stand out.

Lindblad ships carry a whole range of 'Tools for Exploration': Zodiacs and kayaks of course, but also a remote-controlled crow's nest camera with real-time footage broadcast on video screens within each cabin; a video microscope to view Antarctica's invisible facets, and a hydrophone to listen in on whales.

Their ice masters and expedition leaders are the best, and include an undersea specialist aboard every voyage who dives to capture video footage shown in the ship's lounge. National Geographic Explorer and Orion are also each equipped with an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) capable of exploring depths up to 1,000 feet. What's more, there's a National Geographic photographer on every departure.

Linblad Expeditions - National Geographic Explorer

4. AE Expeditions (part of Aurora Expeditions)

AE Expeditions have been operating in Antarctica since 1991, perviously under the name Aurora Expeditions, with a focus on immersive experiences rather than onboard luxury. They offer an innovative range of activities in Antarctica , including trekking, camping, scuba diving, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and climbing.

We are particularly impressed with AE Expedition's modern ships. The Greg Mortimer, named after company founder, arrived in 2019 and was joined by a sister ship, the Sylvia Earle, in 2022. The the first expedition vessel in the Antarctic to use the revolutionary X-BOW design, which offers a smoother sailing experience, reduces noise and vibrations, and results in reduced emissions.

Aurora Expeditions - Greg Mortimer

5. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Hapag-Lloyd's much loved Hanseatic recently retired after wintering in Antarctica since the early '90s, and Hapag was for years the only luxury operator in the area, with a stand-out Berlitz five star rating. Three exciting new ships - Hanseatic Nature, Hanseatic Inspiration and Hanseatic Spirit - have now joined the fleet, bringing a new level of luxury to Hapag's polar operation. Hanseatic Inspiration will be of the greatest interest to English-speaking travellers, as the ship operates bilingually, whereas the other two are German-speaking only.

To make the most of your extraordinary Antarctica voyage , you need high levels of expertise from the operator. The key issues are of course safety, an efficient and speedy operation for landings and zodiac excursions, and an outstanding team of experts, naturalists, expedition leaders and guides. As regular visitors to the area, Hapag-Lloyd have rightly achieved a prestigious status and reputation amongst experts and customers alike, and will ensure a very special Antarctica experience.

Hanseatic Nature in Antarctica

French cruise line Ponant is another operator investing in new hardware, with an incredible six new expedition yachts arriving over the last couple of years. Their Antarctica programme includes voyages on sister yachts Le Boréal, Le Soléal, Le Lyrial and L'Austral and the high-tech Explorer Class with ice-strengthened hulls. Also kitted out for polar exploration is the luxurious Le Commandant Charcot, the world's first electric hybrid polar icebreaker and revolutionary in the industry.

Ponant takes guests to areas of Antarctica that other ships can't reach, including the Charcot and Peter I islands, the Weddell Sea and the ice-covered Amundsen Sea, a truly remote region that remains mostly unexplored. Ponant's new ships are equipped with the latest environmentally friendly tech, including dynamic positioning and advanced waste water treatment systems, and all of your meals, drinks and excursions are included.

Ponant - Le Commandant Charcot hybrid icebreaker

7. Seabourn

Luxury line Seabourn have been slowly edging into the expedition arena over the last few years, introducing their 'Ventures by Seabourn' programme of excursions by zodiac and kayak in selected destinations. So it was no great surprise when plans for two purpose-built expedition ships were announced for Antarctica sailings.

The first, Seabourn Venture, launched in 2022, with interiors by designer Adam D Tihany and high-tech toys including a pair of six-seater submarines whilst Seabourn Pursuit has recently launched. Antarctica is a key destination for the new ships, building on the successful Antarctic programme developed on board Seabourn Quest. The Ventures by Seabourn programme allows you to dip into the more adventure-minded activities as and when you feel like it, while enjoying the high levels of all-inclusive luxury and personalised service that Seabourn is renowned for. This is a great option for those who are not quite sure yet whether expedition cruising is right for them.

best-antarctica-cruises

Scenic Eclipse , Scenic's 'Discovery Yacht', launched in summer 2019, and offers high levels of luxury on board in Antarctica, with an exciting programme of adventures ashore. Extras include a helicopter, a submarine (at an additional charge) and kayaks, and the ship is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Almost identical sister ship Scenic Eclipse II also recently launched, and both are some of the most luxurious vessels operating in Antarctica.

Expect all-inclusive pricing and 6-star service on your Antarctic expedition cruise - including butlers for every suite, and all suites featuring a private verandah. Lots of dining options and an outstanding spa will enhance your experience on board, and guest numbers are restricted to 200 in Antarctica to give the opportunity for frequent landings.

best-antarctica-cruises

9. Hurtigruten Expeditions

With over 100 years of experience in operating the renowned Norwegian Coastal Voyage, taking equipment, post and people along the coast of Norway from Bergen every single day of the year, Hurtigruten is no stranger to the operation of hardy vessels in inhospitable waters.

More recently their purpose-built expedition ship Fram has begun venturing to another hemisphere during our winter to explore the Southern Seas, and two high-tech new expedition ships, Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, joined the fleet in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The Hurtigruten vessels are some of the largest in the region, which limits landings, but they offer an excellent cost effective option.

Hurtigruten - MS Fram in Antarctica

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Adventures. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Silver Origin and she has also sailed with Seabourn, Ponant and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite adventure destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

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Best Antarctica Cruise Lines

cruise ship in Antarctica.

It’s a fact that Antarctica cruises are booming. By now, several cruise lines offer cruises to Antarctica, including two major names and several smaller expedition lines. In this post, we’ll zoom in on today’s best Antarctica cruise lines.

Penguin rookery in Antarctica with cruise ship in the background - Best Antarctica Cruise Lines

Why Cruise to Antarctica?

In recent years, remote destinations have become increasingly popular for various reasons. Adventure travelers continue to seek out unexplored and far-flung destinations away from the ever-expanding mass tourism.

Both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles begin showcasing the devastating effects of climate change, which attracts people who want to catch what could be a last glimpses of polar ice and animals. Additionally, cruise enthusiasts look for quieter ports, while retirees are checking epic places off of their bucket lists.

Naturalists, on the other hand, will relish the opportunity to see penguin rookeries, seals, whales and other iconic wildlife. Massive floating icebergs and calving glaciers provide other natural attractions you won’t soon forget.

This all adds up to a niche in the cruise industry with arguably the most potential of them all. Although Antarctica might not be your preferred cruise destination—you could, of course, also cruise to Hawaii , the Caribbean or Mediterranean for less money—it is unquestionably one of Earth’s most jaw-dropping places.

Plus, the only way normal people like you and us could ever get to the southernmost continent is on a cruise. It’s literally the only continent on the planet that you can only reach by boat (unless you’re a millionaire and charter a plane, or are a skilled scientist on a mission).

Antarctica - Best Expedition Cruise Destinations

Featured Antarctica Cruise Lines

Of all major cruise lines in the world, only three effectively offer Antarctica cruises: Silversea, Princess and Hurtigruten. We’re highlighting them here because they’re the most well-known companies. And if you’re looking for the best Antarctica cruise on a larger ship, chances are you’ll find it with them.

As can be expected, the most popular and best Antarctica cruises take place from late-November through late-February—the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.

Silversea Cruises

“Awaken your soul to the wonder of Antarctica”, says Silversea Cruises on their website. And they do a great job invoking the sense of wilderness and wildness with their descriptions. Silversea’s Antarctica cruises are among the most luxurious, comfortable and stylish ways to reach the “last great wilderness frontier” on the planet.

Currently, Silversea Cruises deploys two of its cruise ships to Antarctica: the Silver Explorer (144 guests and 118 crew) and the Silver Cloud (240 guests and 212 crew). All three are expedition ships, designed to weather the harsh conditions of the polar regions. Their fortified hulls make it possible to sail through icy waters, while fleets of Zodiac boats, 12 and 18 boats respectively, allow passengers to visit even more off-the-beaten-path places. The Silver Cloud has 10 sea kayaks on board as well.

Silversea Antarctica Cruise Ships

The smaller Silver Explorer goes on voyages to Antarctica that last 6 to 22 days, with sailings available from Dunedin (New Zealand), Ushuaia (Argentina) and even King George Island (South Shetland Islands). On board the Explorer, you’ll find all kinds of great amenities on board, from Tor’s Observation Library and the Zagara Beauty Spa and Salon to the Panorama Lounge and Fitness Center.

The Silver Cloud , on the other hand, undertakes 10-day to 16-day Antarctica cruises in the Antarctic summer, nearly all of which are round-trips from Ushuaia (Argentina). There’s no lack of facilities on board the Silver Cloud, which include a Photo Studio, Explorer Lounge, Connoisseur’s Corner, Pool Deck, Zagara Beauty Salon and Spa, and the Fitness Center.

Additionally, the Silver Wind (274 guests and 239 crew after November 2020) will undergo a major refurbishment in the summer of 2020 in preparation for its new routes to Antarctica. This refurbishment will make it one of the most versatile cruise ships in the world, able to sail from the frozen waters of the Antarctica to the sun-soaked shores of the Mediterranean.

This ship, too, will sail mainly from and to Ushuaia (Argentina) on voyages that last between 10 and 22 days. As far as amenities go, you can expect the cream of the crop on this ship, ranging from the Boutique and Bar to the Observation Lounge, Show Lounge, Photo Studio, Casino, Pool Deck and much more.

Cruise ship in Antarctica - Best Cruises to Antarctica

Princess Cruises

You might also find the best Antarctica cruise for you with Princess Cruises . In winter, they sail to the Antarctic Peninsula, when the Coral Princess embarks on a 34-day southbound journey from Fort Lauderdale. You can literally sail from the subtropical beaches of Florida to the icebergs of Antarctica, eventually arriving in Santiago, Chile—talk about an epic journey!

Once the ship arrives on the far south of South America, it will stay there through the Antarctic summer and offer Antarctica cruises between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. These epic one-way cruises last 16 days and include 6 different ports, including the Falkland Islands, Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. You’ll spend several days sailing along the coasts of the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula.

Princess Antarctica Cruise Ship

The Coral Princess is currently Princess Cruises’ only ship that can and does cruise to Antarctica. One of the best mid-sized cruise ships in the world, the Coral Princess sails to various corners of the world, from the Panama Canal to Alaska to the Antarctic Peninsula. It offers luxurious accommodations at sea, boasting more than 700 balcony staterooms.

The ship also has several dining options, including the Bar & Grill, the Princess Pizzeria, the Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse, the Crab Shack and the Chef’s Table Experience. When it comes to things to do, you also won’t have any lack of choices. On the Coral, you can enjoy lots of different facilities and venues, such as the freshwater pools and hot tubs, numerous shops, a Vegas-style casino, an art gallery, a movie theater and music stages. There are several kids, teens and family activity programs as well.

People on ice in Antarctica - Best Antarctica Cruises

Hurtigruten

Our third Antarctica cruise line is Hurtigruten , a Norwegian-based company that specializes in expedition cruises to remote destinations. Its name literally meaning “Express Route” in Norwegian, Hurtigruten was founded in 1893 as a transportation and communication service along the rugged coasts of Norway.

Thanks to over a century of experience navigating the waters of Arctic Norway, it’s now one of the leading expedition cruise lines in the world. They offer immersion-style cruises focused on experiences and local culture to the remotest corners of the globe, from Svalbard, Norway and Iceland to Greenland, Alaska and the Northwest Passage. Of course, they also offer cruises in South America and Antarctica, the world’s wildest continent.

Additionally, Hurtigruten is also dedicated to environmental protection. They operate the world’s greenest expedition cruise ships and also focus on reducing waste and pollution, using renewable energy, protecting wildlife and educating passengers about important issues like climate change. A team of experienced experts organize kayaking trips and even camping trips on Antarctica , while also offering workshops, seminars and lectures.

There are various Antarctica cruise options available, from both short and long one-way voyages to amazing round-trip sailings from Patagonia. These Hurtigruten cruises in the remote Southern Hemisphere last between 12 and 23 days. Popular departure ports are Valparaiso (Chile), Montevideo (Uruguay) and Ushuaia (Argentina).

Hurtigruten Antarctica Cruise Ships

It’s important to note that an Antarctica cruise with Hurtigruten is not your typical cruise. As we mentioned above, these are expedition cruises and you won’t find the abundance of facilities and luxuries on their ships than you might on Antarctica cruises with Silversea or Princess above. Instead, you get epic glacier excursions, magnificent close-up wildlife viewing opportunities, an immersive and hands-on Antarctica experience, and a wealth of background information provided by biologists, survival experts and experienced guides.

Currently, Hurtigruten has no fewer than four expedition ships that operate around Antarctica, all of which are ice-class ships built specifically for Antarctic explorations.

  • MS Fram – named after one of the most famous explorer ships ever, MS Fram is designed for polar expeditions and has all modern technology and facilities needed for that very purpose. (200 passengers)
  • MS Midnatsol – an ice-class 1X ship, the MS Midnatsol has been sailing the waters of Patagonia and Antarctica since 2016; equipped with amazing amenities, including a gym and sauna, library, lecture amphitheater and a two-story panorama lounge. (500 passengers)
  • MS Roald Amundsen – a state-of-the-art vessel, the MS Roald Amundsen was added to Hurtigruten’s Antarctica fleet in 2019, a hybrid cruise ship (the world’s first!) operating partially on electricity and boasting the latest sustainable technology. (500 passengers)
  • MS Fridtjof Hansen – the embodiment of the next generation of expedition cruise ships, MS Fridtjof Hansen is Hurtigruten’s newest ship, powered by a revolutionary hybrid-powered propulsion system as well as cutting-edge modern facilities. (500 passengers)

antarctica cruise operators

Other Antarctica Cruise Lines

In addition to the two major Antarctica cruise lines, there are a handful other, smaller companies that offer cruises to the Antarctic Circle. These expedition cruise lines are all about adventurous sailings, usually on smaller vessels and with biologists, naturalists and professional photographers on board.

They’re often multi-purpose cruises, providing a cruise experience you won’t find anywhere else. Recommended Antarctica expedition cruise lines are the following.

  • Abercrombie & Kent
  • Lindblad Expeditions | National Geographic
  • Quark Expeditions
  • Zegrahm Expeditions

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10+ of the Best Antarctica Cruises: Which Antarctica Tour Company Should You Book?

  • January 24, 2023

antarctica cruise operators

Visiting Antarctica is on many people’s bucket lists, and it can be quite a daunting task to even begin to plan this trip of a lifetime. I know when I started planning, I easily spent months deciding which company to take this trip with. The following post goes over some of the best Antarctica cruises and Antarctica tour companies to use. 

This post hopefully helps take some of the legwork and guesswork out of which company to book and I have compiled reviews of some of the more popular options. This way, you can find the best Antarctica tour company for you! Also, make sure to check out these tips for visiting Antarctica once you book your trip and learn more about the cost of visiting Antarctica .

A zodiac boat speeding through the water with icebergs. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

Table of Contents

Best Time To Visit Antarctica

The best Antarctica cruises run from November to March as this is summertime in Antarctica. Wildlife is most active during this time and it offers the most hours of daylight. The best time to visit during these months depends on what you would like to see. Prices are typically cheaper in November and March. 

  • Largest Icebergs: November to December
  • Penguins Chicks: December to February 
  • Whales: December to April
  • Breeding Elephant Seals: November to December 
  • Ross Sea: January to February
  • Warmest Weather: December to February

What is the Best Antarctica Cruise to Choose?

When deciding on the best Antarctica cruises or Antartica tour company, there are several things you should think about. Knowing what you want for the following questions will help narrow down some options for you. 

  • What is my budget?
  • How long do I want my Antarctica trip to be?
  • How large of a ship do I want to be on?
  • What amenities do I want on the ship?
  • What excursions do I want to take?
  • Do I want flights to Ushuaia included?

The Best Antarctica Tour Companies

Hurtigruten.

A ship sitting in the water surrounded by ice. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

Cost: $8000 and up

Length: 12-23 days

Passengers: 500

Hurtigruten is one of the best Antarctica tour companies for those wanting to spend the least amount possible while still being able to step foot on the continent. 

Their cruises range from 12 to 23 days that begin in Buenos Aires and includes a charter flight to and from Ushuaia. Cruises start at around $8000 with longer voyages starting at $17,000. 

Included with your Hurtigruten Cruise are flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, all meals, beverages at meals, a parka you get to keep, boots and hiking poles to borrow for the trip, educational lectures onboard, and photography help. 

There are a lot of pros to traveling with Hurtigruten. The staff was all very friendly and had a lot of knowledge. The educational lectures were very interesting and we learned a lot from them. There were a lot more amenities on the ship since it was a larger ship. The biggest pro for me was it included flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. 

Nevertheless, there were still some cons to booking with Hurtigruten. While it was nice to be on a larger ship, it meant less time on land as only 100 people can get off the ship at once. This also meant it was not as intimate as the staff-to-passenger ratio was about 1:4.

Another con is that all of the excursions are a lottery and you cannot pre-book any of them. Thus, if you have your heart set on camping or kayaking, it is better to go with a company where you can book these excursions from the beginning. This was also not communicated to us upfront. Nevertheless, Hurteigruten is still one of the best Antarctica cruises.

Viking Cruises

Ice floating in the water. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Amanda (a friend I met on a Panama Canal Cruise)

Cost: $12,000 and up

Length: 13-35 days

Passengers: 378

Viking Cruises is one of the best best Antarctica cruises and Antarctica tour companies for many reasons. A Viking cruise to Antarctica is an all-inclusive cruise where you do have to worry about additional costs once on board. They even include activities like kayaking and a submarine voyage. 

They offer three different cruises that range from $12k to $68k depending on the length of time, type of room booked, and the number of people in a room. All three cruises start in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and include a charter flight to and from Ushuaia. 

Viking has two Expedition ships: The Octantis and Polaris. Both ships are exactly the same model and hold up to 378 guests. Each passenger gets an outer jacket to take home. Boots, outer pants, and poles are provided. 

The ships have zodiacs, two special operation boats, two submarines, and pedal “kayaks”. The zodiacs are used to go ashore or just travel around in a smaller area. The Special Operation Boats hold twelve people in shock-absorbing seats and can travel further from the ship. The submarines hold six passengers and a pilot. The pedal kayaks hold two people and are powered by foot power. 

At both lunch and dinner, beer and wine are included; if one wants other alcoholic beverages, there is a beverage package, or you can buy additional drinks. There are three eating areas: World Cafe, Restaurant, and Manfredi’s (an Italian restaurant). Both the Restaurant and Manfredi’s require a reservation.

The cons of Viking Cruises is the selection of activities depending on room classification. Another con, which applies to most cruise lines, is that there is no reduction for a solo traveler. A solo traveler has to pay the price of almost two people. 

G Adventures

A seal with its head poking out of the water with a ship in the background and a kayak. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Cherene of Wandering Redhead

Cost: $9400 and up

Length: 11-22 days

Passengers: 130

I did G Adventure’s 14-day “ Quest For the Antarctic Circle ” trip on the MS Expedition ship which holds 130 guests. I chose this trip because of the length (12 nights on the ship and 7 days on Antarctic Peninsula) and because it crosses the Antarctic Circle.

The cost of this trip was $10,000. I saved money by booking a quad room but spent $1000 more by adding kayaking. I received a 5% discount because it was my 2nd G Adventures tour. The prices for 2024 start at $9399 for this exact trip (they offer many other trips). The prices change depending on the time of year and the type of room. 

All meals are included. They provide a parka which you can keep as well as waterproof boots for excursions which you do not keep. There is no single supplement so great for solo travelers.

G Adventures has over 30 years of history of polar expeditions and has strong environmental and sustainability initiatives, thus making it one of the best Antarctic tour companies. They attract a younger and more adventurous type of guest. I honestly cannot think of any cons except it is not THE most luxurious ship in the Antarctic. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how luxurious the MS Expedition ship was! It exceeded my expectations in every way. The crew was excellent and the food was spectacular. There was never a dull moment. 

They had many scientists and we enjoyed presentations by whale and seal experts, bird experts, geology experts, Antarctic history experts, and more. I came away from this trip with so much knowledge. They had fun nighttime activities such as karaoke, a ship musician, and game nights

I enjoyed this trip immensely and cannot imagine how it could have been any better, making it one of the best Antarctica cruises. I am actually planning to do their Arctic trip on this same ship someday.

Oceanwide Expeditions

Many people standing on the bow of a ship with glaciers in the background. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

Length: 10-33 days

Passengers: 100

Oceanwide Expeditions is one of the most experienced and one of the best Antarctica cruises and cruise operators . Based out of the Netherlands, Oceanwide has an international staff of guides, captains, chefs, and support staff. The staff is all very knowledgeable about Antarctica and local wildlife, many having backgrounds in biology or other sciences. 

What really sets Oceanwide apart from other similar operators is their attentiveness to your experience. The guest-to-staff ratio is 2:1 and they only allow slightly over 100 guests on each cruise. The 100 number is significant since in Antarctica, no more than 100 visitors can be on land at each landing point at a time due to regulations. 

There are numerous different Antarctica cruises offered by Oceanwide and just about all of them leave from Ushuaia, Argentina. While the most popular is the “classic” Antarctica cruise, which takes you to the tip of the Antarctic peninsula and back, Oceanwide also offers regular departures for South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands. This iconic cruise adds these two penguin paradises onto four days in Antarctica. They also offer some other less common cruises that take you much deeper into the White Continent. 

Cruises with Oceanwide start at about $8000 per person for the classic Antarctica cruise and can go up to over $30,000 for the longer cruises. They do, however, participate in the last-minute deals program, where unsold cabins are offered at discount rates in the days prior to disembarkation. So if your dates are flexible you can wait for prices to drop and book last-minute. 

The ships themselves are former research vessels. The downside of Oceanwide is that it’s not as luxurious as some other cruise operators. Cabins are very basic and there is limited entertainment on board. The food is excellent though, and what it lacks in luxuries, it surely makes up with the amazing crew whose one goal is to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime. And when you cruise to Antarctica on Oceanwide Expeditions you certainly will!

Intrepid Travel

A boat in the water surrounded by ice. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Elli of The Wandering Quinn

Cost: $7340 and up

Length: 11-21 days

Passengers: 200

The well-known tour company Intrepid is fairly new in the Antarctica game but following my recent Antarctica cruise with them, I can’t fault them at all as it was one of the best Antarctica cruises

Their ship is the Ocean Endeavour, and I did the 11-day Best of Antarctica tour. They also do longer expeditions, there’s a 14-day tour available to book which offers more stops on the Antarctic Peninsula, and a 21-day tour visiting South Georgia and the Falkland Islands as well as the Antarctic Peninsula.

Following my trip and how long it takes to get to Antarctica, including time spent in Ushuaia at the start and end, I really think if you can stretch your time and money to go on a longer tour, it would be well worth it 

Our ship the Ocean Endeavour was a great ship to be on. It is not a luxurious ship, but that is reflected in the competitive price, with prices starting from $7400 for an 11-day Best of Antarctica tour, and it still had great facilities such as a hot tub, sauna, small gym, yoga room, library, and many other rooms to relax and socialize in. 

Food is a big part of a cruise, even a cruise to Antarctica, and I was really impressed by our meals on board, which often included a 3-course a la carte dinner.

The Intrepid staff were all really professional, and they tried really hard to get us out on all the excursions and to genuinely give us the best possible experience in Antarctica the staff is a huge asset to Intrepid.

A highlight of the trip for me was the educational program that the expedition staff delivered throughout the trip. The staff was really passionate about their jobs and Antarctica, and it was a real privilege to learn from them as well as to see Antarctica with them.

Quark Expeditions

Displays of food sitting on a table. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Merry of Virginia Vacation Guide

Cost: $5000 and up

Length: 8-23 days

Quark Expeditions is one of the best Antarctica tour companies that specialize in polar voyages to both the Arctic and Antarctica. Quark offers a wide range of trips to Antarctica. Some are as short as eight days, while others are as long as 23 days. 

The longest trip they offer is titled Epic Antarctica and includes two days at the Falkland Islands, four days at South Georgia, and seven days on the Antarctica peninsula, including a trip south of the Antarctic Circle. For travelers with a shorter time frame, Quark offers flying tours that reach Antarctica much quicker by plane from Punta Arenas, Chile. 

Antarctica trips with Quark range in price from about $5,000 per person up to $40,000 or more per person. These prices are based on the type of trip, the length of the trip, and the room type. Some travelers choose to share a room with one, two, or even three other guests to keep costs lower. Quark also offers sales throughout the year. 

The price of the tour generally includes a cabin on the ship, all meals, and complimentary wine and beer. You will also get a free waterproof parka to keep and rental muck boots for traveling by zodiac around Antarctica. Due to the cold climate, you will still want to make sure to bring proper cold-weather travel gear , including wool socks, base layers, and hand and feet warmers.

One of the pros of booking with Quark is the wide range of activities you can book as part of your trip, including kayaking, camping, hiking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Quark is also known for its excellent, knowledgeable guides, many of whom are expert scientists in their field. 

Quark also features excellent ships with extra amenities. The Ocean Endeavor focuses on wellness and has free yoga classes, a fitness center, a spa, and even a pool and hot tub! The newly built Ultramarine features state-of-the-art amenities like a theater, multiple restaurants, a spa, a sauna, and even two helicopters on board to really take your Antarctic adventure to the next level. 

Quark is also known for serving excellent food onboard. The meals feature a wide variety of fabulous meat, vegetable, and fish dishes, along with an assortment of delectable desserts. The food makes it one of the best Antarctica cruises.

One of the major drawbacks of Quark is that they operate some of the bigger expedition ships in Antarctica. Some of the ships have as many as 200 guests on board. This means that you will generally have less time on shore because more groups will need to rotate into zodiacs for landings. Antarctica strictly limits the number of people who can be on land at any given time in order to preserve the environment. 

Albatros Expeditions

A ship with a glacier in the background.  #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Ruma of The Holiday Story

Length: 10-20 days

Passengers: 186

Albatros Expeditions is a travel company from Denmark famous for its cruise tourism in Antarctica. They specialize in providing sustainable polar expeditions, thus making them one of the best Antarctica tour companies. The company was established in 1986 by Søren Rasmussen. Today, it’s operated by the Rasmussen family, who started the Antarctica expeditions in 2017.

Ocean Atlantic and Ocean Victory are the two ships deployed for these expeditions. Among them, Ocean Victory is a new model with top-notch amenities and a capacity of 186 guests. They offer nine different tour plans to explore the southern polar region. The shortest tour takes ten days to complete. The longest is their 20-day voyage.

This tour includes South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and Antarctica. All trips to Antarctica begin at Ushuaia, Argentina. The price for one varies between $9,999 to $14,999 according to the time of booking.

The booking includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon snacks. Beverage options are tea or coffee. Rubber boots, parkas, and other necessities are provided for all excursions. 

Expeditions are led by an experienced guide who gives a detailed tour of each place. Many of these excursions include hiking and Zodiac boats. Onboard activities include certain workshops and lectures. The need for more entertaining activities onboard might tire the guests on long trips.

Albatros Expeditions takes special care of both its guests and pristine Antarctica, thus making it one of the best Antarctica cruises. Their strive to sustainably educate people about this fascinating White Continent has brought them to the top of their game.

Poseidon Expeditions

A ship with a glacier in the background.  #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Kay of The Awkward Traveller

Cost: $7000 and up

Length: 11-17 days

Passengers: 111

Poseidon Expeditions offers some of the best Antarctica cruises. Their cruises range from 11-17 days. Depending on the length of the cruise, room prices per person start at $7,000 to $16,000 for triple suites and $15,000 to $30,000 for more luxurious rooms.

All meals, happy hour snacks, 24-hour tea and coffee, and special event cocktails and mocktails are included in the price of the cruise. As far as clothing items, you get a branded parka to keep, excursion boots, and hiking poles to borrow. 

Prior to embarking, you get a luxury hotel night stay in Ushuaia and airport transfers before and after the cruise. After the cruise, you get a USB drive of all professional wildlife and personal photos taken by the onboard photographer and a digital log of every day’s itinerary. 

Poseidon had many pros, which included a small boat that allowed for longer landings (2-4 hours each), complimentary photography lessons (and photography-specific excursions), and language interpreters/translators available. If you have chosen the kayaking add-on, you are able to kayak as often as the weather permits. 

Nevertheless, there are still a few cons when booking with Poseidon. Poseidon does not include the price of extra activities such as camping ($285 USD) or kayaking ($895 USD). Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are also not included.

The Best Scenic Antarctica Cruises

Celebrity cruises.

An indoor pool with loungers. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Karen of Forever Karen

Cost: $2100 and up

Length: 14 days

Passengers: 2,850

Celebrity Cruises offers an Antarctica cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse for 2024 and Celebrity Equinox for 2025. The 14-day round trip itineraries sail from Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is one of the best Antarctica cruises because of its price.

Expect to pay about $2,100 per person for an inside cabin or $2,900 per person for a balcony stateroom, with taxes and port fees included. All meals, coffee, tea, and juices are included, but alcoholic drinks, WiFi, and gratuities are extra.

The itinerary typically includes four port days in Ushuaia (Argentina), Port Stanley (Falkland Islands), Puerto Madryn (Argentina), and Montevideo in Uruguay. But the highlight of any Antarctica cruise is sailing around Cape Horn and to the frozen landscape of the South Pole.

You will enjoy a day savoring the massive icebergs in the Schollart Channel, followed by a day of seeing Gentoo penguins in Paradise Bay. The Gerlache Strait offers whale sightings, and Elephant Island is a wildlife haven for elephant seals and several types of penguins.

Celebrity vessels also have an indoor pool, complimentary saunas, and steam rooms, ideal for cruising to a cold destination.

By sailing with Celebrity Cruises, you will see a bucket list destination at a price you can afford. 

However, guests on a Celebrity vessel will only enjoy views of the frozen landscape from the ship. If you go on a smaller expedition cruise, they will allow guests to take day trips by Zodiac to the bays.

The Best Antarctica Flightseeing Tours

Chimu adventures.

The wing of a plane with icy mountains in the background. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

By Alyse of The Invisible Tourist

Cost: $830 and up

Length: 1 day

Passengers: 178

Did you know it is possible to take a day trip to Antarctica from Australia? Yes, it’s true! Departing a few times a year, Chimu Adventures has teamed up with Antarctica Flights and Qantas to bring us specialized sightseeing flights from Australian cities over our icy continent. 

As the sightseeing flight does not actually land in Antarctica, it is considered a domestic journey, so no passport is needed for Australians. Sit back and relax on this 12-14 hour flight, with a good 4 hours flying at low altitude over glaciers, mountain peaks, and icebergs the size of large cities. 

One of the pros of this experience is prices range from $830 for an Explorer Economy seat to $5,530 for Business Class, so there is an option to suit every budget. 

Included in the price is commentary from expeditions, an info pack, and an in-flight auction for artifacts from Antarctica. Meals and beverages are also included and are the same as would be served on a long-haul international flight. You are even able to have a celebratory glass of sparkling wine if you wish.

As mentioned in this Antarctica Flights review , the only downside of this Chimu Adventures/Antarctica Flights trip is if you purchase the cheapest seat. It has no window so it would be difficult to try and see much through other passengers’ windows. Nevertheless, it is one of the best Antarctica cruises by plane!

A penguin sitting in the snow with glaciers in the background. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

Final Thoughts on the Best Antarctica Cruises

Other popular Antarctica cruises and tour companies include Lindblad Expeditions, which often partners with National Geographic, Silversea, Heritage Expeditions, and Bark EUROPA. Holland America also does a fabulous scenic Antarctica cruise. No matter which of the best Antarctica cruises or tour companies you choose, it will be the experience of a lifetime and well worth all of the planning. 

Planning an Antarctica trip takes a lot of planning. The following post goes over some of the best Antarctica cruises and Antarctica tour companies to use. Hurtigruten, Quark, Intrepid, GAdventures, and Oceanwide are some of the most popular options. #antarctic #cruises #continents #7thcontinent

Share this lesson!

8 thoughts on “10+ of the Best Antarctica Cruises: Which Antarctica Tour Company Should You Book?”

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Great collab! I want to go to Antarctica again! I would definitely do G Adventures again but Intrepid or Quark would be a solid choice for me as well 🙂

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Thank you for contributing! Quark and GAdventures sound awesome!

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Wow this is such a great guide !! My parents are super interested in these cruises so I can’t wait to share this with them 🙌🏼

' src=

Antarctica is truly a bucket-list travel experience. I hope I have an opportunity to visit one day. Your thorough guide will be immensely helpful in choosing a tour operator. Thank you for your thoughtful insights.

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As a travel agent, I can attest that Gadventures, Hurtigruten, and Intrepid Travel are all top-notch tour companies. Antarctica cruises are so pricey!

' src=

A cruise to the Antartica is so high on my bucketlist. Unfortunately, I’m a solo traveller so I’d have to pay double so I doubt I’ll ever get there. I didn’t realize there were so many cruiselines that went to the Antartica.

' src=

I would love to go to Antarctica! I bet the wildlife would be amazing to see

' src=

This is so helpful! I’ve been dreaming of going to Antarctica for a long time and now it’s time to start saving to make it happen. These tours aren’t cheap but I’m sure it’ll be worth it

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Ocean Endeavour Antarctic Cruises

Natalya Getman war sehr hilfsbereit und hat schnell auf alle meine Fragen geantwortet. Die Reise in die Antarktis war eine der besten Erfahrungen. Sie war sehr gut organisiert - es gab Zeit, viel über die Antarktis zu lernen, die Antarktis mit Zodiacs zu erkunden und an Land zu gehen, nette Gespräche mit interessanten Menschen zu führen, sich zu entspannen und die Momente dort zu genießen. Ich empfehle diese Reise jedem Abenteuerlustigen.

Natalya Getman m'a beaucoup aidé et a répondu rapidement à toutes mes questions. Le voyage en Antarctique a été l'une des meilleures expériences. Il était très bien organisé - il y avait du temps pour apprendre beaucoup de choses sur l'Antarctique, pour explorer l'Antarctique avec des zodiacs et en marchant sur la terre, pour des conversations agréables avec des gens intéressants, pour se détendre et profiter des moments sur place. Je recommande fortement ce voyage à tous les aventuriers.

Natalya Getman was very supportive and quickly responding to each my questions. The trip to Antarctica was one of the best experiences. It was very well organized - there was time for learning a lot about Antarctica, for explore Antarctica with zodiacs and walking on the land, for nice conversations with interesting people, for relax and enjoy the moments there. I strongly recommend this trip to each adventureous.

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Must go!!! What an experience on Svalbard Circumnavigation Cruise! We went on board Freya in August 2023 and it was absolutly amazing! We were very lucky to see a lot of wild life every single day... Walruses, bears (we could even see a family with mother and 2 kids), seals, lots of species of birds and whales... An absolute 10 star experience! We were very welcomed by a professional crew from the beginning. The food was tasty and there are plenty of treats along the day. The group was easy and got along pretty easilly. The guides were unstopable trying to please everyone and always on whacht for more wildlife. They knew all the trails and views in Svalbard and were very flexible adapting the schedual to the weather, moods and animal visits. They were unbelievably knowledgeable and enthusiastic complementing each other with facts from history, geology and wildlife. They always updated us after meals with the plan for the next couple of hours plan and tips for equipment. The small group experience (10-12 guests) makes it unique as we could observe the wild life for as much time as we wanted with no noise or interference from the big crowded ships and could explore places that other ships simply couldn't. The place it self is magical! No words to describe the misterious beauty of Svalbard. The glaciars are breath taking. Also the polar plunge was a fun adventure! Everything about the experience was spectacular, so if you are looking for a once in a lifetime adventure, is a must do!!

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It’s fantastic trip. Thanks Natalya who helps to book and explain all to us. Give more confidence and comfortable to pay a big amount of Money for tickets.

C'est un voyage fantastique. Merci à Natalya qui nous a aidés à réserver et nous a tout expliqué. Cela nous a donné plus de confiance et de confort pour payer une grosse somme d'argent pour les billets.

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Antarctic Cruise Ship Operators

Antarctica Travel Centre partners with many of the best Antarctic Cruise Operators and has done so for over 10 years. We do not prefer any on ship or operator over another: we are independent and prefer to match your needs, itinerary, budget and overall interests with the best ship, itinerary and operator for you.  They all have one thing in common; they are small ships, carrying fewer than 200 guests.  Larger ships have significant restrictions as to where and how many places they can visit which has a significant impact on your experience of Antarctica.

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As Antarctic experts we delight in the design of innovative and unusual itineraries for discerning travellers and have been since 1995. Our commitment is to a focus on quality, an attention to detail and the delivery of a high level of service, continually striving to improve our knowledge of Antarctica, Falklands Islands & South Georgia and the ships we offer.

Antarctica Travel Centre and South America Travel Centre are part of Tailor-Made Journeys Pty Ltd which is a wholly Australian owned business.

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Ocean Albatros Completes First Year in Service

  • June 23, 2024

Ocean Albatros

The Ocean Albatros is completing its first year of service this month.

After being delivered by the CMHI Haimen Shipyard in China, the expedition vessel welcomed its first guests on June 15, 2023.

As part of SunStone’s Infinity Class series, the Ocean Albatros spent its inaugural season sailing in the Arctic.

On its maiden voyage, the 186-guest ship offered an eight-day expedition to Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago.

In an effort to spot polar bears and other wildlife, the cruise sailed near the pack ice north of the islands and also included visits to several landing sites .

Continuing its maiden season, the Ocean Albatros offered expeditions to Iceland, Jan Mayen and Greenland.

The ship then repositioned south in late October for a maiden season in Antarctica and the South Atlantic.

Sailing along with its sister ship Ocean Victory, the Albatros sailed from Ushuaia for a series of expeditions to South Georgia, the Antarctica Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, the Weddell Sea and the Falkland Islands.

Before kicking off its second program in the Arctic, the Ocean Albatros was recently christened in Denmark .

The event took place on May 7, 2024, and featured Berit Willumsgaard, CEO of Albatros Travel Group, serving as godmother.

Illustrating the company’s commitment to the environment, the christening ceremony dropped the traditional bottle of champagne in favor of a symbolic block of ice.

As part of its summer season in the Arctic, the Ocean Albatros is set to offer varied itineraries to Svalbard, Iceland and Greenland.

Highlights of the program include an eight-day expedition to Disko Bay. Sailing in August, the voyage sails roundtrip from Kangerlussuaq and features visits to several destinations such as Sisimuit, Qeqertarsuaq and Ilulissat.

According to Albatros, the cruise is a great opportunity for guests to “marvel at gigantic icebergs, experience the Inuit culture, and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ilulissat Icefjord.”

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Antarctica Cruises

Book early for 2025 and 2026 sailings to Antarctica and save up to 25% with the HX Price Promise*.

Go with the global leader in expeditions to Antarctica

Nothing compares to an Antarctica expedition. For many, exploring this vast, frozen continent is a once-in-a-lifetime dream. To cross the Drake Passage and reach the last great frontier - a place where sun glints off pristine ice and wildlife reigns supreme - is truly life-changing. And that's why you'll want to do it with the experts. At HX, we've been exploring Antarctica for over 20 years, and we do so in a sustainable style, with a world-leading science programme that actively helps the fragile ecosystems we explore.

20 years and counting

We've been exploring the White Continent expedition-style for over 20 years, so for the best cruises to Antarctica choose HX.

Explore Antarctica in 2025/2026 on our small, well-equipped, hybrid expedition ships, where safety and sustainability come first. PLUS with our Price Promise, if you find the same cabin available for a lower price after you've booked, let us know and we'll give you back the difference.

Meet the locals

The seas and shores around Antarctica teem with wildlife. See colonies of penguins, graceful whales and curious seals. On a trip to Antarctica, you'll marvel at pristine panoramas of snowy mountains, wind-sculpted icebergs and mighty glaciers.

The krill-rich waters around the White Continent support abundant wildlife: from humpback whales and fur seals to albatrosses and penguins. An estimated population of 12 million penguins of several species call the Antarctic Peninsula home.

Exploring Antarctica

An all-inclusive cruise to Antarctica with HX means entering explorer mode. You’ll join our experienced Expedition Team in small launches as we go on shore landings and seek out wildlife.

Other activities include kayaking, snowshoeing, camping, and perhaps even a polar plunge if you want to experience a pure Antarctic rush!

We go beyond Antarctica, with South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, Patagonia and more included on many of our voyages.

A symphony of ice and sky

Experience the tranquillity of vast panoramas and sail among the sublime frozen icescapes of Antarctica, as we pass between icebergs, close to calving glaciers, and past huge ice floes in the Southern Ocean.

Cruises to Antarctica

In-depth Antarctica & Patagonia Expedition | Southbound

In-depth Antarctica & Patagonia Expedition | Southbound

Departure date

Price from €14,274

Antarctica & Patagonia Expedition | Southbound

Antarctica & Patagonia Expedition | Southbound

Departure Dates

Oct 21, 24, Nov 1, 24

Price from €12,009

MS Roald Amundsen +1

MS Roald Amundsen MS Fridtjof Nansen

Antarctica & Falkland Expedition

Antarctica & Falkland Expedition

Nov 6, 24, Nov 20, 24 + 4 more departures

Price from €10,794

MS Roald Amundsen

Antarctica Neko Harbour HGR 166590 Photo Yuri Matisse Choufour

Adventure is All-Inclusive

An HX trip includes everything from daily excursions and activities to our onboard Science Centre, meals, gratuities, drinks and more. ​ All designed to give you the expedition experience of a lifetime.

Active exploration

On an HX expedition cruise to Antarctica, you’ll be an explorer not a passenger. Cross the Drake Passage and explore expedition-style as we seek out remote landing sites for nature encounters.

Activities in Antarctica

On your all-inclusive trip to Antarctica you'll get closer to the Seventh Continent than you ever dreamed. Experience the magic as you step off your expedition boat and feel the crunch of snow beneath your boots. Guided by your Expedition Team, you'll be able to paddle through icestrewn waters, photograph penguins and whales guided by our expert photographer, hike across pristine landscapes wearing snowshoes, and perhaps take a polar plunge if you're feeling brave. For a lucky few, camping in tents overnight is the ultimate Antarctic experience.

antarctica cruise operators

Snowshoeing

When the conditions are right, there's no better way to cross the frozen terrain than by wearing snowshoes. Our modern equipment makes it easy to walk on the soft snow, and the elements are usually best during our late spring and early summer Antarctica cruises.

antarctica cruise operators

Hear the beautiful 'symphony of the ice' as you glide silently past nature's frozen works of art in a sea kayak. Designed for close-up polar exploration, there's no better way to encounter the wildlife of Antarica and to enjoy its soul-stirring scenery.

antarctica cruise operators

Camping | Amundsen Night

Spend a magical night camping in a tent on the shore in Antarctica. In the style of the early explorers, we use our specialised equipment to spend the night under the stars for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. As you might expect, camping is a popular activity and numbers are limited. Who gets to go usually has to be decided by a lottery system. Feeling lucky?

* Please note that these are optional activities; an additional cost may apply.

Wildlife on ice

Even in the extreme environment of Antarctica, life not only survives but thrives. Its icy seas, isolated icebergs and snow-driven deserts are home to wildlife that surprises and charms.

Wildlife in Antarctica

Nowhere on Earth feels as remote as Antarctica, yet the wildlife here is abundant and spectacular. The icy shores are a haven for millions of penguins, as well as seals and seabirds, while the deep blue waters support a huge population of whales. Your Expedition Team will help you spot and photograph iconic animals, and there will be lectures on ornithology and natural history from our wildlife experts. In the Science Centre you'll learn more, and perhaps even help out with wildlife conservation through out Citizen Science projects.

Where science and learning meet nature

Science is at the core of our voyage into the heart of the natural world in Antarctica. Learn about geology, climatology and ornitholgy, and collect samples and take part in experiments with our onboard scientific experts.

Your Antarctica Expedition Team

You're in the best hands with your onboard Expedition Team. Handpicked experts from a range of backgrounds, you'll soon discover their passion and energy for Antarctica is infectious. They'll lead you on adventures off the ship, deliver fascinating lectures, unlock nature's wonders in the Science Centre, and perhaps even entertain you along the way. On your cruise to Antarctica, the Expedition Team will be your companions in adventure.

Expedition Ships | The perfect balance

Our state-of-the-art expedition vessels feature hybrid propulsion technology, ice-class hulls and advanced onboard waste-reduction systems. Large enough to offer excellent stability and a spacious onboard experience, yet small enough to get off the beaten track, you'll discover that HX ships are the perfect balance for the ultimate Antarctic adventure.

MS-Fram-Antarctica-HGR-106890-Photo_Photo_Competition.JPG

Purpose-built as an expedition cruise ship, MS Fram is an exceptional base camp for explorers. On board, comfort is a top priority, so after a day of exploration you can relax in a hot tub, dine in your choice of two restaurants or at the outdoor BBQ and catch up with your fellow guests with a cocktail in hand as you watch the scenery glide past in the Explorer Lounge & Bar. In the Science Centre, at the heart of the ship, you’ll discover more about the places you sail to and listen to talks by the Expedition Team.  With key expedition features and technology, MS Fram is primed to bring you on a journey of discovery to our planet’s most alluring and unspoiled regions. 

MS Fridtjof Nansen, Antarctica. Photo: Espen Mills

MS Fridtjof Nansen

The newest addition to our fleet will honor the heritage of her namesake – the Norwegian explorer, scientist, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen. Known for his innovations in Arctic expeditions, Nansen led the first crossing of Greenland on cross-country skis. He is perhaps most famous for his attempt to reach the geographical North Pole during the Fram Expedition (1893-1896). Interestingly, after Nansen's Fram expedition, the ship was passed on to another great explorer who secretly planned an expedition to the South Pole - Roald Amundsen.

Paradise-Bay-Antarctica-HGR-152880-Photo_Oscar_Farrera.jpg

Named after the first man to cross Antarctica and to reach the South Pole, MS Roald Amundsen leads the way towards an even more sustainable way of travelling. The ship is specially constructed for voyages in polar waters. It serves as a comfortable base camp at sea – bringing adventurers from all over the world to the most spectacular destinations in the most sustainable way.

Make a difference

Support the scientific community in collecting valuable data on Antarctica that contributes to global research by participating in our Citizen Science Programme.

Stories from Antarctica

MS Roald Amundsen anchoured in Paradise Bay during an expedition cruise to Antarctica. Credit: Oscar Farrera / HX Hurtigruten Expedition.

Explore Antarctica with HX

Antarctica is the pinnacle of expedition and adventure travel! Start planning your journey to exploring this pristine world of ice, wildlife, and awe-inspiring beauty.

Danco Island, Antarctica - Photo Credit: Espen Mills

15 Interesting Facts About Antarctica

On the southern-most tip of the planet rests one of the world's most massive and mysterious landmasses - the frozen realm of Antarctica.

Drake Passage

Seven Incredible Drake Passage Facts

You might assume that the Drake Passage was first sailed by British explorer Sir Francis Drake, but the truth behind this waterway’s somewhat misleading name is just one of many interesting facts about the passage.

Penguins on Galindez Island, Antarctica. Photo: Ingemund Skålnes

Antarctica is the only continent with no significant plant life and no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. Even in the extreme environment of Antarctica, life not only survives but thrives. Its icy seas, isolated icebergs and snow-driven deserts are home to wildlife that surprise and charm all who visit them.

Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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antarctica cruise operators

What people don’t tell you before booking an Antarctic cruise

A ntarctica, once off limits to all but research-station scientists, is becoming an increasingly popular cruise destination . According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), commercial tourism began in the late 1950s when 500 or so fare-paying passengers travelled aboard Chilean and Argentine naval vessels to the South Shetland Islands, on resupply missions to research stations.

“The first vessel specifically built to take fare-paying passengers to Antarctica was the ice-strengthened m/v Lindblad Explorer built in 1969. She paved the way for tourists to visit and enjoy the world’s last pristine continent.”

When IAATO was founded in 1991, approximately 6,400 tourists visited Antarctica on 10 expedition ships. In the 2022/23 season, 71,346 passengers visited on 60 vessels. In addition, 32,730 were “cruise only” visitors – those on ships carrying 500 passengers or more, and who are not permitted to go ashore.

Antarctica is an unforgettable destination , but time on the continent is precious and expensive. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are some of the things cruise lines don’t tell you.

The itinerary may change

When drilling down for itinerary detail, you’ll find that day-by-day detail is vague. This is largely due to the weather. Storms and katabatic winds can blow up in an instant; a sudden early-season temperature plunge can cause ice to reform and channels can become icebound overnight.

Anchorages are influenced by weather and ship size but a typical itinerary will visit Fournier Bay, Paradise Bay, the Lemaire Channel, Port Lockroy (though off limits for now), Neko Harbour, Deception Island and Elephant Point in the South Shetland Islands.

In February 2024, @ruinedvacation posted on TikTok that a cruise line had made a last-minute name change to its itinerary via its app. Instead of visiting Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula, the Norwegian Cruise Line ship visited Admiralty Bay in the South Shetland Islands (an island group 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula), before heading to the Falklands. 

“Part of the wonder of Antarctica is its unpredictability,” says a source at IAATO: “Don’t forget, while it may be the most untouched, it’s also the most hostile place on earth. It’s always best to approach your trip with an open mind.”

You’ll need to pass a medical

A “fit to travel” medical form requires a signature from a GP, and most charge for this service. Some surgeries won’t do it, which will mean booking an online appointment with the ship’s own physician, possibly in a different time zone, and at your own cost.

If someone dies, your cruise might be cancelled  

Death on a cruise – it happens more often than you might expect and it’s a grizzly fact that most cruise ships have morgues.

King George Island, which is the largest of the South Shetland islands and located 75 nautical miles off the coast of Antarctica, has a runway that can facilitate medevac emergencies, but flights are weather-dependent. Lines do what they can to limit the impact on passengers, but there is always the chance that your ship may have to return to the port of Ushuaia in Argentina, curtailing your trip. Always read the small print.

The small print?

You’re unlikely to be offered a free replacement cruise. A spokesman from HX said: “In cases where a cruise is significantly curtailed due to a medical emergency, we ensure that guests are accommodated with alternative arrangements at no extra charge. Additionally, when appropriate, we offer reasonable compensation. This could take the form of onboard credit, future cruise credit, or a refund, depending on the specific circumstances of the disruption.”

You should always book insurance

For this once-in-a-lifetime trip, triple check your insurance policy. Tim Riley, managing director at The True Traveller, says: “If, due to someone becoming ill, the ship has to divert, that’s always built into the terms and conditions of a cruise. Most cruise passengers just accept that this can happen.”

Aviva says: “If a cruise is cut short due to a fellow passenger needing medical attention, this wouldn’t be covered under an Aviva policy. However, if an Aviva customer became unwell and required medical attention or had to return home early, this would be covered under the terms of the policy.”

Don’t assume you’ll go ashore

This is not always spelt out on cruise websites. On its Antarctica Cruises home page, Celebrity Cruises states: “Cruises visit a number of locations on and around the Antarctic Peninsula.

“Gaze at Antarctica’s dramatic landscapes in the company of expert naturalists as you glide slowly through iceberg-strewn waters in search of penguins, seals and whales.”

Gaze is the operative word. In line with IAATO protocol, ships carrying more than 500 passengers cannot disembark their guests. Sightseeing is done from the ship, and passengers still cross the Drake Passage, which means four days travelling there and back.

In 2026, Celebrity Equinox, which carries 2,852 passengers, “visits” Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands and the Gerlache Strait, Schollart Channel and Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. If you’re happy to admire the scenery and wildlife from a distance, the price difference is around £8,000. (The Celebrity cruise costs from £1,957pp.)

Avian flu has reached Antarctica

In December, the Antarctic Wildlife Health Network reported the first suspected case of avian influenza in Antarctica. In February, a case was reported at the Argentine research station Esperanza Base.

On a visit to the peninsula in January, we were forbidden from sitting, crouching or putting bags on the ground. Additional biosecurity measures may impact excursion locations. A popular stop for visitors is Port Lockroy (Goudier Island), where visitors can walk around a historic research hut, observe the island’s penguin colony and send a postcard from the post office. On December 5 2023, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust closed the island to visitors. It’s not yet known if the island will re-open for the 2024-2025 season. 

The sun may not shine

We’ve all seen the pictures of icebergs and peaks reflected in glassy bays and sunset-pink skies. But don’t expect wall-to-wall sunshine. You may not see the sun for an entire week, which could impact activities, views and wildlife sightings. However, it’s unlikely to ruin a trip.

There are no polar bears

Polar bears inhabit the Arctic, which is in the northern hemisphere. Except for the Galapagos, penguins are the hot-ticket sighting in the Antarctic. In its most recent State of Antarctic Penguins report, the not-for-profit penguin monitoring body Oceanites counted more than six million breeding pairs, across the five species, at 740 sites in Antarctica. The South Shetland Islands has three types of penguin as well as Antarctic terns, giant petrels, leopard seals and whales.

Read more: Discover the secret to the perfect Antarctic adventure

Play The Telegraph’s brilliant range of Puzzles - and feel brighter every day. Train your brain and boost your mood with PlusWord, the Mini Crossword, the fearsome Killer Sudoku and even the classic Cryptic Crossword.

Antarctica is an unforgettable destination, but time on the continent is precious and expensive - Andrea Klaussner/Hurtigruten

Antarctica Cruises

  • Travel Guide

Antarctica Tourism, The Role Of IAATO & Responsible Travel

History of antarctica tourism, the first sightseeing cruise, growth of ecotourism in antarctica, the international association of antarctica tour operators (iaato): managing tourism in antarctica, what modern antarctica tourism looks like, antarctic tourism statistics: how many tourists visit antarctica, responsible travel in antarctica: protecting the integrity of the white continent.

Antarctica stands icy and glistening at the bottom of the planet as a truly special travel destination—and an increasingly popular one. As farflung as the Earth’s landmasses come, it remains a place that comparatively few people have visited firsthand, but each year brings greater and greater numbers of sightseers, keen to experience the last true wilderness and its astonishing scenery and wildlife.

Compared to other corners of the globe, the timeline of Antarctic tourism is pretty darn short. People didn’t even lay eyes on the White Continent until 1820, and needless to say leisure travel wasn’t exactly on the radar in this staggeringly remote, ice-ruled polar realm for many decades afterward. Antarctica long remained a little-seen realm mainly drawing adventurers, whalers, sealers, and—mainly from the early 20th century onward—scientists.

The dawn of true Antarctic tourism came in January of 1966, with the first-ever expedition cruise to the White Continent led by Lars-Eric Lindblad, a Swede who came to the United States in the 1950s and there established a tour company, Lindblad Travel.

As Lindblad’s son Sven told Elite Traveler , Lars-Eric hatched the plan to lead a tour down to the bottom of the world in the early 1960s, around a campfire in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Lindblad asked his guests where they’d like him to bring them next, and a woman answered: “Why not Antarctica?”

The inaugural 1966 expedition cruise led by Lindblad— documented on film , by the way—went down on a specially chartered ship of the Argentine Navy, the Lapataia . Three years later, Lindblad began leading cruises on the first vessel purpose-built for Antarctic cruising: the ice-strengthened MV Lindblad , which continued to ferry sightseers into the 21st century. (It sank due to human error in the Bransfield Strait in 2007.)

Lindblad’s expeditions launched the era of sightseeing tours in Antarctica, and by the late 1980s four operators were leading cruises into these polar waters. In 1985, a company began running the first tourism flights to Antarctica, bringing clients to a field camp in the interior for the purposes of mountaineering, skiing, and the like.

Cruising towards the South Pole

In 1991, the parties signed on to the Antarctic Treaty adopted an important addition to that regulatory system: the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty . Fully implemented by 1998, this protocol declared Antarctica a “natural reserve” and laid out a variety of guidelines and requirements for the continued protection of the White Continent’s largely pristine state. Those guidelines and requirements applied to the growing tourism industry as well as all other human activities in the Antarctic.

Prompted by the adoption of the Protocol, seven tour companies active in Antarctica at that time established that same year the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) , which, per the IAATO website , is “a global, non-profit industry alliance dedicated to safe and responsible private-sector travel to the White Continent.”

Minimizing the impacts of tourism on Antarctica and upholding the tenets of the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection help guide the IAATO’s efforts. These range from ensuring the most rigorous of training for guides and other staff to supporting scientific work (many scientists and staff of Antarctica’s research bases hop rides on tour vessels to reach the White Continent, for example).

Today IAATO comprises better than 100 members representing the following globe-spanning countries:

  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom (and the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands)
  • United States

As of 2019-2020, according to IAATO records, nearly 50 tour operators are active in Antarctica, with a fleet of some 63 vessels making more than 400 voyages to the White Continent that season.

Most tourism to Antarctica takes place by ship, with IAATO-registered sightseeing vessels categorized as traditional expedition ships carrying 12 to 200 passengers and making landfall ( C1 vessels); midsize ships carrying 201-500 and making landfall ( C2 vessels); large cruise ships carrying 500-plus passengers without making landings ( CR vessels); and small sailing or motor yachts ferrying a dozen or fewer passengers ( YA vessels).

The majority of Antarctic sightseeing cruises embark from South America and head for the Antarctic Peninsula, potentially visiting the Falklands, South Georgia, and other islands en route. But some ships proceed deeper into polar waters, crossing the Antarctic Circle and foraying into the Weddell or Ross seas; a relative handful journey along the coast of East Antarctica.

Some Antarctic tourists leaving from South America skip the ship-borne crossing of the Drake Passage and fly to the South Shetland Islands, thereafter joining a cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. And some operators lead flights into the Antarctic interior for mountain-climbing, visiting the South Pole, and other bucket-list adventures.

Camping in Neko Harbour

The White Continent has grown in popularity as travelers hunger for new, exotic locations and interest in this comparatively untouched wilderness—not least in this era of climate change and heightened concern over humanity’s impact on the biosphere—continues to mount.

The IAATO keeps record of how many tourists go to Antarctica each year. The first tourism season after the organization’s establishment, 1992-1993, saw 6,704 tourists make landings in Antarctica courtesy of 10 tour operators and 59 voyages.

During the aforementioned 2019-2020 season—when the sightseeing fleet had ballooned past 60 vessels and voyages numbered in the hundreds—almost 60,000 tourists made landfall in Antarctica, with another 18,420 cruise-only passengers enjoying the sights from offshore.

There are both positive and negative impacts of tourism in Antarctica, as anywhere. Experiencing the White Continent firsthand—its fluted icebergs, looming ice-shelves, seal colonies, penguin towns, ice-armored summits, whale-plowed leads and bays—inspires vital awareness of how precious, and how vulnerable, this incredible place is. Part of the IAATO’s mission , for example, is using responsible tourism to “create a corps of ambassadors for the continued protection of Antarctica.”

But the chance to see the dreamscape that is Antarctica comes with some heady responsibility. That’s only as it should be, given the White Continent is the last great subaerial wilderness on Earth. Everybody coming here—researchers, tour operators, guides, and tourists—must do their part to lighten their impact on the landscape and seascape and their ecosystems.

Choosing an Antarctic experience via an IAATO outfit is fundamental to responsible ecotourism. The IAATO maintains an excellent collection of online resources focused on visitor guidelines for Antarctica, well worth checking out even if you’re only in the early stages of considering such a trip.

Indeed, there’s plenty you can do before leaving to ensure you’ll be lessening your footprint in the Antarctic as much as possible. That includes selecting environmentally conscientious products such as reusable items, non-plastic packaging, and eco-friendly formulations and fabrics.

It also means taking steps to avoid bringing any unwanted living cargo along with you. After all, exotic (i.e., non-native) species are a major risk to the Antarctic ecosystem—some 200 have already been introduced to this remotest continent, most notably plants such as grasses and sedges and invertebrates such as midges and fruit flies—and it’s all too easy to transport seeds or insects in your clothing and gear. Thoroughly cleaning your belongings before your departure helps lower the chance of spreading such pests to and around the White Continent. While traveling, meanwhile, abide by the cleaning/decontamination protocol established by your operator, and generally stay aware of when you may be picking up organic matter on your clothing or equipment; clean such debris off before moving on to another site.

Penguin family in Port Lockroy

Enjoying Antarctica’s spectacular wildlife responsibly means giving animals an adequate amount of space and doing everything possible to avoid altering their behavior, even minimally. If you flush a seabird or startle a hauled-out seal into the water, you’re forcing these creatures to expend valuable energy, and also very likely boosting stress hormones.

Tour operators are, of course, expected to shoulder much of the burden of navigating respectfully around wildlife: keeping vessels a minimum distance from animals (a contextual judgment), avoiding pursuing or boxing in dolphins and whales, keeping travel lanes amid bird or seal rookeries clear, and so on. But tourists themselves must always bear in mind that their individual actions can definitely disturb animals, and aside from following all instructions from guides, they should be familiar with responsible wildlife-watching guidelines on their own.

Other essential—and hopefully common-sense—practices for lightening your impact on the Antarctic environment include leaving all rocks, egg shells, and other natural objects where they lie; keeping close tabs (and a tight grip) on your belongings to avoid littering; and being sure not to deface or otherwise disturb historical sights and artifacts, not to mention scientific instruments and infrastructure.

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Antarctica’s greatest mysteries & hidden secrets revealed, the truth about antarctica: common myths & legends debunked, scott’s, shackleton’s & mawson’s huts in antarctica & their amazing contents, top 9 historical places & monuments in antarctica to visit, research stations in antarctica: top 8 antarctic bases, little america in antarctica, admiral richard e. byrd & operation highjump, the antarctic snow cruiser & other lost antarctic vehicles, antarctica’s bay of whales & its place in history, shackleton endurance expedition & voyage of the james caird.

Our travel guides are for informational purposes only. While we aim to provide accurate and up-to-date information, Antarctica Cruises makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information in our guides or found by following any link on this site.

Antarctica Cruises cannot and will not accept responsibility for any omissions or inaccuracies, or for any consequences arising therefrom, including any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the display or use of this information.

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

Get in touch with us via phone or form today and you’ll be assigned a dedicated Antarctica specialist who’ll be with you every step of the way to help you choose, book and plan the right Antarctica cruise for you. Here’s how it works:

Listen & Match

We’ll carefully listen to your aspirations and curate an impartial shortlist of personalized polar cruise recommendations—and pre- and post-cruise extensions—to match your desired experience.

Reserve & Relax

Next we’ll place a free, no obligation, 24-hour cabin hold on your preferred cruise option whilst we discuss the final details. Book and relax safe in the knowledge you’ll be paying the lowest price guaranteed.

Prepare & Travel

Then we’ll provide you with our expert packing advice, insider travel tips, and more to ensure you are fully prepared for—and maximize your enjoyment of—your once-in-a-lifetime Antarctica expedition.

  • With Partner/Friend
  • With Family
  • As Part Of A Group
  • Emperor Penguin
  • Photography
  • Exploration Heritage
  • Antarctic Peninsula
  • Antarctic Circle
  • Falklands/S. Georgia
  • Weddell Sea
  • Ross Sea/E. Antarctica

DEAL FLASH: Get 30% Off & An Exclusive $600 Air Credit On The Nov 14 Departure On World Explorer

A cruise line for every type of traveler: How to choose the right one for you

antarctica cruise operators

  • Cruise lines have their own identities and areas of focus, and some lend themselves more to certain vacation types than others.
  • Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line are solid options for families.
  • Aurora Expeditions, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises offer trips with a spirit of exploration at their core.

No matter what kind of vacation you're planning , there's likely a cruise for you.

Whether you want to spend your trip kayaking and scuba diving or prefer to lounge on a sun deck sipping a cocktail, cruise lines have a wide range of offerings. But not every line or ship is right for every passenger.

Cruise brands have their own identities and areas of focus, and some lend themselves more to certain vacation types than others (amenities can also vary from ship to ship within the same line). Here's what to know.

Best cruise line for families

▶ Royal Caribbean International ships have an array of onboard offerings for kids and adults. The line's most recent addition, Icon of the Seas , for example, has been billed as the ultimate family vacation .

The vessel – the largest cruise ship in the world – has an entire neighborhood designed for young families, a large water park and activities ranging from a FlowRider surf simulator to Crown's Edge, where guests can walk more than 150 feet above the ocean. The line's Bahamas private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, offers plenty of thrills and places to chill , too.

▶ Norwegian Cruise Line also offers a range of activities like free-fall dry slides, go-kart tracks, and high-caliber stage shows. Disney Cruise Line draws on a huge catalogue of stories to bring magic to life on the water, with character appearances, themed dining and special events like Marvel Day at Sea .

▶ Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises also cater to families, and Princess Cruises and Holland America Line are solid options for multigenerational travelers. Mainstream cruise lines generally have kids clubs that are included in the fare, as well.

Best cruise line for adventure and expeditions

Adventure seekers may want to consider expedition ships and lines that offer sailings to less common destinations such as Antarctica .

▶ Aurora Expeditions offers a range of activity-centric itineraries, including Zodiac boat outings, kayaking, snowshoeing and more. Celebrity Cruises, meanwhile, has a vessel designed  especially for the Galapagos Islands .

▶ Operators like HX (formerly Hurtigruten Expeditions) , Lindblad Expeditions and Silversea Cruises also offer trips with a spirit of exploration at their core.

Best cruise line for letting loose

▶ Virgin Voyages offers adults-only sailings and a unique onboard atmosphere with its immersive Scarlet Night celebration and innovative performances . There is also no main dining room or buffet, with a focus on a variety of different food and drinks instead.

▶ Guests can also find parties on other lines, such as Carnival . But the length of the sailing and the time of year play a role in a cruise's vibe. Spring break cruises, for instance, may be rowdier than times when school is in session.

▶ Parties can take different forms, too. Cunard Line , for example, hosts formal gala nights .

Best cruise for rest and relaxation

Upscale cruise lines can lend themselves to a more relaxed and pampering experience. Guests are less likely to encounter rock-climbing walls or ice-skating rinks but will find amenities like pools and carefully curated dining. The following operators are all in that category:

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Oceania Cruises
  • The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

However, even on mainstream lines, guests can often get away from the bustle of the ship in onboard spas and adults-only areas. Luxe ship-within-a-ship concepts like Norwegian's The Haven or MSC's Yacht Club can also offer a more intimate, laid-back experience.

What should I pack for a cruise?: Here are 5 essential items to bring

Best lines for river cruising

River cruising tends to be small-scale and destination-focused.

▶ European river itineraries from lines like AmaWaterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Viking often stop at a mix of marquee and less-visited ports, so guests aren't fighting crowds the whole time.

▶ In the U.S., American Cruise Lines offers a diverse selection of itineraries, from sailings on the Columbia and Snake Rivers to round-trip cruises from Washington, D.C. Viking also has a ship purpose-built for the Mississippi River .

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at [email protected].

The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more .

Watch CBS News

Titan sub implosion highlights "extreme tourism" boom, but adventure can bring peril

By Irina Ivanova

Edited By Alain Sherter

Updated on: June 23, 2023 / 5:49 PM EDT / MoneyWatch

The death of five people on the Titan sub highlights the surge in what some are calling "extreme tourism," in which generally well-heeled travelers scale remote mountains, paraglide into canyons, ski down slopes accessible only by helicopter and embark on other exciting — but potentially risky — adventures.

This summer, for example, a record 106,000 tourists are expected to set foot in Antarctica after crossing the Drake Passage, a stretch of violent sea between South America and Antarctica. The Nepalese government this year also granted a record number of permits to climb Mount Everest, despite concerns about overcrowding and a spike in deaths that put 2023 on track to be one of the  deadliest  for the world's tallest mountain. 

For $2,500, adventurers in search of warmer climes can book a week-long survival trek in the Guyanese jungle  or go on a 10-day trip to the remote Solomon Islands, learning to fish and forage from the locals and then being transported to a desert island to put those skills to the test (cost: $42,000 and up.) Pelorus, a luxury travel company that arranged the Solomon Islands trip for a mother and her son, also offers customized experiences like trekking in Alaska ($19,600) or a three-week private-jet tour of the world ($178,000.)

The adventure travel business was worth nearly $300 billion last year and is projected to hit $1 trillion in a decade, according to a report from consulting firm Grand View Research.

The price of experience 

Demand for adventure travel has shot up since COVID-19, according to Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, a company that evacuates travelers in the event of a medical or other emergency. 

"As opposed to sitting in a hotel somewhere and going to a museum or two, people want experiential travel — they want to go and actually do something," he said.

"I think we're seeing people trading aspirational purchases," Richards added. Where once people might have splurged on a Porsche, now "they're saying, I'm not going to spend $100,000 on the car, I'm going to take five trips to Africa with my family."

African safaris have seen the fastest growth, Richards said, with coverage for safari trips up 75% from last year. Hiking and camping trips are up nearly 50%, in a continuation of pandemic-era trends, and demand for motorcycle tours has also increased.

Along with rising disposable incomes and a growing desire for "authentic"  experiences in an increasingly globalized and connected world, social media is also playing a role in the adventure travel boom, Richards believes.

"People are definitely going after the bucket-list experiences," he said.

Carl Shephard, cofounder of Insider Expeditions, a boutique travel company, has also seen demand for his services skyrocket in the aftermath of the pandemic.

"We've never been busier as a company," he told CBS MoneyWatch.

Shepherd described his typical clients as people in their 30s or 40s who "are tight on time and want to spend money in the most epic way possible."

The company last year organized a cruise from South America to Antarctica with Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band; earlier this year, it brought 200 entrepreneurs on a spiritual journey up the Nile River. Clients frequently request space flights as well as trips to extremely remote islands.

"We like to push the envelope in terms of experience, not in terms of safety," he added.

Still, the pursuit of adventure raises the risk that things can go wrong. 

On Friday, when he spoke with CBS MoneyWatch, Richards said that Global Rescue was in the process of arranging transport for a traveler who had crashed his motorcycle in a remote part of Mongolia to a hospital in the country's capital, Ulaanbaatar. 

A day earlier, the company also evacuated three travelers from a paragliding expedition in the Kashmir region of the Karakoram, the rugged mountain chain that spans five Asian countries — one man who had a heart attack, a companion who injured himself rushing to his aid and a third person with severe gastrointestinal distress. 

In a typical year, Richards said his company will help rescue between 2,000 and 3,000 travelers, most for medical reasons.

"If you dream it, you can do it"

The growth of extreme tourism also reflects the commercial opportunities in allowing the moneyed masses to engage in the kind of exploits once reserved for hardened professionals. 

Blue Origin, the commercial space exploration company started by Jeff Bezos, touts its mission to fly " customer astronauts " to space (at a price ascending into the tens of millions of dollars), with the Amazon founder himself among those exploring the final frontier . And Virgin Galactic, the company launched by British billionaire Richard Branson to enable commercial spaceflight, declares in its marketing materials that "space belongs to everyone: the adventurous, the audacious and the curious."

OceanGate, the company that made the 21-foot sub that suffered what U.S. Coast Guard officials described as a " catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber ," charged  $250,000 for an eight-day, seven-night excursion to see the wreckage of the Titanic. A three-day trip to "explore hydrothermal vents" in the Azores archipelago off Portugal also costs $250,000, according to the company's website .

OceanGate's site also invites prospective clients to "follow in Jacques Cousteau's footsteps and become an underwater explorer," enticing them to "join the adventure of a lifetime." 

Such marketing pitches can attract customers unable to either properly assess the risks or withstand the hardships of what are by design often arduous, envelope-pushing journeys. 

"We're certainly seeing an influx of people who are not well suited to do these things," said Global Rescue's Richards. "One would think there would be some kind of test."

"A lot of the self-care and self-help message that people are receiving is, 'If you dream it you can do it,'" he continued. "That kind of aspirational messaging is good for society overall but can be life-threatening if you take it too far." 

Patrick Luff, founder of the Texas-based Luff Law Firm, expressed concern that the growing popularity of adventure travel would attract fly-by-night operators that might cut corners on safety or security. After all, a traveler drawn in by a slick website advertising once-in-a-lifetime thrills can't easily judge the strength of the company's equipment or the training and knowledge of its staff.

"If you have a huge demand for a risky behavior… you can get unsophisticated entrants into the market," he said. "Whether that's an inexperienced skydiving operation or a submarine company with a tin can and a dream, that's what really becomes concerning."

  • Mount Everest

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