TOP ANTARCTICA CRUISES:
Destinations, Ports, Itineraries, Alternatives, and Resources
In this article you will find:
Antarctica Cruises and Travel
Exhilarating and Expensive Polar Tourism
44 Interesting Facts About Antarctica
Pros and Cons of Cruising the Antarctica
Popular Embarkation Ports and Ports of Call
Things to See and Do
Pre- and Post-Trip Extensions
Sample Itineraries of Companies Operating in Antarctica
Recommended Resources: Books, Movies, Videos
The Antarctica has become a popular bucket list destination for many people in search of unique water, ice, wildlife, and outdoor experiences in a beautiful blue and white, but cold and desolate, polar setting. Indeed, many travelers claim an Antarctica cruise was their “best ever” travel experience. This is an intriguing area of killer whales (orcas), cute penguins, beached seals, soaring albatross, turbulent seas, awesome icebergs, and a strange dead-cold desert.
Here’s what’s going on in this compelling cold, windy, and wild world that attracts nearly 60,000 curious visitors each year who come in a variety of research, expedition, and cruise ships to study, sightsee, kayak, trek, ski, climb, scuba dive, swim, camp, make new friends, visit research stations and old explorer huts, challenge themselves, and learn exciting new things.
Antarctica Cruises and Travel
Since rugged sea- and ice-worthy vessels are the primary way to reach this southern-most continent, everyone visiting Antarctica more or less becomes an expedition cruiser. Some arrive in private jets or high-tech luxury yachts equipped with submarines and helicopters (Crystal and Scenic). Others tour in small and aging exploration icebreakers with basic cabins fitted with bunkbeds and offering few creature comforts. And still others arrive in small and mid-sized expedition ships (100 to 500 passengers) that offer many comforts between these two extremes. Several small luxury cruise lines, such as Seabourn, Silversea, Ponant, Crystal, Viking, and Scenic, visit the Antarctica with ice-class vessels. A few large mainstream cruise lines (Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, and Norwegian), with ships carrying from 2,000 to 3,800 passengers and crew members, include sightseeing cruises to the Antarctica; their passengers do not set foot on land. And several expedition companies, such as Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Quark Expeditions, and Aurora Expeditions – the true polar expedition cruise pioneers offering both water and onshore adventures — have long been in this cold and windy business. And some well-heeled visitors skip the often turbulent 2-day cruise experience through the Drake Passage and quickly fly over the Passage in private jets that land on special landing strips on King George Island and at the South Pole.
The Antarctic is truly an exhilarating (amazing and weird) experience for travelers who now have many pricey sea, air, and land options to experience the wonders of this place from multiple embarkation points – Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa – that tackle different areas of the continent (Antarctic Peninsula, Weddell Sea, Ross Ice Shelf, and South Pole). The Antarctic Peninsula includes many research stations as well as such beautiful places as Paradise Bay and Dorian Bay. The most visited islands are the South Shetland Islands (includes King George, Elephant, and Deception).
Antarctica is unlike any other place you’ll ever visit – the world’s underbelly known for its water, ice, majestic scenery, winds, and wildlife of marine mammals (whales, seals, and penguins) as well as a triumphant and tragic history of polar exploration during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897–1922) when such explorers as Amundsen, Scott, Borchgrevink, Mawson, and Shackleton became world celebrities (see “Recommended Resources” section at the end of this article). It’s also a polar desert that receives less than .8” of precipitation a year. If you’re looking for polar bears, reindeer, fox, and wolves, you’re at the wrong pole – that’s the signature wildlife of the North Pole and Arctic Circle. Bring your cameras and put on your ship-issued foul weather gear – this is going to be an unusual experience you’ll want to document as evidence supporting your once-in-a-lifetime Antarctic adventure stories.
Exhilarating and Expensive Polar Tourism
It’s an adventure, it’s exhilarating, and it’s not cheap. Indeed, get ready to spend $1,000 to $3,000 a day to cruise this fascinating world of water, ice, aquatic wildlife, scientific outposts, traces of exploration madness, new climate challenges, luxury yachts, and annual marathon footrace. But that’s just for starters. For a lot more money ($10,000 per day) you can fly into the South Pole from Cape Town, South Africa on a Gulfstream jet and camp and trek there for a few days (White Desert) – the ultimate luxury adventure in Antarctica. Or, if you’re part of the adventuresome super-rich class, you can skip cruising altogether and fly your private jet onto the only runway designed for private jets in Antarctica! Perhaps this is another place where billionaires go to escape from millionaires – the ultra-rich who may also occasionally escape to exclusive private Caribbean islands, such as Petit St. Vincent, Canouan, Neckter, Moskito, and Mustique.
Whether you embark from the tip of South America or New Zealand, fly in from Chile or South Africa, survive the challenges of the turbulent Drake Passage, or learn to walk and trek on ice without the convenience of restroom facilities, the Antarctic is simply an adventure of a lifetime – a trip that makes bucket list-travel both exciting and worthwhile.
44 Interesting Facts About Antarctica
The Antarctica is different. It’s a “Travel-Plus” destination – filled with the unexpected and unpredictable, starting with the weather, which can go through four seasons in a single day! So be prepared to encounter some of the following realities when you visit the world’s driest, highest, coldest, windiest, most barren, inhospitable, darkest (winter), brightest (summer), timeless, directionless, and weirdest place on Earth:
- The 5th largest continent (5.5 million square miles) — 1½ the size of the U.S., twice the size of Australia, and much larger than Europe.
- Boasts the highest elevation of all continents.
- A dry polar desert that receives less than .8” precipitation each year, which primarily falls in milder coastal areas.
- Embarking from Ushuaia, Argentina, the Antarctic Peninsula is the best place to start your onshore visit. It offers the most beautiful settings, the most diverse wildlife, the least frigid climate, the most inviting shorelines and base camps, and the shortest distance between continents (South America and Antarctica). The inhospitable desert interior is cold, windy, and devoid of wildlife.
- Rules for visiting the Antarctic are governed by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Always remember to “leave no crumbs behind,” “take your poop and pee with you,” and “penguins have the right away.”
- Southern-most active volcanos are found on Ross Island and Deception Island.
- Surrounded on all sides by the Southern Ocean (also known as the Antarctic Ocean).
- The Earth’s most alien landscape comparable to another planet; visitors walk unsteadily on ice and rocks.
- Coldest place on Earth – lowest temperate ever recorded of 128.5˚ Fahrenheit in 1983 at Vostok Station. The Antarctic Peninsula (“banana belt”), which is the size of the UK and the target area for most cruises, has the mildest climate because of its warm ocean location. Antarctica’s interior is unbelievably cold and windy, forbidden territory for most humans and animals.
- Windiest continent – up to 200 mile per hour winds called the katabatic winds.
- The interior Dry Valleys are the driest places on earth – low humidity, gravel, dust, and almost no snow or ice cover.
- Antarctic has no time zones – research stations adapt the time zones of their host countries.
- All directions in Antarctic are North.
- Antarctic first discovered in 1820 by Russian naval officers, cartographers, and expedition explorers Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. They and several subsequent explorers were part of the famous Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration that began at the end of the 19th century and ended after World War I (with the failed Shackleton–Rowett Expedition of 1921–1922).
- Norwegian Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911.
- Famous British polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his party starved and froze to death in 1912 during a failed exploration at the Ross Ice Shelf. This critical expedition is chronicled in Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s 1922 memoir of Scott’s tragic Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1910–1913 — The Worst Journey in the World.
- The legendary British explorer Ernest Shackleton made three failed attempts to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. His final attempt in 1916 ended in disaster, but he and his party of 28 (27 crew + 1 stole away) survived beyond all odds and became the subject of one of the most exciting polar exploration and leadership books ever written – Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (1959).
- Largest gateway city to Antarctica is Buenos Aires, Argentina, but the major departure port for cruise ships is Ushuaia, Argentina, a 3-hour flight south of Buenos Aires.
- You can fly into Antarctica (land on King George Island) via Punta Arenas, Chile; one company (White Desert) flies from South Africa to a special jet-friendly landing strip at the South Pole.
- Three luxury cruise lines (Crystal, Scenic, and Seabourn) come equipped with submarines and helicopters to explore the Antarctic.
- Scuba diving, swimming, and camping are increasingly popular activities for brave and adventuresome visitors to Antarctica.
- Antarctic lands and seas are home to over 9,000 animal species. The predominant species are whales, seals, penguins, and birds. The penguin colonies alone include 5 million penguins.
- Orcas are also known as killer whales. But they are not whales — just big and ferocious porpoises.
- Leopard seals (also known as the sea leopard), which can weigh 440 to 1,320 pounds, are the most dangerous Antarctic animals – not to be petted! Their only natural predator is the killer whale (orca).
- There are no indigenous peoples or permanent residents native to Antarctica.
- Antarctic is home to over 4,000 temporary residents in the summer and 1,000+ temporary residents in the winter – primarily researchers assigned to the 80 research stations operated by 30 countries. The majority of researchers represent five countries – USA, Russia, Chile, Argentina, and Australia.
- You can visit several active Antarctic research stations through Polar Latitudes and a few other tour operators.
- You can have your passport stamped and mail a postcard from the world’s most remote post office at Dorian Bay (don’t hold your breath – the mail may take 8 weeks to arrive).
- Over 50 research, expedition, and luxury cruise ships cruise to Antarctica each year. Some are small research vessels with fewer than 25 passengers whereas others are large mainstream cruise ships with more than 3,000 passengers. Most expedition ships carry fewer than 500 passengers; many of these are in the 100 to 200 passenger range.
- Nearly 60,000 tourists visit Antarctica each year – representing a 100% increase in tourist traffic over a 10-year period. More and more cruise lines are planning polar expeditions as part of their adventure and bucket list collection of cruises experiences.
- Ushuaia, Argentina, at the very tip of South America, is the major embarkation port for cruises to Antarctica. It’s an attractive city for planning a 2-3 day extension.
- The Drake Passage is one of the most challenging areas to cruise because of the often-turbulent convergence of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (can expect to ride 20-40’ waves). Taking a cruise from Ushuaia through the Drake Passage may result in two days of seasickness each way. Be forewarned and prepared with medications, although it may not be as bad as the 19th century stories of ill-equipped wooden boats navigating this area. It definitely is a “Right of Passage” for tourists. An alternative (more expensive but a real time-saver) is to fly over the Drake Passage. A two-hour flight offered by Antarctica21 and Intrepid Travel goes from Punta Arenas (gateway to Chilean Patagonia) to the South Shetland Islands (King George Island is the largest island) where visitors initially board their Antarctic expedition ship.
- Most cruise ships visit the Antarctic Peninsula that stretches north to South America and is known for Lemaire Channel, Paradise Harbor, and Port Lockroy with its many icebergs.
- Covered by an average of 1-mile-thick ice; in some areas the ice is 3 miles thick.
- Includes over 400 underground (subglacial) lakes. Lake Vostok is about the size of Lake Ontario and is found 2.5 miles underground.
- Holds 70% of the world’s fresh water and 90% of the world’s ice.
- No plant life exists.
- Includes a massive mountain range, Gamburtsev Mountains.
- 10 people born in Antarctica – first birth took place in 1979.
- No one owns Antarctica, but visitors need permission to go there from one of the 53 countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty (most tourists receive de facto permission through their cruise line).
- Only ships with 500 or fewer passengers can land in Antarctic; larger-sized ships can only cruise by (the water equivalent of a “drive by”).
- The Antarctic Peninsula is the staging area for the annual (since 2011) 250-kilometer multi-stage desert footrace sponsored by RacingthePlanet. In November/December, participants spend up to 12 hours a day onshore where no one has yet to complete all 250 challenging kilometers in the ice, snow, and sketchy weather conditions! Calling the Antarctic “The Last Desert,” participants in this ultramarathon also must complete similar footraces, crossings, and marches through three other grueling and hot deserts – Atacama (Chile), Gobi (Mongolia), and Namib (Namibia).
- Only 100 passengers can go onshore at a time; small ships with fewer than 100 passengers are ideally suited for everyone boarding zodiacs and going onshore together.
- The ice cover is melting at an alarming rate, especially around the fast warming Western Antarctic Peninsula, due to climate change. If all of Antarctica’s ice melted, the Earth’s sea level would rise by 200 feet!
Pros and Cons of Visiting the Antarctica
- Many different types of cruises – from luxury to exploration – are available from two major embarkation points – South America (Chile and Argentina) and the lower South Pacific (New Zealand and Australia). A few cruises now depart from South Africa – Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The shortest, least expensive, and most interesting cruises depart from Ushuaia, Argentina.
- Intimate small ship experiences.
- Offer cruising, trekking, and even camping opportunities.
- Interesting onboard enrichment programs and experts related to the Antarctica.
- Amazing visual experiences and great photo opportunities.
- Fascinating wildlife, especially majestic Killer, Humpback, and Sperm whales (7 species), 17 species of penguins (most common being Emperor, Adelie, Gentoo, and King), and 46 species of birds, including the seemingly forever aloof albatross (can stay in flight for 10,000 miles in a single journey and circumnavigate the globe in 46 days!).
- Very experienced expedition cruise companies.
- Interesting cruise mates concerned with environmental issues.
- Unusual and unforgettable travel experience.
- Unexpected fine dining experiences.
- Few people but lots of fascinating wildlife and ice formations.
- A unique and satisfying personal adventure.
- Photographer’s paradise.
- Pristine and transforming landscapes.
- Great embarkation cities – Santiago and Buenos Aires.
- Wonderful cruising through the Chilean fjords (Patagonia) prior to departing from Punta Arenas (Chile) or Ushuaia (Argentina) for crossing the Southern Ocean to Antarctica.
- Focus on science and ecology.
- Cute, picturesque, and friendly penguins.
- Interesting kayaking and trekking activities.
- Learn a great deal about the environment and climate change.
- Very educated, experienced, and likeable cruise mates, crew, and staff members.
- Survive the challenging Drake Passage cruise experience which wasn’t bad at all.
- Experience the Southern Lights (Aurora Australia) between March and September.
- Ecotourism in action – several expedition cruise companies minimizing impact of tourism on a fragile environment by practicing responsible tourism.
- Very expensive cruises – expect to pay luxury cruise prices of $500 to $10,000 per person per day for what may turn out to be less these luxurious adventure experiences (“roughing it gently”). Here’s what the really rich get for $10,000 a day!
- Limited onshore experiences – after seeing whales, seals, and penguins, and not interested in scuba diving, swimming, and camping, what else is there to see and do?
- Zero Internet connections and limited international communication.
- Very cold, windy, and barren place – but cold may be a “pro” for some who find the climate exhilarating.
- Few standard onboard cruise ship experiences.
- Long wait time to go onshore because of the large ship size.
- Dreaded two-day Drake Passage crossing + major bouts of seasickness – but a Drake Passage experience is a “pro” for some cruisers who have it on their bucket list of adventuresome water experiences.
- Lack of onshore restroom facilities – may need to wear adult diapers (Depends) if you’re unable to make it back to your ship in time to “go”. Relieving yourself on the ice will get you confined to your ship for the rest of your Antarctic adventure!
- Long cruises ranging from 12 to 30 days (longest depart from Australia and New Zealand).
- Very fragile eco system.
- Cut off from communication with the rest of the world – a “pro” for some.
- Bright all day long during the summer; dark all day long during the winter.
- Unpredictable and sometimes miserable weather – can experience all four seasons in a single day!
Popular Embarkation Ports and Ports of Call
Most expedition cruise ships specializing on the Antarctic depart from the tip of South America (Ushuaia). While some cruise lines make Santiago (Chile) and Buenos Aires (Argentina) their official departure points, in most cases these cities are only pre-cruise meeting destinations for flights elsewhere; clients initially gather at hotels, enjoy the cities, and then fly together for three hours to key embarkation ports where they board and familiarize themselves with their ship. A few large ships (2,000 to 3,800 passengers) actually depart from Santiago and Buenos Aires and make brief sightseeing passes near Antarctic, but the bulk of their cruise focuses on Patagonia — Chile’s Andes Mountains, fjords, lakes, and glaciers and Argentina’s deserts, tablelands, and steppes.
The major departure port (90%) for Antarctic expedition cruises is Ushuaia (Argentina). Other departure ports include Punta Arenas (Chile), which is also used for air-cruise trips of Antarctica21 (fly from Punta Arenas to South Shetland Islands where its three ships dock at King George Island) and Stanley (Falkland Islands). Some cruise lines (Silversea and Aurora Expeditions) now use Punta Williams (Chile) as a departure port.
A limited number of expedition cruises (Ponant, Oceanwide Expeditions, Heritage Expeditions, National Geographic Endurance) also originate in New Zealand and Australia. The embarkation ports include Invercargill/Port of Bluff, Dunedin, and Lyttelton-Christchurch in New Zealand and Hobart in Australia. Compared to the more popular South America-based Antarctic cruises, the Australia- and New Zealand-based cruises are much longer, more expensive, and less awe-inspiring. They go to the historic Ross Ice Shelf (where famous British polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his party tragically died in 1912). This is also the area of early Antarctic explorations. Here you can visit the huts of Scott, Shackleton, and Mawson. This is also one of the most remote areas of Antarctica with tall icebergs, extreme weather conditions, and turbulent seas. Some companies, such as Hapag-Lloyd, combine both areas in a single expedition cruise – embark in Ushuaia, Argentina and disembark in Lyttelton-Christchurch, New Zealand.
One cruise line – Viking Cruises – offers an ultimate 44-day Arctic to Antarctica cruise that includes stops in 9 countries.
The size of your cruise ship is very important to enjoying an Antarctic cruise adventure. Large ships (more than 500 passengers) are prohibited from landing in the Antarctic. If you’re on such a ship, you’ll only pass by land masses for wildlife watching and photo opportunities – no onshore experiences. For ships under 500 passengers, only 100 passengers are allowed to go onshore at a time. Therefore, passengers with smaller ships (under 100 passengers) are able to spend more time onshore as well as travel together in zodiacs from ship to shore. Ships between 101 and 500 passengers will need to limit the onshore time of multiple groups that go onshore. More of their time will be spent on the logistics of moving passengers back and forth to the ship. Time spend on shore may be only one hour unless you opt for overnight camping or join the annual footrace sponsored by RacingthePlanet (participants spend 12 hours onshore).
Things to See and Do
Depending on the ship you choose, Antarctica cruises offer a wide variety of onboard, on water, and onshore things to see and do. If, for example, you join a research vessel as a paying passenger, you may have an opportunity to participate in an ongoing research project related to wildlife and ecology. These can be Spartan ships On large luxury cruise ships that are prohibited from taking passengers ashore, most of your activities will be onboard — range from participating in enrichment (lecture/presentation) programs, shopping, gambling, and dancing to specialty dining, exercising, spa treatments, and entertainment. Since these are primarily scenic cruises, passengers have many opportunities to take photos of the Antarctic world around them, which means viewing amazing wildlife and beautiful ice formations and landscapes.
Expedition ships under 500 passengers organize many on-the-water and onshore activities. Ships under 100 passengers are able to simultaneously involve most passengers in these activities:
- Zodiac safaris to explore waters and observe/photograph amphibious wildlife (whales, seals, and penguins)
- Zodiac safaris to view icebergs, glacial coastlines, mountains, and beaches.
- Ship-to-shore zodiac trips
- Photo shoots
- Swimming (polar plunges with photos)
- Scuba diving
- Submarining (special luxury yachts only)
- Bird watching
- Snow shoeing
- Camping on snow/ice
- Flyovers/landings by helicopter
- Visiting research stations
- Stop at noted bases (church on King George Island, post office at Dorian Bay, historic explorer huts on Rose Ice Shelf)
- Special events and traditions (RacingthePlanet’s ultramarathon footrace in November/December and other celebrations and traditions)
Pre- and Post-Trip Extensions
Most pre- and post-trip extensions offered by cruise companies focus on spending two to four extra days in the four major gateway cities for Antarctic cruises – Buenos Aires, Santiago, Ushuaia, and Punta Arenas. If you’ve never been to Buenos Aires or Santiago, you’re well advised to take some extra time to visit these two delightful cities and perhaps use them as bases for visiting other interesting areas of South America, such as Peru and Brazil.
If you want to experience more outdoor adventures, plan to explore Patagonia, which spans both Chile and Argentina, although the Chilean side with the Andean Mountains and fjords is the most dramatic area to visit. Also consider trips to the Amazon region, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro and coastal areas, Peru’s Cusco and Machu Picchu, Chile’s and Argentina’s wine country, Chile’s Atacama Desert, Argentina’s Iguazu Falls, Chile’s Easter Island, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, and cruise Chile’s and Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. Your travel agent should be able to recommend several trip extension options.
If you take an Antarctic cruise from New Zealand or Australia, you’ll have many pre- and post-trip extension options in these two countries. In New Zealand, you’ll already be on the South Island which offers many interesting travel opportunities to wine country and interesting arts and crafts centers. In Australia, exploring Sydney and Melbourne should be “must visit” trip extensions. An extra four or five days in each of these countries will be well worth the trip.
Sample Itineraries of Companies Operating in Antarctica
Each year over 50 research, expedition, and luxury cruise ships offer a variety of Antarctic cruise and land experiences. Be sure to check out the detailed itineraries of each cruise line. While many small expedition cruise lines offer passengers hands-on water experiences (submarining, kayaking, scuba diving, and swimming), go ashore (zodiacs and trekking), and even camp on the ice, other companies (mainly large cruise lines) only do scenic cruises (the “drive-by” specialists) to sightsee and take photos rather than engaged in active water and onshore adventures. And some mainstream luxury cruise lines (Silversea, Crystal, Hapag-Lloyd, and Viking) now have small expedition-class ships to compete in this cruise space. One operator – Zegrahm Expeditions – decided after 30+ years in this business to fold up operations in 2022 because of the crowded field of competitors.
Here are some of the major Antarctic operators with sample itineraries (most are similar with Ushuaia being the key port):
- Adventure Canada (Ocean Endeavor): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 14 days. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circle, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Antarctica21 (fly-cruise – BAE-146 + Ocean Nova): “Punta Arenas to Punta Arenas.” 8 days. Includes flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, and return flight to Punta Arenas.
- Aurora Expeditions (Greg Mortimer): “Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams: Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctic Peninsula.” 22 days. Includes Punta Arenas, Chilean Fjords, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, Falklands-Malvinas, and Puerto Williams.
- Azamara (Azamara Pursuit): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 17 nights. Includes Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Ushuaia, Antarctic Peninsula, Elephant Island, Port Stanley, Puerto Madryn, and Buenos Aires. A “drive by” scenic cruise.
- Celebrity (Celebrity Infinity): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 14 nights. Includes Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Paradise Bay (Antarctica), Elephant Island, Port Stanley, Puerto Madryn, and Buenos Aires. A “drive by” scenic cruise.
- Crystal (Crystal Endeavor): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 15 nights. Includes Ushuaia, West Point, Saunders Island, Port Stanley, Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- G Adventures (G Expedition): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 10 nights. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Hapag-Lloyd (Hanseatic Inspiration): “Ushuaia to Lyttelton (Christchurch, New Zealand).” 33 days. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Ross Island, Terra Nova Bay, Victoria Land, Balleny Islands, Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, Snares Islands, and Lyttelton-Christchurch.
- Heritage Expeditions (Spirit of Enderby): “In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton: Rose Sea Antarctica.” 30 days. This is a Russian research vessel (not luxury) that accommodates paying tourists. Includes Invercargill, Port of Bluff, The Snares (North East Island), Auckland Islands, Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, and Invercargill or Christchurch.
- Holland America (Westerdam): “Santiago to Buenos Aires.” 22 nights. Includes Santiago, Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacbuco, Chilean Fjords, Amalia Glacier, Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Antarctic, Port Stanley, Puerto Madryn, Punta del Este, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. A “drive by” scenic cruise.
- Hurtigruten (MS Fridtiof Nansen): “Santiago to Buenos Aires.” 17 nights. Includes Santiago, Castro, Puerto Eden, Puerto Natales, Chilean Fjords, Antarctic Peninsula, Ushuaia, and Buenos Aires (fly).
- Lindblad Expeditions (Endurance): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 24 nights. Includes flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctic, South Shetland Islands, South Georgia, Falkland Islands, Ushuaia, and flight back to Buenos Aires.
- National Geographic Expeditions (Endurance): “Epic Antarctica Voyage: Peninsula to the Ross Sea.” 35 days. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, Western Antarctica, Ross Sea, Macquarie Island, Australia, New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, Dunedin, and Auckland.
- Oceania (Marina): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 20 nights. Includes Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Punta del Este, Puerto Madryn, Port Stanley, Antarctica, Drake Passage, Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Chilean Fjords, Laguna San Rafael, Puerto Chacabuco, Puerto Montt, and Santiago. A scenic “drive by” cruise.
- Oceanwide Expeditions (M/V Hondius): “Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia.” 20 nights. Includes Puerto Madryn, Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, South Orkney Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, and Ushuaia.
- Polar Latitudes (MS Seaventures): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 13 days. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Ponant (Le Soleal): “Dunedin to Dunedin (New Zealand).” 21 nights. Includes Dunedin, Campbell Island, Ross Sea Region, Balleny Islands, Macquarie Island, Snares Islands, and Dunedin.
- Poseidon Expeditions (M/V Sea Spirit): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 11 days. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Princess (Sapphire Princess): “Santiago to Buenos Aires.” 16 nights. Includes Santiago, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Antarctic Peninsula, Port Stanley, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. A “drive by” scenic cruise.
- Quark Expeditions (Ultramarine): “Buenos Aires to Santiago.” 14 nights. Includes Buenos Aires, Ushuaia (fly), Cape Horn, Diego Ramirez Islands, Glacier Alley, Dainelli Glacier, Chilean Fjords, Puerto Natales, Canal de las Montanas, Tuckers Islets, Ainsworth Bay, Bahia Brookes, Marta Island, Punta Arenas, and Santiago (fly).
- Seabourn (Seabourn Quest): “Santiago to Buenos Aires.” 21 nights. Includes Santiago, Puerto Montt, Castro, Chilean Fjords, Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Antarctic Peninsula, Port Stanley, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires.
- Scenic (Scenic Eclipse): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 11 nights. Includes Buenos Aires, Ushuaia (fly), Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, Ushuaia, and Buenos Aires (fly).
- Silversea (Silver Wind): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 14 nights. Includes Ushuaia, New Island, West Point, Port Stanley, Elephant Island, Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Swan Hellenic (SH Minerva): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 10 days. Includes Ushuaia, Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, and Ushuaia.
- Vantage (Ocean Explorer): “Ushuaia to Buenos Aires.” 12 nights. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Ushuaia, and Buenos Aires.
- Viking (Viking Polaris): “Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.” 13 nights. Includes Buenos Aires, fly to Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, Cape Horn, and Ushuaia.
Dozens of travel companies offer a variety of Antarctic travel adventures, from cruises to air-cruise combinations. Since these are travel rather than cruise line companies, most of these travel operators charter cruise ships owned by major Antarctic expedition and luxury cruise lines such as Quark Expeditions and Ponant. Here is a sampling of a few major travel companies offering Antarctic adventures:
- Abercrombie & Kent (Charters Ponant’s 199-passenger Le Lyrial): “Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.” 13 days. Includes Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctica, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Adventure Life: Books cruises with many different Antarctic expedition and luxury cruise lines. A useful one-shop website for getting an overview of Antarctic cruise options, including reviews of individual expedition ships.
- Chimu Adventures (Fly-cruise, Ocean Adventurer — chartered from Quark Expeditions): “Punta Arenas to Punta Arenas.” 8 days. Includes flight from Punta Arenas to South Shetlands Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, and return flight to Punta Arenas.
- Intrepid Travel (Ocean Endeavor): “Ushuaia to Ushuaia.” 11 days. Includes Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, and Ushuaia.
- Overseas Adventure Travel (M/C Corinthian): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 14 days. Includes Buenos Aires, fly to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Drake Passage, Ushuaia, and fly back to Buenos Aires.
- Polar Cruises: Offers numerous Antarctic cruises – from basic to luxury – conducted by a variety of expedition cruise companies. A good portal for surveying cruise options.
- Polartours: This is a booking portal that works with several expedition cruise and tour companies specializing in the Antarctic.
- Road Scholar (Fly-cruise — charters M/V Ocean Nova): “Punta Arenas to Punta Arenas.” 11 nights. Includes Punta Arenas, fly to King George Island in South Shetland Islands to board M/V Ocean Nova, multiple visits to western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, and flight back to Punta Arenas.
- Swoop Antarctica: A specialty travel and booking agency that offers a wide range of cruises and flights to Antarctica.
- Tauck (charters 3 Ponant ships — Le Boréal, L’Austral, or Le Lyrial): “Buenos Aires to Buenos Aires.” 13 days. Includes Buenos Aires, fly to Ushuaia and board ship, Drake Passage, 5 stops along Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage, Ushuaia, and return flight to Buenos Aires.
- Travel Wild Expeditions: Works with several expedition cruise lines in offering a variety of cruises and air-cruise combinations in the Antarctica.
Recommended Resources: Books, Movies, Videos
The following resources will give you a good orientation into various aspects of the Antarctic, from the tragic and triumphant history of exploration to today’s best cruise experiences.
- Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration (David Roberts, 2014)
- Amundsen’s Way: Race to the South Pole (Joanna Grochowicz, 2019)
- Antarctic Cruising Guide (Peter Carey and Craig Franklin, 2018)
- Antarctica: A Guide to the Wildlife (Tony Soper, 2018)
- Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of the World’s Most Mysterious Continent (Gabiella Walker, 2012)
- Antarctica: The Waking Giant (Sabastian Copeland, 2020)
- Antarctica Cruise Guide (online)
- The Birthday Boys: A Novel (Beryl Bainbridge, 2016)
- Chimu Antarctica Travel Guide (online)
- End of the Earth: Voyaging to Antarctica (Peter Mattiessen and Birgit Freybe Bateman, 2004)
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Alfred Lansing, 1959)
- Horizon Guide to Antarctica (online)
- Into the White: Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey (Joanna Grochowicz, 2017)
- The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen’s Race to the South Pole (Roland Huntford and Paul Theroux, 1999)
- Lonely Planet Antarctica (2017)
- The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party (Kelly Tyler-Lewis, 2007)
- Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night (Julian Sancton, 2021)
- Mawson’s Will: The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written (Leonard Bickel and Edmund Sir Hillary, 2000)
- Responsible Travel Guide to Antarctica (online)
- Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica (Sara Wheeler, 1999)
- With Byrd at the Bottom of the World: The South Pole Expedition of 1928-1930 (Norman D. Vaughan and Cecil B. Murphey, 2016)
- The Worst Journey in the World (Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 1922)
- Antarctica: Ice and Sky (2015)
- Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2017)
- Cold Skin (2017)
- Cry of the Penguins (1971)
- Desert Runners (2013)
- Dirigible (1931)
- Eight Below (2006)
- Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
- The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000)
- The Great White Silence (1924)
- Hell Below Zero (1954)
- March of the Penguins (2007)
- March of the Penguins 2 (2017)
- Penguins (2019)
- Penguins: Life on the Edge (2020)
- Red Knot (2014)
- Scott of the Antarctic (1948)
- Shackleton’s Captain (2012)
- South (1919)
- The Thing (1982)
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019)
- Whiteout (2009)
- With Byrd at the South Pole (1930)
Videos of Antarctica and Cruise/Travel Experiences
You’ll find numerous videos about Antarctica online. Most cruise lines post videos of their expeditions on their websites as well as on YouTube. Lindblad includes numerous short videos on a variety of cruise subjects. Hurtigruten offers some of the most informative videos. A few travel experts, such as Gary Bembridge, also post informative videos about Antarctic cruises and cruise ships. For starters, sample some of the following videos to acquaint yourself with what’s going on in the Antarctic cruise and travel worlds:
- Antarctic Travel Videos
- Welcome to the Antarctica
- Is Hurtigruten the Right Antarctica Cruise for YOU?
- Silversea: Antarctica
- Silversea Silver Cloud Expedition Ship: What You Need to Know Before Cruising
- How to Choose Your Antarctica Cruise Ship
- MA Roald Amundsen Antarctica
- Quark Expedition Videos of Antarctica
- Lindblad Expeditions: Antarctica
- Aboard National Geographic Explorer: Antarctica
- Luxury 10- Day Antarctica Cruise on Board Le Lyrial by Ponant
- Seabourn’s Antarctica and Patagonia Experience
- Antarctica21 Air-Cruise to Antarctica
- Scenic Eclipse Antarctic Discovery Yacht with Submarine and Helicopter
- Viking Cruise Antarctic Expeditions
- Abercrombie & Kent Cruise to Antarctic
- Poseidon Expeditions Videos of Antarctic Cruises
- Expedition Antarctica with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
- Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruise on Crystal Endeavor
- Tauck Cruising in Antarctic
- Hapag-Lloyd in Antarctica
- Swoop Antarctica Cruises
- Overseas Travel Adventure Video Library on Antarctica
- White-Desert Pioneering Luxury Travel in Antarctica
- Land of Pure Silence
- Amazing Antarctica: World’s Nature Laboratory
- 360° Antarctica: Journey Through the Ice
- Antarctica: Exploring Oceans
- The Secrets of Antarctica
- Best Antarctic Animal Moments
- Expedition Antarctica
- Antarctica: A Message From Another Planet
- National Geographic’s Antarctic Peninsula
- The Antarctic Peninsula
- Cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula
- 6 Greatest Cruises in the World
- 5 Worst Things About an Antarctica Trip: Should They Shop You Going?
- RacingthePlanet’s Annual 250-Kilometer Footrace in the Antarctic