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A trip to Antarctica is the voyage of a lifetime. But with so many different tour operators to choose from, finding the best Antarctic cruise for your trip to the White Continent is no easy feat.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the 7 best Antarctic cruise expedition companies and specific trips for 2024, from the best luxury cruise to the best small ship cruise. We’ll go into the details of the trips, what Antarctic activities you’ll be able to experience, and what makes each operator unique so you can make the most of your voyage down south.
- Best Antarctica Cruise Expeditions for 2024
- 1. Overall Top Pick: G Expeditions
- 2. Best for Environmentally Conscious Travellers: Hurtigruten Expeditions
- 3. Best Small Ship Cruise to Antarctica: Quark Expeditions
- 4. Great for All Ages: Albatros Expeditions
- 5. Best Luxury Cruise to Antarctica: Silversea
- 6. Antarctica from New Zealand: Heritage Expeditions
- 7. Sail to Antarctica: Bark EUROPA
- Related Questions
Best Antarctica Cruise Expeditions for 2024
The best Antarctica cruise expeditions are:
- Overall Best Pick: G Expeditions
- Best for Environmentally Conscious Travellers: Hurtigruten Expeditions
- Best for Small Ship Cruise to Antarctica: Quark Expeditions
- Great for All Ages: Albatros Expeditions
- Best Luxury Cruise to Antarctica: Silversea
- Antarctica from New Zealand Cruise: Heritage Expeditions
- Sail to Antarctica: Bark EUROPA
Here is a summary table of the key features including the cost of the tours (see our full guide for estimates on the total cost of visiting Antarctica). Below, we’ll share more detailed explanations about each operator and why they are unique.
|Where to Buy?
South Sandwich Islands
|View G Adventures
South Sandwich Islands
|View Hurtigruten Expeditions
South Shetland Islands
|View Quark Expeditions
South Shetland Islands
|View Albatros Expeditions
South Sandwich Islands
|View Silversea Cruises
New Zealand Subantarctic Islands
|View Heritage Expeditions Cruises
|View Bark EUROPA Cruises
1. Overall Top Pick: G Expeditions
G Expeditions is the polar branch of G Adventures, a global travel company. Founded in 1990, by Bruce Poon Tip, the Canada-based G Adventures offers small-group excursions to some of the world’s most fascinating places.
When you travel to Antarctica with G Expeditions, you’ll journey south on the MS Expedition, an ice class 1B cruise ship that can accommodate 150 guests. G Expeditions voyages tend to be more affordable than other voyages and they often draw a younger crowd with an excellent sense of adventure. If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure led by a highly skilled team, with a 10:1 passenger-to-expert ratio (meaning deeper access to their insights), then you can’t go wrong with a G Adventures tour.
G Expeditions offers a slew of voyages to the White Continent, so there’s an option for everyone. This includes everything from a 13 night classic Antarctic Peninsula trip to a 22 night voyage that ventures to the Falklands and South Georgia before heading to the Antarctic Peninsula.
What’s great about G Expeditions’ Antarctica packages is that you can add kayaking and camping to your experience – ideal for those seeking some extra adventure.
One of G Expedition’s coolest voyages is their “Quest For The Antarctic Circle” trip. Here’s a sample itinerary for this fantastic trip:
- Day 1: Arrive in Ushuaia and enjoy a free day walking around town.
- Day 2: Embark on the MV Expedition in the afternoon and set sail down the Beagle Channel.
- Days 3–4: Cross the Drake Passage.
- Days 5–6: Explore the South Shetland Islands and the northern Antarctic Peninsula. Likely activities include Zodiac cruising and landings at penguin rookeries.
- Days 7–8: Sail south and check out the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Expedition will try to navigate its way through the ice to bring you to the Antarctic Circle.
- Days 9–10: Head north and enjoy a few more landings along the Antarctic Peninsula or at the South Shetland Islands.
- Days 11–13: If conditions permit, you might get to enjoy a morning excursion before setting sail across the Drake Passage.
- Day 14: Disembark in Ushuaia.
2. Best for Environmentally Conscious Travellers: Hurtigruten Expeditions
Climate change is a big concern for everyone with an interest or passion for Antarctica, so we should be conscious of our impact when traveling there.
What makes Hurtigruten stand out from other cruise operators is their commitment to sustainable travel. Their Highlights of Antarctica trip uses the hybrid-powered MS Roald Amundsen ship, which cuts emissions by sailing with electrical propulsion and reduces the ship’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20 percent compared to other ships.
Aside from their commitment to sustainability, they also deliver with the overall experience.
Polar Guidebook is part of numerous online communities for Antarctic travel, and we consistently see recommendations for Hurtigruten’s cruises – so clearly they’re doing something right.
One of the biggest names in the Antarctic cruising industry, Hurtigruten currently offers 12 cruises to Antarctica that provide different itineraries and cater to different budgets and timeframes.
The best option, in terms of both value and itinerary, is the 12 day Highlights of Antarctica cruise. Pricing starts at $7,179, which is great value for money for such a high standard operator. Here’s what the 12 day cruise looks like:
- Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires, stay overnight
- Day 2: Fly early to Ushuaia, where you’ll meet their hybrid electric-powered expedition ship, designed for sustainable cruising in polar waters.
- Days 3-4: Cross the Drake Passage.
- Days 5–9: Explore Antarctica. Kayak among the icebergs or join their Expedition Team on landings. See whales, penguins, and jaw-dropping scenery. February and March are peak whale watching months, when huge amounts of krill lure whales to the area.
- Days 10–11: Head back north through the Drake Passage, enjoy the cruise’s sauna and spa, reflect on the unforgettable sights
- Day 12: Disembark in Ushuaia and transfer to Buenos Aires.
3. Best Small Ship Cruise to Antarctica: Quark Expeditions
With a maximum group size of 18 people, an Antarctic cruise with the highly-rated Quark team promises an intimate and unforgettable experience. In fact, their 11-day Antarctica Explorer trip is the highest-rated out of all the tours to Antarctica on leading booking site Tour Radar.
This is a journey that appeals to many: photographers, wildlife enthusiasts, ornithologists or those who simply want to marvel at the peaks of Deception Island or the striking colours of Iceberg Alley in the most immaculate wilderness anywhere.
Here’s your itinerary:
- Day 1: Embark in Ushuaia.
- Day 2: Sail along the Beagle Channel
- Days 3-4: Cross the Drake Passage and marvel at huge icebergs on the horizon and rare birds
- Days 5-8: South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. Each day, you’ll take Zodiac excursions from the ship to explore local bays, channels and landing sites. Your Expedition Team will take care of you at each landing, whether you are hiking the Antarctic landscape, visiting a research station or consorting with Chinstrap, Adélie and Gentoo penguins, all of which can be found here. Also look out for humpback whales and orcas.
- Days 9-10: Sail back through the Drake Passage
- Day 11: Disembark and end in Ushuaia
4. Great for All Ages: Albatros Expeditions
Albatros Expeditions is the polar expedition arm of the Denmark-based Albatros Travel conglomerate. The family-owned expedition company’s parent organization was founded by biologist Søren Rasmussen in 1986. Albatros started running Antarctic expeditions in 2017 and it has since become a leader in the industry.
Currently, Albatros operates a fleet of two ships, including Ocean Atlantic and Ocean Victory, which can accommodate 186 to 199 guests. Ocean Victory’s equally luxurious sister ship, Ocean Albatros, is scheduled to sail in 2022.
This is a great all-around cruise expedition to Antarctica that is suitable for all types of travelers, whether you enjoy onboard activities such as lectures, workshops, and wildlife spotting or you prefer to be exploring by foot with hiking, and snowshoeing among the activities offered. A great bonus is their patented reclining X-Bow seats, which provides comfort and stability in rough seas – ideal for those prone to sea-sickness.
Even though Albatros is a relatively young expedition company, the firm is known for offering a superb selection of voyages at a competitive price point. A little-known fact about Antarctica is that there’s an annual marathon that takes place there and you can attend with Albatros Expeditions and their marathons team.
If you’re looking to check out the White Continent but you’re short on time, Albatros’ 13 day Antarctica Explorer voyage is worth checking out. Here’s a sample itinerary for this trip, which takes you to the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands:
- Day 1: Embark in Ushuaia and set sail down the Beagle Channel.
- Days 2–3: Cross the Drake Passage and enjoy lectures and activities from the expedition team.
- Days 4–10: Explore the Antarctic Peninsula. View spectacular glaciers from Zodiac boats, watch penguins caring for their eggs and defending their nests, marvel at humpback whales from your zodiac safari, and see the Antarctica of old at historic huts such as Damoy Point. Be sure to bring your bathing suit, too, if you want to take a polar plunge off the ship’s gangway!
- Days 11-12: Cross the Drake Passage northbound, as you begin your journey back. Enjoy delicious cocktails on the cruise, listen to fascinating lectures by the expedition crew, and enjoy other activities.
- Day 13: Disembark in Ushuaia.
5. Best Luxury Cruise to Antarctica: Silversea
Known for its upscale and luxury voyages, Silversea is a well-known cruise company that’s recently broken into the Antarctic expedition industry. The company’s Antarctic voyages give guests a chance to experience the wonders of the Southern Ocean without sacrificing comfort or style in the process.
Silversea offers a plethora of voyage options to Antarctica on the Silver Cloud, Silver Explorer, and Silver Wind. Some of Silversea’s ships are a bit bigger than what you’d find elsewhere as they can accommodate between 144 and 274 guests. However, all of Silversea’s ships provide an industry-leading cruising experience with exceptional cuisine and comfortable suites.
With Silversea, you can opt to sail the Drake Passage from Ushuaia or you can hop on a quick 2-hour flight from Punta Arenas and meet your ship in Antarctica. Flying to Antarctica on one of the company’s “Antarctica Bridge” packages lets you skip 4 days at sea—a popular choice among adventurers that tend to get a little seasick.
If you opt for one of Silversea’s 6 night Antarctica Bridge voyages, your itinerary could look like this:
- Day 1: Meet your fellow travelers at an evening briefing and welcome dinner in Punta Arenas.
- Day 2: Weather-permitting, fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island on a private BAE146 aircraft before transferring to your ship.
- Day 3: Sail to the Antarctic Sound and attempt a landing at one of the Sound’s many islands. Zodiac cruising and kayaking are also offered if the weather permits.
- Days 4–5: Cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula and attempt landings at sites like Danco Island and Neko Harbour. Depending on the weather, you may get to enjoy some hiking and kayaking, too.
- Day 6: Spend one last day exploring the South Shetland Islands and taking in the scenery of the White Continent.
- Day 7: Return to King George Island where, weather-permitting, you’ll board your return flight to Punta Arenas.
6. Antarctica from New Zealand: Heritage Expeditions
The New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions is one of the few companies that specializes in voyages to the Ross Sea and the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands. Heritage was founded in 1985 by a family of biologists and the company is still family-run out of its offices in Christchurch.
One of Heritage’s major advantages is its small ship sizes. The company operates two ships in the Antarctic—the Heritage Adventurer and the Spirit of Enderby—both of which accommodate no more than 50 guests.
Unlike most other Antarctic expedition companies, Heritage doesn’t regularly offer voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula. Rather, all of the organization’s month-long voyages sail from New Zealand and stop over at the Subantarctic Islands and the historic Ross Sea region.
Heritage Expeditions’ voyages take you to some of the most remote places in the world. Here’s a sample itinerary for one of the company’s Antarctic expeditions:
- Day 1: Meet your expedition team at Queenstown and enjoy a celebratory welcome dinner.
- Day 2: Transfer to the Port of Bluff and embark on your ship where you’ll set sail for the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands.
- Day 3: Weather-permitting, your first excursion will be at The Snares, which are the closest Subantarctic Islands to New Zealand. You’ll hopefully get to do a Zodiac cruise and enjoy some fantastic bird watching.
- Day 4: The next day, you’ll head to the Auckland Islands and hopefully make a landing at Enderby Island.
- Day 5: Set sail southward toward Macquarie Island.
- Days 6–7: Explore Macquarie Island and see some of the world’s rarest penguins. Macquarie Island is home to royal, king, gentoo, and rockhopper penguins.
- Days 8–10: Cross the Southern Ocean and voyage toward the Ross Sea.
- Days 11–22: Enjoy 10+ days in the remote Ross Sea region. Landing and excursion options are plentiful here. If the weather cooperates, you may get to visit Scott and McMurdo stations, Scott’s Hut, or even Shackleton’s Hut during your voyage.
- Days 23–25: Sail north toward New Zealand.
- Day 26: Stop at Campbell Island, the southernmost New Zealand Subantarctic Island, and potentially visit a breeding site of the southern royal albatross.
- Day 27: At sea en route to New Zealand.
- Day 28: Disembark at the Port of Bluff.
7. Sail to Antarctica: Bark EUROPA
One of the more unique tour operators on our list, Bark EUROPA is an expedition company that offers voyages to Antarctica like no other. The company started sailing in 2000, but its namesake ship, the Europa, is a tall ship that’s been at sea since it was first built in 1911 in Hamburg, Germany.
Antarctic voyages on the Europa provide an incredible opportunity to journey to the White Continent and hone your sailing skills at the same time. The ship can accommodate only 48 guests, all of whom get to play an active role in sailing to and from Antarctica.
The Europa only sails to Antarctica once or twice during the summer season, so snagging a place on one of these voyages isn’t always easy. But if you do manage to secure a berth, you can expect a small group expedition with plenty of Zodiac cruises, landings, and opportunities for spotting wildlife.
Every Antarctic voyage on the Europa is a unique experience, though sailing on a small ship like this requires having a strong tolerance for the wind and the waves on the Drake Passage. While traveling with Bark EUROPA, your Antarctic itinerary may look like this:
- Day 1: Embark on the Europa and meet your expedition team for an evening orientation to your new home.
- Days 2–6: Cross the Drake Passage and learn how to sail in the process. You’ll be kept busy with a mix of lectures, sailing lessons, and watch rotations as you make your way southward.
- Days 7–17: Explore the Antarctic. The Europa is capable of sailing into remote bays and icy waters throughout the Antarctic Peninsula. Depending on the weather conditions, you may get to venture south to the Antarctic Circle and beyond. Weather permitting, the Bark EUROPA team will do their best to help you land or Zodiac cruise at least twice a day to help you maximize your time on your voyage.
- Days 18–21: Cross the Drake Passage. At this point, you’re a seasoned pro at sailing, so standing watch and rigging sails should be a breeze. You can also relax in your cabin or do some bird watching from the lounge.
- Day 22: Disembark the Europa in Ushuaia.
When is Best to Visit Antarctica?
The best time to visit Antarctica is between January and February if you want a mix of good weather and wildlife-spotting opportunities. But visiting in November and December lets you experience the snow-covered White Continent in its full glory while a March trip is excellent for whale watching.
Are There Hotels in Antarctica?
No, there are no hotels in the traditional sense, however, there are several camps for tourists which are the next best thing, some are very close to a hotel in terms of the level of luxury. The benefit of staying at a camp is that you can explore deeper into the continent rather than returning to the ship each night to sleep. See our full guide to camps and hotels in Antarctica for more information.