7 Best Antarctica Cruise Expeditions

7 Best Antarctica Cruise Expeditions

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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 expedition companies. We’ll discuss what trips each company offers and what makes them unique so you can make the most of your voyage down south.

Best Antarctica Cruise Expeditions

The best Antarctica cruise expeditions are:

  • Lindblad Expeditions
  • G Expeditions
  • Oceanwide Expeditions
  • Albatros Expeditions
  • Silversea
  • Heritage Expeditions
  • Bark EUROPA

Here is a summary table of the key features, keep reading for more information about each operator.

Cruise ExpeditionTrip LengthPriceShip SizeDestinationsWhere to Buy?
Lindblad Expeditions14–35 nights$$$126–148 guestsAntarctic Peninsula
South Georgia
Falkland Islands
South Sandwich Islands
Ross Sea
View Linblad Cruises
G Adventures13–22 nights$150 guestsAntarctic Peninsula
South Georgia
Falkland Islands
South Sandwich Islands
View G-Adventures Cruises
Oceanwide Expeditions9–33 nights$$108–170 guestsAntarctic Peninsula
South Georgia
Falkland Islands
South Sandwich Islands
Ross Sea
Weddell Sea
New Zealand Subantarctic Islands
View Oceanwide Expedition Cruises
Albatros Expeditions7–28 nights$$186–199 guestsAntarctic Peninsula
South Georgia
Falkland Islands
South Sandwich Islands
View Albatross Expedition Cruises
Silversea5–31 nights$$$144–274 guestsAntarctic Peninsula
South Georgia
Falkland Islands
South Sandwich Islands
View Silversea Cruises
Heritage Expeditions28–30 nights$$$48–50 guestsRoss Sea
New Zealand Subantarctic Islands
View Heritage Expeditions Cruises
Bark EUROPA21 nights$48 guestsAntarctic PeninsulaView Bark EUROPA Cruises

Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is one of the biggest names in the Antarctic cruising industry. The company has been in business since 1979, and it also partners with National Geographic to provide industry-leading photography workshops on all its cruises. 

With Lindblad, adventurers can travel in style on one of three mid-sized expedition vessels that can accommodate between 126 and 148 guests. Two of the firm’s three ships are brand-new as of 2021, but the entire Lindblad fleet was designed with a mix of luxury and functionality in mind.

Lindblad offers an array of different voyages that vary in length from 14 to 35 nights. Destinations include the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), and South Georgia. Lindblad also sails to the Ross Sea, which is a relatively unique offering in the industry.

Each voyage with the company offers an exceptional chance to see Antarctica up close and personal, but itineraries are subject to change without notice due to weather conditions. Lindblad’s classic “Journey to Antarctica” voyage has the following sample itinerary:

  • Days 1–3: Arrive in Buenos Aires or Santiago and transfer to Ushuaia, Argentina to embark.
  • Days 4–5: Cross the Drake Passage.
  • Days 6–10: Explore Antarctica. Possible destinations include the Lemaire Channel, Paradise Harbour, and Deception Island. Expect lectures, short educational talks, and other onboard activities when you’re not hiking, paddling, or cruising around in Zodiacs.
  • Days 11–12: Cross the Drake Passage.
  • Days 13–14: Disembark in Ushuaia and transfer to Buenos Aires or Santiago.

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.

G Expeditions offers a slew of voyages to the White Continent. 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.

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.

Oceanwide Expeditions

The Netherlands-based Oceanwide Expeditions has been offering polar expeditions since 1993. Oceanwide has a fleet of four ships that operates in the Antarctic, including Plancius, Ortelius, Hondius, and Janssonius. Each ship is slightly different, but they can accommodate between 108 and 170 guests on expeditions.

What sets Oceanwide apart from the competition is the company’s sheer breadth of trip offerings. Oceanwide boasts a selection of voyages that includes everything from a classic Antarctic Peninsula trip to Ross Sea expeditions and helicopter-supported excursions to see the emperor penguins in the Weddell Sea.

Oceanwide also offers a unique voyage called “Basecamp” that lets guests enjoy a wide range of activities in Antarctica. Each guest on a Basecamp trip can go hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, and camping during their voyage.

For keen adventures, Oceanwide’s action-packed 22 night Southern Ocean voyage is a sure bet. A sample itinerary for this trip includes:

  • Day 1: Embark in Ushuaia.
  • Day 2: Sail to the Falklands.
  • Days 3–4: Explore the Falklands. Potential landings include Port Stanley and Saunders Island.
  • Days 5–6: Set sail for South Georgia.
  • Days 7–10: Enjoy the wonders of South Georgia. Some possible destinations include Grytviken, Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbour, and St. Andrews Bay.
  • Day 11: Head south toward the South Orkney Islands.
  • Day 12: Attempt a landing at the South Orkneys, potentially at Orcadas Station.
  • Day 13: Visit Elephant Island and, if conditions permit, attempt a Zodiac cruise.
  • Day 14: Sail south toward the Antarctic Peninsula
  • Day 15: Check out the South Shetland Islands. Possible landing areas include Deception Island or Half Moon Island.
  • Days 16–20: Voyage around the Antarctic Peninsula. Depending on ice conditions, you may be able to make it to the Antarctic Circle and to other less-frequently visited sites.
  • Days 21–22: Cross the Drake Passage.
  • Day 23: Disembark in Ushuaia.

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.

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. Albatros currently helps to run the Antarctic Marathon, and the company plans to expand its offerings to include fly-in cruises in the coming years.

If you’re looking to check out the White Continent but you’re short on time, Albatros’ classic 10 day 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 4–5: Explore the South Shetland Islands. Popular landing spots include Deception Island, Half Moon Island, and King George Island.
  • Days 6–7: Cruise south to the Antarctic Peninsula and attempt landings at famous destinations like Paradise Harbour and Cuverville Island. Be sure to bring your bathing suit, too, if you want to take a polar plunge off the ship’s gangway!
  • Days 8–9: Cross the Drake Passage and enjoy some bird watching on deck.
  • Day 10: Disembark in Ushuaia.

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.

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.

Bark EUROPA

Credit: Wikimedia

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.

Related Questions

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.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a polar expedition guide and experienced outdoor educator with a passion for all things Arctic and Antarctic. When she's not traveling to see the penguins or the polar bears, you can find her hiking, sailing, or enjoying a good cup of espresso.