Best Small Ship Cruise to Antarctica in 2024 and 2025

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Small ship cruising offers an unparalleled way to experience the incredible Antarctic landscape. With fewer passengers, you’re guaranteed closer encounters with the continent’s abundant wildlife, from whales right beside your vessel to seals that laze on floating ice. These smaller vessels navigate through narrow channels, delivering you to pristine locations and hidden coves that larger ships simply can’t reach.

With that said, the Polar Guidebook team has done your research for you, drawing on expert insights and customer reviews from private online forums to find the best small ship cruise to Antarctica, at an affordable price. Let’s dive in!

An Unforgettable Small Ship Cruise to Antarctica Aboard the MV Ushuaia

A small ship cruise in Antarctica, with icebergs in the background

Anyone looking for a true small ship experience trip this season needn’t look further than the MV Ushuaia ship.

Carrying no more than 88 guests, the trip aboard the MV Ushuaia offers an unparalleled 10-day adventure to the heart of the Antarctic wilderness. 

Starting at $5,545, this trip takes you through the most breathtaking landscapes the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands have to offer. From the awe-inspiring Lemaire Channel to the historic Deception Island, each day presents a new opportunity to explore the untouched beauty of the Earth’s southernmost frontier.

Why Choose the MV Ushuaia:

  • Exclusive Small Ship Experience: With a limited passenger capacity, the MV Ushuaia ensures a highly personalized and intimate journey. This small ship advantage allows for closer encounters with Antarctica’s wildlife, coves, icebergs, and glaciers, making for an unforgettable experience away from the crowds.
  • Expert Guidance and Insight: Travel with a team of expert guides and naturalists who bring the Antarctic experience to life. Through detailed lectures and personal interactions, they’ll share insights into the region’s unique geology, history, and ecology, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of this remote wilderness.
  • Sustainable Travel: In choosing the MV Ushuaia, you’re also choosing a vessel committed to protecting the Antarctic environment. Adhering to the highest environmental standards, your journey contributes to the preservation of this pristine ecosystem for future generations.

Itinerary Highlights: A 10 Day Small Ship Cruise Through Antarctica

A tourist in Antarctica taking a photograph of a penguin on ice

This carefully designed itinerary ensures you experience the best of Antarctica. Key highlights include:

  • Scenic Voyage Through the Beagle Channel: Your expedition begins with a memorable journey from Ushuaia, navigating along the famous Beagle Channel. This initial phase of the trip sets the tone with breathtaking natural scenery, offering a glimpse into the pristine wilderness and maritime beauty that awaits.
  • Crossing the Infamous Drake Passage: Experience the adventure of crossing the Drake Passage, known for its challenging waters but also as a rite of passage for Antarctic explorers. This part of the journey not only connects you with the history of polar exploration but offers the opportunity to witness unique marine life and birds that inhabit these waters.
  • Two Shore Landings Per Day: The tour promises an immersive Antarctic experience with two shore landings per day, allowing you to set foot on the continent proper. These excursions provide unparalleled wildlife encounters and the chance to learn about the region’s ecology and history directly from the expedition crew and lecturers. Whether it’s walking amidst penguin colonies or observing seals and birds in their natural habitat, these landings offer intimate and profound connections with the Antarctic’s untouched landscapes.

Here’s the full day by day breakdown:

Day 1: Your expedition begins in Ushuaia

Days 2-3: Cross the Drake Passage. Should the conditions of the Drake Passage be favourable, you’ll enjoy your first land excursions on day 3 where you’ll have the chance to see penguins and seals up close.

Days 4-7: Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands: Immerse yourself in the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands, where every turn reveals breathtaking wildlife and icy landscapes. From Deception Island’s active volcano to King George Island’s penguin colonies and the dramatic passages of the Lemaire Channel, these days are filled with up to two daily landings in places like Paradise Bay and Paulet Island, offering unmatched encounters with nature’s wonders.

Days 8-9: Return across the Drake Passage: Spot and identify seabirds and whales with the help of the naturalists on deck, as well as some final lectures.

Day 10: Your expedition comes to an end: Disembark in Ushuaia

Departure Dates in 2024 and 2025

Starts (in Ushuaia)Ends (in Ushuaia)
17 March 202426 March 2024
26 March 202404 April 2024
03 November 202412 November 2024
22 November 202401 December 2024
01 December 202410 December 2024
20 December 202429 December 2025
18 January 202527 January 2025
08 March 202517 March 2025
17 March 202526 March 2025
26 March 202504 April 2025

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Learn more about this unforgettable small ship adventure into Antarctica.

Preparing for Your Antarctic Adventure: What to Pack

Two tourists on a zodiac vessel inspecting icebergs in Antarctica waters

Here are essential packing tips, based on insights from people who’ve traveled to Antarctica, to ensure you’re well-prepared for the Antarctic elements, focusing on waterproof and layered clothing to navigate the region’s variable conditions.

  1. DRY BAG: Take a small dry bag to stow your camera when on a zodiac / kayak. 
  2. GLOVES: Take at least 3 pairs of gloves so you always have a dry pair – you will have these on while out on deck and on landing, so you needs a dry pair on hand if the others gets wet. 
  3. HAT: Take at least 2 hats with liners. 
  4. SHOES: Lots of people recommend the North Face slip on shoes – not necessary – just comfy, stable shoes for ship is all you need. I.e. good trainers. 
  5. T-SHIRTS: The ship will be hot, pack shorts and T-shirts for when you’re on board. 
  6. MARINO: You only need to pack one Marino wool layer – you will only have this on when you are off the ship. 
  7. WATERPROOF: Light waterproof is all you need, ski pants not necessary.
  8. SOCKS: Take a nice thick pair of socks for your boots, insoles may also work but again not necessary. Or, a thin Marino sock liner with a standard pair of wool socks on top. 
  9. LAYERS: You can gauge and change thickness as the days go by on the ship. Think one Marino layer (top and bottom) and then jumper with coat. But, you may want to add more layers. Take a thin fleece, instead of lots of regular jumper with a zip. Pack one of each.

Book Your Small Ship Antarctica Cruise

Embarking on the 10 Day MV Ushuaia Cruise isn’t just a trip; it’s an investment in a lifetime of memories. That’s why we used insights from expert Antarctica travel guides and reviews from happy customers to put together this recommendation. If you’re interested in exploring more options for Antarctica cruises, read our full guide here.


  • Kieren

    Kieren is the founder of Polar Guidebook. After visiting both of the polar regions and meeting the scientists and tour guides that work there, he developed a keen interest in the animals, climate, and geography of the Arctic and Antarctica.

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