How To Choose Your Antarctic Cruise
It wasn’t long ago that only a handful of cruise ship operators offered Antarctica voyages. Today, it’s not unusual to see a dozen or more ships docked in Ushuaia over a weekend, each of them coming and going across the Drake Passage to and from Antarctica. If Ushuaia appears to be bustling now, just wait: More than 20 new expedition vessels are on order, with more than half of those setting sail this year and next.
If you’re in the market for an Antarctic cruise, the armada of Antarctic vessels represents a mother lode of opportunity. The influx of new vessels raises a perplexing question, however: Which cruise line, and which ship, is right for me?
To answer this question, we’ve started a new Antarctic Expedition landing page on Avid Cruiser. While we will fill the page with our own expertise, we’re counting on our readers to chime in with their insights and thoughts in the comments section below.
You can always ask me for help in choosing an Antarctic cruise. Simply complete the form Get My Recommendations and I’ll work with you to find an Antarctic cruise that fits your style and budget. Once you’ve decided on a cruise, you’re on your own to book it. I don’t sell cruises, but I can refer you to a cruise consultant who can help you secure a booking, at no charge to you. You will often get equal or better rates from a travel agent, plus possible perks that you may not receive by going direct to the cruise line.
First, Choose Your Budget
Of course, budget will play a role, and you can do some early research to see how the current operators are positioned. We break down voyages for those that are up to 14 days and 14 days or longer. At a single glance, you can compare itineraries, costs, ice class ratings, passenger capacity, public areas available (such as restaurants), the cost of balcony upgrades and per diems.
Antarctic cruises of 14 days or longer will typically, but not always, include a visit to South Georgia, which involves more days at sea for the reward of seeing King penguins in great numbers. The excellent cruise line website, Oceanwide Expeditions, cites South Georgia’s King penguin colony as being the largest in the world. I’ve not been to South Georgia but I have heard from those who have been there that it is often the highlight of an Antarctic cruise. The Falkland Islands, 1,000 miles away from South Georgia, is similar in some regards (both have King penguins), and was a highlight of our recent Antarctic voyage on Silver Cloud.
What’s Included On Your Voyage?
Now that you have an idea of what you’ll pay, it’s also worthwhile to research what’s included on your voyage so that you can further budget for your cruise. Want to kayak? Choose a cruise that has kayaking. Some companies that offer kayaking charge extra for the activity. Others don’t. Want to camp in Antarctica? Some cruise companies offer camping ashore. Oceanwide quotes $190 per person for its camping excursion with a guide and $465 per person for a kayaking package. Oceanwide also provides a diving adventure for an additional fee.
Other than that, you might want to know if boots are provided. You’ll need them. And parkas. Some provide gear at no additional charge. What about helicopters, submersibles and as important to some, alcohol and minibars? You’ll find all of this in our inclusions chart.
Our Antarctic Cruises
I can only speak to three cruise ships that cruise Antarctica, Seabourn Quest, Silver Cloud and Silver Explorer. Of the three Silver Explorer felt the most like a real expedition. Perhaps, though, that was due to it being my first cruise to the White Continent.
Silver Explorer is small, compared to Silver Cloud and Seabourn Quest, and that lends itself to the feel of an expedition. In fact, Seabourn’s its downsizing its expedition ship capacity, from 450 on Seabourn Quest, to 264 with its two newbuilds, launching in 2021 and 2022. In fact, if you look at our Expedition Fleet Comparison Chart, you’ll see that the majority of vessels carry fewer than 250 guests.
Collectively, regular contributors to Avid Cruiser, including me, have made five Antarctic cruises. You’ll find recaps of our voyages at the links below on Silver Explorer, Seabourn Quest, Silver Cloud, Ponant’s Le Lapérouse and Hurtigruten’s Fram.
- Five Reasons To Cruise Antarctica On Silver Explorer
- Antarctica Video, A Voyage To Remember On Seabourn Quest
- Recap Of Our Antarctic Voyage On Silver Cloud
- Expedition Cruising: What Does Ponant Do Differently?
- Hurtigruten’s Fram – Classic Antarctica
We’ll be adding to this page on a regular basis. In the meantime, what about you? Do you have an experience or advice to share?