Antarctica Cruises: The Cost Of Cruising The White Continent, Our Per Diems Chart (Updated October 2018)

Antarctica Cruises: The Cost Of Cruising The White Continent, Our Per Diems Chart (Updated October 2018)

Antarctica. If it’s not on your bucket list, it should be. I’ve been fortunate enough to have cruised Antarctica twice – see my posts from those trips Antarctica On Silver Explorer and Antarctica On Seabourn Quest. I’ll be headed back for the third time in November (2018) on the recently refurbished Silver Cloud. – Ralph Grizzle

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The first question you need to ask about an Antarctica cruise is this: Will you actually step ashore? The answer is decidely no if you are on a vessel carrying more than 500 passengers. You’ll be doing what I call a “drive by” or more accurately, a cruise-only voyage with no chance to leave your footprint on the White Continent.

Why? A regulation by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and the Antarctic Treaty Parties stipulates that vessels carrying more than 500 passengers are not allowed to land passengers ashore while in Antarctic waters. So while Holland America Line’s 2020 Grand World Voyage features four days in Antarctica, you’ll spend those four days on the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam, not on shore with penguins. In contrast, Holland America Line’s sister company, Seabourn, can land its guests ashore on the 450-passenger Seabourn Quest.

Do you want to be close to penguins (but not so close as not to disturb them)? If so, think small.

Speaking of not disturbing the natural habitat, IAATO guidelines further stipulate that no more than 100 visitors shall be ashore at any one time in any one place in Antarctica.  Thus, what you’ll typically experience on an Antarctic cruise is a rotating schedule throughout the day where groups of guests go ashore for a few hours, then return to the ship to allow other guests to go ashore.

The process worked remarkably well during my voyages on the 132-passenger Silver Explorer and the 450-passenger Seabourn Quest. With a guest capacity of 254 (operating with 240 in Antarctica), Silver Cloud seems to be an ideal size for rotating guests ashore and back. I’ll know for sure in November.

All of the ships in our comparison chart feature vessels that land passengers ashore. Painstakingly compiled by Tamera Trexler, the comparison chart focuses on 10- to 14-night Antarctica cruises offered by eight major cruise companies. Seabourn is not included in the comparison chart as Seabourn does not offer 10- to 14-night cruises in Antarctica. The company does offer 21-day or longer Antarctica cruises that will be included in a forthcoming chart. Likewise, Crystal Cruises launches its expedition ship for Antarctica in 2020 and thus is not listed in our 2019 chart.

Seabourn Quest Antarctica
Penguins at González Videla Base, a Chilean Research Station on the Antarctic mainland’s Waterboat Point in Paradise Bay. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

We compare rates, features and services. Rates are reflected per person but based on double-occupancy.  It is worth noting that some cruise lines, such as Ponant and Oceanwide offer triple and quadruple berths for groups, families or to share with other travelers.  Sharing cabins with others reduces the per-person rate and also allows solo passengers to avoid single supplement charges. A few of the cruise lines, such as Linblad, Oceanwide and Ponant, offer single cabins with no single supplement.

Antarctica’s seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere. That is why Antarctic expedition cruises are offered from November to February. The North’s winter is the South’s summer. Although it is summer in Antarctica, the temperatures are, well icy. Lindblad’s website cites 20 degrees Fahrenheit as the average low temperature from November to February and 50 degrees Fahrenheit as the average high. There were days on both of my Antartic trips when I stripped down to thin long-sleeved shirt, stashing my parka in the snow while I trekked up mountains. Accordingly, our chart indicates whether parkas are included in your fare (with some companies you get to take the parkas home, by the way), or if the cruise line loans or rents parkas for a fee. All cruise companies in our chart will provide good gripping rubber boots either as a loan or a rental.

Due to the duration, nearly all of the cruises in our chart embark and disembark from Ushuaia so that they are as close as possible to the islands and Continent of Antarctica. One of Silversea’s cruises embarks in Punta Arenas and disembarks in Ushuaia. Punta Arenas is a small port town in Chile at the southern tip of Patagonia. Even further still is Ushuaia, Argentina, the capital of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Ushuaia is so remote that it is sometimes referred to as the “End of the World.”

Ushuaia, Argentina. Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant

Longer cruises may start an end in various locations such as Buenos Aires, Argentina; Valparaiso, Chile; and Montevideo, Uruguay, to name a few.

The chart exhibits which cruise companies are all inclusive. Your choice of stateroom may also affect what’s included. The chart features actual cabins that were available at the time of our research. Some cabin categories were fully booked and therefore not available.

For cruises where on-ship staff gratuity is not included, the companies consistently suggest an average of $10-15 gratuity per day. This is collected and dispersed to the staff at the end of the journey. On shore in Chile and Argentina, it is customary to tip hotel staff, servers and taxi drivers.

Our hope is that the chart will serve as a guide and will simplify the decision-making process in choosing the most suitable and memorable Antarctica Expedition Cruise for you. As always, we welcome your feedback and comments, and of course, corrections to our chart.

Antarctica Cruises: 2019 Per Diems

ItineraryExpedition AntarcticaAntarctica-HighlightsJourney to AntarcticaClassic AntarticaEmblematic AntarcticaAntarctic ExplorerAntarctica in DepthUshuaia to Ushuaia
Sailing DateDecember 4, 2019November 10, 2019January 4, 2019January 3, 2019January 5, 2019January 8, 2019November 26, 2019January 16, 2019
FromUshuaia-UshuauiaUshuaia-UshuaiaUshuaia-UshuaiaUshuaia -UshuaiaUshuaia-UshuaiaUshuaia-UshuaiaUshuaia-UshuaiaUshuaia-Ushuaia
Rate per person$15,730$7,765$13,890$9,850$13,870$11,095$18,095$14,600
ShipHanseatic InspirationMidnatsolNational Geographic OrionM/V OrteliusLe SolealOcean EndeavorScenic EclipseSilver Cloud Expedition
Ice class RatingPC61XE31A1C1B1A Super1C
Passenger Capacity199970*102123264*189200240*
Cabin CategoryCat 7, Balcony CabinPolarside-MiddleCat. 1/ Main DeckTwin-porthole Deck 4Deluxe StateroomUpper Deck DoubleDeluxe Verandah DBVista Suite
Square Footage22697180145180155366240
Room With A View?BalconyNonePorthole2 PortholesBalconyObstructed WindowBalconyWindow
Room Servicecheckmarkn/an/an/acheckmarkn/acheckmarkcheckmark
Port Chargescheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Per diem$1,450$677$1,068$1,020$1,387$1,122$1,645$1,460
Balcony Upgrade ***$2,720$4,826$6,100n/asold outn/aall-balcony ship$2,900
Balcony Per Diem$1,677$1,049$1,415n/asold outn/a$1,645$1,750
Note that in the charts we use nights as opposed to days to derive per diems. Our rationale is that you disembark the ship early on the final day of your cruise, so counting disembarkation day as a full day doesn’t adequately reflect the per diem. So a 12-day cruise actually means that you’ll spend almost 11 full days on the ship, almost because you typically embark in the afternoons.

* Though it has a passenger capacity of 970, Hurtigruten's Midnatsol Antarctica voyages carry only 500 guests in order to comply with the IAATO regulations. Similarly, Ponant's Le Soleal has a capacity of 264 but carries only 200 in Antarctica. Scenic Eclipse carries 228 guests but only 200 in Antarctica. Silver Cloud has a capacity of 254 but operates in Antarctica with 240 guests.

** Ponant has butlers for some staterooms but not for the lead-in accommodations in our chart.

**** Pricing for Ponant's balconies were unavailable because the voyages were sold out

Chart compiled by Tamera Trexler

Be sure to see our Expedition Cruises Fleet Comparison

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