5 reasons to book an Antarctic expedition
- Antarctica has no hotels - in their absence a ship provides the best alternative, acting both as a floating hotel and 'basecamp' from which to explore
- These small ship expedition voyages are not cruises in the traditional sense, but a fully immersive and participatory Antarctic experience
- The focus of each day is getting off the ship and up close to the unique wildlife and scenery, exploring by both zodiac and on foot
- A team of onboard polar experts will accompany you throughout, playing a key role and lending the whole trip a strong educational dimension
- For purists following in Scott and Shackleton's footsteps, sailing to Antarctica is the only real option to consider and all part of the adventure
Sailing to Antarctica: What do I need to know?
Our best Antarctic cruises
The ultimate Antarctic adventure, this trip is specifically for the active traveller. Spend 5-6 days kayaking, hiking, camping, mountaineering and snowshoeing, all included in the price. A medium-sized expedition ship acts as your floating ‘basecamp’. Great value for money backed…
Looking for an Antarctic adventure without compromising on comfort and service? Look no further. Benefitting from a $10 million refurbishment, this stylish 110-passenger ship, with its cavernous suites, fine dining and compelling itinerary, offers a very polished Southern Ocean adventure,…
Choosing your Antarctic cruise
Which trip to choose?
So you've made the decision to go to Antarctica, the next important step is to decide which trip is best suited to you. There's a vast, tantalising choice of different options open to you - ranging from 6 to 30 days in duration - travelling either by ship or opting to fly:
- Antarctic Peninsula (10 - 12 days) - The most common and best value Antarctic trips with the widest choice
- Fly & Cruise (6 - 20 days) - Ideal for both time poor travellers & anxious sailors. The fastest route to Antarctica
- Polar Circle (13 - 15 days) - Join that exclusive band of Polar travellers by reaching the intangible Polar Circle
- South Georgia, Falklands & Antarctica (18 - 23 days) - A ‘must’ for wildlife enthusiasts and polar historians alike
- Ross Sea (+29 days) - Few places on the planet are harder to reach and as remote. Voyage to the heart of Antarctica
With many years of experience, Swoop is adept at helping match our customers to exactly the right Antarctic trips.
When is the best time to cruise to Antarctica?
Choosing when to visit Antarctica is a crucial part of the planning process. Once you've decided which year you plan to travel, the next step is to work out the actual timing of your visit.
Firstly you need to be aware that Antarctica is only accessible to visitors between November and March, and that these months are split into two seasons, with ‘High Season’ being the most popular and expensive time to travel:
- High Season: December, January & February
- Shoulder Season: November & March
It's then important to be aware of the distinctive weather and wildlife characteristics of each month, as the timing of your trip will heavily influence what the wildlife is doing then, and local ice and weather conditions.
How do I get there?
The early explorers had no option, and were grateful for whatever vessel they could commission, but modern day Antarctic visitors are spoiled for choice. Not only can you choose your mode of transport to get there - by ship or plane to Antarctica - but there’s also a wide variety of boats, from former Russian research vessels to luxury yachts boasting 24/7 butler service.
Given the considerable amount of time which you’ll be spending on the ship, it's well worth investing the time to finding exactly the right one.
What will I do and see on my Antarctic expedition?
Prepare to be busy on an Antarctic voyage! Once you’ve arrived in Antarctica the backbone of each day is taken up by the off-ship excursions, of which there are normally two daily of between 2-3 hours long. These are either ‘landings’, where you go ashore to visit a penguin rookery or a place of historic interest, or a zodiac cruise when you’re on the lookout for wildlife and photographic opportunities.
There are often optional adventure activities - including kayaking and camping - as well as the ‘Polar Plunge’ and a programme of lectures delivered by the expedition team.
Are Antarctic cruises expensive?
A trip to Antarctica is a big ticket item in anyone’s book, so it’s important to have a firm understanding of the likely costs before you start getting too carried away.
- What’s the average percentage cost difference between travelling during High to Shoulder season?
- How much more expensive is it to fly to Antarctica, rather than to travel by ship?
Swoop can help to guide you.
Watch our Introduction to Antarctica
What our customers think
We've traveled to 87 different countries, and this was without a doubt our favorite destination. Of all the cruises we've been on, we spent more time out on our balcony on this trip than all the rest combined. The scenery changes so much, you don't want to miss anything. We saw countless whales from our balcony. And icebergs of every shape imaginable.
Chris & Amy, Florida December 2017
We were extremely fortunate to link up with Swoop. We planned this trip at the last minute and I do not believe we would have found the right trip, right boat, or the right cabin. Loli knew that we were on our honeymoon and went out of her way to make sure we had the right cabin.
Ryan, Massachusetts November 2016
Swoop was fantastic. We were provided with great service, efficient and quality responses to our many questions. Swoop found us the perfect expedition to match our interests and budget. Alex even followed up with us throughout the process and called us the day of our departure to wish us a wonderful trip.
Bryce, Canada December 2016
The level of expertise and knowledge that Alex has is incredible and he helped us select the perfect trip for our needs and expectations. I've never had such good service.
Declan, UK December 2016
John made this very hard decision so much easier by reassuring me of the incredible experience awaiting me and explaining every detail of the trip beforehand. If it wasn’t for John, I seriously do not know if I would have had the courage to go on this trip alone.
Jeff, Arizona February 2017
Swoop was phenomenal! I am so happy and grateful I booked with Loli and the Swoop team. Loli answered all of my questions and due to her first-hand experience with the trip, she was able to offer terrific guidance and helpful insights. I felt completely looked after and prepared for my trip.
Colette, California January 2017
From the first moment we booked our trip to Antarctica with Swoop, everything went so well. You can read about Antarctica, people can tell you about it, you can look at countless images, but it is so much more beautiful in reality.
Kim, Australia January 2017
I have visited 89 countries and islands and Antarctica was my final continent. Without doubt, the Antarctica and Falkland Islands trip was the best experience, holiday and adventure I have ever had.
Nick, UK February 2017
In a word, it was sensational. Everything was terrific: the ship, the "hotel" and the expedition team. You (John) are greatly loved among multiple crew folks. And we share that enthusiasm for you because your natural joy is infectious.
Larry and Julie, California February 2017
If you have never been there, there is no way of preparing for the impact of being there. The untouched, natural beauty, the mighty icebergs, the silliness of the penguins. You will be spending hours just sitting in one spot adoring the view.
Zoltan & Stephen, Florida January 2018
I think the only prerequisites for enjoying this trip are curiosity and realistic expectations about shipboard life: understanding that it is an expedition, not a cruise.
Marc, Florida December 2017
Kayaking made it for me. My biggest surprise was beaching on an iceberg and a snowball fight!
Angela, UK February 2018
Where to go in the Antarctic
Fly & Cruise Trips
I've been to over 150 countries but still wasn't prepared for Antarctica. Put simply it blew my socks off - a full blown sensory assault. It's impossible to exaggerate Antarctica's magnificence and the indelible mark it leaves.
John Newby Polar Specialist
Antarctic Cruises: FAQs
While there’s a minimum age limit on certain ships, there’s certainly no upper age limit - as long as you are fit and healthy, and feel capable of clambering in and out of the zodiacs, you’ll be fine. The average age of Antarctic travellers is approx. 50 - 75 year old, however this is falling with every season.
The majority of Antarctic cruises aren’t physically demanding and definitely fall into the ‘soft adventure’ category. Walking distances are fairly short, particularly on the Antarctic Peninsula, and when longer walks are available they are optional and will be offered alongside shorter ones.
For more active travellers, optional adventure activities (kayaking, camping, etc) are widely available on most voyages. There are also select departures like Basecamp Adventure specifically designed for the active traveller.
- Rule No. 1: It’s never too early to book
- Rule No. 2: The early mover gets the widest choice
To be confident of securing your first choice you need to be ideally booking 12 - 18 months in advance, or as early as the departure dates are released. The popularity and limited number of departures of Fly & Cruise and South Georgia cruises in particular makes it even more important to start the booking process for these early.
This may seem excessive to those who don't typically plan this far ahead, but on an Antarctic trip when places aren’t infinite, the need to book early is crucial to avoid disappointment.
99% of Antarctic trips depart from ushuaia in southern Argentina and Punta Arenas in southern Chile. These are the main gateways to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
The Drake has a reputation, and not without reason as approx. 30% of voyages experience rough weather, however it can also be surprisingly placid too ('The Drake Lake'). The reality for the majority of our customers is that it's rarely as bad as it sounds, and it's certainly a 'price' well worth paying. If avoiding The Drake altogether by flying to Antarctica sounds a bet, we have firsthand experience and can help.
Antarctic Peninsula Cruises
This is the classic way to see Antarctica, and most cruises take you only to this part of Antarctica. A typical cruise will start out from Ushuaia and explore all that the …
Flights to Antarctica
Established over ten years ago, flying is an increasingly popular way to access Antarctica, particularly if you are short on time or concerned about the sea crossing.
Antarctic Circle Cruises
For the ultimate adventure, join a cruise that crosses the Antarctic Circle at 66 Degrees South and visits some of the most beautiful landmarks both north and south of the Circle.
South Georgia Cruises
For sheer density of wildlife, majestic scenery, riveting history and remoteness, South Georgia is hard to beat in every single one of these categories. It’s one of the least …