5 reasons to book an Antarctic cruise

  1. 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
  2. These small ship expedition voyages are not cruises in the traditional sense, but a fully immersive and participatory Antarctic experience
  3. 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
  4. A team of onboard polar experts will accompany you throughout, playing a key role and lending the whole trip a strong educational dimension
  5. 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

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 cruises 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.

AM_3_AM_ALL_Barrie & Penguin Cuverville-e

When is the best time to take an Antarctic cruise?

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.

SHU_3_SHU_ALL_Antarctica January iceberg-e2

Explore Cruises

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 spoilt for choice. Not only can you choose your mode of transport to get there – by ship or plane – 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 cruise?

Prepare to be busy on an Antarctic cruise! 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.

AM_3_AM_ALL_Antarctica kayak

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 film on a day in Antarctica

What our customers think

Where to go in the Antarctic

Fly & Cruise Trips

John says

Antarctic Cruises: FAQs

  • Are there any age limits?

    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.

  • How fit should I be?​

    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.

  • How far in advance should I book?

    • 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.

  • Where do Antarctic cruises leave from?

    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.

  • Is the Drake Passage as bad as it sounds?

    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 Cruises

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?


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Swoop Antarctica Expert John
Swoop Antarctica Expert Loli
Swoop Antarctica Expert Tennessee
Swoop Antarctica Expert Cassia
Swoop Antarctica Expert Jud
Swoop Antarctica Expert Molly

With over 50 years of Antarctic experience between us, we can help guide you to exactly the right trip for you.