What is a Fly & Cruise trip?

  • It's an alternative way to reach Antarctica quickly and comfortably by flying, instead of sailing
  • The advantages of flying are reaching Antarctica in just two hours – rather than two days at sea – and avoiding the Drake Passage
  • Once in Antarctica you embark your ship, which acts as your floating hotel for the ‘cruise’ section of your trip, just as if you had sailed
  • These trips are particularly well suited to 'time poor' travellers and anxious sailors, but are well-suited to anyone
  • Regular departures are available from early December through to February on a small selection of ships
  • If you would like to review all options, rather than just 'fly & cruise', read more on getting to Antarctica
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Loli says

For speed, comfort and the avoidance of the Drake Passage, these Fly & Cruise trips are really hard to beat - I should know having personally worked on over 50 of these trips over the last six seasons.

Loli Figueroa Polar Specialist

Flying to Antarctica: what do I need to know?

How does a ‘Fly & Cruise’ Trip work?

As the name suggests, a ‘Fly & Cruise’ trip to Antarctica is composed of two key parts:

  • A short two-hour flight to/from Antarctica at the beginning and end
  • An Antarctic cruise of 4-6 days in the middle, involving daily excursions

The trip itself falls into three main parts, which we've mapped out in detail below to help provide a good understanding of how the logistics fit together:

1. Arrive in Punta Arenas

Fly & Cruise Antarctica

Most Fly & Cruise trips to Antarctica start in the Chilean town of Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia, which you reach by flying via Santiago, Chile’s cosmopolitan capital. A smaller number of flying trips begin in Puerto Natales, also found in Chilean Patagonia. 

On arrival you’ll be met and transferred by minibus (20 mins) to your city centre hotel where everyone in the group will be staying, which is included in the price.

The afternoon and evening prior to flying to Antarctica are taken up by getting your rubber boots, a mandatory briefing and then a convivial dinner, allowing time to meet your fellow travellers.

2. Fly to Antarctica

Colette Weintraub

Expect an early start the next morning for the flight to Antarctica. Actual flying time will be weather dependent. As a group you’ll be transferred back to the airport where you’ll check in and wait for your flight to be called.

Once you’re airborne the charter flight takes approximately two hours to fly direct to where you land at the Antarctica airport, Chilean Eduardo Frei Station, on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands, which are part of Antarctica but lie 55 miles/ 90 km from the actual continent.

Having alighted from the plane, there’s a short minibus ride from the airstrip down to the coast.  Here you will board a zodiac and set off a short distance to board your expedition ship, ready for your Antarctic adventure to begin.

From this point onwards, aside from the return flight, your actual experience in Antarctica is exactly the same as if you had sailed to Antarctica.

3. Explore Antarctica

Fly & Cruise Antarctica

A whale approaches the zodiac © Mark Belding

Once you’re settled in to your cabin and met your expedition staff, a daily rhythm is quickly established as you get used to life on board your floating hotel. All meals are taken on board ship.

Typically twice a day you’ll leave the ship on 2-3 hour excursions led by polar experts, either visiting a penguin rookery, place of historic interest or research station, or go zodiac cruising looking for wildlife and photo opportunities. This is the best part!

You'll be kept busy while in Antarctica with early morning’s and a busy daily schedule tailored to ensuring you get the very most from your precious few days in Antarctica. Interspersed between excursions and meals, there will be time to relax and also informative lectures.

Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

This Fly & Cruise formula has been successfully tried & tested over 14 seasons and in spite of the challenges of flying in Antarctica due to weather, over 80% of flights arrive on schedule.

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What our customers think of Fly & Cruise Antarctica

Fly & Cruise Antarctica trips scored 4.5/5 from 413 reviews

It was fantastic having such a small number of guests on board as we got to know them really well by the end of the trip! Definitely new friends we will keep in touch with. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2024

Alysha Vazirally - India

10/10 - It was amazing! I didn't want to cruise through the Drake so this was perfect for me! The staff on the boat was wonderful; they were so helpful and knowledgeable. They really made sure we had a great time and every time we had to change plans it felt like we got to see something even better. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Sabrina McCarthy - USA

10/10 - Small ship experience permitting a more intimate experience with the southern continent and our fellow explorers. The staff was very knowledgeable, and their enthusiasm was very contagious. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Stephen Rathbun - USA

The vastness and wildness that is Antarctica is the only thing that can dwarf the experience and memories I hold. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Carolyn Ferraro - USA

The golden light was breaking through the clouds and spotlighting the peaks. As the zodiac slowly navigated through the ice field our expedition guide spotted a leopard seal lackadaisically bobbing on an iceberg bed. This zodiac cruise is when it sunk in that I finally had made it to Antarctica! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Linda Buckley - USA

The whole trip was a huge memory. Being able to go to an untouched environment and leaving it as you found it was the memory also. Seeing the many different species living and thriving together brings a smile to my face as I am writing this review. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Lawrence Hudson - USA

Our overall experience was outstanding. We learned a lot from the interesting lectures, exploring out in the field, and getting to experience such vast beauty. Such a knowledgeable and positive team worked beautifully together and took great care of us. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Leah Rumbough - USA

You can't put words to the feeling you get in Antarctica. Just being there is a life changing experience that one needs to have for themselves to appreciate the Antarctic. My most memorable moment was seeing all the wildlife in their natural environment and how they live. Walking so close and feeling as a part of the environment was something we just don't experience in the "real world". Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Robert Wenze - USA

The colours in icebergs, the complete lack of fear of penguins (they have to be the only animal on the planet that doesn't run and hide from humans), the active volcano, the whales and their incredible curiosity and playfulness, the moment I set foot on Antarctica it was one memorable moment after another. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Marg Macleod - Canada

The orcas appearing during the whale talk, the baby humpback breaching off the bow of the zodiacs, the polar plunge, watching from the outriggers as the the boat cut through the ice, drinking Macallan with ice fresh from a berg, having an impromptu dance party with my husband on top of a volcanic cinder cone. It was just a super trip from beginning to end. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Stephanie Krolick - USA

Most memorable moment: clear blue skies, zero wind, flat ocean with icebergs floating around everywhere, in a zodiac with penguins popping up all over us, and a seal belly-flopping up on an iceberg 20ft from us Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Todd Mackey - USA

The service was top-notch professional from Punta Arenas to the ship. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Dennis Roy - United States Of America

To fly the Drake Passage gave us a particular advantage - more time where we wanted to be. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2019

Alison Murdoch - United Kingdom

Very closely met our expectations. Flying was the perfect option. Yes I would recommend.

Travelled: February 2018

Dave & Lisa - Australia

Antarctica is beautiful and amazing, and it exceeded my expectations. We flew over the Drake Passage rather than sailing it. The whole experience was wonderful.

Travelled: February 2018

Linda - New York

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It exceeded our expectations and I would recommend it to everyone wanting to go visit Antarctica. We had a really wonderful time. So glad we flew!

Travelled: December 2017

Lori - Texas

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Fly & cruise worked very well and was a great option. All excursions were well organised and conducted safely. We enjoyed them all, especially the snowshoeing treks.

Travelled: December 2016

John - UK

Review:

About Fly & Cruise Trips to Antarctica

How much does a Fly & Cruise trip cost?

A Fly & Cruise trip starts from approx. USD $10,995 per person, depending on your preferred cabin type and ship, and based on an 8-day voyage. The higher cabin categories with private balconies start from approx. USD $22,000 per person. This price includes:

  • Return charter flights between Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales and King George Island, Antarctica
  • Daily guided 2-3 hour excursions by zodiac boat with guides
  • Accommodation in a comfortable, modern, ensuite cabin
  • Themed lectures by onboard Polar specialists
  • All meals (international cuisine) & drinks with meals
  • Hotel accommodation in Punta Arenas (2 nights)
  • Airport-hotel transfers

Although on a per day basis a Fly & Cruise trip works out roughly 20% more expensive than a standard Antarctic cruise, the main benefits of flying - time saved and avoidance of getting seasick - more than justify the added investment.

Excluded from the trip cost: International flights to/from Punta Arenas / Puerto Natales, any additional hotel nights & arrangements in Chile, optional adventure activities (e.g. kayaking), onboard staff gratuity (approx. USD$15 per person per night on board), travel insurance, items of a personal nature (laundry, bar tab or onboard shop).

Head to our dedicated flights page to read more about flights to Antarctica.

Fly & Cruise Antarctica

Types of Antarctic Plane

Arriving in Antarctica - Cheap flights to Antarctica

Arriving in Antarctica

The standard plane used for the charter flights between Punta Arenas (or Puerto Natales) and King George Island is a British-designed BAE 146 which has capacity for up to 80 people and a seating configuration of 3+3.

These planes are more ‘workhorse’ than luxury, but are perfectly comfortable for the short 2 hour flight.

Their four turbofan engine configuration provides important redundancy and superior takeoff performance for short runways, both of which are key factors for flying to Antarctica.

When to Book a Fly & Cruise Trip

Demand for fly and cruise trips is high and they often get booked up well in advance. Most people book their cruise around 12-18 months in advance, before availability really starts tightening up.

For the full choice of cabins and departure dates, we strongly advise you get in touch and start the planning process early. We also provisionally hold a cabin on your behalf for several days whilst you make up your mind.

Fly & Cruise to Antarctica: FAQs

  • How can I guarantee a window seat?

    On most Antarctic flights it's free seating and seats aren’t allocated, however it is possible to reserve a window seat on the following Fly & Cruise trips for an additional supplement of around $500 per person for both flights:

    Original Fly & Cruise Luxury Adventure

    Original Fly & Cruise Expedition Cruise

  • How do I get to Punta Arenas?

    To get to Punta Arenas you first need to fly to Chile’s capital, Santiago, and from there take a domestic flight south to Punta Arenas. Santiago itself has good international connections with direct flights from New York, London & Sydney.

    Heading south from the capital, there are daily flights between Santiago and Punta Arenas operated by LatAm & Sky Airlines. Tip: make sure you're seated on the left hand side of the plane flying south for wonderful views as you fly parallel to The Andes.

  • What is there to do in Punta Arenas?

    Punta Arenas isn’t a large city, but has a fair selection of things to do for anyone wishing to arrive early, including some notable museums.

  • Can I spend longer in Patagonia?

    Given the time and effort to get there, we would heartily recommend adding on a few days at either the beginning or end of your trip to explore Patagonia a bit more. Punta Arenas is the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, arguably the most spectacular and best known trekking mecca in the whole of South America. We can put you in touch with our sister company Swoop Patagonia who know this whole region like the back of their hand.

Why our customers love Swoop

The Antarctic Experts.
No Compromises

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Our team has visited Antarctica over 150 times and has 100 collective years of polar experience, so from which trip is right for you to what shoes to bring - there’s no question we can’t answer.

Expert impartial advice at no extra cost

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Choosing the right voyage is complicated, Swoop makes it easy. We offer no-nonsense advice on 1500 voyages across 30 ships to find you the right trip, cabin, price - and we don’t charge a fee.

The only B Corp certified Antarctic specialist

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We want to protect Antarctica for future generations - which is why we became a certified B Corp and set up our own conservation fund. So your adventures can be a force for good.

A full concierge service, unlike booking direct

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We leave nothing to chance in delivering your perfect trip and have over 6500 happy travellers to show for it. With a dedicated Antarctic co-ordinator & support throughout - you’re in safe hands.

More about Flying to Antarctica

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?

1
Listen

Listen

We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.

2
Match

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Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.

3
Reserve

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We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

With over 100 years of Antarctic experience between us, we can help guide you to exactly the right trip for you.

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