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 notorious 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
Flying to Antarctica: what do I need to know?
Best Antarctica Fly & Cruise Trips
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
All 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.
On arrival in Punta Arenas 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
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 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 30-minute walk downhill from the air base to the coast where your expedition ship lies at anchor, 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
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.
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.
What our customers think
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!
Lori Texas December 2017
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.
John UK December 2016
Very closely met our expectations. Flying was the perfect option. Yes I would recommend.
Dave & Lisa Australia February 2018
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.
Linda New York February 2018
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 Punta Arenas/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, 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).
Types of Antarctic Plane
The standard plane used for the charter flights between Punta Arenas 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.
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
Fly & Cruise to Antarctica: FAQs
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:
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.
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.
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.
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