Guide To Antarctic Cruise Ships

Choosing the right Antarctica cruise company is one of the most important decisions when planning your Antarctic adventure, not least because of the amount of time you will spend onboard. Consider these key tips to help you find the best expedition cruise company for you:

  1. Decide on your key decision-making criteria and prioritise them - size of ship, passenger capacity, stability, comfort level or activities on offer. 
  2. The widest choice of ships are in the medium-sized category, from 80 to 116 passengers. They have a good balance between not being too big, while having generous public areas and a decent choice of cabins. 
  3. If stability is high on your list, consider larger ships, or those renowned for their stability.
  4. Smaller ships of less than 100 passengers have many benefits, such as ease of logistics when getting on and off the ship, a more intimate overall experience, and everybody being able to land at once. These are counterbalanced by the better onboard facilities and greater stability offered by larger vessels.
  5. Comfort and service levels have markedly improved over the last decade on all Antarctic ships, allowing you to have an adventure, but without the hardship! Nespresso machines, balcony suites, gourmet cuisine and even butler service are now available on selected ships.
  6. Camping out on the ice and kayaking are offered on most vessels as optional adventure activities. A limited number of ships also offer diving, snorkelling, paddle-boarding or snowshoeing and mountaineering.

Choosing the right Antarctic cruise ship for you

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Swoop says

We know how important finding the right ship is, but with so much choice it can also be bewildering. Our first hand knowledge of the ships is unparalleled and we can help you find exactly the right one.

Listen to Molly's expert advice

Comfort and adventure

For adventure seekers who would prefer more of a floating hotel as their base. Typically a little more spacious, with more variation in cabins, you'll have more choice while on board while still getting out and about during the day.

Seaventure

Seaventure , Antarctic ship in Antarctica

The Seaventure features the highest ice class awarded to passenger vessels, a sauna, a fitness center, a custom-built citizen science lab, a heated saltwater pool and much more.

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Magellan Explorer

Magellan Explorer Ship

The smallest and newest purpose-built expedition ship. Specifically built for Antarctic fly-cruise operations, the Magellan Explorer carries a maximum of 76 guests for fly cruises,…

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Greg Mortimer

Greg Mortimer Ship

With its eye-catching futuristic design and advanced onboard technology, the Greg Mortimer is unquestionably redefining the look of expedition ships in the polar regions. This ship…

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Ultramarine

Ultramarine Antarctic vessel in Antarctica

Ultra by name, ultra by nature. With elegant lines, onboard helicopters and the widest range of adventure activities, this ship is designed to impress.

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World Explorer

World Explorer Ship

This ship sets the bar high with a sleek design, fast average cruising speed of 16 knots, spacious cabins and a unique glass-domed observation lounge. 

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Hondius

Hondius ship

A purpose built expedition vessel for 170 passengers. The addition of stabilizers and state-of-the-art technology make her a comfortable and safe option.

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Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle, Antarctic vessel

Launched in Autumn 2022, this state-of-the-art ship honours the highly accomplished marine biologist and oceanographer, Sylvia Earle. Sister ship to the Greg Mortimer, this ship …

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Plancius

Plancius ship

A former Dutch Navy research ship, the Plancius is a practical and highly capable expedition ship with a recent full re-fit to take 108 guests.

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MS Expedition

MS Expedition ship

Blessed with a huge amount of deck space this is a great ship for the 136 passengers. A well-established team makes it a great atmosphere on board.

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Sea Spirit

Sea Spirit ship

The Sea Spirit offers elegant style and spacious cabins for her 114 guests to travel in comfort at an affordable price.

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Ocean Victory

Ocean VIctory, ANtarctic Vessel

As an X-BOW® - Infinity Class, Ocean Victory provides improved stability in rough weather and high waves. Generously sized cabins and communal spaces along with a comprehensive …

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MS Adventurer

MS Adventurer - Antarctic Ship

Spacious cabins, panoramic public areas, high ice-rating and outstanding expedition staff make this 140 guest ship a fabulous base for exploration.

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Ocean Endeavour

Ocean Endeavour Ship

Most often found in Antarctica and South Georgia during the Austral summer and in the Canadian Arctic and West Greenland during the boreal summer, she offers a spacious and …

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Ocean Albatros

Ocean Albatros

The brand new Ocean Albatros boasts generously sized cabins and communal spaces. Coupled with a comprehensive wellness area, it promises a comfortable base for your Antarctic …

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SH Diana

SH Diana, Antarctic vessel

SH Diana offers relaxed elegance with a contemporary feel, for those desiring style and comfort without pretension. 

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SH Vega

SH Vega, Antarctic Vessel

SH Vega offers laidback Scandi elegance with a contemporary boutique feel, for those wanting style and comfort without ostentation.

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Ocean Explorer

The Antarctic ship the Ocean Explorer and two large icebergs

Custom-engineered for polar voyages, this sleek 138 passenger ship benefits from cutting edge design and advanced nautical technology. 

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Alex says

The first thing to think about is what's important to you - adventure, wildlife, comfort, the ship's stability, food or activities? Once established, we can then help guide you to the most well matched ships for you.

Alex Mudd Head of Swoop Antarctica

Luxury ships

These vessels rival a luxury hotel in their service and facilities. Akin to a super-yacht cruise ship, you'll be surrounded by grandeur whilst onboard, with some of the highest standards in the industry. Landings are still a key part of the voyage, so expect to be out and about each day.

Silver Endeavour

Silver Endeavour, Antarctic Vessel

With luxury, comfort and exceptional service as the foundations of its onboard experience, the Silver Endeavour is purported to be one of the most expensive expedition ships ever …

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Silver Cloud

Silver Cloud, Antarctic Vessel

After a multi-million dollar refit in 2017 this luxury vessel has become the last word in luxury for adventurers, with fine dining and butler service to boot.

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Silver Wind

Silver Wind, Antarctic vessel

An elegant option for those looking to explore in comfort, this 274 passenger ship was thoughtfully refitted for polar travel in 2021, allowing it the versatility to move …

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Seabourn Pursuit

Seabourn Venture, Antarctic Vessel

This elegant and very capable 264 guest ship boasts innovative design throughout and the unique opportunity to explore Antarctica throug the use of its submarines.

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What our customers think of Antarctic Cruise Ships

Antarctic Cruise Ships trips scored 4.4/5 from 784 reviews

Wow. Just wow. Professional, experienced, friendly, LOVED the ship, loved the crew and staff. Everyone knew what they were doing! From the moment we boarded the ship to the moment we left, we knew we were in good hands. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Shirley Sutton - USA

The entire expedition team was great - they seemed to have good camaraderie and their enthusiasm for the Antarctic and its wildlife was infectious. Every member was knowledgeable in their own way and were really friendly. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Louise Johnston - UK

10/10 - Small purpose-built ship with small number of eager and intelligent passengers, plus excellent weather to observe Antarctica and its wildlife is a winning business model. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Terry Goodyear - Canada

We were able to see so much and enjoy the wonders of Antarctic without worry about safety. The guides on the zodiacs were full of information which they readily shared. Memorable zodiac cruise with the whales! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Elaine McClure - USA

Swoop's guidance helped me chose the perfect ship for my trip, and I was well prepared. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Becky Ahern - USA

I loved the small ship. Staff was friendly and attentive and quickly learned who everyone was. Steward took great care of our room. The food was plentiful and delicious. Would absolutely choose the Seaventure again. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Becky Ahern - USA

Swoop understood what we were looking for and directed us to the perfect expedition team. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Morris Guy - Canada

The staff really made the trip! They were so organized and really wanted us to get the most out of our trip. I also loved that it was a smaller ship so that we got to go on all the excursions together. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Sabrina McCarthy - USA

10/10 - I really felt like I was heard about which company and ship would be right for me. I didn't care about fancy - I wanted to explore and experience as much as I could - to see what Antarctica had to offer. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Courtney Caldwell - USA

Take the smaller ships, less than 500 people, so you can get off and actually be in/on Antarctica to get closer to the land and wildlife. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Joanne March - USA

Cabin was great, we loved having the balcony so we could privately go out and watch the scenery and wildlife go by. And also watch the Drake Shake waves! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Joanne March - USA

Small ship allows for so much more access to Antarctica! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Anne Kinzie - Canada

Take the time to determine the right size of ship for the experience you want, as this is one of the most important factors in my opinion. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Nathalie Parent - France

I was impressed by how safety oriented the captain and entire crew were as we traveled to our destinations. They did everything they could to make sure we took the most safe and comfortable route. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Carole Gates - USA

The smaller scale of the ship and orientation towards wildlife and excursions really made the experience sensational. I cannot imagine expending the effort and money to travel there only to see it pass by my window/balcony. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Jeff Fisher - USA

I LOVED the zodiac cruises – the expedition team was awesome, they showed us such amazing things, wildlife, icebergs, and kept us safe getting in and out of the zodiacs. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Deb Smith - USA

Loved the smaller guest size—although I didn’t get to meet everyone, it still felt like a big family and it was great to be with others who shared the same sense of adventure. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Vera Hui - USA

The trip was a great experience and one we had been looking forward to for a lifetime. The comforts of the ship, the professionalism and courtesy of the crew and the expedition leaders, the first class quality food and the awesome beauty of the Antarctic was incredible. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

David Wall - Canada

Small-ship expeditions allowed us to be on land for a good amount of time. The expedition team was top notch and they knew many of the passengers by name. The ship is a smaller ship, so it was able to get to many places. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Craig Murata - USA

10/10 - It was reassuring to have a customer service representative making sure that I had submitted all the required forms and information, and interfacing with the ship to answer any questions I had. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Chuck Gallegos - USA

The small ship experience is by far the best way to visit Antarctica. The crew and expedition staff are first rate. The expedition leader worked tirelessly with the Captain to adapt to evolving conditions and give the guests the best possible experience. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Chuck Gallegos - USA

Choosing the right vessel and the proper company is the most important factor in planning for this trip. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Sarah Yip - USA

Get an expedition ship, not a cruise liner. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Martesa Silang - USA

Always felt comfortable in the hands of our expedition team. True professionals who love and want to share what they do. Makes for an unbelievable experience. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Paul Tobery - USA

10/10 - Swoop was instrumental in showing me Antarctic cruise options that I didn’t even know existed before calling, and they thoroughly explained the pros and cons of each option to make sure it was right for me. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Joseph Gabriano - USA

Our tip? Just do it! Even though it's quite expensive it's the best trip we've ever been on and we will remember it for the rest of our lives. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Chris Waters - Canada

A visit to Antarctica offers many “memorable moments”. I was “most” moved on several occasions when cruising on Zodiacs in the middle of pristine, majestic environments surrounded by water, mountains, snow, floating ice and penguins. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Erwin Perl - USA

10/10 - I'm still mentally processing all the things we saw and the experiences I had; it's almost overwhelming how much got packed into 'only' two weeks. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Derek Vandivere - Netherlands

Swoop was 10/10 - My favourite thing was how I felt like the representative I worked with really listened to me and helped me find a ship/company that best suited us and our wants and priorities. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Rebecca Ready - Canada

The expedition team was phenomenal. They were genuinely interested in making the trip the best it could be. I would have a hard time saying that any one was a standout because they all were in different ways. Likewise, I enjoyed all of the lectures. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Darwin Webster - USA

Beautiful ship. The staff and crew were excellent and so friendly. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2022

Kiera Rumbough - USA

Loved the zodiac excursions. The zodiacs provide intimate access to locations the ship cannot reach. Zodiacs and shore excursions make all the difference in an Antarctic journey. I couldn't imagine simply viewing just from the ship. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Scott Hunter - USA

It's good to take a exhibition trip on a purpose-built ship. Everything about the ship is designed to make expeditions (kayak, zodiac cruising, whale-watching etc.) easy. The food was surprisingly good, with many choices, each expertly prepared. We were surprised that there were so many fresh vegetables and fruit. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Tom Hoster - USA

Expedition team were extremely knowledgeable and on task with any inquiries you might have. There were years of experience as the team had been in Antarctica a number of times. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Tom Crowley - USA

The entire experience was well planned with necessary information given to trip participants in a timely manner. And besides logistics, the number and variety of off-ship excursions were outstanding, allowing us to see and experience so much of what Antarctica has to offer even in a short visit. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Fred Delcomyn - USA

Expedition team members were uniformly friendly, approachable, helpful, and full of knowledge related to what we were seeing or could see. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Fred Delcomyn - USA

Just leave it to the experts at Swoop to organise. So simple and worry free. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2020

Janette Harrison - Australia

Swoop were responsive and knowledgeable about what every ship offered and did a good job of steering us to the perfect ship. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2020

Marmie - United States Of America

I really appreciate Swoop suggesting that we consider the slightly more expensive Hebridean Sky cruise, as my wife, who was not looking forward to the cold, enjoyed the extra comfort. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2020

David Smith - United States Of America

Customer Image

There were 98 passengers on board the Island Sky and we were surprised by the age range, 22 to 78 with an average of 62. It made for a wonderful atmosphere with people mixing to chat and eat together. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

David Irwin - United Kingdom

Customer Image

Good choice for the size of the expedition cruise ship. Excellent throughout the whole progress. Thank you very much, John. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Mei Mei Mai - United States Of America

Resolute was an excellent ship. Like a floating 5 star hotel. So good that I am not going to share much of the interior pictures less people might think we were on a cruise rather than an expedition. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2019

Annuar Faisal - Malaysia

Go on a small ship. Try to get on the Hebridean Sky for the aft deck. Don't worry about the Drake Passage. Everything else will make the time in the passage seem minor. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Patricia Schenkkan - United States Of America

John Newby was quick and thorough in his responses when I had questions. When asked about the differences between ships, he'd been aboard all of them. When asked about wildlife, he'd experienced both times of the season!

Travelled: September 2018

Chris - USA

Customer Image

The expedition team went out of their way to make it the best experience possible for us. They were very personal in their approach and always willing to spend time individually with passengers.

Travelled: February 2018

Sue - Australia

Going with a polar specialist is certainly the best way to travel and the smaller size of the boat we knew would provide greater flexibility for seeing nature and taking advantages of opportunities that came along.

Travelled: February 2018

Charles & Denise - UK

The highlight was having humpback whales feeding within five meters of the Zodiac! The Zodiac drivers were very professional and ensured that we got a good position to see them without disturbing them. We got to see all the three species of penguins and all species of seals.

Travelled: February 2018

Kushal - UAE

Customer Image

Glad we were on a smaller ship with only around 120 guests so we never felt overcrowded on any of the shore landings. You could feel close to nature all the time.

Travelled: January 2018

Zoltan & Stephen Nemeth - Florida

I was on the Ocean Endeavour, a fantastic ship. It really was gourmet food 4 times a day. The staff all knew my name (I don't know how). I would recommend this trip to any one wanting to see the 7th continent.

Travelled: November 2017

Bob - California

Customer Image

The crew on Plancius were fantastic, very knowledgeable, exceptionally professional and very accommodating. I met some great and very interesting people among both divers and passengers. Surprises included the quality of the service, expedition staff on Plancius, and restaurant quality meals!

Travelled: March 2017

Erika - Australia

Customer Image

Julie and I have just returned from our Swoop adventure. In a word, it was sensational. Everything was terrific: the ship, the hotel and the expedition team; thank you for making this trip possible. We will recommend you to all who want to share this incredible journey.

Travelled: February 2017

Larry - California

I was amazed with the elegance of the Hebridean Sky. Our room was spacious and furnished beautifully. Anyone interested in going on this trip, I would be sure to tell them about our experience. It was perfect.

Travelled: January 2017

Mary and John - New York

The Ocean Nova was excellent and the perfect size. The ship’s crew and the expedition crew were both first class. Swoop did a terrific job in putting it all together.

Travelled: February 2016

Mark - Australia

Sea Spirit - what a plucky little ship! She carried us in comfortable luxury whilst still being small enough to provide an intimate experience. Both the crew and expedition teams worked tirelessly to ensure we had the time of our lives.

Travelled: February 2016

Isla - UK

Review:

Authentic expedition ships

Adventure runs right through these ships. These are often the ex-research vessels with stories to tell and expeditionary hearts. They're capable of getting almost anywhere, a perfect quality on voyages which are all about the landings, and getting you into the heart of Antarctica.

Ocean Nova

Ocean Nova ship

Built to ply the ice-choked waters of Western Greenland, the very popular Ocean Nova is a capable and comfortable ship carrying just 67 passengers.

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Ortelius

Ortelius ship

An outstanding expedition ship with a hard-won reputation for navigating some of the Polar region's most challenging waters, carrying just 108 guests.

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Our best voyages to Antarctica

Special Offers:Swoop has access to the widest range of offers and can help you find the right trip, cabin, & price.

Antarctic Basecamp Adventure

The ultimate Antarctic adventure, this trip is specifically for the active traveller. Spend 7 days kayaking, hiking, camping, mountaineering and snowshoeing, all included in the price. A medium-sized expedition ship acts as your floating ‘basecamp’. An excellent deal backed up…

  • 13 Days
  • $10,550
Onto the Antarctic Ice

With three medium-sized expedition ships to pick from and regular departure dates throughout the season, this well-priced voyage is a popular option. Across striking landscapes and icy seas, your company includes penguins, seals, whales and skuas. For the adventurous, optional…

  • 10-13 Days
  • $10,050
South Georgia, Antarctica and Falklands Explorer

Looking for an Antarctic adventure without compromising on comfort and service? This stylish 139-passenger ship, with its cavernous suites, fine dining and compelling itinerary, offers a polished Southern Ocean adventure at a fair…

  • 21 Days
  • $19,795
Original Fly & Cruise Luxury Adventure

Fly over the Drake Passage in just 2 hours, both to and from Antarctica. ​Ideal for those ​wanting a high comfort level, but ​who have limited time or ​are ​anxious sailors. ​An outstanding program, successfully operated for over 15 seasons.​…

  • 8 Days
  • $15,995
Antarctic Explorer

The great strength of this trip is choice – a wide selection of departure dates and optional adventure activities available on a sleek purpose-built 138 passenger expedition ship. Spend four full days exploring Antarctica. Enjoy daily shore landings and zodiac…

  • 11 Days
  • $13,995
Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctic Adventure

With a good choice of departure dates through the season across three medium-sized ships, this 19-22 day trip stands out for its value for money and the broad range of cabin categories available, including Quads, which are…

  • 19-22 Days
  • $13,550
Antarctic Peninsula Explorer

Explore the White Continent aboard one of the newest additions to the polar fleet, a state-of-the-art expedition vessel combining adventure with comfort. As well as being limited to only 132 passengers, there’s also a wide range of optional activities on…

  • 12-15 Days
  • $12,795

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

Match

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

3
Reserve

Reserve

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.

1-855-369-8288