Guide To Antarctic Cruise Ships

Choosing the right ship is one of the most important decisions when planning your Antarctic adventure, not least because of the amount of time you will spend onboard. To help you get started, consider these key tips:

  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.

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

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Built for the ice this classy, capable and comfortable ship has all the kit and caboodle and more for exploring the White Continent.

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Magellan Explorer

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The smallest and newest purpose-built expedition ship. Specifically built for Antarctic fly-cruise operations, the Magellan Explorer carries only 69 guests for fly cruises, and 100…

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Greg Mortimer

Greg Mortimer

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

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Ultra by name, ultra by nature. With its elegant lines, onboard helicopters, contemporary styling, spacious balconied cabins and the widest range of adventure activities, this ship…

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Plancius

Plancius

A former Dutch Navy research ship, the Plancius is a practical and highly capable expedition ship with a recent full re-fit to take 116 guests.

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World Explorer

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A state-of-the-art ship that launched in 2018, the World Explorer sets the bar high with a fast average cruising speed, generously appointed cabins each with a balcony, and a …

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Hondius

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A purpose built expedition vessel for 174 passengers. The addition of stabilizers and state-of-the-art technology make her a comfortable and safe option.

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Hebridean Sky

Hebridean Sky

After a multi-million renovation in 2016 including the addition of state of the art stabilizer system, the Hebridean Sky is one of the finest few small ships travelling to …

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Island Sky

Island Sky

Island Sky is a class act. Offering refined comfort and high levels of service for only 108 guests, its no wonder she has such a loyal following from past travellers.

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Ocean Adventurer

Ocean Adventurer

Refurbished for her 128 guests in 2017 and with a stunning history of polar exploration this is one of the Grand Dames of Antarctica

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Sylvia Earle

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Launching in October 2021, 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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Janssonius

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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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MS Expedition

MS Expedition

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

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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 Atlantic

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This sturdy and recently renovated ship offers some of the best value trips. Life on board is comfortable, and for anyone to experience.

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Ocean Endeavour

Ocean Endeavour

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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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 Polar Specialist

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

Built to ply the ice-choked waters of Western Greenland, the very popular Ocean Nova is a capable and comfortable ship carrying just 68 passengers.

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Ortelius

Ortelius

An outstanding expedition ship with a hard-won reputation for navigating some of the Polar region's most challenging waters, carrying just 116 guests.

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MV Ushuaia

MV Ushuaia

The Ushuaia is renowned for its friendly South American staff, consistently high customer feedback, good value and for holding only 88 passengers.

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What our customers think

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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.

David Irwin United Kingdom February 2019

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

Mei Mei Mai United States Of America February 2019

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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.

Larry California February 2017

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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.

Sue Australia February 2018

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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.

Zoltan & Stephen Nemeth Florida January 2018

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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!

Erika Australia March 2017

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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.

Kushal UAE February 2018

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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.

Mark Australia February 2016

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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.

Bob California November 2017

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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.

Charles & Denise UK February 2018

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Very useful to speak to someone with direct knowledge of the trip, the ship and some of the expedition team. Very pleased with the recommendation. Although we knew the route we wanted, we didn't want to choose the wrong ship - the advice we received was extremely helpful even down to the best specific cabin.

Mary Carswell United Kingdom October 2018

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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.

Patricia Schenkkan United States Of America December 2018

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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!

Chris USA September 2018

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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.

Isla UK February 2016

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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.

Mary and John New York January 2017

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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.

Annuar Faisal Malaysia January 2019

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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 Explorer

Silver Explorer

Intimate luxury at the highest of standards is to be found on this 132 passenger super-yacht. 5* service with all the excursions of an expedition ship.

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Silver Cloud

Silver Cloud

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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Our best voyages to Antarctica

How We Can Help You

We understand the importance of this long anticipated trip and how crucial it is to get it just right. We'll guide you throughout your Antarctic journey - from making the right choices when booking, to packing the correct clothing and equipment - offering sound, impartial advice and support at every stage.

  1. Find your perfect expedition

    We work with all the Antarctic expedition operators, offering 16 different vessels and over 80 Antarctic voyages and land-based expeditions. Find Out More.

  2. Help you decide when to take your trip of a lifetime

    We can help you decide which month will suit you best and advise when to start planning ahead for the best choice of cabins and voyages. Find Out More.

  3. Arrange your pre and post-Antarctic travel

    Our Patagonia experts would love to help you discover Patagonia before or after your Antarctic expedition. We'd also be pleased to help you book your flights. Find Out More.

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?

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

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