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, here are a few key tips on what to consider:
- Decide on your key decision-making criteria and prioritise them - size of ship, passenger capacity, stability, comfort level or activities on offer.
- 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.
- If stability is high on your list, consider larger ships, or those renowned for their stability.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
An outstanding expedition ship with a hard-won reputation for navigating some of the Polar region's most challenging waters, carrying just 116 guests.
One of the original expeditionary ships, her small size (just 48 passengers) hides her immense strength to combat the ice.
Spirit of Enderby
This plucky little 50 passenger ship spends her time in the icy Ross Sea and Russian Arctic where she is very much at home.
The Ushuaia is renowned for its friendly South American staff, consistently high customer feedback, good value and for holding only 88 passengers.
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.
John Newby Polar Specialist
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.
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.
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.
Refurbished for her 128 guests in 2017 and with a stunning history of polar exploration this is one of the Grand Dames of Antarctica
This sturdy and recently renovated ship, carrying 214 passengers, offers some of the best value trips. Life on board is comfortable, and for anyone to experience.
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 …
The stable Ocean Diamond is the largest and fastest of all the vessels, carrying up to 189 passengers.
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.
National Geographic Orion
One of the youngest ships in the Antarctic Fleet, this 102 passenger ship was built specifically for expeditionary voyaging, and comfortably combines an adventurous …
National Geographic Explorer
A class act from the pioneers of polar travel, the Explorer carries 148 guests in great comfort.
The Sea Spirit offers elegant style and spacious cabins for her 114 guests to travel in style at an affordable price.
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 …
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.
Spacious cabins, panoramic public areas, high ice-rating and outstanding expedition staff make this 146 guest ship a fabulous base for exploration.
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…
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 …
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…
What our customers think
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
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
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
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 Florida January 2018
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Le Boreal, Le Lyrial, Le Soleal, L'Austral
Purpose built expedition ships with state of the art luxury. These ships offer 5* service for their 200 guests travelling in serious comfort.
After a multi-million dollar refit in 2017 this luxury vessel has become the last word in luxury for 296 adventurers, with fine dining and butler service to boot.
Our best voyages to Antarctica
With three medium-sized expedition ships and regular departure dates throughout the season, this well priced voyage is a popular option. Across striking landscapes and icy seas your company will include penguins, seals, whales and skuas. For the adventurous, optional kayaking…
The ultimate Antarctic adventure, this trip is specifically for the active traveller. Spend 6 days kayaking, hiking, camping, mountaineering and snowshoeing, all included in the price. A medium-sized expedition ship acts as your floating ‘basecamp’. Great value for money backed…
Looking for an Antarctic adventure without compromising on comfort and service? Look no further. Benefitting from a $10 million refurbishment, this stylish 110-passenger ship, with its cavernous suites, fine dining and compelling itinerary, offers a very polished Southern Ocean adventure,…
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.
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.
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.
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.