Antarctica: costs explained

There are a lot of significant variables which influence price, and no two ship operators are the same. The size of the ship, standard of accommodation, and quality of food and service all play a part. But there are less obvious factors too: the calibre of the expeditionary staff, what clothing is provided, whether wine is included, staff to passenger ratio and the variety of complimentary activities. 

Price Guide (prices per person in USD)

Classic Antarctica Peninsula cruise (10-11 days)   $6,000 - 12,000

Flying Antarctic Safari (8 days)   $10,000 - 25,000

Antarctic Circle cruise (12-14 days)   $8,000 - 14,000

South Georgia, Falklands & Antarctica cruise (18-23 days)   $9,000 - 20,000

Ross Sea cruise (30 - 35 days)   $24,000

Antarctic Interior & Flights to the South Pole (7 - 9 days)   $48,150

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Securing a good price: FAQs

  • Do Antarctic boat operators offer discounts?

    They do, but they tend to reward those who book early (+10 months in advance), rather than slash back prices at the last minute. These smaller boats don’t suffer from the same inventory issues as larger cruise ships, so availability is often a bigger issue than price.

    Early booking incentives can be $1,000 - 1,500 off the voyage price per person, a hefty potential saving for those travellers that can book ahead.

    Note that not all ships offer an early booking incentive and these offers always have a deadline. Get in touch to find out what's available.

  • Will I get a better price booking early or late?

    In Antarctica, the best deals are to be had by those willing to commit early.

    Not only do certain boat operators offer an early booking discount of up to $1,500 off per person for a specified period, but booking early also ensures that you secure your preferred voyage and cabin, rather than sifting options at last minute which may present limited leftover choices.

  • Is it cheaper to book directly with the ship operator?

    No, you will pay exactly the same price whether you book directly or through an agent like Swoop. The prices of voyages are set, and many ship operators don’t accept direct bookings.

    There are in fact compelling benefits of booking through a specialist agent like Swoop:

    • A far broader choice of voyage options, not just what a single ship can offer
    • Access to objective, impartial and knowledgeable advice
    • In-depth first-hand knowledge of all of the ships - not just a select few
    • We can point out any special offers which you could take advantage of
    • Assistance with booking flights, hotels, transfers etc - in short, a full travel service
    • ATOL - Financial protection through our bond (UK travellers only)
  • Is ‘price’ a good criteria for choosing the right trip?

    Budget is always important, but needs to be considered in the wider context of what you are looking to achieve. There are so many other variables involved, that price in isolation isn’t an accurate measurement for good decision making. To ensure that you end up choosing exactly the right voyage for you, many other factors need to be taken into account.

    This is where a specialist like Swoop is invaluable by taking the time to listen and understand your ‘brief’ and what’s important to you, and then hand picking a small selection of carefully chosen options for you to consider.

  • Why does an Antarctic cruise cost so much?

    There’s no way round it, any trip to Antarctica is expensive and this is simply down to the remoteness of the destination and the costly logistics to get there.

    Ice-strengthened ships are very expensive to build and maintain, there's the ship's staff to look after (which can easily total more than 80 people) and then there's the actual fuel to run the ship.

    Fuel is a significant operating cost and is much more expensive to purchase in the remote areas where they can only re-fuel due to the added transportation costs.

    It's a costly endeavour for all concerned, however Swoop has never had anyone return from Antarctica who didn’t think that it was well worth the investment.

  • What's typically included in the voyage price?

    On any Antarctic voyage the following are typically included:

    Included

    • Accommodation on full board basis
    • All guided landings and excursions while on board ship
    • A programme of lectures by leading experts
    • Loan of a pair of rubber boots

    Depending on which ship you choose, some or all of the following may also be included:

    • Complimentary parka jacket (to keep)
    • Flights to/from Antarctica
    • Pro/Post voyage hotel accommodation
    • Additional activities such as snowshoeing, camping and photography workshops
    • Beverages with meals

    Optional extras on select trips

    • Camping in Antarctica
    • Sea kayaking
    • Reserved seating on the charter flight to Antarctica

    Additional costs, not included

    • Return flights from the start and end points of your trip
    • Travel insurance
    • Drinks and souvenirs on board ship
    • Internet data cards
    • Discretionary tip to the staff (approx. $15-20 per person per day)


High season vs shoulder season

High Season: Mid-December to late February are regarded as the ‘High Season’. The weather and wildlife are at their best, and there is a high demand. 

Shoulder Season: November and March, at the beginning and end of the season, are regarded as the ‘Shoulder Season’ months. Both are still great times to experience Antarctica, but prices are typically 10 - 25% lower, depending on which ship you choose. For travellers wanting the best of the shoulder season, December is a very good time to travel. There are long days during which you can explore, benign weather, plentiful wildlife activity and shoulder season pricing.

Antarctic travel costs explained

Is the high season premium worth it?

Everyone has different criteria, so this is a hard one to answer. What is indisputable is that Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and the key is choosing exactly the right trip for you. This will ensure you get the very most out of the experience, with budget being an important but often secondary consideration.

For us, the combination of longer days, more stable weather and the wildlife at their most active during high season justifies the 10 - 25% higher price, but it does depend on what’s important to you. Photographers, for example, really like November for the soft light, heavy ice conditions and spectacular skies, while February and March are traditionally best for whale sightings.

Antarctic travel costs explained

Fly vs cruise

How much more does it cost to fly to Antarctica?

The perception that flying is more expensive than sailing holds true in Antarctica. Expect to pay approximately an extra 20% if you choose to fly both to and from Antarctica.

This premium is largely attributable to the expensive charter flights to Antarctica which require specialist aircraft and highly experienced pilots.

The increase in the number of voyages now offering a combination of flying one way and sailing the other, and utilising cheaper scheduled flights via The Falkland Islands instead, has made flying to Antarctica more cost effective, and provided greater choice.

Antarctic travel costs explained

Travelling solo or with your family

Will it cost extra if I’m travelling solo?

These voyages are very popular with solo travellers, with typically at least 20% of passengers on board being single. The good news is that by travelling solo it doesn’t have to cost you any extra, depending on which option you choose:

  1. Sharing a cabin with fellow travellers (always of the same sex) - You choose which type of cabin you want and the ship operator then pairs you up
  2. Your own cabin - Single cabins used to be a rarity but are less so now. Be prepared to book early though as they are in high demand. This option is more expensive than sharing, but less expensive than paying a supplement for a twin cabin
  3. Single Supplement - If you definitely want your own cabin and a single isn’t available you will need to pay a single supplement to have your own twin cabin. The single supplement is typically 70% of the cost of the second berth, although one operator charges only 50%
Antarctic travel costs explained

Families

We’re increasingly seeing more intrepid families heading to Antarctica, and with this change some Antarctic ships are becoming more family friendly, both with the activities provided and on pricing.

The child and teenage discounts available vary considerably, with the most generous offering 25% off young travellers under 18 and 15% for those between 18 - 21 years old. In conjunction with an early booking discount, the savings can be really quite significant. For more details on how best to travel to Antarctica with your family and securing the best price, do get in touch.

Antarctic travel costs explained
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