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
Price and budget are important, but value is very different. That's why we take the time to make sure that you get as much as you possibly can from your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Tennessee Blackmore Polar Specialist
Securing a good price: FAQs
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
On any Antarctic voyage the following are typically 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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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%
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.
What our customers think
Truly the trip of a lifetime, it exceeded all expectations (and they were inevitably high). The place gets right into your very soul. Fantastic wildlife, birds and animals we will not see anywhere else, Leopard Seals close enough to the Zodiac to touch (but not recommended!)
David Irwin United Kingdom February 2019
I was pleased with the services from Swoop. The most important of these being the cruise that was recommended, which was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to maximize the opportunities to go onshore and we did. The Swoop staff were very organized and followed through on everything, ensuring that I knew what and when things needed to be completed.
Karyn & Richard California January 2018
It was the perfect choice. For the price we paid we definitely feel the trip delivered. Also don't forget: this is not a luxury cruise, this is an expedition.
Zoltan & Stephen Nemeth Florida January 2018
South Georgia was the highlight of the trip. Be sure to choose an itinerary that includes it and you won't regret it. Seeing the sheer volume of wildlife was incredible.
Janet Lee United States Of America November 2017
We were very pleased with Swoop. We were thrilled with the quick and helpful responses we received from you. The cabin and voyage recommended were perfect for us. We particularly liked the three choices you gave us which helped immensely in making our choice. We would highly recommend you.
Nancy Stagner United States Of America January 2018
Swoop was fantastic in everything. They were communicative and prompt. The assistance in picking a cruise and pricing out all our options was outstanding!
Kelly, Shannon and Robin Politte United States of America February 2019
It's expensive but I don't regret a penny.
John & Lesley UK March 2018
The trip was fabulous. And it did live up to our expectations. If you are considering it, then just go. It is worth the cost.
Nosh & Marylynn Texas December 2017
Do it! If you have a budget for an excursion style trip, save up some extra money and cruise the Island Sky/Hebriden Sky. It's worth the extra money.
James Riner United States Of America December 2018
Glad I booked with expert on polar trips, I was more than pleased with the voyage and I was very well guided to what I was hoping to do. Swoop staff were always very helpful, and your help with booking flights was invaluable.
Angela UK February 2018
Thanks to John for sending me the information that allowed me to take this trip. His diligence and attention to my needs (budget!) were what I needed to decide that the trip of a lifetime was within my reach!
Nancy Kohlman United States Of America December 2016
We had an absolutely amazing honeymoon in Antarctica. One I'm sure we'll never forget. Highlight was the wildlife and the staff; we learned so much and had so much fun. I would definitely recommend including South Georgia/Falklands for those people that can afford the time and budget. Thanks for all your help!
Tish & Obadiah Massachusetts December 2017
The Antarctic experience is so worth the effort and investment, it is magnificent beyond words.
Matthew Lambert United States of America December 2018
More about Antarctica
More helpful insights when researching your perfect Antarctic adventure.
How to get to Antarctica
When travelling to the remotest continent on earth, it pays to do your research on how best to get there.
What To Expect On An Antarctic Expedition Cruise
From zodiac safaris and continental landings to expert-led lectures, there’s absolutely no risk of boredom.
We've teamed up with some of the best cruise operators so that you can choose from over 80 cruise itineraries based on your dates, budget and appetite for adventure.
The Best Time to Visit Antarctica
Antarctica is accessible to visitors from November - March, each month however has its own particular characteristics. Swoop's Weather & Wildlife Guides can help you decide …