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Best Cruises to Antarctica

Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people, not only because of how difficult it is to get there but also the cost. A trip to Antarctica is likely to be the single most expensive trip a person takes in their life. That’s why selecting your Antarctica tour operator is so important!

In planning my trip to Antarctica, I did extensive research before selecting a ship and tour operator – and it’s all summarized here. Use this guide to the best cruises to Antarctica to plan your bucket list adventure!

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Know Your Priorities

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the options available for cruises to Antarctica. Before you dive into this research, ask yourself these 4 questions to ground yourself before planning a trip to Antarctica. These will help you filter through the options and choose the one that is right for you.

About Antarctica Tour Companies & Travel Planning Resources

Penguins perched together on a rock in front of a snowy landscape in Antarctica
Gentoo penguins were the most common species seen on my Antarctica cruise.

Let’s talk about Antarctica tour companies and travel planning resources. After spending hours scouring the internet and reaching out to my network of adventure travelers, one thing was clear. 

There are a small number of companies that actually lead expedition cruises and tours in Antarctica. These companies operate the ship, transfers, onboard services, excursions and other activities. However, there are a large number of travel planning companies that plan trips to Antarctica in partnership with the tour companies. So, there are Antarctica tour operators and then there are travel planners who book trips with those tour operators.

This may be obvious to some, but it was clear in my research that this was a point of confusion.

I worked with a travel planner, Ronda from The Wright Getaway, to book my expedition cruise to Antarctica as part of a group trip she was hosting. It happened to be on one of the ships I was most interested in, Hurtrigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen. She did an excellent job taking care of all the details to make the most of the experience.

Another great resource is the Antarctica Travel – From Bucket List to Booked Facebook group. The group is led by a team of female polar expedition guides with extensive experience leading expeditions to Antarctica. It’s a wealth of resources and support to plan your trip.

Best Cruises to Antarctica

As I did my research, several Antarctica tour companies consistently came up with positive reviews.

Quark Expeditions

Quark Expeditions was the most highly and consistently rated as one of the best cruises to Antarctica in my research. Their first expedition was in 1991 to the North Pole and since then they’ve expanded to include destinations around the world. 

Their ships are on the smaller side and offer a more intimate experience with a capacity of under 200 passengers. Smaller ships mean that, weather permitting, passengers can come and go from the ship on excursions relatively easily without rigorous group scheduling like you can expect on larger ships.

The details: Wifi is not included in the base cost and past passengers reports that the food is just “ok”. There is a single supplement for solo travelers but that can be waived if you are willing to be paired with another solo passenger. 

Pro Tip: Worried about crossing the Drake Passage? Quark offers an option to fly across the Drake. But, keep in mind flights are heavily dependent on weather. Expect delays.

While they may not be the cheapest, one traveler I spoke with who has been to Antarctica twice had extremely positive things to say about the staff and crew onboard.

Oceanwide Expeditions

Oceanwide Expeditions specializes in voyages to the Arctic and Antarctic. They aim to maximize the time off the ship with twice-daily outings on both land/ ice and water. Their ships are on the smaller side as well, with maximum passenger capacity of under 200 people. 

Passengers can expect comfort and excellent guides over a luxury onboard experience. The ships are older but being updated to be more sustainable by reducing emissions, eliminating single use plastic onboard and minimizing waste production through onboard recycling. 

Pro Tip: One of Oceanwide’s ships, Ortelius, is know for breaking through the ice and using the onboard helicopter so that passengers can get a glimpse of the elusive Emperor penguins on the itineraries that go to those destinations.

The details: There is a single supplement for solo travelers if you wish to have a room to yourself. Otherwise, the fee is waived and you will be paired with another solo traveler of the same gender in the same cabin class. 

Polar Latitudes

Polar Latitudes is highly specialized in travel to Antarctica (and only Antarctica) with their first full season voyages beginning in 2013. This earns them a spot on this list as one of the best cruises to Antarctica! Their newest ship, the MS Seaventure, began sailing to Antarctica in 2021 and has a maximum capacity of 139 passengers. 

The company is Founder-owned and operated. Leading Antarctica expeditions is their passion. You may even find the owner onboard your ship!

The Seaventure meets the highest emissions standards set by the International Maritime Organization, which has reduced the CO2 impact by 20% per passenger. While they haven’t completely eliminated single use plastic onboard, they have taken steps to drastically reduce it. 

The details: There is a single supplement for solo travelers. This fee is waived if you are willing to be paired with another solo traveler of the same gender in the same cabin class.

G Adventures

G Adventures is one of the more budget-friendly Antarctica expedition options. If you are looking for a great Antarctica cruise for solo travelers, this is it! Expect the food and rooms to be adequate but not extravagant. 

Unlike the other expedition companies on this list, G Adventures does not specialize in Antarctic or polar travel. They offer tours around the world on every continent. So, while they do specialize in curating and hosting travel experiences at a more affordable cost, if you are looking for deep expertise and passion for Antarctic travel other expedition companies may be a better fit.

The details: Wifi available at an additional cost. A single supplement applies for a room to yourself, but generally solo travelers share a room with another traveler of the same gender. 

Hurtrigruten Expeditions

A Hurtigruten ship is in the distance in Antarctica with a group of penguins in front of it.
Hurtrigruten Expeditions MS Fridtjof Nansen seen during a landing activity in Antarctica.

Hurtigruten Expeditions is a Norwegian based fleet that specializes in Arctic and Antarctic cruises. Their fleet in Antarctica is comprised of 2 ships: the MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Roald Amundsen. The ships are modern, built in 2019 and 2020, and are beautifully designed to be both comfortable and luxurious. Read my complete review of the MS Fridtjof Nansen here.

Hurtrigruten’s Antarctica expeditions are some of the larger ships that make landings on the continent of Antarctica, each with a capacity of over 500 passengers. However, they operate at about half of that capacity when sailing in Antarctica in order to ensure passengers can enjoy excursions and zodiak cruises each day (weather permitting). So, don’t let the larger capacity scare you!

One thing I love about Hurtrigruten Expeditions is their focus on sustainable travel and education onboard. There were more onboard classes and workshops than I had time to attend! And, if you’re feeling a little seasick or tired, you can live stream the lectures in your room.

The details: Wifi is available onboard at NO additional cost. There is a single supplement fee however they occasionally run a “no single supplement” promotion where they waive this fee. Check the website for the latest info.

Albatros Expeditions

Albatros Expeditions is a family-owned company that specializes in Arctic and Antarctic exploration. I appreciate their focus on sustainability and diversity. They currently have two ships that sail in Antarctica, both of which are small and hold less than 200 guests. 

Expect the onboard experience to be more modern, sustainable and luxurious compared to most ships aside from Hurtigruten. Newer ships also are more stable in the rough waters of the Drake Passage.

The details: Wifi available at an additional cost. A single supplement if you’d like a room to yourself. Solo travelers willing to share a room with another solo guest of the same gender can do so without paying the fee. However, this is only available in certain cabin types.

Best Antarctica Tour Operators

When it comes to choosing an Antarctica tour operator, there’s no one right answer. It really depends on what is most important to you! Whether you are looking for the best Antarctica cruise for solo travelers or the best small ship cruise to Antarctica, there are great options to choose from. It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime!

Related content to read next:

What the Heck is There to do in Antarctica?

Antarctica Cruise Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

Check out my Antarctica travel page for even more inspiration and tips!

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