Best Antarctica Expedition Cruise: Hurtigruten MS Fridtjof Nansen Review

Antarctica is a dream destination for many adventure travelers. But, planning a trip to Antarctica can be overwhelming. If you’re looking for the best Antarctica expedition cruise, the MS Fridtjof Nansen ship with Hurtrigruten is a great place to start. 

This modern, beautifully designed and hybrid-powered ship is unbelievable. This MS Fridtjof Nansen review is based on my experience on board the Highlights of Antarctica 12-day cruise with Hurtigruten in December 2022. Keep reading for details on the MS Fridtjof Nansen cabins, restaurants, amenities and more!

Photos from an Antarctica expedition including a sauna, the cruise ship and a penguin.

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Why book Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen to Antarctica?

Among the companies offering Antarctica expeditions, Hurtigruten is a standout due to their commitment to sustainability. They aim to be “the most sustainable travel operator in the world.” On board the MS Fridtjof Nansen, they have eliminated single-use plastic, provide all passengers with a reusable water bottle with refill stations throughout the ship, and implemented unique innovations that have reduced their carbon emissions by over 20% compared to cruise ships of a similar size.

In addition, passengers can contribute by hanging a green tag on their cabin door to indicate that their towels and sheets don’t need changing in order to save energy and water. Each time passengers participate in this program, a donation is made to the Hurtigruten Foundation. Paper schedules for each day’s activities have been replaced with an app and are posted on monitors throughout the ship.

Over a decade ago, Hurtigruten eliminated the use of heavy fuel oil in their ships and continues evaluating new green fuel options as they become available. In short, if sustainability is important to you, Hurtrigruten is a great option for you to consider.

The MS Fridtjof Nansen is a modern ship, built in 2020 in Norway, and is named after a Norwegian explorer most famous for his attempt to reach the geographical north pole in the late 1800’s. It’s capacity is 528 passengers, however for Antarctica expeditions it’s more common for the ship to carry ~300 passengers to allow more time for everyone to enjoy landings and other activities.

Wooden sauna benches look out towards a wall of windows on board Hurtigruten's MS Fridtjof Nansen ship.
The sauna on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen looks out onto a wall of windows.

The ship is exquisitely designed and built from Scandinavian materials. On board you will find an impressive selection of amenities including a fitness center, spa, sauna, two outdoor hot tubs, a heated pool, a classroom, a science center, three restaurants and a lounge. There are three main types of cabins to choose from, all of which are beautifully designed and more spacious than other cruises I’ve experienced. There is a satellite television, two reclining chairs, and heated bathroom floors in all cabins with additional amenities such as a balcony available in some cabin types.

Although expedition trips are often stereotyped as “basic” accommodations, Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen is modern and luxurious.

What I Love About Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen

Hurtrigruten has been leading expeditions and sailing to remote destinations for over 100 years. While they operate cruises in destinations around the world, they specialize in polar expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

The MS Fridtjof Nansen ship is one of their newest ships. From November to March it sails to Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina. The remainder of the year it sails to destinations in the Arctic region such as Norway. 

A comfy lounge chair looking out of a wall of windows on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen in Antarctica.
Read a book, nap, or enjoy a drink in the Explorer Lounge on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen.

I could rave about the MS Fridtjof Nansen for hours, but will do my best to touch on what I love the most about this ship:

  • Hybrid-powered 
  • The crew (housekeeping, wait staff, expedition crew, and front desk team)*
  • Daily landing and zodiac cruise (weather dependent)
  • Wifi included
  • Beer and wine included with meals
  • Very well organized**
  • Broad range of workshops, classes and activities – you can even stream them live on the tv in your room if you aren’t feeling up for attending them in person!
  • The food (let’s just say I gained a bit on board because it was so good!)
  • The sauna
  • Commitment to safety
  • Seamless travel experience ***
  • Beautifully designed and comfortable cabins
Interior of the Arctic Superior Cabin with balcony on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen.
The Arctic Superior cabins on Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen are on an upper deck and come with a balcony (cabin code XT)

* Even during our very rough Drake Passage crossing, the housekeeping and wait staff were incredible. I was amazed at how they continued to provide service in those conditions. 

** Because the MS Fridtjof Nansen is on the larger size for Antarctica expeditions, the crew needed to be very organized to ensure everyone got an opportunity to experience each landing, cruise and the optional add-on excursions without feeling rushed. They were so well organized and communicated effectively to passengers. I always felt like I knew what was going on, where I needed to be, and where to go.

Passengers boarding a zodiac boat from the MS Fridtjof Nansen expedition launch area in Antarctica.
Boarding the zodiac boats takes place at the Expedition Launch area on a lower deck.

Being a larger ship and with the latest technology, the MS Fridtjof Nansen seemed to handle the Drake Passage better than some of the older and smaller ships. The first day of my trip had over 10 meter (33 foot) swells through the Drake Passage. Two ships who left after us but on the same day had to turn around and depart again a day or two later. If you are concerned about crossing the Drake Passage, the MS Fridtjof Nansen may help make it more manageable for you.

*** From start to finish, my Antarctica expedition on the MS Fridtjof Nansen was seamless. Included in your package is a hotel in Buenos Aires the night before, orientation with Hurtigruten’s ground crew at the hotel, transfer to the airport in Buenos Aires, a charter flight to and from Ushuaia, and transfer into Ushuaia from the airport. Once on board, any additional expenses are charged using your room key and settled at checkout. Hurtigruten has many options for excursions before or after an Antarctica expedition as well!

Pro Tip: Consider joining the free 1893 Ambassador loyalty program before departing. Read more about the benefits here.

What I Don’t Love About Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen

There is very little I didn’t love about my experience on Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen Antarctica expedition. Here are three things you should be aware of before booking your trip.

An Antarctica expedition is expensive. There’s no getting around that. Within that already expensive range, an Antarctica expedition on the MS Fridtjof Nansen is in the middle to high end of cost depending on how far you book in advance and what cabin you choose to stay in. However, for all the reasons I listed above, I feel that there’s strong value for the cost if you can afford it. 

Pro Tip: If you book more than 90 days in advance, you can spread the cost of your Antarctica expedition with Hutrigruten out. Check their terms and conditions for the latest info but at the time of this being written, 25% is due at the time of booking with the balance due 90 days prior to departure. 

On top of the cost already being relatively high, there is also the consideration of the single occupancy cost. Prices for Hurtigruten’s Antarctica expeditions are based on double occupancy, assuming two passengers will be sharing a cabin. Those traveling solo are subject to a single occupancy cost which is generally a percentage of the cabin price. For instance, say you book your cabin for $8000 USD and the single occupancy cost is 75% of the cabin rate, you would end of paying an additional $6000 or $14000 total to have the room to yourself. 

Pro Tip: Check Hurtigruten’s special offers page as they occasionally waive the single occupancy fee. Currently there is an offer that waives all single occupancy fees on specific expeditions in 2023!

There are several Facebook groups (Hurtigruten Insiders, Antarctica: Bucket List to Booked) where people will post that they are looking for roommates. Obviously, do this at your own risk. Alternatively, consider booking with a travel agent like I did and they may be able to pair you up with other solo travelers. 

A scientist giving a lecture about Antarctic fish on board the ship in Antarctica.
Attend one of many classes and workshops available on board Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen.

Finally, expeditions are different from typical cruises. They are geared towards outdoor activities, photography, and educational experiences. If you are looking for live music, theater, or other entertainment you may be disappointed. However, if you enjoy learning about Antarctic wildlife, the history of Antarctic exploration, wildlife photography, knot tying, and climate change you won’t be bored.

Ok, one more thing. As a coffee lover, I was very disappointed in the coffee on board. It might be the type of bean they use but despite my best efforts, I could not drink it. If you love coffee, consider bringing your own.

Overall Opinion of Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen Expedition to Antarctica

This was among the best travel experiences I’ve had to date. From the ship, to the crew, to the food, and the seamless experience created by Hurtigruten from start to finish, I loved every minute of my experience on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen as part of Hurtigruten’s Highlights of Antarctica package. 

A trip to Antarctica is a bucket list item for many people. Having talented and experienced expedition crew members and photographers on board made sure that we made the most of this one in a lifetime adventure. It’s also arguably the most remote destination in the world. The crew and ship made me feel safe throughout the expedition and with the included wifi on board, I was able to stay in touch with my family and let them know I was safe.

The observation deck on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen ship in Antarctica.
View from the interior portion of the Observation Deck on board the MS Fridtjof Nansen in Antarctica.

How Does Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen Compare to Alternatives?

There are many options to choose from when booking an Antarctica expedition. As part of my research, I spoke with people who have traveled with different expedition companies. Here’s what I learned from them and through my own research.

Quark Expeditions

Quark was the most highly rated and consistently recommended in my research. Their first expedition was in 1991 to the North Pole and since they’ve expanded and evolved 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. While they may not be the cheapest, one traveler I spoke with who has been to Antarctica twice told me the “staff are far better than any other tour company.” 

Oceanwide Expeditions 

Oceanwide Expeditions specializes in voyages to the Arctic and Antarctic regions. They aim to maximize time off of the ship either on shore or on zodiac boats. Their ships are on the smaller side as well, with maximum passenger capacity of under 200 people.

Polar Latitudes

This expedition company is highly specialized in travel to Antarctica with their first full season voyages beginning in 2013. Their newest ship, the MS Seaventure, began sailing to Antarctica in 2021 bringing their fleet to three ships total.

Polar Latitudes is Founder-owned and operated. Leading Antarctica expeditions is their passion. In fact you may even find that the owner is with you on board your ship! 

G Adventures

G Adventures is one of the more budget-friendly Antarctica expedition options, geared towards a younger crowd and solo travelers. Solo travelers are given the option to share a room with another traveler of the same sex with options to secure your own room for a cost.

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.

Albatros Expeditions

This family-owned company specializes in Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. Similar to Hurtigruten, they focus on sustainability as well as diversity. They currently have just one ship sailing to Antarctica with another joining their fleet in 2023. Both are small, with less than 100 staterooms. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Hurtigruten Antarctica Expeditions & the MS Fridtjof Nansen

It’s likely that you have a million questions about Hurtrigruten and the MS Fridtjof Nansen. I’ll answer the most frequent questions I receive here but encourage you to check out the extensive FAQ on Hurtrigruten’s website as well.

What activities are included in your expedition cost?

Each day in Antarctic waters, weather permitting, all passengers can take part in a landing and a cruise. A landing typically includes a hike, wildlife viewing, and other activities. Passengers are transported from the ship to land on a small zodiac boat. A cruise is a zodiac boat ride in the harbor or channel around the ship to look for wildlife, icebergs and other sites. Both the landing and the cruise vary in duration but tend to be up to 2 hours each.

Kayaking on an Antarctica expedition cruise with Hurtigruten
Kayaking is one of four optional add-on excursions available on Hurtigruten’s Antarctica expeditions.

What optional activities are available?

Hurtigruten offers four optional add-on activities on their Antarctica expeditions. These are kayaking, snowshoeing, camping and the science boat. Due to limited spaces in these activities, interested passengers must attend an info session on board and, if still interested, submit their name for a lottery. 

What happens if there is bad weather?

The biggest thing to know about Antarctica expeditions is to be flexible. The weather can change very quickly, creating unsafe conditions for landings and cruises. The expedition leader is responsible for deciding if it is safe to complete the day’s activities. Expect changes, it’s part of the experience.

What gear is provided?

On the MS Fridtjof Nansen, passengers are provided with boots, a wind and waterproof shell jacket, and a life jacket. For safety and operational reasons, all three were required to be worn anytime passengers leave the ship. 

Me on a land excursion on an Antarctica expedition cruise.
Hurtigruten provides all passengers a windproof shell jacket, boots, and a life jacket to wear on their Antarctica expeditions.

For landings, hiking poles were available. For all optional excursions such as kayaking, camping and snowshoeing all necessary gear is provided.

For more tips read my complete Antarctica cruise packing guide!

How do I know where to go and what to do each day on board?

Upon check-in all passengers are assigned to a group, which are named after Antarctic wildlife. To minimize waste, the daily schedule is updated on the Hurtigruten app which is accessible to all passengers and on monitors on board. The daily schedule will show what time each group should report to the Expedition Launch area.

Meals can be scheduled through the app at any of the three restaurants, but drop ins are ok as well.

What food and drink is included?

All three meals are included with your expedition. Beer and wine is included with both lunch and dinner. There is one restaurant on board that provides takeaway if you prefer to eat in your room or elsewhere on board. In general, breakfast and lunch are buffet which includes vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, and plant-based options. Dinner tends to be seated service with a different menu each day. 

Is the Hurtigruten Antarctica drink package worth it?

Personally, I don’t think so. If you do the math, you would need to drink 4-5 drinks per day in addition to the beer and wine included with your lunch and dinner in order to get your money’s worth. Individual drinks can be charged to your room and paid for at checkout.

How do you pay for stuff on board?

There is very little you need to pay for once on board the ship. Typical charges would include any optional excursions, drinks in the lounge, spa services, postage, laundry and purchases at the gift shop. All charges on board are made using your individually assigned room key. At checkout the account can be paid using a credit card. 

Tips can be given directly to staff or placed in an envelope at the front desk.

Still have questions about Antarctica expeditions with Hurtigruten or the MS Fridtjof Nansen? Drop a comment below! I’d be happy to answer them.

Related content to read next:

What to Wear for Winter Hiking: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

Visit my Antarctica travel page for additional resources and tips.

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A cruise ship in Antarctica as seen from above with glaciers and mountains in the distance.

10 thoughts on “Best Antarctica Expedition Cruise: Hurtigruten MS Fridtjof Nansen Review

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    I’m so excited for you and your wife! It’s going to be an incredible adventure. Great questions! I did camp out on the ice and loved it. I don’t recall the exact cost but believe it was around $450(US). Camping is one of the most popular excursions (that’s not included in the cruise) and has very limited spots. Expect there to be a mandatory info session while you’re onboard crossing the Drake Passage. If after attending the info session, you are still interested in going (they explain how it all works in more detail) you have to put your name into the lottery. In general, they treat people in the same cabin as a pair so if one of you gets in its likely both of you will. So be sure to attend the info session and put your names in the lottery.

    As far as bathrooms while camping, they do recommend you limit liquid intake that afternoon but there are portable cartridge toilets you can use. They dig out a spot in the snow and build a half wall of snow around one side of them for privacy. It’s quite cold so you won’t want to have to use it multiple times if you don’t have to. Keep in mind the sun doesn’t set this time of year so it will be light out all night. I was fairly warm in the sleeping bag they provided but put hand warmers in my socks and in my chest pocket overnight to make it more comfortable.

    Hope this helps – have an amazing trip!

  2. Les says:

    Great blog. Turns out my wife and I are already booked on the FRIDTJOF NANSEN departing on Dec 2nd. Great minds think alike!

    I’d like to know whether you camped out on the ice or if you have any information or recommendations? Also, how expensive is it? Finally, my wife has eard there is a hygene requirement that prevents a camper from even urinating during the entire experience. Is that correct?

    Looking forward to your reply.


  3. This Big Wild World says:

    You’re welcome, Jessica! I completely understand why stepping foot on Antarctica is important for you – it was for me too! I’m really glad you asked this because I can see this wasn’t clear in my post. Hurtigruten allows you to set foot on Antarctica and that is included with the costs of the expedition cruise. Every day we were in Antarctica we got to go on land (referred to as a “landing”) and on a zodiac boat ride (referred to as a “cruise”) around the harbor. This is weather dependent (as is everything in Antarctica) but it’s reasonable to expect to go on land several times during your trip.

    The excursions that cost extra and had limited spots were camping, kayaking, and snowshoeing.

    I hope this helps address your concern!

  4. Jessica Robertson says:

    Thank you for writing about your experience on this cruise. I’m thinking about booking it, but the only thing that concerns me is the chance of not being able to actually walk on Antartica. You said that due to limited spaces in these activities, you get to participate if your name is picked in the lottery. Is it a relatively small amount of people interested in actually setting foot on land? Or did a lot of people on the cruise end up disappointed because they didn’t get pick?

  5. This Big Wild World says:

    The Drake shake was quite the experience, for sure, but it’s also part of the adventure! I’m glad we got to experience it but was also glad when it was over 🙂

  6. This Big Wild World says:

    Thanks, Josy! I can relate. Cruises are not really my thing, but I’m learning that sustainable expedition cruises are 🙂 I was really impressed by all the elements of the ships design and services that were environmentally friendly – and, yes, posh too! That sauna is so dreamy.

  7. Kez says:

    Sounds like you had an amazing time! That ship does look very impressive.

    Antarctica is on my list, but the Drake shake doesn’t sound like fun at all.

  8. Josy A says:

    Oooh I have been looking forward to your Antarctica posts Susan! This actually sounds amazing. I mean, it is pricy, but the mean reason I have never wanted to go on a cruise was as they are so, so bad for the environment (before covid…since covid I’ve added the petri dish aspect of cruising…)

    Trust you to find a sustainable option that isn’t going to ruin the very place you wanted to visit! It all looks so gorgeous and posh too!

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