Follow in the path of the great explorers from the expeditions of the past with modern, spacious and well-designed ships for the journey of a lifetime.
Most Antarctica itineraries start and end in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina, from where it is a day and a half’s journey to cross the Drake Passage to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. The starting point for other itineraries is Punta Arenas, in Southern Chile with flights from there to Stanley in the Falklands, or to King George Island, in the South Shetlands. We will book arrangements in Chile or Argentina at the start and end of your journey according to your needs.
We also book tailor-made holidays to the Falklands, either making use of the flight from RAF Brize Norton or flying via Chile.
Important Information about Antarctic Expedition Cruise Ships
Travellers to Antarctica need to understand that landing sites are restricted in Antarctica according to the capacity of the ship.
Category 1 expedition vessels (up to 200 passengers): These have the broadest range of potential landing sites.
Category 2 expedition vessels (201-500 passengers): These are permitted to land in a few restricted areas only.
Cruise-only ships carrying more than 500 passengers are not permitted to make landings.
Briefing for Travellers: https://iaato.org/visitors-slide-show
The spectacular Antarctic Peninsula is 600 miles south of Tierra del Fuego across the Drake Passage with impressive peaks such as Mount Owen, Mount Scott and Mount Jackson which are actually a continuation of the Andes. The north-western tip is ice-free for most of the year attracting vast colonies of penguins and seals and forming the feeding waters for whales. The Gerlache Strait is the centre-piece for most journeys into the western Antarctic Peninsula with stunningly beautiful scenery and an abundant richness of wildlife.
Ushuaia is typically the start and end of the itinerary, with a 2 days crossing the Drake Passage each way. Longer itineraries include the Weddell Sea, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
Each year a number of expedition cruises include a stop at the Falklands on a journey to South Georgia and/or on to Antarctica. These itineraries usually only stay for a day or two visiting such places as West Point Island with notable colonies of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatrosses, Carcass Island with gentoo and magellan penguins and Stanley. Amongst the birdlife are southern giant petrels, endemic Falkland steamer ducks, kelp and dolphin gulls, black-crowned night herons, red-backed hawks and peregrine falcons.
Please contact us to discuss tailor-made itineraries for travel to the Falkland Islands, which we book either with flights from RAF Brize Norton or via Chile.
The South Shetland Islands comprise a collection of 11 major islands including King George Island, Deception Island, Livingston Island and Elephant Island together with a number of minor ones. The South Shetlands are located around 60 miles northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula and are regarded as the mildest and most accessible part of the region.
Amongst the wildlife, there are colonies of chinstrap penguins, elephant seals breed on the beaches and humpback whales feed in the rich protected waters.
Elephant Island is best known as the place of refuge for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s crew after the loss and break-up of the Endurance in 1916.
Please note that landings on Elephant Island are difficult and not always possible.
Captain James Cook circumnavigated the island in 1775, made the first landing, claimed it for Great Britain and, for good measure, named it after King George III.
South Georgia is 860 miles east-southeast of the Falkland Islands, the greatest breeding and feeding grounds for warm-blooded marine life.
The island supports some 5 million fur seals, 100 million sea birds, around half the planet’s elephant seals and millions of penguins. The beach at Salisbury Plain alone is the breeding ground for half a million king penguins.
Famously, after leaving most of his men at Elephant Island, Sir Ernest Shackleton reached South Georgia in a valiant and dramatic journey in an open lifeboat and returned to rescue them. He is buried at Grytviken.
The Weddell Sea, on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, has a colder climate and more sea ice, making for difficult navigation and unpredictable landings. But the sight of vast tabular glaciers (up to a mile long) coming out of Antarctic Sound is truly breathtaking. Weddell and crabeater seals, humpback, killer and minke whales and adelie penguins abound.
Some of the longer trips to the western Antarctic Peninsula aim to navigate through the spectacularly beautiful narrow passage of Lemaire Channel before pushing further south to cross the Antarctic Circle. Between October and December the sea ice can be too dense so such itineraries usually have to wait until January and February.
A two-hour flight takes you from Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, directly to King George Island in the South Shetlands where you board your expedition ship to the Antarctic Peninsula. This avoids the stormy seas of the Drake Passage.
There are a few opportunities each year to travel to the Ross Sea from New Zealand. These tend to be much longer journeys (four weeks +), including the subantarctic New Zealand islands. These often visit the huts used by the explorers from the ‘heroic age’ of exploration, such as Captain Scott’s at Cape Evans, Shackleton’s at Cape Royds and Mawson’s at Cape Denison. In the 2019/20 season there are journeys between New Zealand and Argentina via the Ross Sea, polar circle and Antarctic Peninsula.
The Subantarctic Islands south of New Zealand, located in the great southern ocean that encircles Antarctica are havens for some of the most abundant and unique wildlife on the planet. They have all been declared Nature Reserves with recognised World Heritage status. They comprise six groups: the Bounty Islands, the Antipodes, the Snares, the Auckland Islands, Campbell Island and Macquarie Island. Itineraries to the Subantarctic Islands usually start and end in New Zealand’s South Island.
Dates and Prices
Download: Antarctic Dates and Prices 2019-20
Early booking offers for 2020/2021:
Many of the Antarctic cruises & expedition boats offer early booking discounts with considerable savings for the 2020-21 season.
Departure dates and prices for the October 2020 – March 2021 season are now through for most of the ships for this this season. We will add more as soon as they become available.
Updated 10 April 2019: Antarctic Dates and Prices 2020-21
Antarctica cruises are governed by the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty under which ‘…Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.’
Fifty-three nations are signatories to the accord. Of particular note are the Environmental Protocols of 1991 concerning the protection of wildlife in Antarctica, details of which can be found on the following website: