cruising Antarctica

There are some great excursions on this planet where you can compress the experience down to a few short days, but that’s not going to work for Antarctica. Even if you fly across the Drake Passage you’ll need plenty of time, so you might as well commit to the long haul. If you can extend your trip beyond the standard 12 or 13 days most cruises offer, you will be able to explore areas beyond the peninsula.

The Standard Cruise Route in Antarctica

Antarctica Cruise mapThe classic or standard itinerary in Antarctica is roughly similar across various agencies and ships, around the points that are most accessible from the end of South America. Ships have to carry most supplies they’ll need with them, after all, including everything on board that clients and the crew are going to eat.

Unless you fly in, you’ll leave from Ushuaia in Argentina and cross the rough Drake Passage to get to the start of Antarctica. This can induce seasickness in some, but you may see some whales on the way. Then you explore the peninsula, landing on shore for wildlife viewing and a range of activities. Here’s how Poseidon Expeditions describes their classic Antarctica cruise:

On these 12 day/11 night Antarctic trips, you’ll embark/disembark in Ushuaia, Argentina, cross the Drake Passage and spend five days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands. These expedition cruises are planned for the height of the Austral summer, when waterways are open to navigation and wildlife is at its most active. Numerous Zodiac landings are scheduled, but are determined by weather conditions and our experienced captain and expedition team.

Naturally there are lectures on board and guides to give background on the animals you’re seeing.

Beyond the Usual Cruise

If you want to spend more time at the bottom of the world, you can take a longer expedition that will explore further than most of the other ships plying these waters. Instead of just heading to the top of Antarctica and back, you’ll proceed on to South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands, also known as the Malvinas.

Penguin photography Antarctica cruise

(c) Anthony Smith

If you want to tick birds off your list, South Georgia Island is the place to go. It’s a home for 100,000 pairs of king penguins, as well as albatross, petrels, prions, skuas, shags, gulls, and terns. You’ll also probably spot the carnivorous South Georgia pintail duck and the world’s largest seabird: the wandering albatross.

This itinerary generally takes 20 to 23 days, depending on how long the stops are on the various islands.

A trip to Antarctica is not something you should plan lightly and by nature it’s a major investment. You can book a cruise for less than $6,000 but that’s going to be basic. Step up the budget and your whole experience will improve. Don’t forgot, in this environment you’ll be spending a lot of time on your ship, so make sure you’re in good hands.

We have an Antarctica travel section on Luxury Latin America with several articles and our pick for where to stay in Ushuaia. For sample itineraries and planning tips, visit the Poseidon Expeditions website. If you end up deciding to book with them, use this link to get a $100 shipboard credit.