Antarctica Cruise and Travel Guide - Page 2 - Details

Antarctica Cruise and Adventure Travel With Cool Antarctica and Expedition Trips

  Tourism in Antarctica - What will I do and what will I see?

First of all you will cross some of the most excitable seas that there are, The Drake Passage. This may happen in the night and you may be blissfully unaware of it. It may happen during the day time when you are very aware of it. Make the most of the experience, it's like a rite of passage, earning you your place in the South. Alternatively there is now an opportunity to fly across the Drake's passage in one or both directions if you want to save time or can't face the potential sea state, which incidentally may be contrary enough to be like a mill pond the time you go across it.

You will cross the Antarctic convergence, an area of upwelling sea water where deep water flowing north from the edge of the Antarctic continent meets deep south-flowing water, the two then flow upwards bringing dissolved nutrients to the surface to power the huge seasonal biological abundance during the long dark-free summer days. The circumpolar convergence is a barrier that moves backwards and forwards, but is very real and stable in the long term. So much so that virtually no fish species have managed to travel in either direction in the 25 million years since it arose. The convergence has also acted as a barrier to Decapod Crustaceans - crabs, crayfish, lobsters etc. These abound elsewhere in the world's seas, but are very rare in the Antarctic.

South of this you are in the "Southern" or "Antarctic" ocean, this is where Antarctica starts. You will see ice-bergs in quantity, and other types of ice too with a multitude of names, pack-ice, brash-ice, bergy bits and growlers to name but a few.

Albatrosses, seals, penguins, myriad other birds and if you're lucky - whales, will follow the ship for a while or just come for a look.

You will see some of the most beautiful scenery that the planet has to offer, seascapes, icescapes and landscapes that you only dream about. Except there you are - part of it all.

You will go on visits ashore generally of short duration (around 3 hours), of moderate intensity (less than 100 people), and of a frequency that depends on your tour operator. Typically there are 1-2 landings per day. Landings are made using Zodiacs (rubber inflatable boats) or if the ship is so equipped also by helicopter. Other activities by visitors to Antarctica include mountain climbing, camping, kayaking and scuba diving, there is even the occasional Antarctic marathon (yes honestly!).

Tour operators usually co-ordinate their itineraries so that ships do not see each other or allow shore parties from different ships overlap, this helps to maintain the "wilderness experience".

On your trips ashore you will see Antarctic wildlife up close and personal.

You can expect to see

  • Colonies of Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins - that vary between large and huge, in the summer months, they will be anywhere from courting and nesting building to nearly fledged chicks depending on the time you go. You will probably also see King, and Macaroni penguins if you visit sub-Antarctic islands such as South Georgia. If you go far enough south you may even see Emperor penguins.
  • Seals - Crabeater, Southern Elephant, Leopard and Weddell seals are to be found here, chilling out in the ocean, floating around on ice-floes or relaxing on rocky Antarctic shores.
  • Whales - humpback whales and killer whales are present and may pose for visitors, if you are lucky you may see other whale species, even the blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived.
  • Albatrosses - the "bird which made the wind to blow" with the largest wingspan in the world. Antarctic skuas, snow petrels, blue eyed shags, American sheathbills, cape pigeons, giant petrels, and tiny dancing Wilson's storm petrels amongst others may pass by.
Just remember that unlike in a zoo, you're in the cage and in an environment where you don't belong. This was the animals home long before we realised that it even existed.

Popular places to visit

  • Deception Island - a collapsed volcano that forms a natural harbour. It is situated among the South Shetland Islands at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The main attraction for tourists is the thermally heated water of Pendulum Cove. There are also the remains of scientific bases abandoned after a volcanic eruption in 1969.
  • Lemaire Channel - this used to be known as the 'Kodak Gap' because of its popularity with tourists and usage of photographic film that resulted. The Lemaire Channel is a narrow waterway formed between the cliffs of the Antarctic Peninsula and offshore Booth Island.
  • Paradise Harbour - On the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula, spectacular glaciers and scenery - once you've been, the name will make obvious sense.

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  What trips are available?

There are far more trips to the Antarctic Peninsula region leaving from the tip of South America than to the more difficult to get to Eastern Antarctica leaving from New Zealand or less commonly Australia. The travel time to the Antarctic Peninsulas is much less meaning the time taken and cost is less with many more trip options. It is also possible to fly one or both ways so saving sailing time. The relatively few Eastern Antarctic trips are usually booked up at least a year in advance.

  S.A. to Peninsula

  • Typical trip 10-12 days
    6-16 days available
  • Fly-cruise from 6 days
  • Fly cruise available as fly-fly / fly-sail / sail-fly
  • Sail time 2 days each way to reach Antarctica
  • Antarctic Peninsula is very wildlife rich
  • Visits Peninsula sites and some islands en route
  • Longer trips may cross the Antarctic Circle and/or enter the Weddell Sea

  S.A. to Peninsula, Falklands, S. Georgia

  • Typical trip 20 days
    15-24 days available
  • Shorter trips to have less time in Peninsula region
  • Some trips include flights across Drake Passage and/or to/from Falklands
  • Sail time 2 days across Drake Passage, 2 days to South Georgia
  • Antarctic Peninsula is very wildlife rich, South Georgia especially so
  • Visits Peninsula sites and some islands en route
  • Longer trips may cross the Antarctic Circle
  • Possibly the best all round trips due to diversity of scenery and wildlife and time spent at sea.
  • There are some trips of 15-20 days that only visit South Georgia and the Falkland Islands

  NZ or Australia to Eastern Antarctica

  • Typical trip 26-30 days
  • Usually leave from NZ, more rarely Hobart
  • No flight options
  • More time spent travelling at sea than on Peninsula trips
  • The whole region is deep south inside the Antarctic Circle
  • The Antarctic section is much less rich in wildlife compared to the Peninsula
  • Trips include wildlife super-abundant sub-Antarctic islands, havens for bird-watchers
  • Trips usually visit historical huts from the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration

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  What do I need to take?


When your feet are cold, cover your head. - Inuit saying.

As your trip will be in the Antarctic summer, you won't need to take any real extreme cold weather gear. Temperatures on many or most days will hover around freezing point, maybe dropping to an extreme of -10C (20F) or rising to +10C (50F). Obviously people adapt to the cold in different ways and I've seen some tourists in the Antarctic in light-weight clothing while others are wrapped up like the Michelin man in the same conditions. Layering is the key, then you can be flexible according to conditions.

Rain wear is the best bet for your outer layer, even though you probably won't get any rain, you may well get some not especially cold (and therefore quite wet) snow and will almost certainly get splashed significantly by sea water at some point while riding on a zodiac, you'll probably have to sit in a wet zodiac too at some time, so pants/trousers as well as a jacket are also needed.

Boots are very important, the neoprene-topped super-welly type are an excellent choice. These have a good solid rugged sole that can deal with rough terrain, are waterproof for wet zodiac landings and are close fitting around the calf so are much warmer than traditional style rubber wellington boots that pump warmed air out as you walk along. These neoprene topped boots can be worn with a single pair of socks which will be enough to keep your sufficiently warm through-out your trip. We've also found that on return they are ideal for winter walking in the cold and wet back home.

Hire Gear - Many ships cruising Antarctica will have equipment for hire. You will need to make your requirements known in advance especially for sizes. As well as not spending money buying things you may rarely if ever need again, hiring gear cuts down your luggage weight and bulk considerably which can be an important factor if you have a charter flight with a strictly restricted baggage allowance and can be far and away the more environmentally friendly option.

Lofoten Gore-Tex Insulated Jacket - Women's Bogs - Classic High
Wind and water
proof outer layer
Men's  Women's
Insulating layer/s
Men's   Women's
Men's   Women's
Head and ear
Good quality
warm gloves
Good boots
More details on clothing for your Antarctic trip

Other Stuff
Get a good quality camera
Good quality sun-glasses
with u.v. protection
to lug your stuff around in
Take a good pair of
Ships cabins don't
have a lot of sockets

Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Antarctic Peninsula - Sample Cruises - 2015 / 2016

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Antarctica Cruise - Discovering the 7th Continent South Shetlands, Antarctic Peninsula, Penguin Rookeries, Lemaire Channel Optional kayaking, camping and snowshoeing $6,995 -
Antarctica Cruise - The Peninsula Classic Antarctica, pristine scenery, classic sites of scientific and historic interest, experienced naturalist guides. Optional kayaking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountaineering $6,795 -
Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise Fly over the Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Wildlife, Scenery, Ice Optional kayaking and snowshoeing $9,995 - $18,995 8
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Antarctica Ross Sea Region - Sample Cruises - 2015 / 2016

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
The Ross Sea Region - In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton Auckland Islands, Macquarie and Campbell Islands, Explore the Ross Sea, Historic Huts, Ross Ice Shelf, McMurdo base. $20,000 -
East Antarctica - In the Wake of Mawson Antarctic Peninsula to Ross Sea, Historic Huts, remote East Antarctica, Emperor penguins, sub-Antarctic islands, helicopter excursions $13,500 -
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

South Georgia / Falkland Islands / Antarctica - Sample Cruises - 2015 / 2016

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands Vast Colonies of King Penguins, Breathtaking Scenery, Historic sites, optional kayaking $17,995 -
Shackleton Centenary Voyage In conjunction with Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula $13,195 - $21,095 20
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* Prices are based per person, the lowest price is usually for triple occupancy in a basic cabin, the highest for double occupancy in the best available suite.

Options may be at additional cost and are usually booked when the cruise is booked - it may be too late once the cruise has started.