Photo: Scenic

All the Major Cruise Lines That Sail to Antarctica, From the Cheapest to the Most Expensive

Antarctic
by Morgane Croissant May 16, 2024

Visiting Antarctica may have been difficult just 20 years ago, but today, it’s only a matter of booking one of dozens of cruises that travel to the seventh continent. Every year during the Antarctic summer (from November to March), a variety of cruise lines take travelers to see icebergs, go kayaking, and observe Antarctica’s fascinating wildlife with their own eyes.

But there’s a catch: Not all cruises lines have the same privileges while in Antarctica. According to the rules and regulations of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), only ships with 500 guests or fewer can organize landing activities, including penguin-viewing hikes, overnight camping expeditions, kayak tours, and more. The cruise lines that are allowed to land in Antarctica are usually much more expensive than the bigger ships, so you’re going to have to weigh your options and choose your cruise line wisely.



Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Star in Antarctica

The Norwegian Star in Antarctica. Photo: NCL/Shutterstock

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), which only started sailing to Antarctica in 2023, has only one ship making the trip to the seventh continent: the Norwegian Star. NCL sails to Antarctica between six and seven times per year as part of larger voyages in South America.

Guests traveling to Antarctica with NCL do not disembark the ship and can only take in the beauty of the Antarctic region and its wildlife from the comfort of the Norwegian Star as it sails by Paradise Bay and Elephant Island.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Norwegian Cruise Line: Starting at $1,750 per person.
  • Can guests go on shore? No

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has been sailing to Antarctica since 2003, and currently offers less than than 10 trips to the continent each year. Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess, accommodating up to 2,670 guests, is the only ship of the fleet to sail to Antarctica’s waters.

Because of the large number of passengers on board the Sapphire Princess, guests are not allowed to land in Antarctica and can only see the continent from afar. Sapphire Princess takes more passengers to Antarctica than any other ship on the IAATO list.

However, passengers don’t have to stay on board the entire time, as Princess Cruises’ voyages to Antarctica are combined with other destinations in South America. So guests can go on land and book excursions in countries like Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, and Brazil.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Princess Cruises: Starting at $2,619 per person
  • Can guests go on shore? No

Holland America

Holland America began sailing to Antarctica more than 20 years ago, but only a few of the cruise line’s itineraries include the continent. Holland America’s Oosterdam and Volendam are the only ships of the fleet to travel to Antarctica, and they only do so as part of larger South America or Grand Voyage itineraries.

When sailing to Antarctica, Holland America travels through the bays and islands of the Palmer Archipelago off the northern tip of the long Antarctic Peninsula, along the Danco Coast, and through the Antarctic Sound. Because the number of guests on board the ships exceeds 500, landings are not permitted. But there is a naturalist on board to help guests spot and identify wildlife, including penguins and birds, as well as the many whales that live in the waters around Antarctica.

Swan Hellenic

Swan Hellenic has been sailing to Antarctica for just four years, with about 20 offerings per season between two vessels: the SH Diana and the SH Vega, both of which are five-star boutique ships holding no more than 200 passengers. Weather permitting, the guides with Swan Hellenic are able to take passengers on Zodiac cruises and kayak tours, allowing for closer wildlife-watching opportunities.

While on board, guests have access to expert lecturers speaking on the history and latest discoveries in astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology and planetary science, thanks to Swan Hellenic’s SETI Explore Space at Sea Series.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Swan Hellenic: Starting at $6,380 per person
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

Atlas Ocean Voyages

Trends in cruising: cruises to Antarctica with active excursions

Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

Atlas Ocean Voyages has been sending its its entire fleet of ships to the southernmost part of the world every Antarctic summer, which includes the World Traveller, the World Voyager, and the World Navigator. Collectively, they offer about three dozen sailings per year.

Atlas Ocean Voyages’ ships, which carry fewer than 200 passengers at a time, are purpose-built for Arctic and Antarctic exploration. But they are also meant to provide guests with luxury experiences, with exceptional food and service on board, high-end staterooms, a L’Occitane spa, sauna amenities, and more.

While getting out of the ship is never guaranteed since ice floes, icebergs, and changing sea and weather conditions can make navigation difficult, the Atlas Ocean Voyages captains and expedition teams always aim to take guests on shore landings and Zodiac safaris, allowing for sightseeing and chances to spot unique Antarctic wildlife. The cruise line even organizes a polar plunge when the conditions allow.

All guests on Atlas Ocean Voyages’ Antarctica sailings are gifted with a polar parka and a vest to take home. Atlas Ocean Voyages is an all-inclusive cruise line, so drinks, excursions with the expedition team, and enrichment programs are all included in the price.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Atlas Ocean Voyages: Starting at $6,699 per person, plus $450 port charges per person.
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

Read more about Antarctica:

Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions was a pioneer in the field of Antarctica tourism, having sailed to the white continent with citizen (i.e., non-scientist) travelers for the first time in 1966. Now, Lindblad offers eight different Antarctic itineraries of eight, 12, or more than 20 days on four different expedition ships: the National Geographic Explorer, the National Geographic Endurance, the National Geographic Resolution, and the National Geographic Orion.

The National Geographic Endurance and the National Geographic Resolution both launched in 2021. They’re built to safely and comfortably sail in the rough, ice-covered waters of the Antarctic, but also to be as sustainable and fuel efficient as possible. The ships’ designs reduce propulsion power in rough seas, as well as noise and vibrations, which creates less disturbance for wildlife.

While in Antarctica, guests can take guided hikes, paddle on kayak tours through sea ice, and go on cross-country ski excursions. On board, a slew of experts share their knowledge of geology, wildlife biology, climate science, and more with the guests.

On certain itineraries, Lindblad Expeditions offers guests the chance to skip the crossing of Drake Passage by flying one or both ways from King George Island.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Lindblad Expeditions: Starting at $8,066 per person.
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn has been taking passengers to Antarctica on ultra-luxury small expedition ships every year since 2013. Two ships from the Seabourn fleet (the Seabourn Venture and the Seabourn Pursuit) make the trip. Both are expedition ships engineered for voyages to difficult-to-reach destinations, though they’re also upscale, with guest comfort and indulgence in mind.

While every outdoor activity in Antarctica is dependent on good weather, all Seabourn sailings to Antarctica intend to land and take guests on various activities, such as Zodiac cruises around icebergs, kayak tours through sea ice, photo classes at penguin colonies, and plenty of hiking options. Seabourn provides all its guests with complimentary Seabourn parkas and backpacks, so they don’t have to bring their own from home.

While on board the ships, Seabourn keeps the Antarctica experience exciting by organizing digital photography workshops, enrichment program, and lectures by special guest speakers.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Seabourn: Fare prices vary by itinerary and length. Prices can start from around $9,859.
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

 

Hurtigruten Expeditions (HX)

England-based HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions), the world’s largest expedition cruise line, has been sailing to Antarctica since 2002. It’s now the largest operator in Antarctica by number of guests. During the 2024-2025 season, HX will sail 33 times to Antarctica, following eight different itineraries.

Three of HX’s ships sail to the seventh continent: the MS Fridtjof Nansen (a hybrid-powered ship rated the world’s most sustainable cruise ship in 2021), the MS Roald Amundsen (the world’s first hybrid-powered cruise ship), and the MS Fram.

HX offers its guests itineraries filled with outdoors activities, including Zodiac excursions, kayaking, wildlife viewing, and regular landings. Guests can participate in the cruise line’s Citizen Science program via seven different projects, such as penguins and whale research, fisheries management, and more.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with HX: Antarctica voyages start from $10,120 for the Highlights of Antarctica itinerary.
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

 

Aurora Expeditions

Aurora Expeditions ship in Antarctica.

Photo: Richard L’Anson / Aurora Expeditions

Aurora Expeditions is an Australian-owned cruise line that specializes in voyages to polar regions and remote corners of the world. The company sails to Antarctica around 25 to 30 times per year during the Antarctic season, and has been since 1992.

Three of Aurora Expeditions’ ships are purpose-built to sail to Antarctica: the Greg Mortimer, the Sylvia Earle, and, starting in late 2025, Aurora’s newest ship, the Douglas Mawson. There is an average of 132 passengers per ship on Aurora’s ships traveling the Antarctica, and this very low number allows for guests to get out of the ship up to three times per day for activities like Zodiac tours, sea kayaking, ice camping, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Aurora Expeditions is a certified B-corp, meaning it practices the highest levels of sustainability efforts. Travelers can take part in its “Sustainability in Action” or Citizen Science programs, the latter of which focuses on whales, seabirds, microplastics, pollution, weather patterns, phytoplankton, polar fjord lands, and marine biodiversity.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Aurora Expeditions: Starting at $10,556 per person (the Spirit of Antarctica itinerary)
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

 

Silversea Cruises

Silversea Cruises began sailing to Antarctica in 2008 and is one of the most luxurious ways to visit the polar region. Each suite on the cruise line’s three Antarctica-bound ships (Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, and Silver Endeavour) has its own butler, whose role is exclusively to cater to guests’ needs. Silversea Cruises organizes around 40 sailings per year to Antarctica, more than any other cruise lines on this list.

But what makes the company stand out is the Fly & Cruise program, which lets guests skip sailing through the dreaded Drake Passage and instead fly business class to Antarctica on a chartered flight. Guests will first fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas to spend the night, then fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island, where the sailing begins. Look for cruises marked with the “Antarctica Bridge” label if that option interests you.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Silversea Cruises: Starting at $11,700 per person.
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

Viking

Viking cruise to Antarctica

Photo: Viking

Viking started sailing to Antarctica in 2022 and now makes nearly 20 trips to the white continent every year. But only two ships from Viking’s large fleet sail to Antarctica: the Viking Octantis and the Viking Polaris, known collectively as Viking’s expedition fleet. Both luxury ships can accommodate a maximum of 378 guests and are specifically built for safe and comfortable expeditions to remote and ice-covered waters.

Because of the small number of passengers onboard Viking cruises to Antarctica, landing activities are possible. Led by expert guides, guests can go on kayak, and Zodiacs excursions, or even opt for a submarine dive to go more than 400 feet below the surface.

Viking is an all-inclusive cruise lines, so boat excursions, Wi-Fi, access to spa facilities and fitness centers, self-service laundry, 24-hour room service, and specialty dining have no extra charge. Guests on Viking sailings to Antarctica also receive a keepsake Viking expedition jacket as part of their cruise fare.

The Viking Octantis and the Viking Polaris are considered the companies floating research labs, with on-board scientists working on polar research. Fortunately, guests have plenty of options for learning about and even helping with the research.

Scenic

Scenic Eclipse cruise ship in Antarctica

Photo: Scenic

Scenic cruises makes roughly eight to 10 trips per season in its two purpose-designed ships: Scenic Eclipse I and Scenic Eclipse II, both of which accommodate a maximum of 200 guests.

Beyond the fact that Scenic Eclipse I and Scenic Eclipse II are specifically engineered to navigate ice-covered waters (with features like enhanced stabilizers and reinforced icebreaker hulls), the ships are also extremely luxurious. Guests get what the brand calls a “six-star experience,” thanks to roomier-than-average balcony suites, tailored butler service, a nearly one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio, the immense spa, and the state-of-the-art theater. There are also 10 dining options, plus nine bars and lounges.

When the weather permits, guests can leave the ship for hikes on land, Zodiac cruises, and kayaking or paddleboarding tours. Those who want to see the seventh continent from the air or from underwater have options via the cruise line’s two helicopters or custom submersible.

  • Antarctica cruise cost with Scenic: Starting at $19,265 per person
  • Can guests go on shore? Yes

Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas is a fairly recent addition to the list of companies sailing to Antarctica, having only started in 2019 and making just six trips per year. In 2025, two of Regent Seven Seas’ six ships will travel to the seventh continent: the Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Mariner.

Both ships have a guest capacity in the 700s, so neither is permitted to make landfall on the seventh continent. Most of the Regent Seven Seas cruises that go as far as Antarctica are several weeks long, leaving at least three or four days to spend in the water near the continent looking for wildlife and watching icebergs.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is an all-inclusive and luxury cruise line, including in its price offerings like round-trip business-class flights from US and Canada, free unlimited shore excursions, high-end culinary offerings, valet laundry services, and more.

Antarctica cruise cost with Regent Seven Seas: Starting at $19,999 (the Antarctic Celebration itinerary)

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