Top 10 Antarctic cruises

There’s more than one way to explore Antarctica – as our best Antarctic cruises reveal. These are often once-in-a-lifetime expeditions, so you might want to take in Patagonia, the Falklands or South Georgia while you’re at it – or save time and pennies by sailing (or even flying) straight to the Antarctic Peninsula. Some cruises concentrate on whales, while others specialise in human history – the impact of whaling and near-mythical explorations on the White Continent.

Our top 10 sifts through the huge choice of expeditions and reveals our best cruises to Antarctica.

1. Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica cruise

Our best-selling Antarctic cruise is a truly epic voyage, pushing off from Puerto Madryn in Argentina – one of the best places to see southern right whales. Over three weeks, you’ll swing by the Falkland Islands and South Georgia before heading south to the Antarctic Peninsula and finishing back on the South American continent in Ushuaia. You can also choose to flip the route – will it be the Drake Passage first or last?

Our top cruise: Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica cruise
See all our cruises: Antarctica small ship cruises
Read more: Antarctica and Falklands travel guide and South Georgia travel guide

2. Classic Antarctic cruise

This classic cruise gets to the point, setting course straight for the Antarctic Peninsula from Ushuaia. At 12 days long, it’s a (relatively) short trip – great for those short on time or looking to save some pennies. However, there’s still plenty of time to savour lectures and extraordinary wavescapes on your two-day crossing of the Drake Passage, as well as the whales, seals and penguins of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula.

Our top cruise: Classic Antarctica cruise and South Shetland Islands
See all our cruises: Antarctica vacations
Read more: Antarctica travel guide

3. Antarctic Peninsula on a (really) small ship cruise

We only sell small ship cruises – but there’s small… and then there’s small. This cruise gives you the chance to choose a vessel that holds as few as 60 passengers. What’s the difference? This is an exceptionally friendly voyage with a real sense of kinship, where you get to know everyone and have the opportunity to spend quality time with the polar guides and conservationists on board.

Our top cruise: Antarctic Peninsula cruise
See all our cruises: Antarctic cruises
Read more: Antarctica travel guide

4. A month in Antarctica & Patagonia

Patagonia lies tantalisingly close to Antarctica. Expand your explorations, pairing your cruise with hiking and horse riding in Torres del Paine National Park and snoozing in small hotels deep in the Argentinian steppes. After 10 days of adventuring on the continent, you’ll almost forget you’ve still got the pièce de résistance to come: two weeks in Antarctica.

Our top cruise: Antarctic cruise and hiking in Chile
See all our cruises: Antarctica vacations and adventure vacations in Chile
Read more: Antarctica travel guide and Chile travel guide

5. Cruise Shackleton’s route across the Weddell Sea

The Antarctic summer reveals a rare chance to explore the remote Weddell Sea, where Shackleton’s Endurance was trapped and wrecked in 1915. It’s just east of the Antarctic Peninsula – a patch of wild and remote icebergs that’s rich in krill. And where there’s krill, there are feeding cetaceans and bustling penguin colonies, including the rarely sighted emperor penguin.

Our top cruise: Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea cruise
See all our cruises: Antarctica small ship cruises
Read more: Antarctica travel guide

6. Antarctica by plane & small cruise ship

If you don’t have the time – or the stomach – to cross the notoriously wobbly Drake Passage, flying is another option. The flight across the Southern Ocean skips from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island in the South Shetlands in 2.5 hours. The cruise sets off from there, spending four nights meandering around the Antarctic Peninsula.

Our top cruise: Antarctica fly and cruise
See all our cruises: Antarctica vacations
Read more: How to get to Antarctica guide and Antarctica travel guide

7. Antarctic research cruise with WWF

Our partners have joined up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to design a cruise shaped around the expertise of marine ecologists. This is a working research expedition, so you’ll get live insights into whale conservation, learning about tagging, data collection and the impact of the climate crisis. Zodiac boat trips with polar experts reveal the lives of equally charming land mammals too.

Our top cruise: Antarctic cruise with World Wildlife Fund
Read more: Antarctica wildlife article

8. Whale watching cruise in Antarctica

Whale watching cruises set off in February and March, at the peak of the whale migration south to the Antarctic Peninsula. En route, your skilled skipper and expert crew will have you on the lookout for humpback, minke and fin whales, as well as killer whales (orcas). Your itinerary is very much a suggestion; your crew will tweak it to maximise your chances of seeing whales.

Our top cruise: Antarctic whale watching cruise
Read more: Antarctica whale watching article

9. New Zealand to the Ross Sea expedition cruise

Cruises from New Zealand are a rare chance to approach Antarctica from the east, aiming for the little-visited edge of Antarctica: the Ross Sea. Explore the Transantarctic Mountains, abandoned explorers’ huts and vast ice shelves. The New Zealand subantarctic islands are ecological treasures, too – forested nature reserves where bolshy seabird colonies and amazingly adapted flora are the only permanent inhabitants.

Our top cruise: Antarctica bird watching cruise from New Zealand
See all our cruises: Subantarctic Islands vacations
Read more: Subantarctic Islands travel guide

10. Luxury cruise to Antarctica

Comfort is key on luxury Antarctic cruises. They’re the biggest ships we offer – around 260 passengers – and come with cabins kitted out with wide windows so you can watch icebergs glide by from your bed. Despite the cushy quarters, you’ll end up spending more time on deck, where Zodiac boats launch for whale watching and walks along bleak penguin beaches.

Our top cruise: Antarctic, South Georgia and Falklands luxury cruise
See all our cruises: Antarctica small ship cruises
Read more: Antarctica travel guide
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ondrej Prosicky] [1. Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica: Bob Brewer] [4. A month in Antarctica & Patagonia: Peter Crorkan] [7. Antarctic research cruise with WWF: Andreas]