The Antarctica ship you choose will have a profound impact on your overall experience. Find out where to stay in Antarctica with this detailed primer, and the information you need to make the right choice. Find a new cruise ship to Antarctica that offers the latest and greatest technology. Learn about the general types of Antarctic ships and activities aboard. Or get tips on choosing a cabin. Then select from our complete listing of Antarctica cruise ships.
Each Antarctica cruise ship in our list features a detailed description, deck plan, cabin configurations and a firsthand review. Contact our Antarctica expedition cruise ship experts for a free consultation to find the best ship and trip for your interests, ability and budget.
New Antarctica Cruise Ships
If you’re seeking to get aboard a new cruise ship to Antarctica, you’ve come to the right place. Each of these modern, purpose-built small cruise ships offers specialized features for providing guests the best possible experience exploring ice fields, penguin rookeries, dramatic landscapes, icebergs and wildlife viewing. With trends in sustainability, exploration, unique activities, single cabins, private balconies and wellness, this new fleet is set to take Antarctica travel to a new level of expedition.
Each of these recently launched vessels are at or under 200 guests and at the core of what we offer at AdventureSmith Explorations: small, sustainable expeditions. Ships, especially in Antarctica, need to be of a certain size for a bespoke, intimate and active experience. Since only 100 guests are allowed ashore at one time, larger vessels simply cannot handle getting their guest capacity ashore twice daily like a small ship can facilitate. These new Antarctica cruise ships are specifically designed and built for getting passengers on and off the boat quickly and efficiently—a big jump from the repurposed research vessels once common in polar travel. Read on to learn more about the newest additions to Antarctica, including their individual ship focus and inaugural sailing date. We hope to assist you in finding the new Antarctica ship of your dreams!
Le Commandant Charcot – 200 Guests
Luxury/Sustainability: Inaugural voyage fall 2021
Combining French-inspired luxury with unique activity options and a hybrid-electric lng engine, Le Commandant Charcot (capped at 200 guests while cruising Antarctica) offers an Antarctic voyage like no other. On board, expect five-star service, gastronomic delights and a daily menu of social gatherings. Off the ship, explore the White Continent by polar diving, hovercraft, kayak, snowshoe and hiking. The ship’s laboratory supports researchers and guests are encouraged to participate in citizen science projects. Back on board, relax in heated indoor and outdoor pools, or the spa that includes a snow room—an ideal complement to the sauna. Premiere suites offer options like a wraparound terrace, private Jacuzzi, butler service and even dual floors. Travel on this new polar expedition ship knowing her electric-hybrid engine, powered by liquefied natural gas, is the first of its kind for eco-friendly polar travel.
Ultramarine – 199 guests
Exploration/Distance: Inaugural voyage spring 2022
This 199-passenger polar ship—Ultramarine—is built for safety and far-off exploration. The new vessel boasts twin helicopters and helipads for heli-skiing, heli-hiking, flightseeing and exploration of otherwise inaccessible places as well as an innovative, internal hanger with four embarkation points for a fleet of 20 Zodiacs. These exploration tools; the ship’s specialized, cutting-edge safety features; and special provisioning and waste handling systems (enabling a 70-day operational range) all ensure the ability to go farther into the polar regions more safely and easily than before.
Sylvia Earle – 126/132 Guests
Conservation/Activity: Inaugural voyage late 2022
The Sylvia Earle is sister ship to the Greg Mortimer and clones the same impressive design, technology and activity offerings. This state-of-the-art ship honors the highly accomplished marine biologist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle. In keeping with Sylvia’s own vision and achievements, the Sylvia Earle expedition ship has a focus on marine education and conservation. Marine researchers, scientists and conservationists are on board giving lectures on history and culture, biology and climate and she comes with conservation features like virtual anchoring to hold her position while protecting the sea floor and an on-board desalination plant that converts seawater to safe fresh water enabling less fresh water storage on sea crossings, further reducing fuel consumption. If you want to take these new cruise ships to Antarctica, you’ll find Greg Mortimer and Sylvia Earle trading off departures between the same three Antarctic itineraries, so no matter what it’s a win-win.
National Geographic Resolution – 126 Guests
Education: Inaugural voyage fall 2021
This next-generation expedition ship is the epitome of National Geographic, blending an innovative polar vessel with highly intellectual programming. She started sailing in both Antarctica and the Arctic in late 2021. The National Geographic Resolution is specifically designed for stability, efficiency, education and reduced environmental impact. Her new expanded fuel and water tanks ensure she’s prepared for long-range explorations like a 24-day Antarctic voyage including South Georgia and the Falklands Islands. Just like her twin, the National Geographic Endurance, National Geographic Resolution is outfitted with a fleet of Zodiacs, kayaks, snowshoes, and cross-country skis; as well as sophisticated equipment allowing undersea specialists unique access and the ability to share the underwater world with all aboard. And with more than 10,000 square feet of glass and balconies in 52 cabins, every location is a prime location for polar observation.
National Geographic Endurance – 126 Guests
Education: Inaugural voyage fall 2021
“To Explore and Understand the World” is the National Geographic Endurance motto, and therefore this 126-guest ship is all about getting passengers to the farthest reaches of the world in the Antarctic and Arctic with highly trained guides and expert leaders in the fields of science and photography. With a specifically designed bow and hull structure, she adds a unique element to her profile while providing efficiency, safety and stability when cruising in these challenging destinations. Offering cabin options for single travelers, this ship addresses a main concern of past ships (lack of dedicated single space). The National Geographic Endurance is equipped with state-of-the-art exploration tools including hydrophones, underwater video cameras, microscopes and a helicopter landing pad, all for in-depth learning about the iconic destinations she explores.
Janssonius – 170 Guests
Activity/Sustainability: Inaugural voyage TBA
The Janssonius motto: happier polar passengers and healthier polar environment. This advanced Polar Class 6 cruise ship exceeds the latest green requirements so not only will her amenities and on-board entertainment help make the voyage truly memorable, this ship also gives peace of mind with choosing one of the most environmentally friendly vessels on the polar seas. Her goal is to keep sea time short and focus on access to shore and near-shore activities like hiking, kayaking, overnight field camping and even scuba diving. How will Janssonius accomplish swift and safe ship-to-shore operations? By utilizing her two separate gangways and a sheltered indoor boarding area for Zodiac and kayak embarkation.
Types of Antarctica Ships
It takes a specially outfitted ice-class ship to operate expedition cruises in Antarctica. Ships that go to Antarctica carry 76-200 guests. They are considerably smaller than a typical cruise ship. Learn the differences between a small ship vs big ship.
We group Antarctic tourist ships into three broad categories: research ships, expedition ships and luxury ships. But before we get into Antarctica cruise ship types, let’s talk about size.
Antarctica Ship Size & Stability
The size of your ship can influence your cruise experience. Larger ships that are longer and wider have more stability and may reduce movement in rough seas.
Smaller ships have fewer guests to ferry ashore for landings, offering the advantage of efficiency and possibly more time ashore in Antarctica.
Many modern vessels may also be outfitted with stabilizers. Some of the newest ships are designed with Ulstein X-Bow® technology where the entire hull is designed for a faster, smoother ride. If seasickness is a concern then be sure to consider the ship size, length and stabilization.
Find Antarctica ships by size:
Antarctic Research Ships
Antarctic research ships are vessels that have been converted from scientific research purposes to expedition cruising. They are among the smaller Antarctica ships available, usually carrying under 120 guests. They are also the most affordable. Learn how much does it cost to go to Antarctica?
Antarctica research ships are like floating base camps that focus on less on amenities and more on exploration and adventure. Expect basic but clean and comfortable accommodations with no-frills common areas. Meals are simple but satisfying.
Examples of Antarctica Research Ships:
Antarctica Expedition Cruise Ships
Antarctica expedition ships provide a sweet spot between the simpler research ships and the more extravagant luxury ships. There are a wide variety of expedition ships with various sizes, configurations, amenities and styles. Each has a plethora of cabins, from simple and affordable to mid-range and upscale suites.
The variety of cabins and onboard comforts found on expedition Antarctica cruise ships, from basic to extravagant, will satisfy most travelers. Amenities such as comfortable lounges, libraries, lecture rooms and on board gyms create an atmosphere familiar to experienced small ship cruisers. Meals are delicious and off vessel activities are extensive with a variety of options. Expedition crew are excellent and onboard programs are a highlight. Aboard an Antarctica expedition cruise ship you will not have to sacrifice comfort for price.
Some Antarctica expedition ships have been cruising for many years. They are periodically updated but may lack the amenities and features of a more modern vessel. Older ships can provide a good value while newer ships offer the latest technology, efficiency and comfort.
Examples of Antarctica Expedition Cruise Ships:
- Greg Mortimer – 132 guests
- World Explorer – 172 guests
- Ocean Adventurer – 128 guests
- Magellan Explorer – 76 guests
Luxury Antarctica Ships
A fleet of modern luxury ships has emerged in recent years, offering an increase level of comfort and efficiency. Newly launched luxury ships with upscale cabins, the latest amenities, the finest cabins and superb service will cost more. Expect to pay $15,000 or more per person for a luxury cruise. Many travelers find the extra cost absolutely worth it.
Luxury Antarctica cruises feature gourmet cuisine and five star service. They will have full service spas and Jacuzzis on board. Staterooms and suites are larger and often include large view windows or balconies. Naturalist guides and science-based tools for exploration, such as video microscopes and underwater rovers, are the best available. Lecture rooms are like modern theaters bringing presentations to life.
Examples of Luxury Antarctica Ships
- Ultramarine – 199 guests
- Le Commandant Charcot – 200 guests
- National Geographic Endurance – 126 guests
- Sea Spirit – 114 guests
Off-Vessel Explorations Aboard Antarctica Ships
Getting off the boat in Antarctica is an important part of the expedition cruise experience. There are numerous things to do in Antarctica which may influence your ship choice. How well the ship is designed to efficiently embark and disembark guests in remote locations can be an overlooked consideration when considering where to stay in Antarctica.
A Zodiac is a small inflatable power boat used to ferry guests from the ship to the shore. A larger number of Zodiacs can expedite the landing process, resulting in more time in Antarctica and less time waiting. Zodiacs are also used for exploration and guided marine excursions to visit glaciers and icebergs, and view whales and wildlife.
The most modern ships include Zodiac hangars at or near the waterline which makes deploying the small craft extremely efficient. This can be handy for impromptu whale watching excursions or other wildlife encounters where speed is important.
A select few Antarctica expedition cruise ships are outfitted with helipads and helicopters to explore far from the ship. Typically used on specialty itineraries, such as those which visit emperor penguin colonies on Snow Hill Island, helicopters may offer heli-hiking, flightseeing and exploration of air-only accessible destinations.
A mudroom is a locker room area where guests stage before going ashore. A well-designed, purpose-built mudroom can increase the efficiency of embarking guests and going ashore. This makes for more time in Antarctica and less time waiting. Mudrooms with lockers provide a space for parkas and boots to dry, so you don’t have to bring wet gear back to your cabin.
Antarctica ships will include a plethora of activity options and equipment is usually included. For instance, if a ship offers kayaking, then kayaks will be on board. Or if snowshoeing is offered, snowshoes will be provided. Inflatable landing craft are always aboard to take hikers ashore.
Some Antarctica expedition cruise ships go above and beyond standard activity equipment and include extra tools for exploration and education. Some ships might include remotely operated vehicles, to bring underwater video of places few have ever seen. Hydrophones listen to undersea creatures and the vocalizations of whales. Glass-bottom boats can allow guests to peer under the water’s surface. Underwater bow cameras give a unique view, especially when dolphins and porpoises ride the bow of the ship. Video microscopes make krill and tiny sea creatures easy to see and learn about.
Virtually every Antarctica ship offers an open bridge policy where guests can visit the bridge at any time of day. Watch the crew navigate the ship and learn the art of navigation and modern equipment. Grab a pair of binoculars to scan the horizon for wildlife. Or simply chat with the crew and hear stories of their expeditions in Antarctica and beyond.
Antarctica Ship Ice Ratings (Ice Class)
Ice class is used to denote the additional levels of strengthening that enable a ship to navigate through sea ice. There are many different ice classes, assigned by various classification societies and governments, so comparing ice class between Antarctica ships is difficult.
Just know that the stronger the ice class, the farther and longer a ship can push through sea ice and icebergs.
Ice Strengthened vs Ice Breaker
Most Antarctica expedition cruise ships are ice strengthened. They have design features such as a thicker hull, more watertight bulkheads, and protection for the rudder and propeller. They push through sea ice and icebergs. Ships that have any chance of encountering ice are usually ice strengthened.
Only a couple of Antarctic tourist ships are true ice breakers. Ice breakers are specifically designed to keep shipping routes free of ice for other ships. Their round hull design and powerful engines lift the front of the ship onto sea ice before crashing down and breaking it. This creates a lane where ships can navigate. The rounded keel and lack of stabilizing fins make progress quicker through ice. But these features make them more uncomfortable in the open sea. Ice breakers are only operated a few times each year on specialty cruises.
How to Choose a Cabin Aboard an Antarctica Ship
The primary factors to consider when choosing a cabin aboard an Antarctica ship are size, amenities, view and location.
Antarctica cruise ship cabins can range from small dorm-style rooms with triple or quad arrangements, to extravagant and spacious suites. With several days at sea on longer polar expeditions, the size and comfort of your cabin is an important consideration.
The quality of your cabin will vary, with more luxurious accommodations costing more. There are a few amenities that are important to consider beyond overall quality. Window or portholes is an important difference. Does the cabin have a small sitting area or are you forced to sit on the bed? Is having a TV screen or monitor important to you? A balcony can seem like an extravagant expense but having access outside the ship brings Antarctica closer to you throughout the journey.
Having a view from your cabin is an important consideration aboard Antarctica ships. Some ships have quirky designs and even a view window might look out onto a lifeboat or other obstruction. Cabins at or below the waterline may have port lights or port holes that do not really serve for viewing. Rooms without a view are less expensive but a view of Antarctica from your cabin might be worth the extra cost.
The location of your cabin can impact your experience. Cabins on the upper deck have better views and are closer to outside observation decks. They also cost more.
Cabins close to the waterline are the most stable and a good choice for travelers concerned about seasickness. Cabins higher up or toward the front of the ship can move more in rough seas.
Lower-deck cabins toward the rear of a ship may experience noise from the engines and generators. Though this usually becomes a dull background hum after a few hours, you will hear the engines when the ship starts, stops or changes speed.
Be careful about cabins located near public spaces or noisy areas. Cabins near the galley, dining room, bars or lounges may be affected by guest noise. Cabins near stairwells or exterior doors may also be affected by noise from folks outside.
Our experts have firsthand experience aboard all the boats in Antarctica and are here to help you select the best cabin.
MORE ANTARCTICA RESOURCES:
Antarctica Travel Guide
Luxury Antarctica Cruises
Falkland Islands & South Georgia Cruises
Cruises with Flights to Antarctica
Best Time to Visit Antarctica
Antarctica Cruise Cost
How to Get to Antarctica
Things to Do in Antarctica
Places in Antarctica
Best Antarctica Cruise Lines
Antarctica Cruise Deals
Antarctica Cruise Reviews
View All Antarctica Ships
If you have made it this far, then you know everything you need to choose the best Antarctica ship for your upcoming trip. Compare Antarctica cruise ships below and click on the links for detailed information, reviews, cabin descriptions, photo galleries and deck plans.
Contact our Antarctica ship experts for a free consultation to narrow down your choices.