Choosing your Antarctica ship
It doesn’t get more exotic or remote than Antarctica; land of icebergs and penguins and the modern world’s final frontier. The first (and most important) step of planning a luxury Antarctica cruise is deciding on a ship. We’ve done your homework for you and whittled it down to our four favorites…
Make no mistake, any expedition cruise to Antarctica – with its vast landscapes and mesmerizing wildlife – will blow your mind, and you will definitely see icebergs, glaciers, and plenty of wildlife. But, at the same time, your choice of vessel will have a major impact on where you go, what you see, who your guides are and how comfortable your experience is.
Ocean Nova – Intimate and informative
While a cruise in Antarctica is not for budget-conscious travelers, staying aboard the Ocean Nova is definitely worth the investment. One big advantage of booking a cruise on the Ocean Nova is that you can catch a two-hour flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica and skip the treacherous Drake Passage. Its 'Classic' and 'Polar Circle' air-cruises feature flights to and from Antarctica, shaving several days off travel time and allowing you to spend as much time as possible in Antarctic waters. The Ocean Nova’s comfortable rooms and professional staff are second to none and the cuisine is top-notch. During this once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’ll explore breath-taking landscapes, including mountains, glaciers, and icebergs and you can expect to spot penguins, seals, and whales depending on the season. Lectures from bona-fide scientists from a range of fields foster a greater appreciation of quite how incredible Antarctica is while an array of excursions (we really recommend signing up for the kayaking outings) allows you to walk the talk. The Ocean Nova has a capacity of 71 guests, which means that you’ll spend more time exploring and less time waiting to disembark from the ship. The Hebridean Sky, a sister boat which follows the same routes as the Ocean Nova, can take a maximum of 114 guests and is impecably outfitted.
Magellan Explorer – For the modern adventurer
The Magellan Explorer is a modern expedition vessel that offers seven types of cabins and suites, most of which offer private balconies. Custom-built to the latest Polar Code specifications in 2019, not only is the Magellan Explorer the ideal adventure vessel, this also means that each and every cabin includes heated floors - a true Antarctic luxury!
This ship, with a total intimate capacity of just 73 guests, features an enclosed lounge boasting spectacular views of the surroundings, a library, a spacious and stylish dining room and bar, a well-equipped gym, a sauna, and a unique forward-facing observation deck. The Magellan Explorer was specifically designed for Antarctic air-cruises, meaning guests fly over the Drake passage both ways, and the 73-passenger limit means all guests can arrive and depart on just one flight, effectively streamlining the boarding process and reducing wait times sometimes experienced with other, larger vessels.
Plancius – Educational and adventurous
Cruises on the Plancius (and her sister ship the Ortelius) start from Ushuaia in Argentina before crossing the Beagle Channel and the Drake Passage. From there you can explore a combination of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Polar Circle and the sub-Antarctic islands (South Georgia, Elephant & Falkland Islands). All cruises are at least 10 days long and, due to the distance covered, you can expect to see an array of marine and avian life during your trip. Constructed in 1976, the Plancius was used by the Dutch Navy until it was rebuilt as a passenger ship in 2009. The ship offers room for 116 guests and it upholds high levels of safety, including an ice-strengthened exterior. The 53 comfortable cabins are each equipped with private bathrooms and showers, and the ship boasts a pleasant restaurant, spacious decks, and an observation lounge. While the Plancius offers guests an enjoyable stay, it is not a luxury vessel and visitors should try to spend as much time as possible ashore exploring the region’s spectacular landscape. Camping and kayaking are optional activities when you book a cruise on the Plancius.
Silver Cloud – Large and luxurious
Refurbished in 2017, the Silver Cloud is one of the most luxurious ships plying the Southern Ocean. Eighty percent of its spacious cabins boast a veranda where you can relax and enjoy the antics of whales and penguins not to mention the incredible sunsets. Highlights of this vessel include five dining options (including a Relais & Châteaux restaurant), a swimming pool, and vast decks. Silver Cloud is the largest of the ships we work with (it can accommodate 254 guests) but the 16 zodiacs and 10 kayaks mean everyone will get ample chance to explore the mesmerizing landscapes and get closer to the marine life. The expeditions start at Ushuaia and cross the Drake Passage to explore the Antarctic Sound and the Antarctic Peninsula. While these cruises aren’t for budget travelers, they’re ideal for guests who want to explore Antarctica in comfort and style. Expert expedition leaders provide in-depth lectures aboard the Silver Cloud.
Silver Explorer – Opulent and intimate
With its spacious cabins and outstanding service, the Silver Explorer – which sails out of Ushuaia from November to February every year – offers an exclusive experience which includes all the excitement of an expedition without compromising on luxury. Guests benefit from personalized care, including housekeeping, room service, and a butler. The ship – which can accommodate 132 guests – has the feel of a luxury yacht, but it also boasts an incredible array of amenities including a full-service spa, fitness center, cigar lounge and live entertainment every night. Guided beach walks and hikes give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with a diverse array of fascinating wildlife, while informative presentations by expedition leaders add to the experience. Cruises on the Silver Explorer and Silver Cloud follow similar itineraries to those employed by the Plancius and Ortelius - albeit on an entirely different comfort level!