When traveling to Antarctica, there are several Antarctica ship options to consider:
- Small ships with fewer than 100 passengers, like the ones you will find with Antarctica21, allow you to go ashore in as one group.
- Medium-sized vessels with 101 – 500 passengers allow you to go ashore in large groups.
- Large commercial cruises with over 500 passengers sail around the continent.
What to know about the size of ships
The Antarctic Treaty regulates all human activities in Antarctica, and among many essential rules, two apply directly to ship size:
- An Antarctia ship with more than 500 passengers shall not make landings
- A maximum of 100 passengers may be ashore from a vessel at any one time unless site-specific advice requires fewer passengers.
Below you can get an idea of what this can mean for you on each ship by size.
Small-ship cruises (less than 100 passengers)
Small Antarctic ships are where Antarctica21 comes in with our unique air-cruises. We are a boutique operator of small vessels. Our fleet includes Ocean Nova, Hebridean Sky, and our new ship Magellan Explorer. Our air-cruises fly our guests to Antarctica, board one of our ships, and cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula. We carry no more than 75 guests per trip, allowing you to have an intimate experience where you can remember everyone’s name at the end of your voyage.
Small Ship Benefits:
Fast and efficient landings, get off the ship and into zodiacs or on land is quickly with a small group
- Guests have more time to explore
- Fewer people, and no crowding – we only carry a maxium of 75 people per air-cruise depature
Imagine a pod of whales swimming nearby, you would want time to experience this sight without being rushed. Our groups are small and because we have enough zodiacs to carry everyone once; all guests can enjoy the whale encounter up close and personal, without waiting in a line by which time the whales may have moved on.
Medium-sized ships (between 101-500 passengers)
These ships can take their guests ashore to visit penguin rookeries and to explore the landscape but have fewer opportunities for landings. However, with more than 100 passengers aboard, not everyone can go on shore at once. Travelers must be organized in groups, and these groups must take turns, which takes time and coordination. The larger the group, the more time is spent waiting and less spent exploring.
Large cruise ships (500+ passengers)
Large cruise ships offer a variety of facilities, entertainment, and dining options. However, they can carry thousands of travelers, which means that guests do not have the opportunity to go ashore. Travelers on these ships will see Antarctica from the vessel. Keep in mind that with the large ships cruising is limited to deeper waters, often at a considerable distance from the shore.
What to Expect with Flights to Antarctica
Commercial flights to Antarctica have a limited capacity in short-haul aircrafts. It’s also important to note that tour operators offering a fly-cruise option for over 100 passengers with medium ships need to use more than one flight to carry travelers to Antarctica, resulting in a higher chance of experiencing flight delays and disruptions due to unpredictable weather. In comparison, Antarctica21 needs only one flight to carry all our passengers, ensuring that guests can all go at once when the weather is ideal for flights.
Weighing the options
When choosing an Antarctic expedition, consider carefully how the size of the ship will determine your experience. If you want entertainment shows and midnight buffets, and if you are happy to see Antarctica from a distance, then a large cruise ship may be the right choice for you. Alternatively, if you want a more personal, active trip focused on your onshore experience, you should consider a small vessel.
If you are considering an Antarctic fly and cruise expedition, we believe Antarctica21 offers you the best option of all. See our brochures for more information about dates and pricing.