Life on Board an Antarctic Cruise Ship

Life on Board an Antarctic Cruise Ship

A Day on Board an Antarctic Expedition

Ever wondered what it would be like to cruise around Antarctica?

Below you will find information on what a typical day involves, weather conditions, facilities to expect on board, dining arrangements and lectures...

WILDFOOT Wildlife & Adventure Specialist

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Lines are open from 9am -5.30pm
Monday - Friday


Sheena Ogley
Senior Travel Expert

A 'Typical' Day On Board

On the smaller ships you begin the day with a friendly wake-up call and breakfast. You will have been briefed the night before about the activities for the day ahead. Your first activity may be an entertaining presentation by a world-renowned expert, or a chance to watch as the ship navigates through the polar landscape. Next, prepare for the first shore landing of the day.

A fleet of sturdy Zodiacs transfer you, your fellow travellers, and the expedition staff quickly and safely to otherwise inaccessible shores where you encounter wildlife, and visit historical sites.

You may stay ashore for the maximum allotted time, usually two to four hours depending on the day’s itinerary, or you may be ready to return to the ship sooner.

You have the chance to change and refresh before lunch, while the ship positions to the next spectacular site. Your afternoon activities might be another shore landing, or a Zodiac cruise through a beautiful icescape, past seals sleeping on ice floes or among whales. By evening the talk is lively as you and your fellow passengers share the day’s experiences. Evenings are for relaxing: curl up with a good book, spend a few hours chatting in the bar, or watch a movie. However, during the extended hours of an austral summer day, you may choose to participate in another shore landing or Zodiac cruise.

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Weather Conditions

The Drake Passage between Ushuaia and the Antarctic Peninsula can be a very rough crossing, but some ships are equipped with stabilisers to make the crossing as comfortable as possible. Once you reach the Antarctic the ship will be sailing in the lee of the peninsula. Adverse weather, ice, or political conditions may require that changes be made to your itinerary or certain shore excursions altered.

Facilities to Expect Onboard an Antarctic Cruise Vessel:

There are passenger ships of a variety of sizes that sail to Antarctica, but it is the expedition ships carrying up to about 150 passengers that are most travellers’ choice. One of the main rules that will impact on your visit is that only 100 passengers at any one time may be landed in any one place in Antarctica. If you are on a smaller ship you get a chance to go ashore every time. If the ship is larger, then there will be less opportunity for landings, although in all cases there is normally an option for some to take a zodiac cruise and change around later. Surprisingly, there are a number of people who go to Antarctica and never leave the ship – the choice is obviously yours.

Standards on board antarctic cruise ships are all good, but you can choose from five star luxury to more modest conditions. Luxury ships include the following: Silver Explorer operated by Silversea, Le Soleal, L’Austral & Le Boreal operated by Compagnie de Ponant, Hebridean Sky operated by Polar Latitudes and Hanseatic & Bremen from Hapag Lloyd.

The following are other ships sailing in the Antarctic. On board these the choice of cabins usually includes a range from shared facilities to superior. Food is international cuisine and of good quality. There is usually a bar, lounge, library, hospital and observation decks. Some also have some form of gym or spa facility. Most ships have an open bridge policy. Options may include kayaking, scuba, ice/snow trekking and camping on ice.

Ships include Plancius, Ortelius, Expedition, Spirit of Enderby, Akademik Ioffe, Akademik Vavilov, Ocean Nova, Antarctic Dream, Ushuaia, Polar Pioneer, National Geographic Explorer, Orion, Ocean Nova, Sea Adventurer.

Watch our Antarctica Cruise Video



There is not much by way of entertainment on board the smaller ships, as you are there for the experience. To enhance this experience there is a series of specialist lectures given by experts in their field, or video presentations about the white continent and its resident wildlife. Whether your own particular interest is in zoology, polar history, geology, ornithology or ocean sciences, there will be experienced staff on board able to further your knowledge.

Tipping & Gratuities

Tipping or gratuities varies dependent on the ship you choose. Some include on board gratuities in the cost of the trip, whereas others add it to your on board account to be paid at the end of your trip. This is generally a recommended US$10 per person per day.

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