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Antarctic and Arctic Expedition Cruises

Expedition Cruises to polar regions such as Antarctica and the Arctic allow travelers to explore some of the most remote and untouched regions on the planet.  Here is what I learned on my recent 12-Day journey to Antarctica with polar region specialists, Quark Expeditions

How Expedition Cruises Differ from Traditional Cruises

Expedition Cruises are on much smaller, purpose-built ships, designed to travel in some of the harshest environments.  Most vessels carry no more than 280 passengers, are polar class-rated icebreakers, and daily excursions are via zodiacs, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and in some instances, helicopters.  Due to strict preservation guidelines in Antarctica, most expedition cruises will have no more than 199 passengers, a requirement to perform land excursions on the White Continent.  With fewer passengers than traditional cruises, the experience is more intimate and a certain camaraderie is formed with everyone on board.

Education is also a key component of most Expedition Cruises.  Through daily presentations and lectures, guests learn about the places they are visiting – the history, geography, environment, and flora and fauna, from experts in the field.  This varies between cruise companies where some focus primarily on education for travelers who want to nerd out, while others provide a hybrid of education with more traditional cruise experiences, like nightly entertainment. 

Lastly, on Expedition Cruises it is important to remain flexible as journeys to remote regions come with extreme weather conditions that can change quickly.  This is especially true for Antarctica where there is no set itinerary and the expedition staff tailor daily excursions based on current weather conditions.

Who Expedition Cruises are For

First and foremost, Expedition Cruises appeal to travelers with a sense of adventure who are willing to travel to the far reaches of the world to see things very few people get to see and experience.  While some expedition ships can be luxurious, travelers should have a certain amount of fitness and agility and be willing to brave more extreme weather conditions like snow, wind, rain, and rough seas to truly experience everything that comes with expedition travel.    

Interested in an Expedition Cruise?

I am grateful for the opportunity to have traveled to all 7 continents now.  Over the last several decades I have visited numerous countries and experienced many things, but nothing remotely compares to sailing across the Drake Passage to see the wonders of Antarctica.  While Expedition Cruises are more expensive than most traditional cruises, it was worth every penny, and I’d do it again.  In fact, the Arctic and South Georgia Islands have now been added to my list. 

There are several cruise companies who offer Expedition Cruises to not just the polar regions but to other places like the Galapagos Islands.  If you’re interested in planning an Expedition Cruise and would like to learn more, please contact us

Melanie Yip
Co-Founder, Movement Travel