As a seasonal destination, knowing the right time of year to go on a cruise to Antarctica is important. There are two other important questions: When to book your Antarctica Cruise and when to book the flights to join your Antarctica Cruise.
Where to Go in Antarctica
A quick note on “where to go” before we get to “when to go”. On the map you’ll see the two main Antarctic destinations: The Antarctic Peninsula (south of South America) and The Ross Sea (south of New Zealand). Where you go will determine when you can go (as the seasons are different).
Read more about the Antarctica cruise experience.
Is Antarctica an extreme cruise destination?
Not sure if you’re ready to cruise to Antarctica? Read our guide on Soft Expedition Cruises
When to Go to Antarctica
Cruises visit Antarctica between November and March each year (weather permitting). Interestingly though, within that four month window you have the opportunity to see different things depending on when you go.
October – November
This is spring time in Antarctica and when you will find some of the best priced cruise departures. The penguins are on their eggs at this time of year and the landscape is still pristine and snow covered.
December – January
During December the penguin eggs start to hatch and the Humpback whales return to the peninsula. This is the peak of the wildlife season in Antarctica.
Ross Sea Expeditions (the area south of New Zealand) start to depart.
February – March
This is the best whale watching period in the Peninsula. For photography enthusiasts the light is beautiful. In late February the Penguins start to moult.
The last Ross Sea Expeditions start.
When to Book your Antarctica Cruise
Due to the short season you’ll generally need to book your Antarctica Cruise at least a year in advance. Generally only a deposit is required when booking that far in advance, with the balance closer to departure date (this can differ by cruise line). On rare occasions special offers are available for those open to making last minute decisions (read more about the pros and cons of last minute cruise specials).
It’s also important to remember that Expedition Cruise ships are generally much smaller than traditional cruise ships. As only 100 people are allowed on the ice at one time, smaller ships are popular – but it also means that they are more likely to sell out.
When to Book your Airfares
For cruises departing from South America for the Antarctic Peninsula, Covid-19 has affected flight schedules and therefore airfares will need to be considered in the future. Historically there are three main airline options for flights to South America:
- Air New Zealand’s direct flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires (which has now been withdrawn).
- LATAM’s direct flight from Auckland to Santiago
- Qantas’ codeshare flight to Australia to connect with a LATAM flight to Santiago
Once you get to South America there will generally be a further “domestic” flight to the ultimate departure port (commonly Ushuaia).
These flights go on sale at various times of the year and we alert our clients to the sales as they are released via our Business Class and Premium Economy Sales Alerts. and include them on the Fine Travel South America Business Class and Premium Economy Specials page.
Given the length of the flights to South America, Premium Economy and Business Class are often preferred. Generally when these airfares go on sale there are also Economy Class specials which we can access.
Some cruise lines will offer a charter flight to the departure port (such as from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia) and often an overnight stopover will be required because of the connection times.
If the idea of crossing the Drake Passage doesn’t appeal (or you’re short on time), options are available to fly to Antarctica to join a cruise (such as with Silversea Cruises).
Choosing the Right Antarctica Cruise for You
There is quite a remarkable variety of cruise lines that offer itineraries to Antarctica. From luxurious “soft expedition” options (Ponant’s Expedition Fleet is one of the leading cruise lines in Antarctica) through to quite authentic “icebreaker” ships, and options in between. A description you will often see is “Small Ships”.
When it choosing the right cruise line, cruise ship and itinerary for you, Antarctica is a destination where we can help with our experience, including:
- Sending you brochures to consider
- Answering any questions
- Compiling quotes and researching any special offers
- Presenting comprehensive itineraries including airfares, the cruise itineraries, pre and post accommodation and travel insurance.
Many of our specialist partners have been to Antarctica so we can also arrange first hand answers from “on the ice”.