Antarctica Cruises - Leaving from the USA, United States

Antarctica Cruise and Adventure Travel With Cool Antarctica and Expedition Trips

  Travelling to the Antarctic Peninsula

Most trips to Antarctica are cruises that leave from the port of Ushuaia in Argentina visiting the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands of the (largely undersea) Scotia Arc (fig 2) that stretches east from the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego, through South Georgia, the South Shetland Islands and back to the west again through the South Orkney Islands before joining the northernmost tip of the Peninsula.

A smaller number of trips leave from Australia or New Zealand and visit the eastern region of Antarctica, sailing time is about 6-7 days there and the same back again. These trips are longer and therefore more expensive, they usually leave from Hobart, Australia or Invercargill, New Zealand, often leaving from one and returning to the other on alternate trips.

Fig 1. Trips to the Antarctic leaving from the USA most commonly leave from the port of Ushuaia, Argentina at the tip of South America and visit the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands.

There are a smaller number of trips that leave from Hobart, Australia or Invercargill, New Zealand (frequently leaving from one and returning to another) that visit the more remote Eastern part of Antarctica.

1 - New York, USA
2 - Dallas Tx, USA
3 - Miami Fl, USA
4 - Ushuaia, Argentina
5 - Antarctic Peninsula

Distances miles / km
New York - Ushuaia, Argentina 6,580 / 10,590
Dallas - Ushuaia, Argentina 5,590 / 9,000
Miami - Ushuaia, Argentina 6,260 / 10,080  
New York - Hobart, Australia 10,320 / 16,610
New York - Invercargill, NZ 9,370 / 15,070

Fig 2. Trips to the Peninsula region of Antarctica. Shorter trips visit the Peninsula 6 and nearby islands such as the South Shetlands 5. Longer trips may also take in the Falkland Islands 3 and / or South Georgia 4 and possibly some other landings en route.

Cruises most commonly go down the western side of the Peninsula as they are less likely to encounter problematic sea ice that is more likely found on the Eastern side in the Weddell Sea.

1 - Ushuaia, Argentina
2 - Punta Arenas, Chile
3 - Falkland Islands / Islas Malvinas
4 - South Georgia
5 - South Shetland Islands
6 - Antarctic Peninsula

Distances miles / km
Ushuaia - Falklands 480 / 770
Ushuaia - South Georgia 1,255 / 2,020
Ushuaia - South Shetlands 610  / 980
Ushuaia - Peninsula tip 724 / 1,165
Punta Arenas - Peninsula tip  870 / 1,395
Peninsula top to bottom 765 / 1,230
Peninsula top to Antarctic Circle 280 / 450

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  Travel to the Ross Sea / Commonwealth Bay Region - Eastern Antarctica

Fig 3. Trips to Antarctica from Australia and New Zealand usually leave from Invercargill / Port of Bluff in New Zealand 2, Invercargill has the airport, Bluff, 30km away by road has a deep-water port. Less commonly trips may leave/return from Hobart, Australia 1, and Dunedin, New Zealand (about 180 km / 110 miles from Invercargill) .

The trip may depart and return to the same port or leave from one and return to another in either direction. It takes about seven days sailing to reach Antarctica from Australia or New Zealand, the journey there and back is usually broken up with visits to the wildlife rich Macquarie Island 3 and others such as Snares, Auckland and Campbell Islands that lie between Macquarie and New Zealand.

Once having reached Antarctica trips usually spend their time either in the Commonwealth Bay area 4 or the Ross Sea region between Cape Adare 5 and McMurdo 6 with possibly a short trip along the front of the Ross Ice Shelf R

1 - Hobart - Australia
2 - Invercargill / Port of Bluff - New Zealand
3 - Macquarie Island
4 - Commonwealth Bay
5 - Cape Adare
6 - McMurdo / Scott bases
R - Ross Ice Shelf
Distances miles / km
Hobart - Commonwealth Bay 1640 / 2640
Invercargill - Commonwealth Bay 1720 / 2760
Hobart - Macquarie Island 940 / 1500
Invercargill - Macquarie Island 690 / 1110
Commonwealth Bay - Cape Adare 805 / 1300
Cape Adare - McMurdo 470 /760

The distance to be travelled means that trips to the Eastern side of Antarctica take longer than trips to the Peninsula region from South America and are also subsequently more expensive.

There are also a lot less trips departing from this region than there are from South America. On the other hand, Eastern Antarctica is entirely within the Antarctic Circle and offers a different kind of Antarctica to the Peninsula region, as remote as it's possible to get on the planet. It is colder than a Peninsula trip and with a higher chance of rough seas at some point. Getting to Antarctica and back again is more of an expedition than the more common kind of cruise. You will probably not see any other ships during your trip at all and other than visits to research bases, you won't see any people apart from those on your ship.

What could you see in the Ross Sea region that you won't see on the Peninsula? You may visit the following places subject to the specific itinerary of your cruise and according to what the weather and sea will allow.

Mount Erebus - The world's southernmost active volcano.

Historic sites - There are historic huts in this region of Antarctica from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration from 1897-1922. Scott, Shackleton and Mawson all left huts behind which are preserved as historic relics and time capsules that can be visited.

The Ross Ice Shelf - A 600 km long wall of ice between 15m and 50m high.

Isolated scientific bases - including the largest in the Antarctic, the American base at McMurdo Sound.

Emperor Penguins - The birds of the deep south that rear their young in the depths of the Antarctic winter, the largest of all penguins.

Sub-Antarctic Islands - On the way south and on the return journey back north. These islands are oases of wildlife, especially birdlife which nest here in their almost countless thousands.

A trip to the Ross Sea region is much longer than visiting the Antarctic Peninsula due to the time spent at sea. Trips are between 26-30 days and can be quite expensive. For this reason if this is your first trip to Antarctica the reality is for many that it is much better to visit the Peninsula where the trips start at 10 days and are much less expensive, there is no way of getting around this due to the distances involved, flying long distances is much quicker and cheaper than sailing them. Wildlife is also much more plentiful around the Peninsula so for the majority of people wanting to see the beautiful scenery, penguins, whales etc. the Peninsula really is the best option.

Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Ross Sea Region v Antarctic Peninsula Cruises

Advantages of Ross Sea region

  • Remoteness - You will see little if any other shipping and get a greater feeling of isolation and being at the end of the world, this is a rarely visited part of the planet.

  • You are going where the world's biggest icebergs are and the most extreme weather conditions.

  • Visit the huts of Mawson, Scott and/or Shackleton depending on where your particular cruise goes. This is the area where much of the early exploratory history of Antarctica was played out and where historical remains still stand.

  • Exclusivity - of the people who go to Antarctica, only a small proportion visit regions other than the Peninsula.
Disadvantages of Ross Sea region - though possibly advantages depending on your perspective

  • These should be seen as "extreme cruises", they are more of expedition than other Antarctic cruises, there is a high chance that at some point you will experience rough seas.

  • A long way to sail which means it takes longer and cost more than the more commonly taken Peninsula trips, even the "cheaper" cabins.

  • There are not many cruises each year to the Ross Sea region, so limited dates and availability, cruises are often booked up well in advance and have significant waiting lists - book early!

  • Less Antarctic wildlife than on the peninsula. The sub-Antarctic islands en route are very wildlife rich, but this section of Antarctica itself has less wildlife.

  • Trips are necessarily longer than Peninsula trips, 26-30 days as opposed to 5 days +. There is no quicker way of doing this, sailing to Antarctica and back takes around 10 days and there are no flights.

Need a Little Guidance? contact our travel partners who will help you find the best cruise for your requirements Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Antarctic Peninsula - Sample Cruises - 2015 / 2016

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Antarctica Cruise - Discovering the 7th Continent South Shetlands, Antarctic Peninsula, Penguin Rookeries, Lemaire Channel Optional kayaking, camping and snowshoeing $6,995 -
Antarctica Cruise - The Peninsula Classic Antarctica, pristine scenery, classic sites of scientific and historic interest, experienced naturalist guides. Optional kayaking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountaineering $6,795 -
Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise Fly over the Drake Passage, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Wildlife, Scenery, Ice Optional kayaking and snowshoeing $9,995 - $18,995 8
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Antarctica Ross Sea Region - Sample Cruises - 2015 / 2016

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
The Ross Sea Region - In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton Auckland Islands, Macquarie and Campbell Islands, Explore the Ross Sea, Historic Huts, Ross Ice Shelf, McMurdo base. $20,000 -
East Antarctica - In the Wake of Mawson Antarctic Peninsula to Ross Sea, Historic Huts, remote East Antarctica, Emperor penguins, sub-Antarctic islands, helicopter excursions $13,500 -
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

South Georgia / Falkland Islands / Antarctica - Sample Cruises - 2015 / 2016

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands Vast Colonies of King Penguins, Breathtaking Scenery, Historic sites, optional kayaking $17,995 -
Shackleton Centenary Voyage In conjunction with Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula $13,195 - $21,095 20
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* Prices are based per person, the lowest price is usually for triple occupancy in a basic cabin, the highest for double occupancy in the best available suite.

Options may be at additional cost and are usually booked when the cruise is booked - it may be too late once the cruise has started.