Antarctica cruises attracted roughly 37,000 people visited the great white continent in 2010 and that list is growing constantly each year. Most people that look into traveling to Antarctica are at the end of their adventures.
People wanting to get to their 7th continent or say that they have been around the world. I have never thought about going to Antarctica until I got to the self proclaimed “southern most city in the world”, Ushuaia. There are amazing experiences to witness in Antarctica including:
- Playing with Penguins & having Penguins jump on my back (Click Here)
- Dancing with Penguins as well (video coming soon).
Living overseas has taught me that you don’t really know where you want to go until after you live there and after touring all of Argentina, the Antarctica travel bug got me. I did my research and and am happy to share that it won’t cost you $10,000 to go to Antarctica, not even half that. Here is how to find a cheap cruise to Antarctica:
There are ports all around the world that can take you to Antarctica, the most popular is Ushuaia. During the peak of the Antarctic tourist season, there is a constant flow of cruises to Antarctica that leave on almost a daily basis. One advantage that Ushuaia has over other ports is that it has the shortest distance to travel. The souther tip of South America is closest to Antarctica. High season is from November to the beginning of March, the summer on the great white continent
The icebreaker ship that travels to the interior where you can see the Emperor Penguins is no longer in service. The Russian government has decommissioned the ship for tourism and is now using it for deep sea oil exploration. When you are traveling to Ushuaia during high season you can step into any Antarctica travel office and get a last minute bargain! There are rumors of people buying their cruises to Antarctica only hours before the ship left from the dock in Argentina.
What people don’t know is that there is a list of Antarctica travel offices that I can provide to you below. Before it was required to travel to Ushuaia to find the list.
Here is the fun part and no, it’s not going to cost you $10,000, not even $5,000. Before you start looking for a last minute cruise, search the internet and see if any of the major travel companies have any offers. Typically they are the ones that offer the last minute prices and sometimes they will advertise “55% off sale”. The lowest price that I have seen is $2,200 with a special sale. Don’t get excited because this is very rare, unless of course you want to cross the drake passage on a row boat.
The average price that you will pay $3,500 USD. You can get better deals if you are flexible and share a triple cabin, these deals are typically in the $3,000 range. The most that you should pay for a last minute cruise to Antarctica is $4,000 USD. I personally would not pay a penny over $3,500 USD.
One additional cost that you need is travel insurance. This is because if you go to Antarctica and for any reason you get sick they need to send a helicopter to evacuate you to the nearest hospital. There are a lot of options for travel insurance and most times the travel agent that you use will include it in their prices or direct you in the right direction.
- GETTING TO USHUAIA-FLIGHTS
Getting a cheap flight to the end of the world depends on many global variables, including where you are coming from and the price of oil. Your first leg will be from where you are coming from to Buenos Aires. All flights in Argentina fly through Buenos Aires. There are two major players here, LAN Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas. Check out my review of both airlines coming soon! You want to try and fly with LAN, Aerolineas Argentinas is a complete mess. With another economic crisis in Argentina coming and inflation through the roof, there are strikes every month. Just think of it as a monthly party.
In this chaos, you want to be with the company that you know is going to take care of you. Living in Chile and Argentina I can tell you that LAN does just that. The cost of the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia is between $300 – $500 USD and will last roughly 3.5 hrs. Try to find a direct flight early because if you have 1 or more connecting flights then you will start to play a game we all love to play with our luggage, hide and seek. If you want the unfortunate accident of being reacquainted with your luggage when you arrive, I would recommend not flying Aerolineas Argentinas. They have a serious problem with both delayed flights and missing bags.
My room mate on the cruise to Antarctica had to call the Chinese embassy to recover his bags from the airline.
Budget travelers have another option where you can watch the countryside and have numb backsides, Bus Travel in Argentina! These buses aren’t the old and dingy Greyhound buses that you are accustomed to that have seats that don’t reclined. These are first class, double decker, full bed reclining buses that serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Did I mention there is entertainment on board? And WiFi? And Liquor? I digress, point is that Argentinian bus travel is the most efficient thing in the country.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any direct buses to the city of Ushuaia from Buenos Aires. There is a connection in Rio Gallegos where you can switch buses and be on your merry way to Ushuaia. I would recommend the bus for anyone that wants to save money or time. The thought of being on a bus for over 20 hours excites us all I know, but when you have to spend hours at an airport(s) for delayed and cancelled flights it doesn’t sound too bad.
In order to purchase bus tickets you can go to the retiro bus station in Buenos Aires a few days before you leave and purchase your tickets. I always purchase by ticket the day I was leaving and never had a problem.
ANTARCTICA CRUISE TYPES-
Antarctica is not governed by any one country in the world. Instead, there are a group of nations that govern the area under various Antarctica Treaties. One of the regulations state that 100 people are allowed to step on the continent at at time. This means that you if you are on a ship with 500 people, if you only land 5 times, you have a 1 in 5 chance of stepping foot on the island. Plan for a ship between 90-130 people, they will still let everyone go if its 130.
There are different itineraries that go to different parts of Antarctica. Since we are cheap skates and want to save our wallets the cheapest cruises are the itineraries with 10-11 days. Make sure to look for a triple cabin to save the most money. My cruise was with GAP Adventures and they have one of the newest ships in the entire Antarctica cruise ship fleet. There were rumors that in order to find the cheap Antarctica cruises you had to be in Ushuaia. Blasphemy! You can contact me for the list and you can contact the operators from your own home.
ANTARCTICA CRUISE ITINERARIES-
Due to erratic weather behavior the itineraries below are estimates. You may have to spend more time on the water because of the infamous Drake Passage. If you are lucky like me, it will be smooth and you will be able to maximize your time in Antarctica. All prices are in USD.
- 10/11 total days on cruise to Antarctica
- 4-5 days at sea
- 4-6 days on land
Antarctic Convergence (variation of above)
- 10-13 total days on cruise to Antarctica
- 4-6 days at sea
- 7-9 day on and around land
Falklands Island – South Georgia Island ($12,000 – $15,000)
- 22 total days on cruise to Antarctica
- 8/10 days at sea
- 1/2 days at Falkland Islands
- 2/3 days at Georgia Islands
To receive the last minute operators list for Antarctica sign up for the email newsletter above or to the right on the sidebar