Antarctica cruises appeal to novices and the adventure junkies alike. Antarctica offers some of the most dramatic scenery on the planet, but it is also the highest, coldest, windiest, and driest continent on earth. Fortunately, there are several ways to enjoy all that Antarctica has to offer. Visitors can travel here by plane or by boat. Most would agree, however, that the best ways to experience Antarctica is on a special expedition cruise aboard a ship that is designed specifically for Antarctica’s unusual climate.
Antarctica cruise ships are designed with extreme weather conditions in mind and they are built tough enough to ply through the icy waters of Antarctica. There are roughly seven common types of Antarctica cruise ships or vessels, including: Research Vessels, Expedition Ships, Icebreakers, Small Ships, Dive Boats, Sailing Vessels, and Motor Yachts.
Research Vessels offer basic accommodations, but they also offer plenty in the way of adventure. These Antarctica cruise ships attract young adventurous types looking for a private expedition feel rather than a large cruise ship experience. Research Vessels typically highlight active programs. Expedition Antarctica cruise ships are designed to push right through broken ice and they feature inflatable rubber boats called “Zodiacs” that are used for shore landings and exploration. These Antarctica cruise ships may have a tough exterior, but inside they offer warm, and cozy accommodations as well as excellent onboard service and dining. Expedition Ships are also specially engineered to navigate remote waterways which means guests have a front seat to all of the history and culture Antarctica has to offer. In general, expedition ships usually house a 10 to 12 person team of experts with knowledge and experience in different areas of Antarctica.
Ice Breakers are also used to explore remote areas, but these Antarctic cruise ships are not for the novice. Ice Breakers are used for true expeditions, meaning they literally travel off-the-beaten path, and in some cases where no other ship has dared to venture. Ice Breakers typically have a helicopter or two onboard and they are popular for trips to the remote Polar Regions such as the South Pole or Far South. If you’re interested in a true Antarctica cruise adventure along with a focus on history, culture and on-board educational programs, then an Ice Breaker Antarctic cruise ship is for you!
Small Ships typically travel the Inside Passage of Alaska instead of extremely remote areas. Small Ships are not made for extended expeditions but rather for leisurely cruising and light educational and recreational activities. A Dive Boat is basically a vessel that’s used for diving. A dive boat comes equipped with all the scuba diving equipment you’ll need for your trip. And, as you probably guessed, the main focus of a Dive Boat is dive trips.
Antarctic cruise ships such as Sailing Vessels typically travel in popular areas of Antarctica and typically when it’s warmer. Sailing Ships are designed for short trips or a light sailing. A Motor Yacht is popular for group charters and for those with money to burn. These luxurious vessels are beautiful, extremely comfortable, and they usually hold no more than 20 passengers, an expedition leader, the captain, a cook, and a deck hand.