Are Small Ships Better in Antarctica?

When choosing an Antarctic expedition, consider carefully how the size of the ship will determine your experience.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

By Antarctica21

When traveling to Antarctica, there are several ship options to consider: large, commercial cruises that sail by the continent; medium-sized vessels that allow you to go ashore in large groups; or small ships, like the ones you will find with Antarctica21, with fewer than 100 passengers.
All human activities in Antarctica are regulated by an Antarctic Treaty, and among many important rules, two apply directly ship size: “Vessels with more than 500 passengers shall not make landings in Antarctica” and “A maximum of 100 passengers may be ashore from a vessel at any one time, unless site specific advice requires fewer passengers.” What does that mean to you?

Small-ship cruises (less than 100 passengers)
This is where Antarctica21 comes in with our unique air-cruises. We are a boutique operator of small ships. Our fleet includes Ocean Nova, Hebridean Sky, and our new ship Magellan Explorer. On our air-cruises we carry no more than 75 guests per trip, allowing you to have an intimate experience where you can remember everyone’s name at the end of your voyage. With a small group, getting off the ship and into zodiacs or on land is quick and efficient, giving you more time to explore. Imagine a pod of whales swimming nearby, because our groups are small and because we have enough zodiacs to carry everyone once, all guests can enjoy the whale encounter up close and personal, without waiting in a line (by which time the whales may have moved on).

Medium-sized ships (between 101-500 passengers)
These ships can take their guests ashore to visit penguin rookeries and to explore the landscape. However, with more than 100 passengers aboard, not everyone can go on shore at once. Travelers must be organized in groups and these groups must take turns, which takes time and coordination. The larger the group the more time is spent waiting (and less spent exploring). It’s also important to note also that tour operators offering a fly cruise option with medium ships need to use more than one flight to carry all travelers to Antarctica, resulting in a higher chance of experiencing flight delays and disruptions. In comparison, Antarctica21 needs only one flight to carry all our passengers ensuring that when the weather is good to fly that we can all go at once.

Large cruise ships (500+ passengers)
Large cruise ships offer a variety of facilities, entertainment and dining options. However they can carry thousands of travelers, which means that guests do not have the opportunity to go ashore. Travelers on these ships will simply see Antarctica from the vessel. Keep in mind that with the large vessels cruising is limited to deeper waters, often at a considerable distance from the shore.

Weighing the options
When choosing an Antarctic expedition, consider carefully how the size of the ship will determine your experience. If you want entertainment shows and midnight buffets, and if are happy to see Antarctica from a distance, then a larger cruise ship may be the right choice for you. If you want a more personal, active trip focused on your onshore experience, then you should consider a small-ship. And if you are specifically considering an Antarctic fly and cruise expedition we believe Antarctica21 offers you the best option of all.

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