Best ships in Antarctica; Antarctica Travel Centre expert advice

Which is the best ship in Antarctica?

The top five Antarctic Cruise Ships?

Sea Spirit best Anatrctic Cruise


It’s a difficult question to answer as each ship has its advantages (crew, cabin size, comfort, cuisine and number of guests to name a few) and what’s ‘best’ for one person, isn’t necessarily ‘best’ for another; and that’s how we help – matching your wishes and requirements with the right cruise ship and operator.
Here are five of our, and our client’s, favourites.

You’ll notice we have not included any 200 passenger ships.  Why – it’s our subjective opinion that their size and limitations this has on landings effects our ranking. Does this mean they offer sub-standard cruises – of course not – simply that in our view from a perspective of experiencing Antarctica there are better options.

Akademik Ioffe (98) & Akademik Sergey Vavilov (92) – Expedition style

Please don’t be put off by the Russian ship names or the ‘expedition’ tag. These near identical sister ships have been described by leaders in Antarctic travel as ‘over qualified’. As they are both very, very, stable, manoeuvrable and fast (even in rougher seas due to their advanced stabilisation). They also have a very interesting history, built by the Russian Academy of Sciences for acoustic research, in Finland in 1989. Russian Captains with decades of experienced navigating in the icy waters of Antarctica and the High Arctic  work closely with an excellent expedition team.
With fewer than 100 guests both ships maximise time ashore or in zodiacs – that’s really where the ‘Expedition’ tag comes from; a greater emphasis on  getting off the ship and exploring. The service is excellent and the food very good. The cabins are simple yet comfortable.

Akademik Ioffe (98 guests)
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Akademik Sergey Vavilov (92 guests)
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Sea Spirit (114) – Luxury/Expedition style

With a recent refurbishment this ship is ideal for those who like their creature comforts too much to go with an ‘expedition’ ship, but still want a smaller ship and an expert expedition team who deliver a full programme of activities and excursions. Her public areas include: Restaurant offering open-seating dining, a bar, an Outdoor Bistro, a very comfortable lounge, a well-stocked library, presentation lounge, infirmary and  well equipped gym.  With an open-bridge policy you will have access to the bridge and the Captain and officers (international regulations may require the bridge to be closed at some ports).

Built in 1991  and updated in 2010 the Sea Spirit has recently (April 2017) undergone a partial refurbishment of her suites.

Sea Spirit (114 Guests)
Sea Spirit Antarctic & Arctic Luxury Ship - Rachel Callus
Suite onboard Sea Spirit
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National Geographic Explorer (148) Luxury/Expedition style

Undoubtedly an excellent ship with an expert-team. This ship has been described as having ‘all the toys’ (kayaks, hydrophones, HD underwater cameras and video microscopes, a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that can dive up to 300 metres) and was designed specifically for exploratory cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic.  Highly experienced captain and crew will ensure your Antarctic cruise is enjoyable and educational.

With a maximum of 148 guests there will be times when you’ll need to wait to go ashore – and you’ll always be well looked after.

National Geographic Explorer
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Zoadiac Cruise
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Ocean Nova (68) Fly-Cruise Expedition style

With just 68 guests this was one ship I couldn’t leave out. The Ocean Nova offers Antarctic cruises where you fly from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island on the South Shetland Islands where you board the ship, this not only avoids the Drake Passage it also means you can visit Antarctica in a shorter period of time.

With a maximum of just 68 guests not only can everyone disembark quickly to maximise time exploring, a good guide to guest ratio offers maximum flexibility;  long walk, short walk, kayaking, photography, snow-shoeing options can all be offered simultaneously.  Built in Scandinavia in 1992 she’d well equipped for polar exploration.  Simple/comfortable cabins.

Ocean Nova
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BAE – 146 King George Island
Antarctica-XXI-flight-arriving-King-George-Island-for-Hebridean-Sky-and-Ocean-Nova

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