Updated June 2019
The cost of a cruise to Antarctica is arguably the primary concern for potential adventurers. We could bet our bottom dollar that you’ve already heard about how expensive this destination is and you’re likely sweating buckets thinking you’d have to sell your right kidney in order to afford this most majestic of journeys. Relax: Antarctica may not be the cheapest place you could visit from Australia but there are actually a few ways you can mitigate costs, with the help of some forward planning.
But first things first: how much does it cost visit Antarctica from Australia?
First up, we’ll take a look at all the options of visiting Antarctica from Australia. They are:
- Cruises departing directly from Australia (or New Zealand)
- Cruises departing from South America
- Sightseeing flights from Australia
- Private luxury yacht charter
We’ll also share a few of our insider tips for mitigating costs, so read on to learn all there is to know about exploring the southernmost continent on earth from Australia.
Direct cruises from Australia to Antarctica
Many potential sailors don’t know that, every year, a few select Antarctica expedition cruises depart directly from our neck of the woods. The two departure points are Hobart (Tasmania) and Invercargill or Bluff (New Zealand). These exclusive charters offer perhaps the most distinctive Antarctic journey of all, one that cruises the longest and arrives at the remotest side of Antarctica, the eastern seaboard.
Direct cruises from Australia (New Zealand) deliver an all-encompassing adventure, given the greatest distance from Antarctica. These are the longest and most expensive cruises of all yet also the ones that deliver the spectacle of larger icebergs, historic sites dating back to the Age of Polar Exploration and the least-visited landing sites of all. Bona fide expedition adventures, direct cruises from Australia and our easterly neighbour deliver once-in-a-lifetime experiences and, price notwithstanding, are among the most coveted of all. Only a few depart each year with cabins selling out, at times, over a year in advance.
How much do Antarctica cruises from Australia cost? Three-week cruises cost around AUD 25,000 for a mid-range ship (like the Akademik Shokalsky) and up to AUD 47,700 for a luxury option like the Crystal Endeavour.
What to consider – Unless you actually live either in Hobart or Bluff, you’ll have to add transfer costs to your chosen point of departure. We can help you sort out connecting flights to either port of call from your nearest capital city although keep in mind you’ll want to book direct cruises – and their connecting flights – at least 8-10 months in advance. By and large, expect to add anywhere between AUD 200 and AUD 800 for connecting flights.
Cruises to Antarctica from South America
Cruises departing Ushuaia in Argentina are by far the cheapest option for Australians, and that holds true even when one includes return flights to South America. Isn’t that a marvellous reason to take more time off and explore other parts of this amazing continent?
Cruises are cheaper from South America due to the sheer number of ships and operators, as well as shorter cruising times. Ushuaia is the unrivalled hub of Antarctica cruising and it is here that you’ll find the greatest choice of ships, itineraries, comfort levels and expedition prices.
How much do Antarctica cruises from South America cost? Although we can occasionally offer really amazing special deals on Antarctica cruises (more on that at the end of the page) the most affordable Antarctica cruise departing South America comes in under AUD 8,000 (for an 11-day jaunt) which is unparalleled value-for-money. As cruises range in duration (between 10 and 20 days), comfort and luxury levels (ex-research vessels to luxury ships), prices can likewise vary considerably, which offers a great array of budget choice. The longer the cruise and the greater the inclusions (like a visit to the Falklands or South Georgia) the higher the price, naturally. The most expensive option from South America, a 3-week jaunt that includes the above-mentioned wildlife-enriched islands, will set you back just under AUD 19,000.
What to consider – Given the array of fantastic flight deals between Australia and South America, it’s easy to see that even the longest and most expensive cruise from South America will still save you a lot of cash, despite the need for an international flight (or even two). See our updated article on Flying to South America from Australia to get an idea of your airline options. In the specific case of Antarctica expeditions, we recommend you choose Air New Zealand, the only airline currently connecting Australians directly to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Given that Ushuaia is also in Argentina, this will make your subsequent flight south a domestic one.
Sightseeing Antarctica flights from Australia
Although this option doesn’t allow to actually set foot on Antarctica, it is a very unique offer that’s only available from Australia. Every summer, a select number of chartered sightseeing flights depart from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. The return flight lasts about 12hrs, with the first icebergs spotted usually within 3-4 hours of taking off. This is, as you can imagine, the ‘day trip’ to trump all day-trips, with a rotating seat roster in place to ensure everyone can enjoy a visual feasting they’ll never forget. You’ll have a chance to move around and chat with other passengers as you enjoy the startling views below for at least four hours of the entire flight.
How much do sightseeing flights over Antarctica cost? These very special charters are operated by QANTAS on 747 Boeings, offering full service including two meals and complimentary drinks. As with ‘normal’ flights, you’ll have the choice of seven distinct classes, including basic Economy (AUD 1,200) Business (AUD 4,300) and First Class (AUD 8,000). Do note that all passengers, including in First Class, will have to rotate seats.
Private luxury yacht charter
You need not be Sir Richard Branson to experience a truly luxurious Antarctica experience, but it would certainly help if you can somewhat emulate his bank account. Private yacht charters to Antarctica are totally a thing, with a handful of luxurious expedition vessels available for charter every year. You run-of-the-mill 45m private motor yacht will be polar-specialised and will include a private chef, activity co-ordinator, luxurious cabins, perhaps a hot-tub on outer deck and about every amazing mod-con you never knew you needed in Antarctica.
How much does it cost to charter a private luxury yacht in Antarctica? Expect a week of private Antarctica cruising aboard a luxury yacht, with a dozen of your closest mates, to cost upwards of AUD 150,000. We won’t lie, it’s not like we sell a hundred of these luxury Antarctica charters every year BUT if you’re keen for a unique Antarctica expedition that’s completely personalised to your wishes, one where you call the shots, then do contact us.
How To Mitigate Costs of visiting Antarctica from Australia
Flight purchase: If you’re an avid traveller you will know that flight prices fluctuate greatly throughout the year and that, usually, the optimal time to get the best flight deal is about three months before travelling.
However, a cruise to Antarctica is a considerable travel investment. Having peace of mind, and booking your entire journey well in advance, is certainly recommended in this case. The protracted stress of ‘what if flights sell out?’ is certainly not worth a couple of hundred dollars’ savings, when one spends thousands.
Not only that! Antarctica cruising season is also high tourist-season in Patagonia: planning and booking ahead, and having only excitement to look forward to, simply makes the most sense.
Early bird deals: Booking your flights way ahead becomes all the more enticing when you score an early-bird deal on your Antarctica cruise. Special Deal cruises can save you of up to 30% and are offered across a wide range of ships and trips.
Last minute deals: Along with early bird deals, last minute deals can also be a sight for sore eyes and certainly a brilliant option if it is, well, your only option. The upside of last-minute deals? On a particularly ‘slow’ season, you can score cruises at half their retail price, which is just sensational! The downsides of last-minute deals? Firstly, there aren’t nearly as many as you imagine, when it comes to Antarctica, the ‘hottest’ and most coveted travel destination in the world, nowadays. You can also pretty much forget last-minute cruises departing directly from Australia and New Zealand ever going on sale. From here, cruises are few and spaces limited, so these tend to sell out as soon as they are released. Sign up our Chimu Newsletter (at the bottom of the Special Deal page and keep abreast of all the latest offers.
Travel Insurance: An absolute must when cruising to Antarctica (or anywhere really) travel insurance will cover the cost of evacuation by plane or boat, and transfer to a larger hospital asap. Check out our insurance for Antarctica blog for more info.
Need more help deciding which option is best for you? We’re here to help. Here at Chimu Adventures, we’ve scoured Antarctica on various vessels and from various ports, and can offer recommendation and advice to help you on your way. We understand what a big decision and big journey this is to plan, and are more than happy to assist. Check out the cruises to Antarctica we offer, and contact us for any further info. For more information on all things Antarctica check out our Antarctica Hub.
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 13 years. She’s tour guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and is now in the midst of a 5-year motorbike odyssey from Germany to Australia.”