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Arctic / Antarctic Cruise Guide

Explore the breathtaking landscapes, imposing ice formations and untouched wilderness on a cruise through these remote and majestic regions.

A cruise to the Arctic or Antarctic is truly the adventure of a lifetime. Although these two regions are worlds apart in terms of location and characteristics – Antarctica is a frozen continent anchored by the South Pole and his home to penguins, whereas the Arctic encompasses the frozen ocean situated around the North Pole and is home to polar bears – they are similar in that these regions have gone largely unexplored by travelers. On an Arctic or Antarctic cruise, passengers will be treated to the sights of calving icebergs, imposing mountains and bountiful wildlife, all from a comfortable floating home base.

The most difficult part of going on a cruise to the Arctic or Antarctica is deciding which region you want to explore first. The Arctic refers to the area north of the Arctic Circle, and includes the northern regions of Greenland, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, Canada and the United States. For the most part, Arctic cruises operate out of Northern Europe and Northeastern Canada, making it fairly accessible for many travelers. During a cruise to the Arctic, passengers can expect to see vivid skies, towering glaciers and rugged landscapes.

Ports of call during an Arctic cruise can vary greatly depending on the itinerary and cruise line, but common ports include Russia, Greenland and Norway. Wrangel Island in Russia is known for polar bear sightings, while Greenland is home to the massive Jakobshavn Glacier, the largest ice stream outside of Antarctica. In Norway, passengers can disembark in the city Tromso, which is a famed viewing point for the spectacular Northern Lights display, or they can explore Spitsbergen to admire its windswept tundra and rugged terrain of glaciers.

As the last untouched continent, Antarctic cruises are well-suited for wildlife lovers keen on watching giant whales breaching the vast ocean, playful seals basking on ice floes, and cavorting penguins bobbing in the cobalt waters. The majority of Antarctic cruises sail from Ushuaia in Argentina, and these sailings typically visit the Antarctic Peninsula via the Drake Passage or the South Shetland Islands. Longer sailings, which can last for as long as 20 nights, take passengers to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

Although there are no cafes, shops or city centers on Antarctic landings, there is never a shortage of activities for passengers to experience. Most Antarctic cruise ships drop anchor and take their passengers by Zodiac to a handful of landings, where passengers can get up close and personal with nature. Deception Island is a popular landing, with an active volcano and terrific hiking spots. The Lemaire Channel is perhaps one of the most photographed waterways in the world, due to its translucent sapphire seas, snow-dusted mountain peaks and impenetrable icebergs. For passengers eager to spot penguins in their natural habitat, Elephant Island and Half Moon Island are home to a large colony of penguins.

Travel seasons for Arctic cruises and Antarctic cruises are opposite, so passengers in the northern hemisphere would visit the Arctic in the summer and the Antarctic in the winter. Peak season for a cruise to the Arctic occur from May to September, when the Land of the Midnight Sun experiences 24 hours of daylight. Although the long hours of darkness and freezing temperatures during the winter months are enough to detract travelers, the breathtaking Aurora Borealis have drawn a larger number of visitors in recent years. The Antarctic cruise season starts in November and ends in March, with December and January being the most popular time to visit the Antarctic Peninsula.

*Prices are cruise only, per person, double occupancy. Taxes, fees and port expenses not included. Rates are valid for US and Canadian residents only. Fuel supplement may apply. Savings advertised and Expedia Extras are based on specific cabin types and sailing dates, and may not be available for all cabin types/sailings.