A voyage to Antarctica is a momentous thing, and chances are you have a question or two about your journey. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about our Antarctica tours here. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly staff if you have any further questions.
Comfortable accommodation and comprehensive pre-departure information ensure the essential details are taken care of. Our onboard chefs pride themselves on all meals provided, with tea and coffee available around the clock. On departure, you will be provided with rubber boots to use for the duration of your trip so you are ready to explore. On all our polar expeditions, you have the option to step off the ship onto our fleet of sturdy Zodiac boats. Opportunities for bird and wildlife watching are the backbone of our expeditions. Groups are hosted by world-renowned naturalists and ornithologists, giving you insights to the Antarctic environment and its wildlife.
When booking your voyage, please enquire about international and domestic flights and transfers to and from your destination. We can arrange tour accommodation pre- and post-trip. Optional activities such as sea kayaking, snowshoeing, photography workshops and camping need to be booked prior to your journey. Drinks, souvenirs, laundry services and any communication charges are not included and need to be purchased separately.
Most cruises depart from southern South America, such as Ushuaia (Argentina), Punta Arenas (Chile) or Montevideo (Uruguay). Some cruises include visits to the nearby Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia. A small number of cruises go to the Ross Sea side of the continent, departing from Hobart, Australia or the South Island of New Zealand.
While you get the opportunity to step off the ship for an up-close look at wildlife and take part in excursions, there are other ways to get a perspective of the Great White Continent. Many of these are included in your cruise such as hiking to remote alcoves with an experienced guide, zodiac cruising, plus shore landings and insightful lectures. You an also book additional optional activities such as sea kayaking through calm water among sea birds (some kayaking experience is essential), snowshoeing and camping. These options must be booked prior to departure and incur additional costs. Spaces are limited, so please enquire at the time of booking.
Trips to Antarctica depart between November and March. This is during the summer months when the ice melts enough to allow access and there is enough light to explore and see wildlife.
As Antarctic trips are seasonal, they tend to book out quickly. Our advice is to book as soon as you've made the decision to travel – you can look at availability on the trip page.
International flights are available for booking approximately 11 months prior to tour departure date. Please contact us to discuss booking options.
All of our Antarctic trips have a low physical rating of one or two, which means they are accessible to people of all levels of fitness with no major mobility issues, and do not require any physical preparation. Activities onshore and excursions involve a bit of walking, but all are optional. You’ll be visiting sites where at times you may have to cross uneven ground and take on challenging conditions underfoot. You will have support stepping on and off the Zodiac boats.
If you have any concerns, please speak to your group leader before taking part.
You can learn more about our physical rating system here, and read the ‘Is this trip right for you?’ section under the trip you're interested in to find out specifics.
An Antarctic voyage can be as active or as low-key as you want it to be. While a trip to Antarctica provides many opportunities to get off the ship, it’s up to you whether you want to venture further afield on a Zodiac boat or explore onshore. Some optional activities need to be booked before departing.
Once you've confirmed your booking we will send out a detailed pre-departure Essential Trip Information pack covering practical information, including a general packing list and any specific items you may need to bring. This is particularly important for polar trips. Your consultant will be happy to assist you with any further questions.
There is no specific upper age limit on our tours. We welcome travellers over the age of eight to join us on our Antarctic expeditions, provided those under the age of 18 are accompanied by a legal guardian. Please note that height and weight restrictions apply for excursion by Zodiac and some optional activities have separate age limits. It’s best to contact us directly to discuss specifics. Check the Essential Trip Information for physical rating and activities involved to see if a trip is right for you.
People who travel to Antarctica are generally more experienced travellers, nature and wildlife lovers and understand the expedition style travel experience. You will likely find a diverse group of ages and nationalities on board, with the majority of passengers aged between 40 and 65 years. English is the language spoken on the board the Ocean Endeavour.
Due to the nature of polar expeditions, the minimum age for children to take part is 8 years and those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian. In addition, there is a minimum height and weight restriction for riding in a Zodiac (the smaller inflatable speedboat used on excursions and for boarding). Age limits also apply to optional activities. Children are not commonly travelling on these trips but it is still possible. We can discuss your options with you.
If you’re travelling alone, you’ll be paired with someone of the same gender to bunk with. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll be happy to work with you to organise a rooming configuration that you feel comfortable with.
If you don’t want to share your space, mention it to our customer service team when booking and they may be able to organise your own room – we call this a single supplement – depending on availability. You may need to pay a single supplement charge.
If you're travelling solo and would prefer not to be paired up with a fellow traveller to share a room, ask your booking consultant if the tour you’re interested in offers a 'single supplement' so that you can be allocated a room alone – this is subject to availability and an additional charge.
If you are travelling with someone, please let us know what room setup you would prefer (twin or double, or in some cases triple rooms may be available).
The average group size for an Antarctic voyage is between 132 and 200 people, depending on which ship you choose. Depending on the group size, the number of passengers may be split so that, on a given day, half can venture out in Zodiacs on the water and the other half explore onshore. All passengers take part in planned activities.
Travel insurance is absolutely necessary on all Intrepid tours, and a condition of travel. When selecting your policy, it should be comprehensive and cover for medical expenses, including emergency repatriation. We strongly suggest the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. We can organise travel insurance for you at any stage prior to travel.
Vaccinations vary from country to country. We strongly recommend you visit your travel doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure, so allow plenty of time.
The waters of the Antarctic can be rough, especially when crossing the Drake Passage. If you feel that you are particularly susceptible to seasickness, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor before departing. It's also recommended that passengers come equipped with motion sickness tablets or patches, and avoid eating greasy foods or consuming alcohol. There is a doctor on board to assist in severe cases.
Gratuities are generally not included in your voyage and are at your discretion. We recommend you allow USD 15 per day for the hotel and ships’ crew and an additional amount if you wish to tip the expedition team. Please see the pre-departure information under the ‘Money Matters’ section of your Essential Trip Information to see if your voyage includes gratuities.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a rule of thumb, most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the visa information in our Essential Trip Information up to date as much as possible. But rules do change, so it is important to check visa information for yourself.
Trip delays and unforeseen disruptions are not uncommon in Antarctica – mainly due to weather and sea conditions – so a travel insurance policy that covers bad weather delays is an absolute must (especially if you are travelling on a fly/cruise voyage). When travelling in remote regions, your expedition staff must allow the sea, ice and weather to guide the route and itinerary details. Embracing the unexpected is part of the legacy – and excitement – of expedition travel and means that every voyage is unique. Please be aware that while we endeavour to make the best arrangements for each trip, no specific itinerary can be guaranteed.
Cancellation conditions are laid out in the ‘Important Information’ section of your Essential Trip Information. We will endeavour to allow changes to your booking, but please note that fees will apply (with a penalty of up to 100%) depending on when the changes are made.
Generally it’s not possible to join a tour after it has departed. As our destinations are extremely remote and itineraries can vary to suit the conditions, there are minimal opportunities to meet the ship at another point.
Our polar trips are operated by our partners Chimu Adventures and Quark Expeditions. Both offer unrivalled expertise, state-of-the-art ships and the highest safety standards.
We have launched a new range of voyages departing in 2020/21 that will be operated by Intrepid Travel on our newly acquired ship, the Ocean Endeavour.
The food served on our cruise ships is excellent. Breakfasts and lunches tend to be buffet style, with dinners generally served to your table and usually featuring three courses. A vegetarian choice is always offered. The range of food is diverse, with professional chefs preparing a wide selection of gourmet dishes.
If you have any dietary requirements or food allergies, please let us know before the trip starts. If you have a more restrictive dietary requirement (vegan, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, etc) it is likely you can be catered for. Unfortunately we are unable to cater for a kosher diet.
Afternoon tea, with pastries or cookies, is provided every day.
Intrepid’s partners, Chimu Adventures and Quark Expeditions, are both members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators operators (IATTO) – dedicated to promoting and practicing safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica.
Members of IATTO are obligated to operate within the parameters of the Antarctic Treaty System along with IMO Conventions and similar international and national laws and agreements.
Tourism and cruise activities in the Antarctic operate within a comprehensive framework of international and national laws and regulations to ensure safety and preservation of the environment.
You will be briefed during each trip on the best way to be respectful, environmentally friendly and safe during the expedition.
Top responsible travel tips for The Antarctic:
- Don’t use aircraft, vessels, small boats or other means of transport in ways that disturb wildlife, either at sea or on land.
- Don’t feed, touch or handle birds or seals, and don’t approach or photograph them in ways that cause them to alter their behaviour. Special care is needed when animals are breeding or moulting.
- To avoid damaging plants, refrain from walking, driving, or landing on extensive moss beds or lichen-covered scree slopes.
- Don’t take ‘souvenirs’ of rocks or flora off the island.
- Don’t use guns or explosives. Keep noise to a minimum to avoid frightening wildlife.
- Ensure that all backpacks and clothing that will be worn on shore are free of seeds and other foreign matter before going ashore.
- Know the location of areas that have been afforded special protection and observe any restrictions regarding entry and activities that can be carried out in and near those areas.
- Be careful not to damage, remove, or destroy historic sites or monuments, or any artefacts associated with them.
- Don’t interfere with scientific research facilities or equipment.
- Dispose of rubbish thoughtfully, including cigarette butts. Refrain from smoking in wilderness areas and leave no rubbish behind.
- For more tips, see the IATTO visitor guidelines.
Geography and wildlife
Antarctica is the seventh continent in the world, located on the southernmost part of the globe. Its closest access point is in South America (Ushuaia, Argentina is the major thoroughfare for Antarctic cruises). From here you can visit the Antarctic Peninsula as well as the sub Antarctic islands such as South Georgia and the Falkland islands. A cruise will take anywhere from 10 to 23 days when leaving from Ushuaia; if crossing directly to the peninsula you can be there in as soon as one-and-a-half to two days.
Punta Arenas in Chile is another gateway for cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula. From there, travellers may take a flight to the South Shetland Islands to board their vessel – perfect for those looking to cruise in Antarctica but avoid the Drake Passage.
Limited cruises depart from Hobart, Australia, or the South Island of New Zealand, involving approximately a 28-day expedition to Commonwealth Bay, a remote location rarely visited by tourists. The cruise is inspired by the Australian scientific explorer Douglas Mawson. Visits may include Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands, the East Antarctic coast, impressive Commonwealth Bay and, depending on conditions, the legendary Mawson's Hut.
Antarctica is governed internationally through the Antarctic Treaty system. The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by the 12 countries whose scientists had been active in and around Antarctica at the time. Among the original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty were Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. These countries have various territorial claims to parts of Antarctica, some of which overlap. The Antarctic Treaty helps avoid any conflict over sovereignty. It entered into force in 1961 and has since been agreed to by many other nations.
Late spring and early summer (November to early December)
As the winter pack-ice begins to melt, fresh and magnificent ice landscapes emerge and animals come out to play.
- Witness the courting rituals of colonies of penguins and seabirds
- Watch seals take to fast ice and shorelines
- See spring wildflowers bloom on Falkland and South Georgia Islands
- View elephant and fur seals establishing breeding territories
- See ice at its sharpest.
Full summer (mid-December to January)
The festive season sees local wildlife activity reach an incredible peak.
- Watch seal pups play on Falkland and South Georgia Islands
- Keep an eye out for the increasing number of visiting whales
- The long days and wondrous midnight light is perfect for photography
- Gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguins are sheltering eggs; chicks hatch in January.
Late summer (February to March)
At this spectacular time of year, you can witness:
- Penguin chicks beginning to fledge
- Snow algae in bloom
- Beautiful Antarctic sunrises and sunsets
- Whale sightings at their best
The Antarctic is only accessible during the southern hemisphere’s summer, generally between December and March when the sea ice melts enough to enable access.
The warmest month is January. Coastal areas of Antarctica experience milder temperatures with summer temperatures generally reaching a maximum of 5°–15°C (41–59°F), with long periods of constant sunlight.
On the west coast the temperatures exceed 0°C (32°F) for three to four months during the summer (December to March) and rarely fall below –10°C (–14° F) during the winter.
The east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is much colder, with mean temperatures exceeding 0°C for a month at most and winter temperatures ranging from –5°C to –25°C (23 to –13°F). In winter, mean temperatures are usually between –10°C and –30°C (14 to –20°F) near the coast, falling to below –60°C (–76°F) on the high interior plateau, with long periods of constant darkness.
Each day brings the possibility of new wildlife sightings, including Adelie and king penguins; leopard and Weddell seals; orcas patrolling the waters; fin and humpback whales breaching nearby; and in some parts you can see albatross. The opportunities to encounter wildlife on each voyage are endless.
Intrepid works in partnership with Chimu Adventures and Quark Expeditions in providing polar trips with an experienced team on the ground, having led thousands of voyages. However, our new range of voyages which are departing in 2020 and 2021 will take place aboard Intrepid's newly acquired ship, the Ocean Endeavour.
All expedition vessels have ice strengthened hulls so they are perfectly suited to travel in this icy environment. As well as being tough expedition vessels, they are built for passenger comfort; all cabins have an ensuite, majority of cabins are external with either a window or a porthole, and the ships’ restaurants, lecture theatres and lounges are warm and cosy.
All ships are accompanied by a sturdy, inflatable fleet of Zodiac boats. These small vessels fit 10–12 people and are used to transfer passengers from the ship to the shore. Essential to all polar voyages, they’re also used to navigate closer to the ice and get up close to marine life.
Cabins vary in size, including what storage space is available. There are wardrobes and drawers to allow you to unpack completely and some ships have a mud room so that you don’t need to store wet gear in your cabin. It is recommended that you travel with soft luggage so that once emptied, it can go under your bunk or at the bottom of a wardrobe.
Basic toiletries are provided in the ensuite of your room, such as soap, shower gel and shampoo.
Yes, hair dryers are available in rooms on all polar trips.
Yes. A licensed doctor and emergency doctor is assigned to every ship.
Unfortunately there is no wheelchair access on our ships. Some ships have lifts but these may not access all decks on the ship. There are often stairways, and passengers need to be mobile enough to keep themselves steady and be able to get around reasonably without being assisted. We can help you to further clarify whether this trip is right for you.
There is a designated outdoor space for smoking on each ship.
Internet access is available on most Antarctic ships, at a cost. Alternatively, there may be a ship-based email system where you will have an email account to stay in touch with family and friends. Because of the remoteness of Antarctica, connections can be slow, so all ships charge for data used rather than time spent online. Please refer to your detailed pre-departure information for more information on Internet facilities on your ship.
Yes, all cabins have power outlets. Refer to your pre-departure information for what type of adaptor is needed. A good tip is to take a powerboard so you can plug in everything you need to.
Yes, all of our polar ships have laundry facilities.
No, but a satellite phone is available (for emergencies only).
Yes. There is a number to call the ship and you can purchase data for the wi-fi onboard, although the connection is intermittent and not to be relied on.
There is no currency in Antarctica. The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentinean peso, in Chile it is the Chilean peso and in Uruguay it is the Uruguayan peso. If your Antarctic cruise includes the Falkland Islands, the currency of the islands is the Falkland Islands pound, although the GBP is accepted as well. If you visit Port Lockroy Post Office on the Antarctic Peninsula, USD is accepted, as is the GBP and EUR. Most cruise ships accept EUR and USD. Major credit cards, particularly Visa and MasterCard, are widely accepted on board. In general, all onboard purchases made during the cruise are charged to your cabin and settled at the end of the voyage.
No. You will need to come prepared with local currency for any purchases made off the ship. Refer to your pre-departure information for more detail.
Major credit cards are accepted on all ships. Refer to your pre-departure information for information on currencies accepted onboard.
All announcements made onboard are in English. At times, there may be large groups of non-English speakers travelling with their own translator. Although the crew will be from various countries and speak multiple languages, the only translation service offered for individual travellers is on Quark ships in Mandarin.
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