Expedition Cruising

Adventure expedition ships get you to places you’ve only dreamed of, and where you certainly can’t get by road. Imagine sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula and cruising past huge towering icebergs while whales and penguins swim by the vast expansive landscape of glacial peaks and rock faces. Boarding a Zodiac inflatable boat to be whisked ashore and get a first-hand experience that will enthral all your senses.

Getting to Antarctica can be a logistical challenge, and adventure cruise ships have simplified this process. The ship is the conduit to allow you an amazing interaction with the pristine Antarctic environment. You will get to see vast penguin colonies, whales swimming right beside the ship, historic sites of the explorers from the heroic era, sweeping glaciers up huge mountain faces that rise straight from the ocean, and get to experience the extremes of weather that make Antarctica famous.  

In addition to the Antarctic, the cruising opportunities in Norway, Alaska and Canada offer Arctic wilderness, remote villages, incredibly diverse wildlife sightings, and an ever changing view every day as you move from point to point on your journey. And to compliment the polar and temperate zones, places like the Galapagos and the Pacific Islands offer wildlife and remote location experiences not to be found anywhere else. Imagine swimming with whales in Tonga or Niue, or wandering the biodiverse islands of the Galapagos alongside giant Turtles, Marine Iguanas, Penguins and Lizards – right from the pages of Darwin’s first encounters.

Expedition cruises offer adventures catering for all travel types, ages and group size. You can even add on such adventures as ski touring, mountaineering, paddle boarding and sea kayaking to many of the expeditions. Ship options also offer everything from 200 traveler berths, adventure cruises with 60-80 people, right down to small bespoke yacht cruises catering for only 10-12 guests, and specialist single activity cruises to really remote locations.


No specific ability or skills required, just a sense of adventure! Many expedition cruises offer activities such as mountaineering, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, diving, or skiing, and some of these require more specific skills  - e.g. for water-based activities, the ability to swim and/or be comfortable around water is important, and mountaineering and ski activities require a moderate level of fitness to be able to participate. Most expedition cruises to more remote locations will require a medical questionnaire be completed.

Gear Required

Generally all technical and safety equipment is provided, with the only requirement from you being well supported footwear (although in the polar regions you will generally be supplied with rubber boots from the ship) and clothing suitable to the environment – e.g. in the higher latitudes taking a lot more warm layers and a good jacket/overtrousers with hat and gloves is imperative. Summer or tropical cruise locations can be more about sun protection (sunscreen/hat/sunglasses) with the potential for changes in weather.


exploreGO Top Experiences

  • Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula on a 10 day sailing from Ushuaia
  • Explore Svalbard and the wild Arctic
  • Soak up the Galapagos and encounter diverse wildlife
  • Traverse coastal Antarctica on an extended journey around the continent
  • Get to South Georgia – an incredible Antarctic island of dramatic peaks, glaciers and immense wildlife populations of King Penguins, fur seals, elephant seals and albatross
  • Explore the Canadian Arctic and Greenland by ship
  • Take an incredible journey to the Ross Sea region and see how early explorers survived
  • Fulfil your adventure passions while on an Antarctic cruise – kayak, climb, ski, paddle board

Best time to travel


Late October to early December (early summer): Winter pack ice begins to break up, seals on fast ice and shoreline, breeding season for penguins and seabirds, seals establishing their breeding territory, snow covered mountains

Mid December to January (mid-summer): Warming temperatures and wildlife very active – chicks hatching, receding ice opens, whale numbers increasing, very long daylight hours, warmest temperatures

February to March (late summer): Whale sightings at their best, penguins fledging, wonderful sunsets/sunrises, snow algae blooming, numerous seals around the Peninsula


June to September is the main time to explore the Arctic, as the pack ice recedes

Svalbard is best experienced May to September.

1 Antarctica - ship in ice

exploreGO Top Tips:

  • If going on an Arctic or Antarctic expedition cruise, make sure you have everything you need before you go, as trying to get electronic gear or sometimes even good cold weather gear at a decent price can be difficult from where many ships depart from. Make sure you have a few pairs or dextrous gloves to operate electronic gear in the cold, or even do up zippers. And a well fitted hat and neck gaiter will keep you snug and warm on those cold morning zodiac cruises.  
  • Get some good quality dry bags. Some even come with pack straps so your arms are free. Whether the tropics or Polar Regions, dry bags are a must to keep your gear safe and dry while cruising about in zodiacs or small boats. If you’re planning on camping, sea kayaking or spending significant time ashore then you’ll need a larger dry-bag, and another key addition in Polar Regions are pocket heat packs – which are good for warming your hands after operating camera gear, but also good to warm cold batteries up.  Remember to keep your camera, binoculars and jacket on you all the time – you never know when you’ll suddenly see something from the ship like whales, and you don’t want to be rushing back to your cabin to find your camera and get a jacket to go outside.
  • Learn about where you’re going prior to departure. Most expedition cruises have staff on hand for key topics like history, geography/glaciology, ornithology, marine biology, etc, but it can feel like information overload if everything you are learning from the presentations is new. You will also be in a much better position to gain a deeper understanding or ask important questions if you travel with prior knowledge of where you’re going and how the eco system there works.  

Related Experiences

Interested in Expedition Cruising but seeking a different experience right now? Check out some suggested experiences below or click the link to browse our full suite of activities.

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