Yes, you can visit Antarctica on an expedition cruise, there are in fact numerous fly-cruise options where can fly over the Drake Passage (the infamous channel that connects South America and Antarctica, and meet an expedition ship on the other side. These typically involve flying from Punta Arenas, Chile, to King George Island (near the Antarctic Peninsula) and then boarding the ship there. This option can save time and allows travelers to avoid the potentially rough seas of the Drake Passage.

Operators that will fly you to King George Island include Quark, Silversea, Antarctica21 and Aurora Expeditions. It was worth noting that these flights are often disrupted and delayed by adverse weather so it is important that you check the T&Cs of the operator as they will always include this flight element as part of their package to you and the plane will be chartered exclusively by the operator. This can also form a queue of operators waiting to fly as the number of planes are limited, although DAP do state that over 90% of flights operated in the last 15 years have done so on time . It is also worth noting that different operators will offer different levels of service on your Antarctica charter flight, this will include what is include, standard of food and drink and numbers. Silversea for example offers flights as an Antarctic Bridge and refers to them within its luxury offering. 

The other consideration, especially if you are a photographer or plan to dive in Antarctica is weight, as that is also strictly limited on the flights to King George Island.

Most expeditions to Antarctica don’t “fly” directly to the continent for the cruise itself. Instead, the journey typically begins with a flight to a gateway city, followed by a ship voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Here’s a general overview of how the process works:

  1. Gateway Cities: Most Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, which is the southernmost city in the world. Some other potential departure points include Punta Arenas (Chile), Christchurch (New Zealand), and Hobart (Australia), depending on which part of Antarctica or the sub-Antarctic islands you aim to visit.
  2. The Crossing: From Ushuaia, ships cross the Drake Passage, which can take around two days. This passage is infamous for its potentially rough seas, but the journey provides an opportunity to see a variety of seabirds and perhaps even some whales.
  3. Antarctic Exploration: Once in Antarctic waters, expedition cruises focus on landings, wildlife viewing, and other activities. The exact itinerary can vary depending on weather, sea ice conditions, and other factors.
  4. Permits & Regulations: All activities in Antarctica, including tourism, are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty System to protect the continent’s unique environment. Operators must adhere to strict guidelines to minimize their environmental impact. As a result, visitor numbers at landing sites are often limited, and there are strict protocols to follow.
  5. Choosing a Cruise: There are various expedition cruises available, ranging from small, intimate ships to larger, more luxurious vessels. When selecting a cruise, consider factors like the size of the ship, the expertise of the expedition team, the length of the journey, and the specific sites the itinerary covers.
  6. Best Time to Visit: The Antarctic cruising season is during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, generally from November to March. During this period, the continent experiences relatively milder temperatures, longer daylight hours, and wildlife is most active.
  7. Cost & Booking: Antarctic cruises are generally quite expensive due to the remote and challenging environment. It’s essential to book well in advance, especially if you’re aiming for a particular cruise or departure date.

Remember, Antarctica is a fragile and pristine environment. As a visitor, it’s crucial to adhere to all guidelines and protocols to ensure the continent remains as untouched as possible for future generations.

DAP, the airline used by expedition operators to charter flights to King George Island has some very use full information on it’s own website. Visit Antarctica Information for flying from DAP.

Related & Curated Expedition Cruise Features

Expedition Cruise Lines List

Expedition Cruise Lines List

  This is a list of all the key expedition cruise lines operating globally. With links to their primary websites too. Key: Charter: This means the company does not own any ships but charters them each season so does operate. Expedition Cruise Line Number of ships...