Dreaming of a visit to Antarctica? You're not alone. Unlike anywhere else on earth, the White Continent has rightfully earned its place on travel bucket lists of aspirational and intrepid travelers alike thanks to its astonishing vistas and rich history of observation
Part of the dreamy draw of traveling to Antarctica is that it's far, far away. In fact, Antarctica's closest neighbor is Ushuaia, Argentina -- a cool 775 miles away. For those curious how you get to Antarctica, the answer is: almost exclusively by cruising. There are no commercial planes, trains or automobiles that can get you to the fabled continent, just cruise ships.
The one exception to this rule are so-called "Fly-cruises" to Antarctica a unique itinerary option offered by some (but not all) cruise lines that allow travelers who are short on time, prone to seasickness or want to travel with a bird's-eye-view to Antarctica.
Fly-Cruise Options to Antarctica Meet Travelers Halfway
So, what is a fly-cruise? Simply put, a fly-cruise is a unique itinerary option offered by some (but not all) cruise lines that allows cruisers to skip the often-rough Drake Passage crossing between South America and Antarctica and instead fly over it. Fly-cruises whisk passengers through the skies to the White Continent, where they join their ship. Due to the sheer distance between the two continents -- and the unpredictability of the weather -- every Antarctica cruise itinerary is padded with at least two days on either side of the voyage for travel time to and from Antarctica.
Fly-cruise options allow cruisers to fly directly to Antarctica, thus avoiding the extra days at sea and potential seasickness that comes from crossing the Drake Passage, one of the world's most turbulent stretches of ocean., Once they reach Antarctica, passengers will deplane and embark their cruise ship before sailing to various points on the continent. Fly-cruise options sometimes allow for one-way flights, giving travelers the option to either cruise to Antarctica and fly back, or fly to Antarctica and cruise back.
Booking a fly-cruise for Antarctica can help shorten your total travel time by four days, giving those short on time the extra leeway they may need to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip happen.
The flight portion of all fly-cruises to Antarctica consists of a two-hour charter flight between South America and King George Island, Antarctica. Remember to grab a window seat – this is an extremely privileged view that only a fraction of the people who visit Antarctica can take in.
Cruise Lines That Offer Fly-Cruise Voyages to Antarctica
Many, but not all, cruise lines offer fly-cruise voyages to Antarctica. These can sometimes be offered one year and not another, but generally speaking, the operators below all offer ample fly-cruise journeys for those who'd rather skip the Drake Passage crossing:
Quark Expeditions: Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake
Quark Expeditions offers an 8-day roundtrip fly and cruise itinerary aboard Ocean Adventurer. After landing, your first steps on the White Continent will consist of a mile-long walk to your ship's Zodiac. Ocean Adventurer then sets sail around the Antarctic Peninsula in addition to visiting the South Shetland Islands. On Day 8, you'll disembark back on King George Island and head back to Chile via charter flight.
For cruisers looking to spend as much time as possible visiting the continent at a decent price point, this fly-cruise option is your best bet.
Scenic: Antarctic Insights: Fly & Cruise on Scenic Eclipse
Fly and cruise itineraries from Scenic are just a hair longer at nine days in duration. Antarctic cruises take place aboard the line's luxury expedition yacht, Scenic Eclipse. The journey starts off with a flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, and includes numerous stops on the Antarctic peninsula before crossing the infamous Drake Passage and ending in Ushuaia, Argentina.
This fly-cruise option is best for cruisers who want to experience both the advantage of flying and the opportunity (and bragging rights) of sailing through the Drake Passage.
Silversea: Antarctica Bridge on Silver Explorer
Silversea Expeditions' Silver Explorer takes cruisers on a quick and cool jaunt to the White Continent. In order to maximize time spent in Antarctica, Silversea's fly-cruise guests will begin and end their Antarctic journey with a business class return flight from Punta Arenas, Chile. Travelers with a limited amount of time can opt for the five-day or six-day onboard itinerary, while those with a bit more time can choose the extended nine-day cruise option. All itineraries include excursion stops in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Sound and King George Island. Nine-day extended itineraries feature extra opportunities to go ashore throughout the Antarctic Peninsula.
This fly-cruise option to Antarctica is ideal for travelers looking for quick and easy trips to Antarctica in absolute luxury, or those who are looking to splurge on a longer cruise experience that includes return flights.
A Few Things to Consider Before Booking a Fly-Cruise to Antarctica
For all the time saved (and potential seasickness avoided), there is one downside to taking advantage of a private chartered flight directly to Antarctica: you'll miss out on all the wildlife sightings from the ship while it's in transit to and from Antarctica. This includes several species of birds, plus whales and other marine life, not to mention the dramatic approach to Antarctica as the continent appears out of the mist.
For some, this is a worthwhile tradeoff for a more efficient itinerary or to avoid having a bad reaction to the deep, undulating ship sways throughout the Drake Passage.
No matter how you get to Antarctica, a trip there is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.