POLAR EXPEDITION SHIPS

A Complete List Of Ships That Sail To The Poles

Taking a cruise to the Arctic or Antarctica is no small investment. The remote landscapes and pristine wilderness means that cruise prices are relatively high to both regions.

Therefore, making sure you get the perfect Polar cruise ship to suit you is paramount. This will be one of the most important choices you make when deciding upon your cruise.

Most years there are roughly 14 ships that make regular trips to the poles. All 14 are listed below. We have provided information on each so that you get a feeling for which will suit you most.

To help make the choice more simple, we have also separated the ships into three categories; Luxury, Expedition and Research.

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Types Of Expedition Polar Ships

Which category of ship you choose will depend largely upon your budget.

Luxury ships can cost three times the amount of a Research vessel for the same itinerary. The experience is different though. Luxury ships provide the comforts of home and more. You an expect jacuzzis, restaurant options and well-appointed rooms with plenty of space.

Expedition ships find a nice medium between both. You won't get the ultimate luxury of cruise ships, but you'll get plenty of space, more food options and plenty of shore landings and zodiac trips.

Research vessels are the work horses. There are no frills, but you will make regular shore landings and experience the same wildlife and landscape. Research ships often feel more like real expedition cruising because of the lack of amenities.

Always remember, smaller ships feel the motion of the sea more. That being said, smaller ships can navigate narrow passages and will often make more shore landings because of this.

Luxury Polar Ships

National Geographic Explorer

polar-expedition-cruise-ships-National-Geographic-Explorer

One of the most famous expedition cruise ships, the National Geographic Explorer is a state of the art cruise ship that boast full stabilization and luxury facilities. Accommodating 148 passengers, the Explorer is actually quite small which allows it to navigate many of the smaller passages. On board you'll find a full spa treatment centre, gym, mud room, window-lined library and even a video chronicler! All 81 cabins come with a view and there is plenty of deck space to stretch your legs and view the wildlife.

Specifications

•Beam : 54

•Length : 367

•Passengers: 148

•Cabins : 81

Facilites

Two Restaurant, Bar, Lounge, Observation lounge, several Sun Decks, Gym, Sauna, Mud room and lockers, Elevator Library, Business Center with wifi access, Gift Shop, Laundry and Open Bridge

Equipment

Zodiacs, Remotely operated vehicle (R.O.V.), Snorkeling gear, Kayaks, Splash-Camera, Underwater video cameras, Video microscope

L'Austral

Polar Expedition Ships - L'Austral

One of the larger ships in the Arctic region, the L'Austral provides super luxury in a relaxed and elegant manner. Purposefully built for cruise goers, the ships feels stead in the water and you'll hardly notice any movement. Accommodating 264 passengers and over 130 crew, the ship offers plenty of space including several restaurants, large library, panoramic lounge, full spa and fitness centre and beauty salon. If you're after comfort and space then the L'Austral may be just right.

Specifications

•Passengers: 264

•Crew : 131

•Cabins : 132

•Length : 466

•Voltage : 220V

Facilites

Restaurant (2), Panoramic Lounge, Terrace, Library, Bars (3), Theater, Fitness Center, Salon/Spa/Steam Room, Elevator (3), 24-hour Room Service and Pool

Equipment

Zodiacs, Dynamic Positioning System

National Geographic Orion

Polar Expedition Ships - nat geo orion

Sister ship the National Geographic Explorer, the Orion is a very elegant ship that oozes class. Whether its the freshly baked bread, the panoramic views or the elegant cabins, you'll feel right at home here. Enjoy spa treatments and relax out of the deck cafe with a champagne in hand as you cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula. 

Specifications

•Passengers: 102

•Cabins : 53

•Length : 338

Facilites

Gymnasium and Health Spa, Sun Deck with Outdoor Bar and Jacuzzi, Large Lecture Theatre, Restaurant, Mud Room, Boutique and Salon, Glass Elevator Hospital and Infirmary, Library with wifi Access, Lounge and Outdoor Cafe

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks, Remotely operated vehicle (R.O.V.), Underwater video cameras, Video microscope, Snorkeling gear, Splash-Camera

Silver Cloud

Polar Expedition Ships - Silver-cloud

Having recently undergone a 40 million dollar renovation at the end of 2017, the Silver Cloud is now one of the most modern and luxurious ships in the Polar regions. With just 200 passengers, the Silver Cloud is not overly large and can slip into narrow channels and bays with relative ease. This means you won't miss any landings! There are a number of dining options including a Relais & Châteaux restaurant. There is a state if the art two-storey lecture theatre and even a butler service on request.

Specifications

•Crew : 222

•Passengers: 200

•Beam : 70

•Draft : 18

•Length : 514

•Voltage : 110/220V

Facilites

 Five Dining Options, Bar, Internet Cafe, Panoramic Lounge Boutique, Casino, Two-Story Show Lounge and Lecture Theater, Salon and Spa, Fitness Center, two Jacuzzis, Pool, Onboard Doctor

Equipment

Zodiacs, WiFi, Elevator, Stabilizers

Silver Explorer

Polar Expedition Ships - silver explorer

Although one of the smaller ships that sails to Antarctica, the Silver Explorer is most definitely one of the more luxurious. Just out  from a multi-million dollar renovation in 2017, the Silver Explorer is tailored to navigate the small inlets and bays along the Antarctic Peninsula. She boasts a full spa service and several top-deck jacuzzis for passengers to relax in. 

Specifications

•Cabins : 65

•Passengers: 132

•Beam : 52

•Length : 354

Facilites

Dining Room, Two Lounges, Large Lecture Hall, Library with wifi Cafe, Beauty Salon, Gym, Sauna, two Jacuzzis, Open Bridge, Boutique, Full-Service Spa, Medical Center, WiFi

Equipment

Zodiacs

Midnatsol

Polar Expedition Ships - midnatsol

Boasting the latest in technology, the Midnatsol is part of the Hurtigruten fleet and is a large luxury vessel designed for Polar expeditions. The large two floor glass panoramic viewing lounge is quite special and gives travellers the best views possible throughout the cruise. The Young Explorers Program aboard the ship makes it very family friendly. 

Specifications

•Cabins : 278

•Passengers: 500

•Beam : 71

•Length : 445

Facilites

Two-story Panoramic Lounge, Restaurant, Separate a la carte dining, several Bars, Cafe, Library, Playroom, Lecture Theater, Onboard Science Center, Physican on board, Sauna, Boutique, Jacuzzi, Fitness Room

Equipment

Stabilizers, Kayaks, Polarcirkel Boats, Zodiacs

MS Fram

Polar Expedition Ships - the fram

Also part of the Hurtigruten fleet, the MS Fram was only built in 2007, making it extremely modern and dafe vessel. Named after the ship that the famous Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen sailed upon, the interior is decked out with an Arctic feel inspired by local artists. Artefacts from the original Fram dot the interior, which adds a nice touch. All the facilities are top notch and modern. 

Specifications

•Cabins : 127

•Passengers: 254

•Beam : 66

•Length : 374

Facilites

Dining Room, Elevator, Observation Lounge, Bar, Sun Deck, Library, Laundry Service, Onboard Doctor, Two Jacuzzis, Sauna, Gym, Gift Shop, Bistro, Two Lecture Halls

Equipment

Polarcirkel Boats for landings, Stabilizers

Le Boreal

Polar Expedition Ships - La-boreal

Sister ship to the L'Austral, the Le Boreal is one of the more luxurious Polar ships. The door within feels subtle, elegant and stylish. The facilities, which include, gym, spa, steam room, library, pool etc are all well-appointed. There is 24 hour room service and a full beauty salon. There are a 132 cabins, all of which are outward facing, making each room light and airy. For guests on deck 6, a butler service will come as standard.

Specifications

•Passengers: 199

•Beam : 59

•Speed : 16

•Cabins : 132

•Crew : 136

•Length : 466

Facilites

 Two Restaurant, Theater, Library, Three Bars, Panoramic Lounge and Terrace, Fitness Center, Salon, Spa, Steam Room, Three Elevators Wireless Internet, 24-hour Room Services, Pool

Equipment

Zodiacs, WiFi, Elevator, Stabilizers

Le Lyrial

Polar Expedition Ships - le lyrial

Sister ship to the Le Boreal, the Lyrial is a truly state of the art Polar vessel with all the luxuries you could expect from a ship like this. Panoramic lounges, 122 outward facing cabins and excellent deck space mean you'll never miss any of the excitement! You'll fine elevators, spas, lounges, libraries and more on board. You may also find that more of the guests are non-English speaking. 

Specifications

•Passengers: 199

•Beam : 59

•Cabins : 132

•Length : 466

Facilites

Two Restaurant, Panoramic Lounge and Terrace, Library, Theater, Wireless Internet, Three Elevators, 24-hour Room Services, Pool, Three Bars, Fitness Center, Salon, Spa, Steam Room

Equipment

Zodiacs, Dynamic Positioning System

Hebridean Sky

Polar Expedition Ships - Hebridean_Sky

Having undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2016, the Hebridean Sky is now a beautiful exploration ship that boasts many luxurious comforts. All the cabins are suites and there is a lovely lounge known as  “The Club”. State of the art stabilization and presentation lounge with audio-visual facilities makes this a great ship for Antarctic trips.

Specifications

•Passengers: 114

•Beam : 50

•Cabins : 58

•Length : 297

Facilites

Library (with Internet access), Lounge with Live Entertainment, Wraparound Sun Deck, Bar, Elevator, Dining Room, Gym, Beauty Salon, Medical Facilities

Equipment

Zodiacs

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Expedition-Style Polar Ships

MS Spitsbergen

Polar Expedition Ships - MS_Spitsbergen

The MS Spitsbergen is part of Hurtigruten's fleet and their only cruise vessel that sails to Svalbard. Named after the archipelago's largest island, the MS Spitsbergen offers a stylish Scandinavian interior with plenty of deck space to view wildlife. Carrying 200 passengers, the vessel is not super big and can navigate the coastal waters around Svalbard with ease. Having had a complete renovation in 2016, the cabins all have a clean a fresh feel to them which really adds to the enjoyment of the cruise.

Specifications

•Crew : 66

•Passengers: 200

•Cabins : 100

•Length : 320

Facilites

 Bar (2x), Dining Room, Bistro, Elevator (2x), Gym, Jacuzzi, Sauna Laundry Room, Lounge, Hospital, Observation Deck

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks

Ocean Diamond

Polar Expedition Ships - Ocean-Diamond

The Ocean Diamond is one of the most modern expedition-style vessels sailing to Antarctica currently. She is part of the Quark fleet and offers and excellent range of activities such as kayaking and trekking. The cabins are well-appointed and you'll find several bars, a lovely library and a good-sized lecture room. 

Specifications

•Passengers: 189

•Cabins : 101

•Length : 406

Facilites

Theater-style Auditorium, Gift Shop, Elevator, Restaurant, Bar, Polar Library, Gym, Spa, Clinic with licensed doctor

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks, Adventure Equipment, Trekking Poles

Ocean Endeavour

Polar Expedition Ships - ocean endeavour

The Ocean Endeavour is another of Quark's fleet and offers exceptional expedition-style cruising. The Endeavour comes with an ice-strengthened hull, advanced navigation equipment, and a dual gangways for efficient and fast Zodiac operations. There are several sun decks and several lounges for optimum wildlife viewing potential. 

Specifications

•Passengers: 199

•Crew : 124

•Length : 499

Facilites

Restaurant, Lounges (2), Library, Lecture Theater, Boutique, Spa Services, Gym, Sauna, Pool, Jacuzzi, Wellness Cafe

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks and Stand-Up Paddleboards (at an additional charge)

MS Expedition

Polar Expedition Ships - expedition

The Expedition is one of the smallest cruise ships in the Polar regions and offers an intimate experience that allows you to make numerous landings thanks to her small size. With a complete refurbishment in 2009, the Expedition feels modern and stylish and offers an excellent deck area for wildlife viewing. Onboard you'll find plenty of panoramic windows, gym, sauna, library, restaurant and a nice bar. All cabins come with en-suite and are outward facing for best viewing experiences.

Specifications

•Draft : 15

•Speed : 14.5

•Crew : 53

•Passengers: 132

•Length : 345

Facilites

Observation Decks, Lounge, Pub, Fine Dining, Gift Shop, Library, Computer Room, Medical Clinic, Gym, Sauna

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks

Sea Spirit

Polar Expedition Ships - Sea-Spirit

The Sea Spirit is a typical expedition stye ship. You get a small ship which carries a 116 passengers, good communal space and a friendly atmosphere. The library is well stocked and there is excellent deck space including a sun deck and a hot tub. Bistro meals are served outside on warm days and the cabins are all outward facing with en-suites. The bridge is open at all times for passengers to meet the captain and to get the best views possible for wildlife watching!

Specifications

•Length : 295

•Speed : 14

•Crew : 72

•Passengers: 116

•Cabins : 54

Facilites

Dining Room, Two Lounges, Bistro, Elevator, Internet, Library, Gym, Hot Tub, Access Clinic/Doctor

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks, Stabilizers

Island Sky

Polar Expedition Ships - MS_Island_Sky

Just renovated in 2017, the Island Sky is a beautiful and small ship designed for Polar cruising. With 11 zodiacs on board you'll not be waiting long for shore visits and there is great deck space for wildlife viewing. An elegant dining room, good library and piano makes this ship feel cozy and friendly. 

Specifications

•Length : 295

•Crew : 72

•Passengers: 110

•Cabins : 54

Facilites

Bar, Elevator, Internet, Polar Library, Fitness Center, piano, Wifi, On board Doctor

Equipment

Zodiacs

Ocean Nova

Polar Expedition Ships - Ocean-Nova

The Ocean Nova is the smallest Polar cruise ship carrying just 78 passengers. Purpose built to navigate small channels and bays, the Ocean Nova is an intimate ship with excellent viewing areas. There is a lovely forward-facing lounge that is enclosed in glass, making it the ideal (and warm) spot to watch the spectacular wildlife of Svalbard and the Antarctic. There is a good bar, dining area, library and lecture room. All rooms come with an outward facing window and have en-suite facilities.

Specifications

•Speed : 12

•Crew : 38

•Passengers: 68

•Cabins : 37

•Length : 239.5

Facilites

Glass-enclosed Observation Lounge, Dining Room, Lounge, Library, Presentation Room, Bar, Gym, Clinic with Doctor

Equipment

Zodiacs

Ocean Adventurer

Polar Expedition Ships - Sea-Adventurer

Formerly known as the Sea adventurer, the newly named Ocean adventurer was purpose built for Arctic conditions and underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment in 2017. All cabins are outward facing, the library and dinning rooms are both glass-lined and there is exceptional deck space. These facts mean that the Sea adventurer is one of the best Polar cruise ships for wildlife viewing. The newly appointed rooms feel fresh and stylish. With only 132 passengers, there are frequent shore landings and the vessel will be able to navigate most channels.

Specifications

•Length : 330

•Speed : 12

•Crew : 83

•Passengers: 132

•Cabins : 57

Facilites

Dining Room, Observation Lounge, Bar, Library, Clinic with doctor, Exercise Room

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks, Internet

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Research-Style Polar Ships

Ortelius

Polar Expedition Ships - ortelius-ship

One of the most popular research vessels for Polar expeditions, the Ortelius is an ice-strengthened vessel which will see you safe through any Arctic conditions. Accommodating 116 passengers, the vessel is quite small and easily navigates icy inlets. On offer is an enormous open deck space that is ideal for wildlife watching and photography. You also have access to the bridge and several dining room options. There is a good sized lecture theatre and the cabins are clean, although basic.

Specifications

•Speed : 14.3

•Crew : 47

•Passengers: 116

•Cabins : 53

•Length : 299

Facilites

Dining Room, Bar and Lounge, Presentation Room

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks, (Helicopter on certain itineraries)

Plancius

Polar Expedition Ships - Plancius

Similar to the Ortelius, the Plancius is an ice-strengthened ship designed to handle the Arctic and Antarctic waters with ease. Carrying 116 passengers, you'll be able to navigate the small channels dotted around the Svalbard archipelago. The bar offers large panoramic views that allow you to see for miles. There is a presentation room that turns into a observation lounge when needed. The Plancius is a basic, but cozy vessel with good space and a good atmosphere.

Specifications

•Length : 293

•Crew : 45

•Passengers: 116

•Cabins : 53

•Speed : 10-12

Facilites

Dining Room, Presentation Room, Observation Lounge, Bar

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks, Camping Gear, Snowshoes

Akademik Ioffe

Polar Expedition Ships - akademik ioffe

With stabilizers and an ice-strengthened hull, the Iofee was designed to withstand the harshest of environments. Although a research-style vessel, the Iofee actually boasts a number of features found on expedition-style vessels such as a sauna, hot water spa and plunge pool! Inside the ship has a good modern layout and feels very comfortable. 

Specifications

•Length : 384

•Crew : 63

•Passengers: 96

Facilites

Dining Room, Bar/Lounge, Library, Multimedia Center with computer and printer, Massage Room, Gift Shop, Sauna, Hot Tub, Presentation Room, Gym

Equipment

Zodiacs, Sea Kayaks

Spirit of Enderby

Polar Expedition Ships - Spirit_of_Enderby

With only 50 passengers and an ice-strengthened hull, the Spirit of Enderby is ideal for cruising to remote regions. Most of here trips visit the sub-antarctic islands where very few ships ever sail. During the off-season, the ship is still used for research and you'll get a very 'adventure style' feeling from this ship which many people absolutely love! 

Specifications

•Length : 236

•Speed : 12

•Passengers: 50

Facilites

Two Dining Halls, Bar/Lounge and Infirmary

Equipment

Zodiacs

Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Polar Expedition Ships -Akademik-Sergey-Vavilov

The Akademik Sergey Vavilov carries just 92 passengers, giving the ship an intimate feel whilst offering plenty of space. Full stabilised with an ice-strengthened hull, the Vavilov is extremely steady and a great option for people who suffer from seasickness. For a research vessel you get a lot of facilities including a plunge pool, well stocked library, sauna, mud room bar, lounge and dining facilities. There is also an onboard wellness program which includes yoga, meditation and massages. Cabins are well appointed and all are outward facing.

Specifications

•Length : 384

•Crew : 63

•Passengers: 92

•Speed : 14.5

Facilites

Dining Room, Presentation Room, Bar/Lounge, Library, Multimedia Center with computer, Sauna, Spa, Gym

Equipment

Zodiacs, Sea Kayaks, Camping

Akademik Shokalskiy

Polar Expedition Ships - Akademik Shokalskiy

Originally built for oceanographic research, the Academic Shokalskiy carries just 48 passengers, making her ideal for peninsula cruising. On board you'll find a sauna, lounge and well-stocked library. Like many of the smaller research vessels, this vessel inna workhorse and gives passengers that real 'expedition' feeling. 

Specifications

•Length : 236

•Passengers: 48

•Cabins : 28

Facilites

Bar, Library, Lounge, Lecture Room, sauna

Equipment

Zodiacs

MS Ushuaia

Polar Expedition Ships - ms Ushuaia

Originally built for the United States agency NOAA, the Ushuaia has been turned into a 90 passenger ice-strengthened Polar cruise ship. she boasts an open plan panoramic lounge, ample deck space, open bridge, and modern media lecture room. The food is notably excellent and you also get a changing room and small infirmary.  

Specifications

•Length : 278

•Passengers: 88

•Cabins : 46

Facilites

Dining Room, Observation Lounge/Lecture Room, Library, Gift Shop, Infirmary, Panorama Deck, Bar

Equipment

Zodiacs

Polar Pioneer

Polar Expedition Ships - Polar_pioneer

Originally built as an ice-strengthened research ship in Finland in the 80s, the Pioneer was converted in 2000 and has a great reputation for Polar expeditions. Carrying just 54 passengers, she is one of the smallest ships in the Polar regions making her ideal for visiting shallow bays and inlets. Forget any queues on this ship!

Specifications

•Length : 235

•Cabins : 29

•Passengers: 59

Facilites

Dining Room, Library, Clinic, Sauna, Lecture Room, Lounge, Bar

Equipment

Zodiacs, Kayaks (select itineraries)

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you’ve enjoyed this page. If you have any further questions about choosing the right Polar expedition ship, please just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

Tags: Antarctica cruise ships, Antarctica ships, choosing the right Antarctica cruise ship, deciding on an Antarctica ship, best Antarctica cruise ship, Polar ships, Arctic ships, Arctic cruise ships

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