Trip Options

Below is a list of criteria that most trips will fit into, although there will be some places where certain departures or vessels are outliers and don't neatly fit.

As a general point, do not trust and seriously question any itinerary that guarantees any particular landing. All Antarctic trips are entirely at the mercy of weather and ice conditions. While you might get a list of planned or hoped for spots, everything is subject to change at a moment's notice and the captain has complete discretion to cancel or cut any activity short due to weather concerns.

Criteria   Comments
Length of trip 20 days + Longer trips taking in several locations, including rarer and harder to reach spots. Usually most expensive. Not all days are landing days, things are much further apart than you think and there will be lots of sea days. For reference - sailing from Buenos Aires to Falklands is three sea days, Falklands to South Georgia is two sea days and South Georgia to peninsula is three sea days.
15-20 days Just about long enough to do the Falklands, SG and Peninsula round trip. Remember to subtract at least 8 sea days
10-15 days Standard Peninsula trip that may or may not make it to the Antarctic circle in that time. Drake passage crossings cover four of these days and potentially embarkation and disembarkation days are another two. An average 10 day trip will give you 4 days of landings.
less than ten days Only doable if you're flying part of the way
Crossing the Drake Flying Saves time and seasickness, adds cost and can be subject to very significant delays as all flights are weather dependent - may be impacted by previous trip delays. If your trip can't fly out and has to spend an extra day on King George island, the trip after you will lose a day. You can fly one or both ways.
Sailing Can be the Drake lake, can be the Drake shake but seen as a rite of passage. Great if you're a bird watcher as albatross will follow the ships and these are rarely seen in Antarctica itself. Note, if you are meeting incoming passengers who are flying in, their weather delays can affect you too.
Region Peninsula only Usually will mean 4-6 days on the peninsula and south Shetland islands, with the western side being the key region. Most often leaves and returns to Ushuaia. Depending on ice and weather may stay further north or east.
Peninsula plus crossing the circle Aim is to get furthest south, past 66 degrees. Potentially more time at sea as you sail for longer to get there. Almost always late season when ice is lowest. Always Western side of the peninsula
Weddell sea Eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Better chances of tabular icebergs, different geology. Less visited. Can be done in a regular ship (usually one with a higher ice rating) or an icebreaker with helicopters to see the emperors penguins at Snow Hill Island.
Peninsula, Falklands, South Georgia Usually 4 days peninsula, 4 days South Georgia, 2 days Falklands. Can go to and from Ushuaia, Punta Arenas or Buenos Aires. The most complete trip to this region - gives you the history and nature of the Falklands and Stanley, the amazing wildlife of South Georgia and its rookeries of 100,000 King penguins, elephant seals and fur seals as well as smaller penguins too (Macaroni, Rockhopper) and nesting albatross. Shackleton's final resting place. Peninsula too as above
Falklands/South Georgia only Sole focus on the sub-Antarctic without the trip to the peninsula
New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands Macquarie Island and others - Royal penguins, albatross, petrels. Leaves from New Zealand
Specialist trips Can include icebreakers into the Ross Sea, Specialist journeys with spots of historical interest, overland trips to the actual pole. Expensive and uncommon will be key words here.
Other activities Camping In a tent or just on ice in a bivvy bag. Cold cold cold, bragging rights, more time on shore than a normal landing affords and in the dark too. Usually leave ship after dinner and then back on board by 6am. Usually supplement payable and limited spaces. Book early.
Hiking Longer and more active walks than your average wander on shore
Photography Has a dedicated photographer to deliver lectures and help with equipment or possibly just to document the trip. May or may not offer on shore instruction and specialist walks/zodiac cruises. Can be entire focus of the trip or just one facet
Kayaking Get closer to the ice and potentially wildlife. May or may not cut into shore time, ie choice of kayak or landing. Usually in twin kayaks and a supplement is payable
Snowshoeing Does what it says on the tin
Departure Month October Season starts in mid to late October. Good for Falklands and South Georgia but Peninsula can still be very icebound so less chance of getting south. Base staff starting to trickle in.
November F/SG have mating grumpy seals and sea lions with nesting Albatross, Peninsula has mating penguins, nest building, lots of snow and ice and cleanish looking rookeries. Still very icy. Great for landscapes.
December First chicks hatching in peninsula. Peak Season. Ice receding but still may not be access to most southerly points. 20 hours of sunlight. Whales start arriving
January Chicks everywhere. Whales much more common, Rookeries beginning to look very lived in
February Chicks getting bigger and whales are increasing in the bays. Very good chance to make it south of the circle.Bring Vicks to combat the rookery smell
March Peninsula penguins are moulting and babies are nearly the same size as parents. Lots of whales. Rookeries really worse for wear. Low angle light and alpenglow for amazing landscapes. Snow cover at a minimum
April V V V End of season. Penguins have mostly left rookeries in the peninsula as has everyone else and bases are shutting up or settling in for the cold and dark.