New Cruise Ships Exploring Antarctica & The Arctic

Travel experience team member standing on the sea ice in front of Le Commandant Charcot
By Andy Marsh
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ocean explorer small expedition cruise ship in Antarctica

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Thanks to the latest new cruise ships, long gone are the days when visiting the remote polar regions meant sailing on a working vessel with basic food and amenities. Over the last several years a number of new small expedition ships have launched offering unseen levels of comfort whilst keeping the expedition experience at their core. After all, expedition cruising is about exploring so it makes sense these new ships have been designed around the experience itself.

Since 2021, 15 new purpose built expedition ships have entered service in Antarctica with more to follow in the coming years. These new thoughtful designs are a huge advancement in sustainability, some with hybrid and fuel efficient engines and gps systems which allow the ships to hold position without dropping anchor in sensitive areas. This has allowed some operators to become climate neutral in the polar regions.

The new generation of expedition ships are designed to take guests exploring the polar regions in total comfort without compromising the expedition experience. Many of the ships only take between 75 and 200 guests which is a key factor to maximizing the outdoors elements of an expedition cruise such as shore landings and zodiac cruising.

Onboard ships feature fleets of Zodiacs for exploring, extensive mud rooms for changing into before excursions and carefully throughout spaces for lectures and presentations. Ships have large observation lounges with floor to ceiling windows so guests can appreciate the spectacular natural world they are exploring at all times.

All new ships have the minimum of a PC6 ice strengthened hull allowing the ship greater access to areas where there is sea ice and have the very latest safety features.

The level of guest comfort in all ships has reached new highs. Almost all cabins on the ships have balconies so guests can enjoy the spectacular views in privacy. All cabins have ensuite facilities, comfortable beds and seating areas. For guests who are looking for a premium experience all ships feature extensive owners suites for a truly memorable voyage into the polar regions.

In our expert opinion we have reached the golden age of expedition cruising with so many outstanding choices for exploring the polar regions. Here is a look at the newest expedition ships exploring the Arctic and Antarctica and a peak at new ships currently being built.

New Cruise Ships Due In 2026

Sunstone Boundless Class

new cruise ship in Antarctica Sunstone boundless Class

Guest Capacity: 200 – 260
Cruising Speed: 15 Knots
Length: 125 meters

Sunstone have announced the introduction of their new Boundless class expedition ships that are due to take to the high seas from 2026. These state of the art ships offer best in class energy efficiency, greatly improved stability, rigorous safety standards and take guests exploring in ultra comfort.

The initial images show expansive interior spaces with huge windows and a well thought out interior. The ships will take guests exploring in a new level of comfort and safety whilst also being some of the most sustainable expedition ships on the planet. It is currently unannounced which operator will be the first to adopt the Boundless Class when they sail in 2026.

Magellan Discoverer

Guest Capacity: 76
Cruising Speed: 13 Knots
Length: 94 meters

Following the successful Magellan Explorer launched in 2019, The Magellan Discoverer will be one of the smallest expedition cruise ships exploring Antarctica with just 76 guests. Following Explorer’s stylish design, Magellan Discoverer will feature tier 3 diesel-electric engines, stabilisers, an accessible bow and a PC6 Ice class hull. It will be the ideal addition for those looking for intimate fly and cruise small ship expeditions in Antarctica.

Magellan Discoverer is being built by ASENAV shipyard in Valdivia, and is due to commence operations for the Antarctica 2026 / 2027 season. 

New Cruise Ships For 2025

The Douglas Mawson

Douglas Mawson New Expedition Cruise Ship

Guest Capacity: 154
Cruising Speed: 13 Knots
Length: 94 meters

Inspired by the iconic Australian geologist and explorer Mawson, the latest small expedition ship captures his trailblazing essence and is crafted for global exploration. Equipped with the cutting-edge Ulstein X-BOW® and engineered with advanced sustainability, it comfortably transports an average of 154 explorers to the planet’s most remote destinations with ease and minimal noise.

Expect new small ship expeditions to East Antarctica to commence in 2025.

New Cruise Ships Launched In 2024

Ocean Explorer

ocean explorer new cruise ship in Antarctica

Guest Capacity: 138
Cruising Speed: 16.5 Knots
Length: 104.4 meters

Ocean Explorer is the latest ship to feature the inverted X Bow design which offers greater stability and increased fuel efficiency. The ship features an outstanding observation lounge placed above the bow offering guest unrivalled views. With just 134 guests per voyage, the ship has an intimate feel and is ideal.

The tastefully fitted interior has a Scandinavian style. Nearly all the cabins have private verandas. The ship has advanced sustainability credentials with a MAGS gasification system that converts waste onboard the ship into energy and fuel efficient engines.

Our Expert Opinion

With 15 Zodiacs that can accommodate all guests simultaneously and a large team of some of the best guides in the polar region, Ocean Explorer offers guests an outstanding expedition experience in an intimate setting.

Find out more about Ocean Explorer and see the latest cruises.

New Cruise Ships Launched In 2023

2023 was a busy year for new expedition ships with a range of new ships and operators offering itineraries across the polar regions.

Scenic Eclipse 2

Scenic Eclipse II luxury new cruise ship

Guest Capacity: 228 (200 in Antarctica)
Cruising Speed: 17 Knots
Length: 168 meters

Launched in 2023, Scenic Eclipse 2 is a discovery yacht and is the sistership of Scenic Eclipse 1 with a similar layout plus a few new additions such as a heated outdoor vitality pool on the top deck. These expedition ships have the appearance of mega yachts and have been designed with PC6 polar class ice strengthened hulls for exploring the polar regions.

Scenic Eclipse 2 perfectly blends an ultra luxury 6* experience with exploration. The ship is fitted with a fleet of Zodiacs which are launched to take guests exploring on a daily basis.

One of the unique differences between other ships and Scenic Eclipse 2 is the option to undertake helicopter or submarine excursions for the true adventurer.

Our Expert Opinion

Scenic Eclipse 2 is an ideal choice for guests looking for the highest level of luxury whilst maintaining an intimate setting. The dining on this ship is out of this world and we would highly recommend it for food connoisseurs. Scenic Eclipse 2 offers some excellent in-depth itineraries including a 24-day expedition to East Antarctica from New Zealand.

Find out more about Scenic Eclipse 2 and see latest cruises.

Seabourn Pursuit

seabourn Pursuit ship in Antarctica

Guest Capacity: 264
Cruising Speed: 17 Knots
Length: 179 meters

The sistership of Seabourn Venture, the Seabourn Pursuit offers guests relaxed luxury expeditions in the polar regions. Almost identical to the Venture, this ship features ample interior spaces to relax including an observation lounge overlooking the bow and the constellation Lounge on the top deck to savor the views through the floor to ceiling windows. Guests can enjoy several on deck hot pools and a small heated infinity pool to unwind after a day exploring before choosing from a range of seven dining venues.

All cabins are well appointed and ocean facing with private balconies. One of the notable features of the ship is the Grand Wintergarden Suites spread out across two floors with floor to ceiling windows offering guests looking for top range accommodation one of the most exciting choices in the polar regions.

The ship is crafted around the expedition experience with a fleet of 24 Zodiacs led by an expedition staff of 24 guides and naturalists. It also has 2 submarines for optional excursions at an added cost.

Our Expert Opinion

Seabourn Pursuit is a great option for guests looking for an authentic expedition experience on a mid-sized ship with great comfort levels in a relaxed setting.

SH Diana – 2023

Sh Diana new cruise ship

Guest Capacity: 192
Cruising Speed: 14.5 Knots
Length: 125 meters

SH Diana is a stylish mid-sized 5-star luxury expedition ship with spacious, sweeping interiors. Many of the 96 spacious suites have large balconies, with 8 cabin classes to choose from. Onboard guests can enjoy the view from the panoramic sauna or one of the ship’s jacuzzis. Features of the ship include a swans next lookout on the top deck, observation lounge, stargazing deck and science laboratory.

Powered by Hybrid Diesel Electric Propulsion, SH Diana is an advancement in sustainable expedition cruising. With a Polar Class (PC6) hull, SH Diana is built for exploring the polar regions and is equipped with 15 zodiacs.

Our Expert Opinion

SH Diana is a great choice for food connoisseurs who can enjoy 7 course gourmet food by Michelin star winning chefs. The ship has a great citizen science program and guests are welcome to participate with resident scientists.

New Cruise Ships Launched In 2022

2022 saw the introduction of several new small expedition ships further upping the quality and selection of ships available for polar expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Silver Endeavour luxury Antarctica cruise ship

Silver Endeavour

Guest Capacity: 200
Speed: 19 Knots (max)
Length: 164 meters

Considered to be one of the most luxurious expedition cruise ships ever built (and rumored to be one of the most expensive), Silver Endeavour is the ideal choice for guests looking to explore the polar regions in ultra luxury. The ship offers unrivaled levels of comfort with a two-story glass atrium housing a spacious indoor pool at the stern of the ship, outdoor hot pools and a promenade deck.

Looking more like a mega yacht than a cruise ship it features a range of plush cabins and an extensive owners suite with a private veranda overlooking the bow of the ship for guests looking for ultimate luxury.

There are 5 exquisite dining options to explore ranging from Italian to French and International cuisine.

Our Expert Opinion

With a staff to guest ratio of 1:1, all inclusive itineraries and butler service for every cabin, Silver Endeavour is the perfect choice for guests looking for absolute luxury on a small intimate ship without a compromise on the expedition experience.

Find out more about Silver Endeavour and see the latest cruises on this fantastic ship here.

Seabourn Venture

seabourn venture new cruise ship

Guest Capacity: 264
Cruising Speed: 17 Knots
Length: 179 meters

Almost identical to its twin sister Seabourn Pursuit which launched a year later, Seabourn Venture represents a new generation of mid-sized expedition ships that cater to a discerning clientele looking for a real adventure in luxury. Built for exploring the polar regions, Seabourn Venture offers guests a great selection of fine food, stylish interiors, on deck pools and accommodation.

The ship is notable for the quality and size of its cabins. The Panorama Veranda suites have floor to ceiling windows which offer truly mesmerising views of the ever changing landscapes of the polar regions right from the comfort of your bed.

Our Expert Opinion

Seabourn venture is a great choice for guests who would like to travel on a mid-sized ship with a great choice of cabins. Feedback that we regularly receive is that the guide team goes the extra mile and delivers an excellent expedition experience.

SH Diana New expedition cruise ship Antarctica

SH Vega

Guest Capacity: 158
Cruising Speed: 12 Knots
Length: 113.5 meters

SH Vega is a compact 5 star expedition cruise ship built in Finland with an elegant Scandinavian style. The stylish, modern cabins are spacious with many featuring private balconies. With a special emphasis on food onboard, guests can enjoy fine cuisine made from ingredients from the destinations the ship is exploring.

The ship features a Polar Class PC5 ice strengthened hull, diesel electric engines for increased efficiency and extra-large stabilisers to make your cruise as smooth as possible.

Our Expert Opinion

Similar in design to SH Diana, SH Vega is a more compact size and is ideally suited to guests that are looking to explore off the beaten path destinations in a smaller group experience with high levels of comfort.

SH Minerva 2022

Sh Minevra expedition cruise ship

Guest Capacity: 152
Cruising Speed: 15.5 Knots
Length: 113 meters

SH Minerva is a 5 star boutique expedition ship offering immersive explorations of the polar regions from the Arctic to Antarctica. Similar in design to SH Vega and launched the same year, SH Minevra offers stylish cabins, many with large private balconies. Make use of a state of the art gym, or enjoy a relaxing sauna or jacuzzi with exceptional views.

It features a PC5 ice-strengthened hull with stabilisers to make your cruise as comfortable as possible and a crew of 120 offering great levels of service.

New Cruise Ships Launched In 2021

2021 saw the introduction of five new small cruise ships all purpose built for exploring the icy depths of the Arctic and Antarctica.

Le Commandant Charcot

Le Commandant Charcot Luxury Icebreaker ship

Guest Capacity: 245
Cruising Speed: 15 Knots
Length: 150 meters

A personal favorite with our team, Le Commandant Charcot is the world’s first purpose built luxury icebreaker. The ship offers exhilarating voyages out of reach of regular expedition cruise ships due to its unique ice breaking bow allowing it to navigate through heavy pack ice to destinations such as the North Pole and East Greenland.

The onboard experience is out of this world with ample suites with private balconies, an on deck heated lagoon which is perfect to enjoy the views of pack ice drifting past, and an indoor pool with soothing relaxation area and floor to ceiling windows.

Our Expert Opinion

What really sets Le Commandant Charcot apart is its adventurous itineraries led by world class explorers. Imagine crossing the top of the world via the North Pole on a Trans Arctic expedition in luxurious surroundings. Something that was unimaginable only a couple of years ago.

See our latest Icebreaker Cruises on Le Commandant Charcot.

Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle Neko Harbour

Guest Capacity: 132
Cruising Speed: 15.5 Knots
Length: 104.4 meters

Sylvia Earle is a best in class small expedition cruise ship that was purpose built for exploring the polar regions. Featuring the X bow design now prevalent on small polar ships, it is the sistership of the Greg Mortimer which was built several years before.

The Sylvia Earle has a stunning atrium with large windows in the bow of the ship offering spectacular views. For a small ship it is spacious with decent sized cabins and many of which have private balconies.

Our Expert Opinion

We highly recommend the Sylvia Earle for guests that are looking to maximise their expedition time as it offers one of the smallest group sizes available. Sylvia Earle offers one of the best options for adventure activities such as kayaking and camping.

Find out more about Sylvia Earle and see latest cruises here.

National Geographic Endurance

National Geographic Endurance new expedition ship

Guest Capacity: 138
Cruising Speed: 17 Knots
Length: 124 meters

Named after explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship, The National Geographic Endurance is a state of the art purpose built small expedition cruise ship featuring the latest x bow design and a Polar Code PC5 ice strengthened hull.

The ship is designed so all cabins face outward and either have a private balcony or large windows providing lots of natural light. Onboard guests can enjoy a stylish interior, infinity-style outdoor hot tubs and an ocean view sauna. The ship’s two restaurants offer a range of local and sustainable cuisine.

Our Expert Opinion

The Endurance offers some excellent itineraries including Northeast Greenland, Jan Mayen and the Northwest Passage offering guests a chance to experience these remote places in comfort and as part of a small group.

National Geographic Resolution

National Geographic Resolution New expedition cruise ship

Guest Capacity: 138
Cruising Speed: 17 Knots
Length: 124 meters

Featuring the same design and features as the Endurance, The National Geographic Resolution offers guests the chance to explore the polar regions in a small group with a high level of comfort.


Ultramarine new cruise ship in Svalbard

Guest Capacity: 199
Cruising Speed: 17 Knots
Length: 128 meters

Ultramarine is a medium-sized expedition cruise ship built to the latest environmental standards and offers an informal expedition experience. The ship is equipped with 2 Airbus helicopters which offer lots of additional adventure options such as heli-trekking and one of the most experienced guide teams in the polar regions.

Onboard guests can enjoy the scenery from the panorama lounge, bar, or large wrap-around deck. The ship features two informal dining options with great food, a sauna, spa and a fitness center with a view.

Our Expert Opinion

Ultramarine is a stylish, modern ship that offers a great expedition experience with a highly experienced team of polar experts. What really sets the experience apart is the two helicopters which are used for flightseeing, heli-trekking, exclusive landings and heli-camping offering guests a chance to explore places that are seldom seen.

See inside Ultramarine and check out the latest cruises.

Do you need help choosing which cruise ship is right for you? With so many ships to choose from, why not get in touch with our Travel Experience Team who will match a ship and itinerary with your preferences.

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About The Author
Travel experience team member standing on the sea ice in front of Le Commandant Charcot
Andy Marsh
Founder of North Pole Cruises
Andy is a passionate explorer and an expert in the polar regions. With over 15 years of experience travelling to some of the most remote polar regions, Andy has sailed across the Drake Passage and explored Antarctica and South Georgia by tall ship. He has years of experience working extensively with small boats in Svalbard and Greenland. He even worked on the Falkland Islands, helping to set up the first TV station there. Andy loves to share his knowledge with guests planning their expeditions as an expert in expedition cruising and a polar know-it-all. His most recent and thrilling voyage was on Le Commandant Charcot to East Greenland, a journey that is sure to captivate your imagination.

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