The trend is for more intimate, so-called expedition cruises, in contrast to popular giant cruise liners elsewhere which are criticised for being invasive and polluting.
With greener ships -- heavy fuel, the most commonly used for marine vessels, has been banned in Antarctica since 2011 -- cruise companies have sought to make environmental awareness a selling point, occasionally earning them accusations of greenwashing.
Global warming, pollution and microplastics are the result of human activities on other, faraway continents, say tour operators.
Here, their motto is “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, keep nothing but memories”.
But before they’ve even set foot on the cruise ships departing from South America -- the most common itinerary -- visitors to Antarctica will already have flown across the world, causing emissions that harm the very nature they have come so far to admire.
Most visitors hail from the Northern Hemisphere, and almost half are from the United States and China, IAATO says.
Like other expedition cruises where accessible science is part of their trademark, the Roald Amundsen, owned by the Hurtigruten company, has no dance floor or casino.
Instead, there are microscopes, science events and lectures about whales and explorers like Charles Darwin.
But they steer clear of climate change, which is only mentioned indirectly.
The Roald Amundsen “guests” choose between three restaurants, from street food to fine dining -- a far cry from the conditions endured by the Norwegian adventurer for whom the ship is named, who had to eat his sled dogs to survive his quest to reach the South Pole in 1911.
They have paid at least 7,000 euros ($7,700) each for an 18day cruise in a standard cabin, and up to 25,000 euros ($27,500) for a suite with a balcony and private jacuzzi.
Other cruises are banking on ultra-luxury, with James Bond-like ships equipped with helicopters and submarines, suites of more than 200 square metres (2,153 square feet) and butler services.
With a seaplane to boot, the mega-yacht SeaDream Innovation will offer 88-day cruises “from Pole to Pole” starting in 2021. The two most expensive suites, with a price tag of 135,000 euros per person, are already booked. Agence France-Presse