Preparing for an Antarctic trip can feel daunting, so we put together a list of the most common questions to help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime.
Most of the boats we work with are polar expedition vessels that carry between 50 and 150 people. There are a couple of exceptions that carry up to 200 people, but this is the max. However, it’s important to note that Antarctica has strict regulations on how many people can be at a landing site at any one time so as to best preserve this fragile region. This excellent policy means that large cruise ships do not frequent the region as they cannot disembark in large numbers.
There will be an onboard doctor to assist you should you become unwell but if you have been susceptible to sea sickness in the past, we recommend consulting your GP before travel to best prepare yourself.
If you are really worried about sea sickness, then an air-cruise may be the best option for you, as it allows you to bypass the Drake Passage, and thus the roughest waters, completely. See our page on flying or sailing the Drake Passage to learn more.
The answer is yes: you will need travel insurance that covers you for medical evacuation from Antarctica. Please speak to your insurance provider about this. We recommend purchasing this as soon as you have committed to the trip.
No, you don’t need a visa to go to Antarctica, Chile or Argentina if you are a British, American or Singaporean Citizen, however your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your departure date.
Whilst it’s great to have choice, having so many options on offer can be overwhelming! As a first port of call, we recommend contacting one of our Antarctica Travel Specialists who will be able to talk you through the different options and help you find the right fit for you. The main things to consider when initially narrowing down the boats and itinerary are the dates you’re available to travel, how long you would like to be away and how much you would like to spend.
Antarctica has no currency. However, Port Lockroy and the Ukrainian Research station Vernadsky both accept US Dollars, Pound Sterling & Euros, although you are likely to get your change in USD irrespective of whatever currency you paid with. Onboard souvenirs & tips will cost extra, and most boats will add all expenses to your onboard tab for you to settle at the end of your trip and for which both Visa & MasterCard is accepted.
The key to packing for the Antarctic is layers. Lots and lots of layers. Wearing a vest, a long-sleeved shirt, a turtleneck over the top and a water-proof jacket over that will keep you much warmer than one chunky jumper and a hefty coat. The Antarctic’s climate can also change at a moment's notice, so it’s important to be able to take layers off when needed. We also recommend that you opt for insulated clothing over cotton to keep you extra warm. Please read our blog for more details.
Each ship offers complimentary rubber boots for the duration of your cruise, so you only need to pack comfortable shoes to wear onboard and shoes with non-slip soles for when you’re on-deck (trainers or walking shoes are perfect).
Some ships will have a Captain’s Dinner. Whilst this doesn’t require fancy attire such as you’d encounter on a regular cruise ship, some guests will choose a more smart-casual look for this evening. Our Antarctica specialists will be able to advise the specifics on your chosen departure. You can also check out our blog for some helpful hints.
Each ship will have daily lectures, films, etc. Many vessels will allow passengers on the bridge to watch the ship negotiate polar ice and try and glimpse wildlife. Most ships also have a lounge area, library and other public areas, although the exact facilities vary from vessel to vessel.
Antarctica is home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife and experiences. Highlights include: spending time with the penguins, cruising through monumental icebergs on a zodiac (a small boat which holds only 8-12 guests), take an icy dip in Deception Bay – which also happens to be the caldera of a volcano, and kayaking. You can also take advantage of the other-worldly scenery and take some epic photos and send a postcard home from Port Lockroy – although it will take about 3 months to arrive!
The short answer is yes. Every effort is made to minimalise our impact on the areas you visit to protect the wildlife and environment, so you are asked to refrain from taking food & drinks onshore, and neither leave anything behind nor take anything with you.
You don’t need to be especially fit to join an Antarctica cruise, you just need to be able to get in and out of the Zodiac. As a general guide, if you are fit enough to manage stairs on your own, then you will be able to manage this. If you opt for an additional kayaking programme, you will need to have had prior experience of sea kayaking.
There are no maximum age restrictions, you just have to be mobile enough to get in and out of the zodiacs. Cruises generally impose a minimum age restriction of around 8 years old although this varies from boat to boat. If you are wanting to travel with some young polar explorers, give us a call to discuss which boats may be right for you and your family.
Everyone who goes to Antarctica wants to know if they’ll see this frozen continent’s most famous resident. If you want to see King Penguins, then you should choose an itinerary that includes South Georgia. If you want to see Emperor Penguins, then you need to go to Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea. We offer some voyages that will attempt to reach Snow Hill, but the success rate is less than 50% - well worth a try though!
We recommend that you read our Wildlife & Season guide to see when’s best to see what.
There is always plenty of food offered onboard, usually to very high standards. Most vessels offer 3-4 course menus that can accommodate vegetarians or other special dietary preferences if notified in advance. Most vessels also offer an Asian/Chinese meal option.
Laundry is available on board at an extra cost. The laundry bag and pricelist can be found in your room or your Travel Specialist can request it in advance if you wish. As travel to Antarctica requires you to take a few bulky items but plenty of base layers, many guests prefer to pack as light as possible and do laundry on board.
Most boats will offer an internet package for you to purchase on board. Antarctica is a remote destination and relies on satellite signal, so connections can be patchy and slow. Some boats offer a free Wi-Fi service that will allow you to send and receive WhatsApp or WeChat messages in order to keep in touch with loved ones back home.
Guests onboard will come from around the world with English or Mandarin (depending on the departure selected) being the ‘official’ language of the cruise. Amongst expedition staff, you tend to find a mix of North and South Americans, Europeans, Aussies, New Zealanders and Chinese. It’s a real melting pot of knowledge and experiences!
New York Times, January 2020
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