No travellers visit Antarctica during the winter when the temperature plummets and the polar ice becomes hard to traverse. Most vessels sail from November to March.
1. Where is the best cabin location?
There are several considerations to make when choosing your cabin; it’s an important decision so make sure you take some time to look into the details of what is available. The lower cabins are generally more stable; however, they tend to also be the least luxurious. The higher up you go, usually the more luxury but it will also be rockier! Further towards the front is also less stable, so a central cabin can be better for those who get seasick. Check whether your ship has a wraparound deck or not, and if not, you can try and get a cabin close to an outside door if you want to be able to make a speedy exit when whales or other exciting wildlife is spotted.
2. Can you see much from the ship?
There is plenty that you can enjoy from the ship! This could be a pod of Orcas, humpback whales breaching, Weddell seals or penguins hanging out on the ice, or an abundance of birdlife such as Albatrosses or petrels. We had a great team of enthusiastic guides that ensured we rarely missed anything exciting going on outside the ship as we made our way from place to place; sightings will often be announced over the tannoy system.
3. What do you do to keep entertained whilst sailing there and back?
It’s around 2 days of sailing each way if you aren’t flying, so there is quite a lot of time to fill, but you’ll find it a challenge to get bored. The ship will organise plenty to keep you busy, including tasks to prepare you for Antarctica (like Bio Security and safety talks) as well as lectures in wildlife, glaciology and more. We had some interesting specialists on board such as whale researchers and a ‘penguinologist’, so we enjoyed learning about what we hoped to see at our destination. Other than that, there’s plenty to watch out of the window (especially birdlife on the Drake), and you can easily while away a few hours chatting to your fellow passengers and crew or in the on-board library. Definitely bring a good book or two and load up with music/programs to watch in case you end up spending more time in your cabin than expected because of choppy seas.
4. Can you wash clothes on board?
Most ships offer a laundry service, and we also found that it was easy to wash some bits and bobs with travel washing liquid in our cabin.
5. What do people wear on board the ship?
Generally clothing on board is extremely casual - anything from leggings to jeans and even jogging bottoms/sweatshirts was normal on my cruise, although this does vary from vessel to vessel. You’ll want to ensure you have some warmer layers close by as you spend time in the common areas in case something exciting happens outside and you need to rush out! Normal trainers are fine when it comes to footwear, though ideally take some that won’t be slippery if you’re outside on a wet deck. You may also want to take some smarter clothing for welcome/farewell dinners but this isn’t usually mandatory.
6. Is there WiFi on board or ways to keep in touch?
Sporadic WiFi was offered on my voyage, but this depends on the boat so check with your cruise company. Due to the remote location, even when WiFi is offered it is likely to be very slow. When it comes to keeping in touch with those back home, it’s worth informing them that you will most likely be out of contact, but that the ship has ways to communicate if necessary in an emergency. I found it an excuse to enjoy disconnecting from the world for a bit so would recommend embracing the lack of contact!
7. What times are meals on board?
This will depend on the boat and how they work things, but on mine it was usually breakfast between about 7.30-9, lunch between 12.30-2 and dinner between 7-9. Some boats have set times, and some have larger windows and more flexibility. Meal times will be shifted if excursions have to be moved around due to weather conditions.
8. What was the food like on board?
Generally the food on my boat was very good. Obviously it has to be stored for quite a long time, but the boats are well prepared to cater for this and I was impressed by the standard. We were lucky enough to enjoy a BBQ on deck one lovely sunny day!
9. How does tipping work?
This can depend on the boat so check with your cruise company (for example Silversea actually includes all tips). The advice for mine was $15 per day for all staff which is very reasonable.
10. How can I get myself there?!
Save up for your trip, which will not be cheap but without a doubt will be once in a lifetime. Call us to help you work out which boat and itinerary will be best for you, and we’ll get your adventure booked before you know it!