Frequently asked questions
Icebreakers are designed to ride up onto ice, crushing it with the ship's weight. This opens a path for other vessels trying to navigate icy waters. Ships with ice-strengthened hulls are designed to navigate in waters with broken ice. They do not have the power or weight to break ice.
No problem. You will find a lot of people travel solo on these sorts of voyages and besides it's not long everyone gets to know each other. This is one of the great aspects of travelling on ships of this size and travelling to these unique destinations with likeminded people.
1. Transportation by air or land to the embarkation and disembarkation point of the cruise.
The weather conditions are mixed. Temperatures average around freezing but continuous daylight can warm sheltered areas so that temperatures can get warm enough for t-shirts. Be prepared though, you may encounter katabatic winds, snow squalls, fog, and white-outs, during an expedition.
On some voyages you may experience rough seas while crossing a body of water such as the Drake Passage or the Denmark Straits. Having said that you may have calm seas all the way. This should not put you off joining a voyage. Treat this as part of the adventure! The ships you are travelling on are designed these conditions and it's exhilarating to be on the bridge as the ship makes it's way.
If you suffer from motion sickness, then the best practice is to exercise precaution. Consult your physician before you depart for advice and take any medication before you sail. If you start to feel ill then it's really too late to start popping pills. This is obviously a very individual issue. There are a variety of remedies available which we mention in your information pack.
Antarctica - the Drake Passage
The Drake Passage has a reputation for rough seas but this is not always the case. Often times you can have very calm crossings. Everyone reacts differently to the rough water that can be encountered in the Drake Passage.
The Arctic - The Denmark Straits
The Bering or Denmark Straits are where you can expect some rough seas but of the two Polar Regions, smooth sailing is most frequently experienced in the Arctic.
The Atlantic Islands
Embarkation is usually permitted from 4 PM (16:00), local time with and expected departure time within two hours of that. For Antarctic cruises departing Ushuaia or Monte Video we recommend that you arrive the day before embarkation in case of any delays with baggage etc. For Arctic cruises that begin in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, you should arrive no later than 2 PM (14:00) on the day of embarkation.
At the end of the expedition the ship is often required to complete some formalities such as Customs Inspection. The standard practice is to disembark after breakfast on the final day of the itinerary. Usually passengers will be transported to the airport for their return flights. If you have made other arrangements you should check with ships staff before leaving the ship. When arranging your homeward flights you should book to depart after 12:00 (noon).
Absolutely! The emphasis of all the cruises we promote is to spend as much time as possible ashore, in the zodiacs, or participating in the variety of activities available. The expedition staff is there to show you as much as possible of these incredible locations.
Activities off the ship are called shore landings or cruising. There are usually and minimum of two landings each day at different locations of interest. Ashore in the Arctic, you may visit Inuit communities. In the Antarctic, it may be a visit to research stations. You will hike tundra carpeted valleys or glistening ice fields. There will also be opportunities to cruise in zodiacs in ice crammed bays or to maybe observe whales feeding up close which is an unforgettable experience. Optional activities include sea-kayaking, camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mountaineering and scuba diving.
How much time is spent ashore?
Each voyage is different. Although the aim is go ashore as often as possible, much depends on factors like the weather, the distance between destinations, and ice conditions. On some cruises there may be two or three days at sea, followed by several landings; on others, you may do shore or Zodiac excursions two or three times a day. The Expedition Leader, in consultation with the ship's Captain, will arrange daily itineraries to maximize your experience. You may, of course, choose to skip an excursion. It is the intent of the expedition teams to give you all the opportunities they can to see everything along the route.
Throughout the voyage the expedition staff provides educational presentations that prepare you for shore landings and visits to research stations. Informal shipboard activities include birding and whale watching and movies in the evening. There are board games to play in the lounges or libraries. Or maybe you just chat with friends over a drink in the bar. You will often find people spending a lot of time out on deck just soaking up the amazing scenery or catching a spontaneous appearance by whales. There is always something to do.
A laundry service is available on every ship. Costs are reasonable and you can usually receive the laundry back on the same day if left in your cabin that morning. Airlines excess baggage charges are expensive compared to laundry charges, so you should consider packing fewer items and use the laundry service instead.
There is always risk involved when travelling in any region where extreme conditions are possible. Weather, ice and natural phenomena can cause problems on shore and on the ship but the expedition staff do everything they can to reduce risk. All ships are purpose-built for the polar regions and are manned by experienced personnel. They are fitted with all necessary equipment essential for polar travel.
Yes, all ship have a doctor on board. They are responsible the health of passengers and Expedition staff. However they are there for any expedition related sickness or injuries so don't expect to get your annual check-up while on your voyage. Some ships have clinics but are equipped to handle minor emergencies only. It is important that you bring sufficient prescribed medicines with you.
No way! Leave the dickie bow and cocktail dress behind you. Expedition cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica are informal. More information about clothing is available in the information pack you receive when booking.
No. While the aim is to disembark the ship as often as possible - with the opportunity to hike and explore remote areas - the trip does not need to be physically demanding. You may remain on the ship and view the wildlife and landscape from the deck or just relax in the lounge. On shore, we generally offer at least one easy walk that allows participants to experience the destination without going far from the landing site. We will also offer Zodiac cruises where you remain seated as you view the sights from the boat. Please be aware, however, that to get into the Zodiac you must be able to go down and up the ship's steep gangway. There will be staff available to assist you as you get in and out of the boat. Most passengers find that the procedure gets easier with each excursion.
No, you don't have to be super fit and able to brave sub-zero temperature! You are travelling to remote areas without access to sophisticated medical facilities so most importantly you should not join an expedition if you are suffering from a life threatening condition. Expedition cruises require sufficient independent mobility to negotiate steep gangways. The terrain is rough in both polar regions. If you have difficulty walking or need an assistance device to move about, these trips may not be for you.
The basic requirement is to wear several light layers of clothing with a waterproof, windproof jacket and pants. Rubber boots are required for landings from zodiacs. Rubber boots are usually supplied by the ships. A hat, scarf, good gloves and a daypack for storing clothes if you need to remove them. Whilst it may be cold in the zodiacs you can warm up when you start walking etc. so good to be able to remove and store clothing as necessary. Other than that you do not need any specialised equipment. We supply full information packs detailing what you should bring and a lot of tips a tricks to make it easier for you. We also have a series of videos that will show you what to bring and how to pack.
Do you believe that waiting until the last minute to book travel will save you a lot of money? You may save money on the package, but the savings may be eaten up by the cost of the flight. The best air fares go first, especially to remote places like the Arctic and Antarctica. People who wait to book their expedition until the last moment often pay the most for airfare and for extra hotel nights, because available flights require layovers. Book early and save.
Food aboard the ships is very good and freshly prepared by internationally trained chefs. The menu changes every day. Breakfast is usually buffet style. Lunch too often features a buffet. Dinner is plated service, with a choice of main dishes. A vegetarian choice is always offered. Desserts are fabulous! One thing is guaranteed, you won't be hungry and you just might need to get a gym membership when you get home!
Well, probably just like you. You get curious, adventure seekers, who love to travel off the beaten path. The age range of passengers is usually from 20 to 80, with the majority between 45 and 65 years. Our clients come from around the world and you will find that voyages have several nationalities on-board.
Baggage allowances are always a big question. You will need to check with your airline to confirm what you are allowed to carry. Be aware that baggage allowances on international flights are often greater than domestic flights. You should pack for the segment of the flight with the smallest baggage allowance. The ships also have laundry facilities, so you do not need to pack clothes for every day of the voyage.
You need to complete a booking form and return along with deposit to confirm your booking. The booking form includes:
All voyages include pre-voyage materials, accommodation on-board, meals, coffee, tea and juice throughout the duration of the cruise, on-board lectures and activities, port charges and all shore excursions unless specifically stated. Some voyages also include a complementary Parka jacket. You can check the voyage details for more information.
Air transportation, transfers to and from vessels; visas (if necessary), passport, vaccination charges and airport departure taxes; pre and post cruise activities; hotels and meals not included in the cruise itinerary, emergency evacuation charges; and personal expenses including laundry, postage, personal clothing requirements, medical expenses, personal travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as bar charges (alcohol, bottled water, sodas), communication costs (phone, fax, email) and shop purchases.
Yes, children are welcome to join these cruises if they are five years of age and older. There may be children's discounts available so please enquire for more details. All children must be accompanied by and accommodated in a cabin with a parent or guardian. It is important to be aware that there are no child facilities on-board vessels and parents or guardians are responsible for children at all times. Staff on-board are not responsible for the care of children at any time during the expedition.