In 2014 DH and I did a cruise to Antarctica taking Lindblad Expeditions, also known as National Geographic trips. The ship was National Geographic Explorer. Where this trip comes under the heading of cruise, it is, as you may guess, a bit different from the average cruise. Here is some information about our trip.
Most of the people who attended this trip had planned it for about a year or better. One family had planned for two years. Granted it was three generations from the youngest, who turned 12 on the trip, to a grandfather who gave talks and lectures on the ship. The grandfather was going to be staying on after our voyage for another few weeks to provide additional talks, his family was just attending the one cruise.
But most people had planned anywhere from one year to about 6 months. Some had been on waiting lists, usually a short time, but many had planned on this trip for a while. It gave them time to shop for clothing and plan for excursions both pre- and post cruise.
We happened to get in on this cruise by sheer luck. We actually only had six weeks to prepare, shop, and fly out for the trip. Not much time all things considered. We’re guessing that our travel agent called when there was a cancellation. Considering that it was essentially a full ship, that’s the only explanation we can come up with. Our making it on was just dumb luck.
For our trip we flew into Buenos Aires a couple of days early, spent some time sightseeing and went to a Tango show. When the main group arrived, it was an afternoon of sight seeing and a general meeting. Then the next day it was a flight from Buenos Aires to Ushaia, lunch on a catamaran (for most of us), and that evening we began our trip thru the Drake Passage (took an entire day). Once thru the Drake we began a daily routine of land fall. It took us an entire day plus a bit more time to return back across the Drake passage to Ushaia. We spent the night on the ship then the next morning flew back from Ushaia to Buenos Aires. From there some flew home, some stayed longer in Buenos Aires, and some attended other excursions (Iguazu Falls).
Lindblad actually had a list of clothes you should have for the trip. Lindblad’s expeditions are more of an adventurers sort of cruise – this is not a sit on a deck and watch Antarctica go by. There were daily excursions, talks, lectures, etc. So clothing was a consideration.
There were basically two options for clothing. You could purchase/bring from home your own clothes. But they also had an option (for a fee) to rent the major items needed. You needed cold weather clothes- thermal underwear, snow pants, jackets, boots, etc. We actually rented boots. If you will never need these items again, renting may make the most sense. Depending on where you may live and your hobbies/sports some people actually already owned some of the items required. As you can guess a trip to Antarctica requires gear for cold weather. Skiers may have most if not all the items required already. If you live in a region that gets cold weather, you may also have what you need already. For those of use who don’t live in cold climates, we had some shopping to do. The good news was we had lockers onboard in which to store some of the gear – some not all.
Where you need this cold weather gear for time off the ship, you also needed to have some clothing for your time on the ship. You could wear all your gear while eating your meals, but it would make moving around a bit awkward. So you need clothing for general wear around the ship. In additional to cold weather clothes you need clothes for your travel time – flights, overnight stay (we stayed in Buenos Aires), anything you plan to do on your own (Tango show), etc.
This trip presents a strong case for a well packed carry on. On our trip 5 people had to shop for clothing in Ushaia because their luggage did not arrive with them. And believe me, there is not a lot of shopping malls/department stores in Ushaia, but it does have camping stores and to my knowledge, everyone was able to get enough things to make it thru the trip.
So for us clothing for the trip included clothing for Buenos Aires, cold weather gear for Antarctica, and regular clothes for on the ship.
On this trip the cabins had dispensers with shampoo+ (I believe it was a shampoo and conditioner mix), body gel, and body lotion. They also provided facial soap. These are small cabins by other cruise ship standards. But they are very efficient. They did provide a hair dryer in the cabin but there were not an abundance of outlets for plugging things into.
This was cold weather. Cruises to Antarctica occur during its summer time. But summer time is still pretty cold – we had warm weather, all of about 32-36F, just above freezing. We hit snow flurries on a number of days. And wind. Howling wind. Blow you over trying to stand still wind. Not the best place for those who worry about bad hair days. And you wore hats frequently while outside. Drying your hair before going out was a good idea. We did not get a lot of sun but the weather and air were very drying.
Because of this cold and wind you needed to consider a few things. If you come from a cold climate you may be used to caring for your skin in these dry, cold, windy, harsh conditions. For the rest of us, it was a good test of how good your skin care was. I got by, but I can’t say I had enough. After bathing (and even if I didn’t bathe) I used – body lotion on my body, on my face – face oil, thick moisturizer, sunscreen. We didn’t really see a lot of sun, but since sunscreen tends to be oily, I used it as just another layer of protection. I did see a few people with red, dry, scaly wind burned faces. Oh, and my hands dried out terribly – another problem of the cold and wind.
What I used for my face was okay. I could have done better, probably should have. I thought I was prepared, but now I know I should have done more. But I didn’t get wind burned so I guess I did good enough, not great but good enough.
Our flight from Buenos Aires to Ushaia was a chartered LAN flight. We actually had been told there was a weight limit for the check thru luggage and our carry on. I don’t know if anybody actually weighed luggage, but there was not a lot of spare room on the plane. We were 149 paying passengers plus miscellaneous folks on this charter plane. Basically we filled it up. Our miscellaneous passengers were actually people going to the cruise ship – speakers, crew, etc. So as far as I could tell, we didn’t have anybody on the plane that was not going on the cruise ship.
Our luggage limits included carry-on of 12 lbs, plus one personal item (lots of backpacks there), plus no more then 2 check thru pieces. The check thru pieces had a limit of about 50 lbs total (both pieces weighed together). Since one of the “perks” of our trip was a jacket, you needed to leave some weight allowance for those jackets. When I got home I weighed my jacket. One jacket alone came in at just over 3.5 lbs.
So what was our daily routine like. Wake up call was around 7 AM. This wake up call is over the PA system so it is time to get up for everyone. Breakfast was from around 7 AM – 8:30ish. Depending on where we were, it was either a talk or first excursions.
We were divided into two groups. So one group would be on shore while the other group was on board listening to a speaker. We would be back on board the ship for lunch at noon. Then the afternoon was more talks or more excursions. If Group One went ashore in the morning, Group Two went ashore in the afternoon. We did a daily recap usually around 6ish, then dinner usually by 7-7:30PM. We were in bed by 10PM and I can’t say I heard of anybody staying up late. Actually we slept like the dead – we laid down and we were out. We were tired!