Antarctica is one of the most thrilling places on earth to visit on a cruise, and has in fact captured the imagination of intrepid explorers for hundreds of years. Indeed, the legendary voyages of Robert Falcon Scott, Roal Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton - all of whom attempted to conquer the harsh yet dazzlingly beautiful landscape of the world's southernmost continent - have inspired thousands of people to follow in their footsteps by setting off towards Antarctica. Fortunately, the journey is a lot less hazardous and arduous these days, with a number of fantastic cruise liners offering the perfect blend of rugged adventure and luxury travel.
That said, there are still a number of things that all passengers should do before embarking on one of these voyages, as the better prepared you are, the more enjoyable your Antarctic experience will be. One of the most critical stages in this preparation process is packing, and you'd be surprised at how easy it is to mess this up by bringing things that you don't need whilst leaving behind some essential items. That's why we've put together this brief checklist of a few of the things to consider when setting out on an Antarctic cruise.
Whether your itinerary takes you to places like South Georgia Island, Elephant Island or indeed the Antarctic Peninsula itself, you can be pretty sure that you're going to be spending a fair amount of time on zodiac boats, which will act as your main form of transport between your cruise ship and the land. As you can probably imagine, the water of the Southern Ocean is somewhat chilly to say the least, which is why you'll need to be protected from any spray that may come your way when travelling in one of these inflatable speedboats (and rest assured, you will most definitely get sprayed!).
It's worth checking whether or not free parka jackets are provided on your particular cruise. Some polar cruises issue these to all passengers, which means you won't have to worry about bringing your own coat or waterproofs. Check with your travel agent or cruise line before you pack.
A waterproof bag
Make sure that your camera and any other electronic items are well protected when riding on a zodiac boat. Having a waterproof backpack or other type of bag can come in really handy when you need to keep your valuables dry, especially if you've got expensive gear like high-powered lenses or other professional photographic equipment.
Despite the icy temperatures, the sun is still just as powerful in this part of the world. Don't forget to pack sun-protection such as SPF 50 sun cream for your face and lip balm to prevent dry or cracked lips. The sun reflecting from the bright white ice caps can produce quite a glare at times, pack some decent sunglasses so that you can enjoy the shining landscape at all times.
It may sound like utter madness, but you might well find that you fancy taking a dip at some point during your voyage. In fact, some cruise lines such as G Adventures offer what's known as the polar plunge, whereby passengers can test their bravery against the icy waters of the Southern Ocean. For a less adventurous dip, other cruise lines such as Hurtigruten boast hot tubs out on deck.