Just Back from February 9 Expedition—Sharing Some Observations

Yes, it is amazing. Yes, you should definitely do it. But there is more.

TWO THINGS I WISH I HAD BROUGHT:
1. Lightweight glove liners
Why: we had very adequate and warm gloves, but if you want to take pictures, these are cumbersome. I don't mean they are not smartphone conductive, I mean they are too bulky to press the power button and shutter button on a digital camera. Consequently, you end up removing the glove from one hand, which is now exposed to the cold. Repeatedly. A glove liner would provide both some protection and flexibility.
2. Lightweight "bandit scarf"
Why: what I'm talking about here is a small circular scarf that pulls down over your head and sits around your neck. But it can be pulled up to cover your face up to the bridge of your nose. Sure, a full-size scarf could do this duty, but it is too bulky. In reality the red parkas that Tauck provides are very warm and adequate and close nicely up high on the neck. But even with the hood pulled up I found that the wind blew on my face (and I have a beard!). Something that could be pulled up and down would provide added warmth and protection on demand.

TWO THINGS I WISH I HAD NOT BROUGHT:
1. So many cold weather clothes
Why: that may sound strange on a trip to the coldest place on the planet, but here's why. My wife's and my excursion outfits consisted of (on the bottom) long silk underwear, jeans or leggings and waterproof and insulated ski pants. On the top long-sleeved silk or wool/synthetic blend undershirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, Tauck red parka. For more warmth up top a light pullover or sweatshirt could be added. We're from California, not used to extreme cold and we were quite comfortable. The reality is you go on one or two excursions per day, at most 2 hours each, and once you get your ski pants and parka on, you look the same every day. You could actually wear the same "uniform" underneath every time and no one could tell! Plus, the smell from the penguins would cover up anything else. :) Once back on board you could shower, change and be all the better.
2. Walking sticks
Why: this one may be subject to your abilities, sense of stability. They are somewhat cumbersome to pack and carry around with you. About 70% of the time they were not needed. Did they prove critical the other 30% of the time? I don't think so. Again, how comfortable are you walking on snow or ice? Actually the most difficult places to walk were on the rocky shores, and the sticks were not real good there. Other postings have said the walking sticks are essential, so examine your own mobility issues.

TWO THINGS I WISH I HAD KNOWN, NOT THAT IT WOULD HAVE REALLY MATTERED:
1. The ship is bilingual
Why: I know everything says it is a French registered ship, but every cruise ship has a registry that is often some out-of-the-way country and it makes no difference. The Ponant line is French, all of the crew and most of the workers speak French and all onboard announcements and on-screen publications are in two languages. I mention this not as an issue, just as an observation. I speak no French and there was never a problem.
2. There is at least one early flight you have to catch
Why: when you leave Buenos Aires for Ushuaia, you must be up by 3:30 AM! So what? You're on vacation, what else do you have to do? It is just sooo early.

TWO PEOPLE YOU REALLY NEED TO TRUST:
1. Your Tauck directors
Why: They really know what they are doing, they are true professionals and they are masters of getting you from one place to another. Listen to them, pay attention, ask if you have questions, and you will always be in the right place at the right time.
2. The Zodiac seamen
Why: These are the guys who get you in and out of those inflatable motor boats. They know what they are doing, they know how to do it, they know how to move you easily and safely. Do what they tell you to do and you will be safe and dry.

Speaking of dry, the boots and outer pants you wear are probably the two things to which you really should pay attention. Get or rent the boots Tauck recommends. They work and they are surprisingly warm for their weight. The pants should definitely be waterproof, but they should also have some sort of inner, elastic nylon lining at the ankle. This slides down over the top of your boot, around the outside, and then the pant itself is outside all of this. Do not tuck them into your boot! When you get out of the Zodiacs you are often stepping down into the sea, which then surges UP your pant leg (so the inner lining keeps it from going up your leg) and then back down (so not tucked in keeps it from going into your boot). This may sound complicated, but most ski pants have this sort of configuration and putting them on is no hassle. Just don't tuck them into the tops of your boots.

Be flexible, be open to new experiences, and appreciate that you will be somewhere very few people in the world can say they have visited.

Comments

  • edited January 2017
    A very helpful posting. Specially the one about the waterproof pants and the boots. Thank you for the insight.
  • Thank you so much for the info on essentials on Antarctica. I will be on this trip at the end of January 2017. I wonder if by any chance you want to get rid of or sell the woman's waterproof pants. I, too, live in CA and won't need them except for this trip. I am a small person (5'2"). I would appreciate a reply because otherwise I will have to go shopping for some. McCulloch
  • Thank you for the detailed information ... very helpful. I am wondering about attire on the ship - long or short sleeves?, sweatshirts/sweaters or lighter weight shirts? i.e. is it warmer or cooler aboard the ship itself?
  • Hi Calguy,

    I hope you continue to check this site or if anyone else sees this, respond to it. I am a Tauck veteran, 14 trips and counting, but some travel buddies are asking me to join them in Antarctica with Lindblam, National Geographic tours. I can only assume that they, too, are terrific. Here is my question...

    Yes each day you head out on a zodiak....but are you just cruising around or do you get to "dock" get off and walk among the wild life? National Geo seems to "brag" about he amount of time on terra firma to really get up close and personal with the land an wildlife.

    Last question...final price...I am a solo traveler so without the US to Buenos Aires flight it is about 13,500. Is that what I am looking at for Tauck?

    Regina
  • Thank you so much for your in depth information; I now know what we need to purchase to be comfortable. How did people dress for dinner? We have been on many cruises and Tauck trips and dressing for dinner varies. We are booked for the Jan. 14, 2018 trip and will be going to B.A. a day earlier. Anyone else from the NJ area?
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