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How to pack for a cruise to Antarctica

Don't leave home without your rubber boots.
Don't leave home without your rubber boots.
G Dingus

You’re headed way down under to Antarctica, the land of icebergs, penguins and whales. Or, you’re going up north to Canada’s high Arctic in search of polar bears and walruses. You’ve got your cruise ticket, now you wonder what to pack.

Jacket and tie? Your favorite little black dress and heels? When you’re packing your bags for Antarctic or, for that matter, an expedition cruise anywhere in the world, forget the fancy duds. Most adventure cruises that call at remote places are strictly casual. Besides, you’re going to need all that room in your suitcase for your must-have gear.

Essentials for ridding in a Zodiac

Sit on the edge of a fast moving rubber boat, and you’re bound to get wet sooner or later. You’ll need to bring rain pants, a rain jacket and at least two pairs of warm gloves. If you have ski gloves and hats, you’re all set.

Most important of all are rubber boots. I’m not talking about any rubber boots. For expedition cruising, your boots need to be knee-high. Why? When you hop off the Zodiac five feet from shore, you’ll be standing in chilly water. Even a small wave can lift the water level to the top of your boots, and wandering around a penguin colony with wet feet is not fun.

Here’s the good news. You can find inexpensive boots at hardware stores. If they’re a bit too big, bring along several pairs of thick wool socks. (More of your ski stuff will do.) You’ll be glad you did.

Handy for exploring

A lightweight backpack comes in handy for carrying your camera, binoculars, extra hat and dry mitts. It also works a charm for letting you be hands-free when climbing on and off that slippery Zodiac.

Don’t forget an extra pair of sunglasses. When you’re cruising to remote regions, there’s no store down the road. In fact, there are no roads.

Some like it warm

Check the weather forecast for your destination. The Canadian Arctic in summer may not be as chilly as you think. A few layers—turtleneck, sweater or fleece and a jacket—may be plenty.

On the other hand, a down parka is a good idea for Antarctica where the weather changes by the hour. Some high-end cruises will give you a parka to wear (and to keep). A few even have boots for you to borrow. Be sure to ask before you pack bulky items that are already supplied by your cruise line.

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