We returned from Antarctica on February 7th and I wanted to pass along a few tips and suggestions for any one going now or in the near future.
1. Walking sticks: Although GCT didn't require them, you SHOULD take at least one and better the pair. Almost every landing presented a walking challenge of some kind. Snowy steep slopes, icy rocks, snow trails and penguin poop on top of all that. Just getting off the zodiacs and on to the trail, if there was one, they helped. Mind folded down so I could put them in the suitcase and they are very light. Our PD always said take you walking sticks when we headed down to get our boots on.
2. The red coats are extremely warm and mostly waterproof. I usually wore a thermal undershirt, another shirt and a fleece top of some kind, and then the red coat. If the sun is out you can unzip and zip back up for the windy zodiac trip back to the boat. This was where it usually was the coldest and sometimes wettest. You will figure out what works for you as you go according to your own comfort, wind, or sun conditions. Take a vest, down or other kind as you may find that works for you in the layering process.
3. Gloves and hats. Gloves should be waterproof and I bought the type GCT sells that are waterproof with a thermal inner glove. If you get your hands wet in the zodiac you will be cold and probably can't take pictures. Mostly I wore the thermals on shore and then put the waterproof gloves back on for the zodiac rides. A tour of the "iceberg grave yard" takes about a hour and if your hands are cold you won't be happy. Most everyone wore their hats on shore except for sunny days. They are important for warmth and if they are wind resistent all the better. Some took their ski hats if they had one and that worked well. The red coats have hoods but they are not ideal once you get on shore or for turning your head sideways.
4. Our ship was the "Corinthian" and the staff, rooms and food were wonderful We were on one of the upper floors with a private deck. The patio door made it convenient for taking pictures or just watching the wild life that was announded on the speaker system. This ship is exactly what it should be - perfect for Antarctica with a luxurious touch.
5. Boots - my boots worked well even though I have a narrow foot. I just wore two pairs of thick wool socks and put a pair of inserts in the bottom to be more comfortable and warm. Getting the boots off and on as many as three times a day can be a trial. The staff will help you but it was helpful to wear down to the dressing area either crocks or whatever you can get off and on fast. If you have some slippers that are more or less water resistant on the bottom then take them. That will speed the process.
6. Waterproof pants - yes you will need them as they cover your boots and keep your pants from getting wet on landings. NOT ski pants as some have suggested. One gal even bought some in Ushuaia after our PD said you needed them to be WATERPROOF. If you get a big wave from the wind you will get wet. They also cut the wind when you are out in the zodiacs and on shore. I bought the ones GCT suggested. They were great, weighed little, and packed easily.
7. I would take a good camera if you like to take pictures. Preferably one with an adequate zoom for those once in a lifetime shots. My husband got some great shots of whales and seals with his camera. Remember this is a once in a lifetime trip for most of us and you will want to remember what you saw and experienced.
8. The dreaded Drake: We were very lucky - just a few hours of somewhat rock and roll both ways. Our Captain was thrilled because we made such good time, returning in nearly smooth waters that we were able to see "Cape Horn". The captain had never been there before and was taking lots of pictures.
9. Sea sickness or not: My husband is prone to sea sickness, so he wore the patch during the Drake crossing. I am not prone to sea sickness but just to be safe, I used the magnectic wrist bands and initially took the Bonine meds. Which worked I couldn't say because we were so lucky in the crossing. Our PD said - you will either be sick or very sick, so that may be more the norm.
Lastly, pack well, get on the plane and don't worry. You will experience what only 30,000 people a year are able to do. It is hard to describe what you will see, JUST GO!