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Author: sammarcia

Joined: 5/14/2012
Posts: 9
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2008

January 23, 2013

We are traveling to Antarctica on February 7 and would like to hear from those who have taken this trip in the last two months or so.  Hints about clothing to take, best places to shop, maybe a laundromat in Buenos Aires, etc. would be greatly appreciated.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 231
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2007

January 23, 2013

If by shopping, you mean Buenos Aires, there is a pedestrian street where you can purchase leather, silver and souveneirs.  If you mean Antarctica, there are only two that we know of:  One is Port Lockeroy and the other is a Chilean Military base.  Every tour that we know of stops in Port Lockeroy, and you can purchase a variety of things particular to Antarctica as well as get your passport stamped and mail a letter postmarked Anrarctica.  Unfortunately, there are big lines, so if you're not first off the ship, you'll likely wait.  We assume Grand Circle is going to stop there.  As far as laundry, unless you're staying in Buenos aires after your trip, you won't have time to do anything before you have to depart, and you won't need to do any laundry when you first arrive there.  There are probably laundry services on the ship, which may be expensive, but under the circumstances, necessary.

As far as what to take, we're sure Grand Circle has advised you.  Most tours give a fleece lined parka which will keep you warm, and which you can keep, and lend you boots, as all landings are wet ones.  You will need to provide your own wateproof pants, however.  We recommend some king of a head covering.  We used wool caps.  The parkas has a hood anyway.  You can take long johns if you want, but we found it was unnecessary, as it was warmer in antarctica than in NY when we left.  However, your tolerance to cold will determine that for you.  The one items tha hardly anyone considers is gloves.  You will need rubberized gloves, because the biggestg problem you will have in Antarctica is staying dry.  Visit a local tackle shop and purchase a pair of rubberized gloves with a pair of liners, with a split forefinger, the kind surfcasters use.  This will permit you to take pictures by exposing only the finger which will snap the shutter while keeping the rest of your hands warm and dry.  We were the only ones who had those gloves, and the only ones whose hands didn't get frostbitten. 

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 231
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2007

February 02, 2013

Pushpa, have a great trip.  We hope Grand Circle stops at Deception Island and gives you a chance to go swimming( yes, swimming ).  You may want to verify that they'll stop there and give you a chance to swim, and if so, don't forget your bathing suit.  You're going to part of the world that we can only describe as beautifully desolate.  There's nothing like it.   

Author: jupe67

Joined: 9/21/2012
Posts: 3
GCT Trips Taken: 5
OAT Trips Taken: 7
Traveler Since: 2001

February 02, 2013

Pushpa,

Just returned from an unbelievable Antarctic trip!  A few thoughts to share.

I must disagree with the suggestions that walking sticks were not important.  We used two on all but 2 of the 10 landings we made.  I found them important for "wet" landings when you negotiate from the zodiak to the shore....and for the "dry" landings when you need to get your balance once on land.  They are easy to carry in your luggage (they twist a part) and there is no problem gettiing off or on the zodiacks since you are required to have both hands free duriing the transfers.  Your poles will be handed to you when you are settled.  ALso there are several times when you must walk and/or climb though snow or mud and your sticks will make you feel very secure.

Clothing thoughts....I was pleasantly surprised by the reasonably priced laundry service on the Corinthian II were very reasonable (i.e. 50 cents for a pair of sox!) Some people dressed up for the Captain's Dinner some did not.  You will see everything and all is accepted.  Suggestion of bringing wash cloths a good one.... Ski hats are great and if you wear glasses you might like to put a baseball cap under the ski cap to cut down on glare.

Drake Passage.  We had very smooth "Drake Lake" southbound but learned the true nature of the passage coming north when we encountered significant winds.  I would suggest the "patch" if you have any concerns but be sure to get a precription and fill it before you leave. It is easy to apply and appears to be quite effective.

Food on the ship is as awesome as the scenery!! The dining room service is a good as it gets!! The state rooms are large, comfortable and there is ample room for storage.

Happy to answer any of your questions.

Author: ed watts

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 164
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The azores, Antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

February 02, 2013

I agree with 7cs comments about Deception Island and swimming....Deception Island is like a bowl and you actually sail into it...all the sand is jet black..the shore where swimming is held has hot thermals coming out of the area which makes the water near that area "relatively" warm and there is a lot of steam coming up in that area also.A couple of women on my voyage dug little holes on the edge of the sand to allow water to fill it and then they sat in it...Their butts got very red and they had to jump up in order to prevent burns.....Deception Island was one of the many highlights of my trip as it is unique to the rest of what you will see and experience...My hope is that you will also be able to experience  it and, in case you make it there, be sure to have that swim suit because it  will probably be  a once in a lifetime experience

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 231
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2007

February 02, 2013

watsed-pretty much the same thing happened to us at Deception Island.  The guides dug channels for the water, and we remember when we first put our toe in it, we got burned.  We had to walk out into the ocean until we found a spot where the water was approximately mid-70's.  It was about waist depth at that temperature, and it was really quite pleasant.  They gave us brandy after the 'exhilerating' experience, to warm us up.  Nobody was cold, but we did finish the bottle.  it's interesting that no one who took the Grand Circle trip has mentioned swimming at Deception Island, which leads us to assume that Grand Circle doesn't provide that experience.  if so, it's a shame to go to Antarctica and not do that, if only for the apparent ability to do something out of the ordinary.  We hope that at least Grand Circle takes its clients to Port Lockeroy. 

Author: ed watts

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 164
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The azores, Antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

February 02, 2013

"nobody was cold...but we finished the bottle"    Nothing like having insurance in advance!!!

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 231
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2007

February 03, 2013

 wattsed-it was more like an excuse for taking a remedy to a nonexistent problem< G >.

Author: ed watts

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 164
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The azores, Antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

February 06, 2013

pushpa---If you possibly can, I would highly recommend the trip to Iguassu Falls...I spent four days there but it was on a trip to Brazil rather than on the Antarctica trip and I already had a Brazil visa which is one additional cost you have to consider in a post-trip from Antarctica..I have been to all the major falls, including Victoria Falls, and rate it as my number one of them all...it is hard to describe the majesty of these falls...when I was there they advertised it as 274 separate cascades but now I have seen writeups that say 275, so what is one more or less when you have over 200 already?...You must also experience it from both the Argentina and Brazil sides as the experience is completely different from each side...On the Argentina side you walk on platforms on top of the falls and on the Brazil side you walk on paths below the falls...

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 231
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2007

February 06, 2013

 We fully concur with Wattsed's suggestion regarding Iguassu Falls.  Like Wattsed, we too visited gthe falls on a trip to Brazil, so we had the Brazilian visa.  We recall, that visa can be quite costly if you get it through a service, so we don't know if the pre-trip available will take you to both sides of the falls.  Wattsed has given you a good description of how the falls should be viewed, and we cannot concur more strongly with his description.  But even if you're only going to view the falls from the Argentine side, you will still get the best views, missing only some of the broader views.  If you do visit the falls, be sure to take the boat ride( even if Grand Circle charges you extra for it ), which goes literally under the falls.  If you do, we suggest you purchase a small waterproff camera just for that purpose.  We know Olympus makes one, and we also believe Canon makes one as well.  Those can be piurchased for around $100 and if you're lucky( we were only somewhat so ), you can get some impressive pictures.

Author: jupe67

Joined: 9/21/2012
Posts: 3
GCT Trips Taken: 5
OAT Trips Taken: 7
Traveler Since: 2001

February 13, 2013

Hi pushpa... We did not take the extension....not available when we booked.... If my reading is correct you leave tomorrow. How exciting!!!  I'd go again in a heartbeat!  Bon Voyage

Author: rosebud

Joined: 3/16/2013
Posts: 10
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Countries Visited:

Alaska, The Amazon, Amsterdam, Antarctica, Argentina, Canada (Lake Louise, Banff, Jasper, Toronto, Windsor), Bahamas, Bermuda, Bhutan, the Baltics (Tallin, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Berlin, Germany), Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Galapagos Islands, Greece, Hawaii, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Machu Pichu, Mexico (Sea of Cortez, La Paz), Mongolia, Namibia, New Zealand, Nepal, Patagonia, Peru, Spain, Virgin Islands

Traveler Since: 2007

December 26, 2013

 I am wondering if the red jacket supplied by GCT is intended to be the only jacket needed, is it warm enough by itself? Or must one layer another winter jacket, fleece, sweater, etc.?

Author: ed watts

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 164
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The azores, Antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

December 26, 2013

I did not go to Antarctica with OAT/GCT but GAP instead; however, I am almost sure the jackets given by each are similar.  Most of the parkas consist of an outer shell that is waterproof and it has an inter shell usually down filled.  These are pretty warm in and of themselves; however, you wear some thin layers underneath such as a thermal top or two.  The temperature along the shore is really not that cold relatively speaking---I was there for 7 days at the end of Feb 2011 (GAP does not spend time in BA so the extra days are actually spent in Antarctica) and the whole time the temps never got below 29F and was usually around 32-34F in the daytime. The wind will be the main problem although we experienced very little during my time but the parka is also a good wind protector---a neck gator, rain pants and thermal gloves would be a good idea...I got a good idea of what the weather conditions would be when I went by going to the Weather Channel web-site and bookmarking three of the weather research stations located near where we would be...I got accurate forecasts up until two or three days before departure and then printed out a 10 day forecast for each of these stations just before I left...Many people take more stuff than they actually need so be careful when packing.   Speaking of rain pants, I do not ski and living in the South, I do not have much use for ski or rain pants; therefore, I went to Goodwill here in Atlanta and they have a whole rack of them, most in near new condition.(people must try out skiing and decide after one trip it is not their cup of tea and just donate their gear)  I think I paid $5.59 for a couple pair and just left them with the crew of the ship when I left as I had no further use for them---the may be slightly higher now as Goodwill increased their prices somewhat.   

Author: rosebud

Joined: 3/16/2013
Posts: 10
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Countries Visited:

Alaska, The Amazon, Amsterdam, Antarctica, Argentina, Canada (Lake Louise, Banff, Jasper, Toronto, Windsor), Bahamas, Bermuda, Bhutan, the Baltics (Tallin, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Berlin, Germany), Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Galapagos Islands, Greece, Hawaii, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Machu Pichu, Mexico (Sea of Cortez, La Paz), Mongolia, Namibia, New Zealand, Nepal, Patagonia, Peru, Spain, Virgin Islands

Traveler Since: 2007

December 27, 2013

 Wattsed,

Thank you for your complete and helpful answer. I posted both here and on the OAT site so I could reach as many Antarctica travelers as possible. Thanks again.

Author: branca

Joined: 9/30/2011
Posts: 2
GCT Trips Taken: 6
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2010

January 29, 2014

Question for anyone recently having traveled the Drake Passage, did you experience turbulance, do you recommend the patch or other sea sickness med? We are leaving in 4 weeks.

Some travelers have recommended water resistent gloves, what is your experience are they neccesary.

OAT didn't give any recommedations on these or walking sticks, what do you say?

Author: ed watts

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 164
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The azores, Antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

January 29, 2014

 I do not think you can ever predict the Drake Passage...when I went we had around Category 3 and 4 winds and maybe as high as Category 5---these cause some rock and roll but not extreme.I do not recall anyone on my tour being sick either as almost everyone made it to all meals in the dining room which is a sure indication that not many were room bound. . However, the group that came in the day before our departure ran into category 12 and they said almost everyone was sick...they said it more than made up for the very calm seas on the way over! Waves were coming over the ship on their return trip.. Many on our tour did have the patch and others took the pills given out at reception. I did not use either but had some pills just in case. To use either I guess depends on your view of how prone you are to motionsickness.

I did not use gloves other than a pair of thin  thermal gloves and did just fine but I know several people have recommended those that will be water proof.  We were blessed with near perfect weather so that may be a factor...Probably better to be prepared and not need them than need them and not have them. I did not use a walking stick and I do not remember very many in my group using them...In my opinionk they would have been in the way with camera and other things you have in your hands already but there are some slick and rocky places which could cause problems if you are not steady on your feet...If you are relatively steady and are careful you can get away without them in my opinion.,

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 231
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2007

February 02, 2014

 If you examine the ships sailing to Antarctica, you will find that the Corinthian II, which Grand Circle charters, is classified as a 'luxury' ship.  As such, it is far less prone to the infamous rock and roling of the Drake Passage.  As watsed has said, the passage is unpredictable.  When we went( on a small 49-passenger icebreaker ), going to Antarctica, we experienced what is sometimes called the "Drake Lake," for the uncanny calmness of the passage.  Coming home, was another matter:  Our experience could be described as "Victory At Sea," named for the initial pictures  of typhoons from the old television series.  Respecting gloves, if you intend to take pictures from the zodiac, and even on shore, we continue to recommend the waterproof gloves with the inserts that surfcasters use, and can be purchased at any tackle shop which carries surf equipment.  These gloves have a split forefinger which will allow you to keep your hands warm and more importantly, DRY( dampness is the biggest detriment to keeping warm in Antarctica ), while freeing your forefinger from the bulky gloves so that you can handle your camera.  When we went, we were the only ones who had them, and we were the only ones with dry hands and who weren't uncomfortable.                    

Author: rosebud

Joined: 3/16/2013
Posts: 10
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Countries Visited:

Alaska, The Amazon, Amsterdam, Antarctica, Argentina, Canada (Lake Louise, Banff, Jasper, Toronto, Windsor), Bahamas, Bermuda, Bhutan, the Baltics (Tallin, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Berlin, Germany), Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Galapagos Islands, Greece, Hawaii, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Machu Pichu, Mexico (Sea of Cortez, La Paz), Mongolia, Namibia, New Zealand, Nepal, Patagonia, Peru, Spain, Virgin Islands

Traveler Since: 2007

February 17, 2014

 We returned yesterday, February 22, 2014, from Antarctica. It is an unmatched experience that should be mandatory for all!!

Our Drake Passage was shaky on one day southbound and on one day northbound. In fact, we experienced hurricane force winds southbound and 30' seas northbound, making for lots of rockin' and rollin'. Do not be fooled by calm seas at the start and prepare your body with either the patch or the Dramamine provided at no charge by the expedition ship. Most people who used the patch were very satisfied and did not have to be concerned about taking pills periodically. You must obtain the patch from your physician before leaving your home town. There is a physician onboard, and for a fee you can use his services if seasickness or other physical problems assail you. 

Once we reached the Antarctic Peninsula, we were very fortunate to have four sunny days and 10 landings. Not all trips are as lucky, and, therefore, the clothing required may vary depending on time of year and day-to-day (or even hour-to-hour) conditions. Even with the sun, however, the red jacket was a must, as are waterproof pants. The calf-height boots provided by the expedition ship work well as long as you wear double wool socks. We also took toe and hand warmers and found them to be very helpful in maintaining comfortable landings as you walk on snow, ice and cold, cold land.

Because the weather cooperated, our Grand Circle Cruise stopped at Deception Island and those who wanted to enjoy a Polar Plunge were able to do so. Had the weather been different, as it apparently was for the cruise the week before ours, landing at Deception Island may not be possible.

The food on board, the crew and staff were all fantastic.

We highly recommend taking onboard a couple of short sleeve tees and a pair of lightweight slacks as the cabins on floors 2, 3 and 4 were very warm and uncomfortable, as were the dining and lounge areas, even after complaints to the HVAC authorities. Conversely, cabins on floors 5 and 6 were too cold.  

There were two closets for hanging cloths, but we found insufficient storage for folded clothing.

Go now!

Author: kokofodobe

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 4
GCT Trips Taken: 16
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Countries Visited:

15 Trips with GCT/OAT

Traveler Since: 2002

March 04, 2014

 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!

 

 

Author: mertziek

Joined: 9/2/2010
Posts: 35
GCT Trips Taken: 5
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2010

March 09, 2014

Definitely take a walking stick.  The trails are slippery, very uneven and narrow so the poles help maintain your balance.  There were times I could have used two.  They also worked good for getting up to the shore after you disembark the zodiacs.  I would say the majority of people had at least one on our trip.  As to the gloves, I bought the surf caster gloves with the split finger and ended up just wearing my liners all of the time but we had extremely calm conditions for the 4 days we were in Antarctica and never had to worry about my hands getting wet.

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