The Arctic has been on my bucketlist for a long time and especially cruises to that wonderland. Since I can’t go on an Arctic Cruise right now I thought I might put together these tips for heading down to the ice. Plus its a great way to distract myself from the heat of Vietnam’s jungles where I’m writing this from. While there’s a lot of info out there when it comes to packing clothes for your Arctic cruise (think layers) you might still need a bit of advice about all the other doodads that can make your trip more enjoyable.
All photos in this post are being used with permission from Oceanwide Expeditions
Here’s a quick list of additional accessories that you should consider bringing along on your adventure.
You know those mirror things that people sometimes hold up under their chins so their faces get equal sun from all angles? Snow and ice acts much the same way. In fact, the polar ice caps act as sun shields that regulate the planet’s temperature.
So don’t underestimate how much you can get burned from your trip to our southern continent. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, and a hat.
You get from your cruise ship to the shore via outboard-engine boats called Zodiacs. They’re fun to ride in, but they can also be a bit splashy. So if you’re bringing sensitive camera gear along for the ride, make sure you have it sealed in something that will keep the water out.
Insurance is generally mandatory for trips to the Arctic, so a lot of cruise lines will actually purchase insurance for you or at least make the process easier. Plus its a great idea for any traveler to help keep your mind (and your mom) at ease.
Because all that adventuring can dry you out and we all want to make less plastic. Make your trip more eco-friendly by bringing a reusable water bottle!
Prescriptions and anti-seasickness medicine
Stock up on your prescriptions before you head out. Some Arctic cruises can last for weeks, with no stops near pharmacies. While there are medical bays on bigger cruise ships, they are generally for first aid and light medical treatments, so they don’t carry a full range of prescription pills.
As for seasickness, you’ll likely be passing through the Drake Passage infamous for its rough waters. If you’re at all prone to seasickness, the Passage will test your tummy. See your doctor ahead of your trip, stock up on your Dramamine, and remember that it’s preventative rather than curative: You’ll take it before you get to the ocean’s rough spots, not using it to return from a nasty shade of green.
Power-strips and a power adapter (if necessary)
Bringing along a slim power strip is kind of becoming de rigueur for travelers in general, as locations like airports and cruise ships don’t always have enough electrical sockets to go around. So be the hero your ship deserves and bust out your power strip. You’ll make new friends.
If you’re a light sleeper, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, you’ll possibly be experiencing daylight almost the whole day round (depending on what time of the year you travel). Your cabin’s porthole will probably have some pretty thick curtains or shutters, but if you’re worried you might consider bringing along a sleep mask.
Sound-wise, you might have to deal with the ship’s engine hum, waves, and noisy cabin neighbours. Ear plugs might be a good idea if any of these things can interfere with your beauty sleep.
Whale-watching, seal spotting, watching penguins along the shore… binoculars are a must for an Arctic cruise.
Very generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to binoculars. The good news is that a good pair of binoculars will last you the rest of your life assuming you treat them well.
Aside from price, you should also factor in magnification factor into your purchase. Contrary to what you might think, you might actually want a lower factor for two reasons. The first is that the greater the magnification, the more the natural shake in your hands will interfere with your view.
Ever think about cruising Asia?
The second reason is that just like with camera lenses magnification in binocular lenses shortens your depth of field. Think of the depth of field as the end zone in American football or rugby. This zone is where objects are in focus, and it can be moved closer or further from you with your bino’s focus knob. The higher the magnification, the narrower this zone becomes, making it more difficult to zero in on what you want to be looking at.
We suggest that you do a little research since you’re potentially buying the last pair of binoculars you’ll ever need. That being said, names that come up a lot in positive reviews are the Bushnell Elite Custom 7×26, the Nikon Travelite VI, the Leupold Yosemite, or the Upland Optics Perception HD 10×42.
You’re definitely going to want something that is waterproof.
Bonus – bathing suit
Yep, some people dare the southern waters by taking a polar plunge. Be prepared to shriek.
You will probably be travelling over some ice and snow or rocky beaches on even the easier hikes offered by cruises, so if you need a little extra stability you might want to bring along a pair of trek poles.
Of course, you’re going to want to bring a camera. We’re pretty sure you lose your adventure street cred if you don’t.
Honestly, the best camera is the camera that you’re familiar with (within reason). But if you’re in the mood to pick up a new camera, you should really do research beyond the scope of this brief post.
You’ll want to consider if, for example, you want a DSLR, a cropped sensor (preferred for close-ups of wildlife) or a full sensor (preferred for landscapes), swappable lenses versus a fixed lens, sensor sizes, mirror viewfinder versus digital viewfinder, and so on.
So do spend the time figuring out which camera is “you” and then get out and practice, practice, practice before you embark.
Bring extra batteries, at least two back-ups, since batteries tend to drain faster in cooler or cold weather.
And stock up on memory cards. Lots and lots of memory cards. Arctic cruises are essentially just twenty-four hours a day of astonishing landscapes, history, and wildlife. Your trigger finger will get sore.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for my regularly scheduled posts about motorbiking across Vietnam coming soon!