Frequently Asked Questions
The most commonly asked questions by guests before they travel
In-depth information on all of these topics and more can be found in the Final Documents package you should receive from your agent approximately 90 days prior to your departure date. If you have any additional questions not covered here, please contact your agent.
Questions about Our Ships
Unfortunately, no, our ships are not built to be wheelchair accessible. There is an elevator that services all floors, but due to weather and sea conditions, it is not operational at all times.
Not cold at all! The entire ship is climate-controlled for your comfort, and all cabins feature individual temperature controls.
All suites feature the option for 1 Queen or 2 Twin beds. The only exceptions to this are the Owner’s Suites on each ship, and Penthouse Suite 601 on the Hebridean Sky, which have 1 Queen. Nearly all en suite sofas convert to beds suitable for guests under 5’10” in height.
We do have some suites that are designated Triples. In addition, most suites feature a sofa that can convert to a 3rd berth, suitable for guests up to 5’10” in height. We do not have quad suites.
Only Suites designated as “Porthole Suites” have portholes, the rest have windows. We cannot guarantee the number of portholes or windows in your cabin. Windows and portholes do not open.
There is absolutely no smoking permitted anywhere inside the ships (including the balcony areas,) on Zodiacs, or on landings. International law dictates the allowed designated area for smoking on commercial vessels; on Hebridean Sky and Island Sky this area is outside on Promenade Deck 4 aft. This location will be clearly identified during the Safety Briefing at the beginning of your voyage. Repeated non-compliance of our smoking policy will result in a $1000 penalty added to your shipboard account. The Expedition Leader and Captain also reserve the right to disallow participation in off-ship activities.
Yes. Laundry service is available on board; however, the ships do not have dry cleaning facilities. There is no self-service laundry facility on board the ships and no irons for passenger use.
We do not have a dedicated gym or spa facility; however, a small stock of fitness items such as yoga mats and blocks, medicine balls, resistance bands, jump ropes, Bosu balls, and massage rollers are available for check-out from Reception.
We can accommodate most dietary requests such as low salt, gluten-free, and low cholesterol, and we include Vegetarian, Meat, and Fish options on all of our menus. If you have a specific dietary concern, please be sure to notify your agent. Please note that we are unable to offer Kosher meals.
Yes! Our ships feature wireless networks accessible from your personal computer or smartphone from virtually anywhere on board. There are also two public computers available in each ship’s Library which may be used for email and Internet (but not for uploading photos.) 200 free MB of WiFi data is included in the cost of your voyage. Additional data packages can be purchased from the hotel manager on board; rates begin at about USD $20 for 200 MB. Please note, due to weather and location, there may be times when Internet service is very slow or disrupted.
Voltage is 110V/60Hz (American standard) with a 220V razor socket. Electrical outlets are suitable for low voltage electrical devices, e.g. mobile phones or camera chargers. Suites also include 5 USB ports for charging. Please do not bring any small appliances such as hairdryers, irons, coffee makers, curling tongs, or steam pots, as these items will damage the ship’s electrical system and are strictly forbidden on board. There is a small hairdryer provided in your cabin.
It is highly unlikely that you will have cellular service once we leave Argentina. There is a telephone in your cabin, which has access to an outside line; however, there may be times when phone service is limited or unavailable.
While you may find the batteries or flash cards you need in stock in our Gift Shop, we strongly recommend that you bring extra supplies of everything, (including an extra charger) as availability of these items is very limited, and cannot be guaranteed.
Some of the bases that we may visit on your voyage offer postal service, but we can’t guarantee we’ll get to one. Your Expedition Leader will let you know if you’re visiting a base that offers post, and how you can send mail. In some places you may need cash, usually US Dollars or Euros. You can always send postcards once we disembark in Ushuaia!
Yes! Every voyage has a currently-practicing and English-speaking doctor experienced in Emergency medicine. Medical services are available 24 hours a day, and a doctor accompanies passengers on all shore landings.
Each ship has a Medical Clinic, stocked with a wide range of common basic medications, including seasickness medication, and capable of supporting a wide range of medical issues. Please note, there are no lab or radiology capabilities on board.
In the unfortunate event of a serious medical problem, our onboard doctor will take every possible step to stabilize the patient, who can then be evacuated to the nearest facility or airfield; either Ushuaia, Stanley, or King George Island, for more comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. Please be aware that there are limits to what our physicians can treat and evacuations in this remote area may be lengthy.
All guests are required to complete a medical questionnaire that is reviewed by our Medical staff who will contact your agent if they foresee any difficulties with the safety of your voyage. Medical information is kept on board for reference in the event of a medical problem.
For passengers that do have significant medical issues/problems, we recommend that you visit your physician to obtain the doctor’s “fit to travel” stamp of approval. As your embarkation date approaches, don’t hesitate to re-check with your doctor if there has been a change in your medical issues. It’s always a good idea to bring duplicate supplies of all your medications and necessary medical supplies.
There is generally no charge to guests for medical consultations, rendered care, or dispensed medical supplies. The only exceptions are rare cases in which very involved, “Intensive Care” levels of treatment are required.
Questions about Our Team
Polar Latitudes knows that your voyage is more than the ship or even the destination, it is the people who bring that experience to life. We are proud to say we attract some of the industry’s best talent, people who genuinely love what they do and work tirelessly to give our guests the best experience they can. Our staff comes from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are professional adventure guides, some expert academics, others passionate educators. All apply their specific skills in a way to compliment each other and collectively deliver truly life-changing trips.
Polar Latitudes is proud to say we have some of the highest staffing standards in the industry. We are one of the few operators that require all operational staff to be certified as crew under the International Maritime Organization’s STCW standards. Furthermore, we are the first polar operator to adopt the Polar Tourism Guides Association (PTGA) guide qualification framework, a world first in training and certifying polar guides in the skills and experience required for our unique industry. When combined with our company culture of learning and training, the STCW and PTGA certification frameworks give us the confidence that all our valued guests will be kept safe and benefit from the best team in the industry.
Any tipping is at your discretion and entirely optional. Should you choose to tip, the standard amount for recognition of service is USD $12 per person per day. This can be added to your shipboard account and paid by credit card – you do not need to tip in cash. The gratuity is divided among the front of house hotel team, and cabin and dining room stewards. Other crew members are compensated for gratuities in salary.
The Expedition Team does not solicit gratuities and we encourage passengers to be generous with the hotel team first. If you personally wish to leave a thank you for the team you may do so at reception and the amount is completely at your discretion.
Questions about Our Voyages
Weather in Antarctica can be very unpredictable, and we don’t get the same type of forecasts that we’re used to in most other parts of the world. We get information about general conditions and trends in the areas we visit, and we make our own forecasts in real time based on the data we have in the moment. Average temperatures in Antarctica during our sailing season is between -5 C (23 F) and 5 C (41 F).
The best defense against bad weather is quality gear. Click here for more information on what we recommend.
You will visit amazing, unbelievable places every day, but probably none of them look exactly like the pictures you’ve seen before. Antarctica is one of the most unpredictable places in the world, which is what makes it so special and keeps us excited to go back year after year. Glaciers calve, penguins move, ice melts, snow falls, wind blows, and all these factors change the landscape making every trip a once in a lifetime experience.
We carry a mix of single and tandem kayaks, and provide dry suits, paddles, personal flotation devices (PFDs), pogies (neoprene gloves), and booties. For more information on our kayaking program, please click here.
We provide insulated sleeping bags, rated to -20 ° F (-29 ° C), sleeping bag liners, insulated sleeping pads, 4-season mountaineering tents, dry bags for pillows and clothes, and a limited number of mountaineering bivy sacks (for any brave souls who wish to sleep out!) We also bring one portable toilet for the group. For more information on our Camping program, please click here.
Disembarkation is usually at 8am on the final day of your itinerary. We strongly recommend booking flights no earlier than 12pm to account for possible delays getting back to Port.
Depending upon the weather, we are generally in Port Stanley at 8:00am and off the ship by 9:00am. We ask everyone to be back at the Visitor’s Centre by 2:30pm with the last bus leaving at 3:00pm. If you want to book sightseeing we recommend you plan to be back by 1:00pm to allow sufficient buffer time. Please note, any activities planned that day will cut into your time in town. We will offer a guided trip out to Gypsy Cove for some bird watching and history, and you can visit the Falklands Islands Museum & National Trust in town, which is free. Your Expedition Leader will confirm the exact arrival/departure times that day.
You should bring the camera that you are most familiar with or would most like to practice using and learn more about. Keep it simple – outdoor photographers are always on the move, being efficient with equipment means more time enjoying the experience and less time fussing with overpacked bags.
There will be a wide variety of cameras and photographers on board, from seasoned vets, hobbyists with professional equipment, and casual snappers with pocket cameras and iPhones. There’s no right or wrong camera to bring. Some cameras are able to capture higher-quality images in certain circumstances but there will be opportunities to learn about your own equipment and perhaps even be able to make some new purchasing decisions with some newfound knowledge. Every camera has its strengths and we always see amazing shots from iPhones to pro-DSLRs. At the end of the trip everyone will go home with a fantastic record of our adventures in our expedition keepsake.
Again, there’s no right or wrong camera to bring. However, if you’re itching to buy a new camera, but you’re concerned about the learning curve, don’t worry – take some time ahead to read the quick-start guide, and bring the full camera manual along. Most camera manuals are available online from the manufacturer for portability on your tablet, laptop or mobile. Our Photography Coach will be on hand to help one-on-one if you need help navigating around new equipment.
Yes! There is a steady power supply on the ship and there are regular ‘down-times’ between landings and nighttime to recharge batteries, backup images, and get ready for the next shoot. Voltage on board is 110V/60Hz (American standard) and suites include 5 USB ports for charging. Bringing a charger for your camera/battery is essential. Spare batteries are highly recommended as the cold tends to drain batteries faster.
The Photography Coach will give a lecture on board at the early part of the voyage covering some fundamentals. The best advice we can give in advance of the expedition is to pick up your camera, grab your camera manual, and do a little reading and practice ahead of time. Even just seeing some of the terminology in advance will help better understand it once we start using some technical jargon on the trip. Some of the features to be familiar with include:
- Image Size – Read up about the Image Size and Image Quality options of your camera and make sure it is set to the largest file size and best quality setting at the start of the trip. We’ll talk about making adjustments to that early on.
- Focusing – If your camera has a focus area control (usually a thumb pad) read up a little on how it works and practice with it a little ahead of time – try using it to focus on a pet or a child. In the heat of the moment with wildlife moving around it will help you get sharp images if you have practiced a little in advance with selecting the focus area.
- Exposure Compensation +/- – This is our go-to control for quick adjustments to the brightness or darkness of an image. With constantly changing light and the contrast of whites and blacks it’s one of the easiest ways to get your pictures just right.
- Flash – Learn how to turn your camera flash off. We won’t use flash anywhere around the wildlife so knowing how to turn that off is important. If you were contemplating bringing a flash unit maybe think twice, we’ll only be able to use those on board and rarely in the field. In general, the available natural light is abundant and beautiful.
- Sound – Learn how to turn off any audio/sound effects/alarms on your camera (BEEPS!) or any other electronics you may bring onshore – again, this is to minimize our disturbance to the wildlife.
Much of our shooting will be done from zodiacs in generally fair sea conditions, ashore at the landings, and on board the ship. We’ll be moving on and off shore a lot and a tripod can be a bit unwieldy. Most cameras (and/or lenses) come equipped with Image Stabilization which is well suited to the type of situations we’ll be in. Having said that, if working with a tripod is important to you (or if you are bringing a super-telephoto lens or plan to shoot video) and you’re accustomed to travelling with one then by all means bring it. A mono-pod is a good, more-compact alternative and can work well for many of the situations we will be in.
The delicate electronics in cameras need to be cared for and moisture can be highly detrimental, especially combined with salt-water. We do need to be extra careful to keep our camera equipment dry, especially moving in and out of the zodiacs. Keeping your camera in a hard, waterproof case like a Pelican™ Case is ideal, although a dry bag works quite well too – add a small towel to give your camera some cushioning. Otherwise any weather-resistant bag will help – or just keep your camera under your jacket! Remember to always secure zips and latches on camera cases each and every time. The more expensive your equipment is the more you should consider investing in protection for it.
This is not an easy question to answer because it will depend entirely on the image file size your camera records and how many pictures you intend to shoot. We will be seeing plenty of amazing things, so we recommend at least four 16GB cards for a 10 mega-pixel camera and at least four 32GB cards for a 24 mega-pixel camera. Erring on the side of more rather than less is the safest bet. Regardless of the capacity of your cards, it’s always a good idea to bring at least two in case one fails. We recommend bringing more, smaller-sized cards rather than fewer, larger-sized cards to reduce the risk of loss or damage.
Most likely if you’ve owned a DSLR or any camera system with a range of lenses for any length of time you have a pretty good handle on what you like to shoot and which lenses you’ll want to bring on the expedition. We recommend covering a wide range of focal lengths with as few lenses as possible.
Wildlife is one of the main attractions in Antarctica and capturing wildlife images is typically one of the more challenging aspects of photography because of the animals’ tendency to be elusive and at a distance – this is not always the case in Antarctica! The animals’ behavior and our guidelines allow us to be often relatively close. For wildlife photography, we recommend a telephoto lens with a focal length of at least 300mm (in 35mm equivalent) with up to 500mm as a bonus. Our Photography Coaches usually bring either an 80-400mm or a 200-500mm telephoto lens for their long shots. An 80-400mm has an especially versatile reach for a compact lens and is a good ‘traveler’. If you have a point and shoot, or other smaller camera, the manual will often give your camera lens range in 35mm equivalent. Many compact cameras have a surprisingly long reach!
Other than a telephoto it will be nice to have coverage at wide-angles (~14-35mm) and normal ranges (35-105mm) for landscapes, special effects, portraits etc.
If you’re a keen photographer taking a lot of images and you need the additional storage capacity and/or to do some photo-editing as part of your day to day, by all means bring one along. Many travelers are packing a tablet or laptop anyway. One important note on an issue that we do encounter: if you are using a Windows PC and are planning to shoot in RAW file format, be sure to install the RAW CODEC for your camera model and operating system before departure.
There are a few non-essential items that could help you get more from your photography. These could include: a remote control (or other system for using the ‘Bulb’ feature of your camera), a Neutral Density filter to fit your ‘normal’ (35-105mm) lens (this is particularly helpful if you’re interested in special effects or video), a polarizing filter (also usually best for the ‘normal’ range lens), a ‘step up ring’ (useful for fitting one expensive filter to several lenses of varying thread diameter), a small towel to pat your equipment dry, lens cloth or LensPen™, spare battery and charger. We strongly recommend a waterproof bag or case to store and carry your equipment in.
What to Bring
Yes! All passengers must carry a Travel Protection Plan. This Plan must cover personal injury, medical expenses, repatriation expenses, evacuation expenses, and pre-existing medical conditions. Additionally, passengers are strongly advised to carry a Travel Protection Plan which includes coverage for cancellation, curtailment, trip interruption, and all other expenses which might arise as a result of loss, damage, injury, delay or inconvenience occurring to or otherwise involving a passenger. As any potential evacuation from Antarctica can cost up to $150,000 we recommend that no policy carry less than this amount of coverage. Polar Latitudes will require information as to carrier, policy number, and a 24-hour contact number.
Our motto is – There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. It’s never a good idea to take shortcuts when it comes to clothing – being improperly dressed can impact your enjoyment of the voyage! Dress on board the ships is casual and informal at all times.
The best clothing is a layered system with an outer layer that is waterproof. The air between the layers provides additional insulation.
- Base Layer – Thermal underwear and a pair of thermal socks.
- Mid Layer – Pants (fleece is ideal), a light cotton shirt, and a fleece.
- Outer Layer – Waterproof pants and a waterproof jacket.
Waterproof pants are required to participate in landings.
Note: Lightweight disposable rain gear will not endure more than one landing, so please bring high quality, expedition-weight waterproof pants.
- Shoes – Sturdy walking shoes or sneakers with a good grip sole for the slippery deck, and the rubber boots we provide.
No! A waterproof expedition jacket, yours to keep, is included in the cost of your voyage, and will be given to you on board. A nautically inspired and well-fitting jacket, it’s ideal for cruising, sailing or onshore activities. This jacket, custom designed for Polar Latitudes, is a fully wind- and waterproof outer layer, with a protective collar to help keep body warmth from escaping on windy days. Please note, as this is not an insulated ski parka, we recommend wearing a heavy fleece and/or thermal layers under the jacket for additional warmth in Antarctica.
We also loan you a pair of insulated rubber boots for you to use during the voyage. They are great for getting in and out of Zodiacs and are plenty warm with a good pair of thermal or wool socks.
We do have a limited number of trekking poles on board, but if you are more comfortable with your own, please feel free to bring them.
No. We provide Molton Brown of London soap and shampoo.
That one is entirely up to you. If you wish to have access to the internet from anywhere other than the Library, you will need a computer or mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. Some guests also find it useful to have their computers on hand for photography storage and backup. If you do choose to bring a laptop, please be sure to take the necessary precautions to protect it from the elements.
For detailed recommendations on camera equipment from our Photography Coaches, please see our in-depth Photography Guide.
No. The recreational use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drone type aircraft in the Antarctic is currently prohibited by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). Because IAATO recognizes the value of UAVs for certain commercial and scientific applications, Polar Latitudes is currently permitted for the commercial use of UAVs by trained members of our staff. Individual permits are not possible, and personal drones are strictly prohibited.
No. All shipboard charges will be charged to an account, so you do not need to pay cash as you go. At the end of your voyage, you may pay your tab with cash or credit card; we accept Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. All prices on board are shown in US Dollars.
Always be sure to carry a small amount of cash, local and US or Euro, to cover taxis, and other incidentals, which may not be payable by credit card.