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Frequently asked questions: polar cruising

We've put together the answers to nine of the most frequently asked questions about polar cruising, so you don’t miss out on anything on your luxury polar cruise.

Q1. What do I need to wear? What should I pack versus what is provided?

Non-expeditionary wear for Antarctica

Choose versatile, casual clothing that can be layered if the weather (or level of air-conditioning) requires. Smart casual attire is appropriate for evenings. In Buenos Aires, residents are very fashion conscious and it is customary to dress for dinner. Formal clothing is not necessary.  If visiting mountainous regions or exploring Patagonia on a pre or post-cruise extension, pack lightweight, waterproof and well broken-in hiking boots that provide ankle support for trekking related activities.

Non-expeditionary wear for Arctic

Choose versatile, casual clothing that can be layered if the weather (or level of air-conditioning) requires. Smart casual attire is appropriate for evenings.  Formal clothing is not necessary.  If visiting mountainous regions on a pre or post-cruise extension, pack lightweight, waterproof and well broken-in hiking boots that provide ankle support for trekking related activities.

Onboard expeditionary wear : As a general rule, pack clothing you can layer, as temperatures are likely to vary widely in the course of your trip. In colder destinations, it’s important not to overdress to the point of perspiration, and important to wear waterproof clothing. Wet skin can quickly lead to a dangerous loss of body heat. Wearing several medium-weight layers of clothing under your parka allows you to adjust your personal temperature at will.

Daytime/Evening attire Onboard: Casual comfortable clothing is appropriate on board. A jacket and tie (and for ladies, one or two casual evening outfits) are suggested for the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party and the Farewell Party on board ship. This clothing ‘upgrade’ is ultimately at your discretion since you may find it hard to pack this limited-use outfit and meet the baggage weight restrictions. Laundry service is available on board (not dry cleaning).  The first 8 garments are laundered free of charge.

Included Onboard: A&K provides you with a water-resistant, hooded parka designed for the Antarctic climate and a water-resistant backpack to use for carrying items ashore on Zodiac excursions as it is necessary for you to keep your hands free while entering and exiting the Zodiacs. Complimentary use of waterproof over-trousers, waterproof boots are provided on board. All items will be valet-delivered to your stateroom or suite. Trekking poles are on board for guests to borrow should they need them, but these can also be ordered on line and delivered for complimentary use during the cruise.   At the end of your cruise, the parka and backpack are yours to keep (the parka jacket can be folded to fit within its hood and stowed in your backpack for the journey home). Your boots, over-trousers and trekking poles are left on board and will be collected prior to disembarkation.

Suggested packing

  • Non-expeditionary wear
  • Other recommended Items
  • Expeditionary wear: items provided on board
  • Expeditionary wear
  • Optional Items
  • Non-expeditionary wear
  • Casual slacks
  • Socks
  • Polo shirts, casual short-sleeve shirts or blouses
  • Long sleeve shirts or blouses
  • Comfortable walking shoes with low or no heels
  • Lightweight raincoat or windproof jacket
  • Swimwear/cover-up (optional)
  • Sweater or fleece jacket
  • Brimmed hat for sun protection
  • Sleepwear
  • Personal garments
  • Other recommended Items
  • Expeditionary wear: items provided on board
  • Expeditionary wear
  • Optional Items

Q2. What temperatures can I expect?


Mean annual temperature at the North Pole:  -18 degrees Celsius

Temperature range during the North West Passage in August / September 2019:  2-10 degrees Celsius.  **note that it can feel colder due to wind chill factor


Mean annual temperature at the South Pole:  - 50 degrees Celsius

Average temperature Antarctic peninsula approx. 1 degree Celsius  **note that it can feel colder due to wind chill factor

Q3. Do you have any photography tips for my trip?

‘Le Lyrial’ has an on-board photographer and photo concession providing passenger photography services including digital photo services and on-board photography for purchase. An end-of-voyage commemorative DVD is also available for purchase at the conclusion of your voyage.

Photos and a diary depicting highlights of the cruise activities as the ship travels are posted on A&K’s website. Family and friends can check this “digital logbook” to follow the cruise and perhaps see you pictured on board or ashore at  and select “trip logs”.

Generally photographers underestimate the number of photographs throughout the voyage. If shooting digital, bring plenty of memory, or bring a computer or some other storage device to periodically download images. Memory cards are not available on board and there is no film development facility on board.

If shooting film, bring at least one roll of film per day. Many photographers carry a third more rolls of film than the one-per-day rule of thumb.

The ideal lens depends on one's photographic style. In general, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 70-300mm is the most useful lens. The second most useful focal length is 28-70mm. Wider lenses are practical for specialty shots only.

A UV filter reduces the amount of ultraviolet light photographed. This can reduce excessive violet and blue tones that some digital cameras produce in Antarctica. Keeping a UV filter on each lens also helps protect and keep your lenses clean. Another useful filter is a polarizing filter. A polarizer reduces haze and deepens the blue colors of the sky and water.

Flash is often useful to bring out colours. If your camera does not have built in flash, consider a small external flash unit. Remember to bring extra rechargeable batteries for the flash.

Battery life is greatly reduced in cold weather. Bring two sets of rechargeable batteries and a charger. During outings a set of spare batteries should be carried in an inside pocket to keep them as warm as possible.

Salt-spray, rain, and snow can disable a camera. If you have a small camera, attach it to a lanyard so you can carry it under your parka. It also helps to keep it in a waterproof bag when not taking pictures. If you have a larger camera, consider a specialized waterproof covering. A shower-cap can also protect a SLR body in misting rain. Also be sure to bring lens cleaning materials such as a micro-cloth.

A monopod can be helpful when using a telephoto lens. It can also do double-duty as a walking stick. Some photographers instead bring a tripod, but a tripod can limit your on-land mobility. Remember that all monopod and tripods need to be sterilized at that gangway before going ashore on any landing.

Extreme care should be used when photographing wildlife in order not to cause any disturbance to a single animal, or group of animals. Do not harass wildlife for the sake of photography. Approach slowly, leaving a distance of 15-20 feet from nesting seabirds. Maintain a distance of at 50 feet from wildlife. Remember, photography is not over when your shutter clicks. Retreat from your subject in the same way you approached.

Photography checklist (remember to keep within airline size and weight restrictions):

Q4. What food & drink is included and what can I expect on board?

Included Beverages: Coffee, tea, soft drinks and water at included meals; local wine and beer at welcome and farewell dinners; local bottled water during sightseeing. Complimentary standard bar drinks, beer, house wine, soft drinks, coffee drinks, juices and bottled water (excluding premium wines, Champagne and spirits) while on board.  The complimentary mini bar is restocked daily.

Meals on board ‘Le Lyrial’ and ‘Le Boreal’ are served in two restaurants and are scheduled around the day’s sightseeing and shipboard activities. Guests may take all three meals in the main dining room on Deck 2, which is able to accommodate all guests in one seating and serves contemporary, gourmet and international cuisine. Another restaurant on Deck 6 offers indoor and outdoor seating (weather and sea conditions permitting) for breakfast, lunch and dinner served buffet style. Bottled water, bar drinks (exclusive of premium champagnes, wines and spirits) soft drinks, and house wines (white and red) and beer during lunch and dinner are included at no extra charge. In addition to three meals a day, early riser coffee, afternoon tea and late night snacks are served daily.

On board ‘Le Lyrial’ and ‘Le Boreal’, tap water is purified.  A refillable bottle is provided in your stateroom.

If you have special dietary requirements (vegetarian or vegan menus, food allergies, etc.) please advise Abercrombie & Kent at least 6 weeks prior to the beginning of your journey. Chefs on board will make every effort to accommodate your needs. If you have food allergies and/or special dietary requirements, in addition to advising A&K prior to departure, it is recommended that you take the opportunity early in the cruise to meet with the Maître D’ and Cruise Director to discuss your special requests and inform your server prior to dining. Kosher meals are not available on board.

Q5. Who’s on board – guests and lecturers and team?

A&K's expedition teams are subject to change, but typically, the Captain is supported by a team including:

  • Expedition Director
  • Expedition Leader
  • Assistant Expedition Leader
  • Assistant Cruise Director
  • Office Assistant
  • History Lecturer
  • Micropaleontologist
  • Ornithology Lecturer
  • Marine Mammal Lecturer
  • Photo Coach
  • Naturalist Guide & Zodiac Driver

Le Boreal accommodates up to 264 passengers on six decks; however, we operate a maximum capacity of 199 on A&K Charters. The staff-to-guest ratio is 1 to 1.3

Le Lyrial accommodates up to 244 passengers on six decks; however, we operate a maximum capacity of 199 on A&K Charters. The staff-to-guest ratio is 1 to 1.3

Q6. How fit would I have to be to go on excursions?

Le Lyrial has a fleet of Zodiacs (10-seat rubber motorized boats) that are used for all landings – either for transfers ashore or for exploration by Zodiac. While guests are assisted into and out of the ship’s inflatable Zodiac landing craft, some landings are wet and require wading through shallow water to shore. Landings usually last for 1-1/2 to 2 hours each. Guests are briefed in advance to prepare the appropriate clothing and other gear. Guests have the opportunity to do as little or as much as the location allows in line with the advice of the operations staff.  An evening briefing will take place before a landing the following day. Where applicable and possible, alternative means of shore access will be provided.

Q7. What can I expect from excursions?


During your voyage, there will be landings (weather dependent) at various sites throughout the Antarctic peninsula and outlying South Shetland islands, visiting Penguin colonies, hikes on land, a possible visit to a scientific research station & historic sites such as Deception island (an abandoned whaling station), as well as exploration by zodiac circumnavigating huge icebergs while searching for seals and other wildlife.


During the voyage, there will be landings (weather dependent) at various places on the West of Greenland to visit remote communities who may give kayaking demonstrations. Walks to explore the towns / villages we visit, and to see icefields.  Excursions by zodiac to see the huge iceberg formations. Landings at remote communities in Canada (weather and sea ice dependant) who may give a welcome with drum dances and throat singing.  There could be visits to sites of historic interest that are associated with Arctic Polar exploration or traders from time gone by.  Visits to scenically spectacular places, with searches for wildlife on the way.  There may be a zodiac excursion to see the geological phenomenon, the Smoking Hills.

Q8. Are there any luggage limits that I need to be aware of?

ANTARCTICA – baggage restrictions

On the Buenos Aires/Ushuaia/Buenos Aires charter flights (LATAM), the checked baggage allowance per passenger is limited to two (2) checked bags, with a combined weight of both bags not to exceed a maximum of 44 pounds (20 kilos), plus one (1) carry-on item weighing a maximum of 17.6 pounds (8 kilos) with measurements not to exceed 21 inches x 13 inches x 9 inches (55 centimetres x 35 centimetres x 25 centimetres).     If not flying on the A&K charter, the baggage restrictions for scheduled flights on Aerolineas Argentina between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia limit passengers flying in Economy class to one (1) checked bag maximum 33 lbs. (15 kg) plus one (1) carry-on item weighing a maximum of 17.6 lbs. (8 kg).

NORTH WEST PASSAGE – baggage restrictions

Baggage Restrictions: On charter flights between Montreal and Kangerlussuaq, as well as Nome and Anchorage, each traveller is limited to two checked bags weighing 72 pounds (32kilos) total combined weight. In addition, you are allowed one carry-on weighing up to 17 pounds (7.7 kilos). Baggage restrictions are subject to change and will be confirmed in final documents.

ARCTIC CRUISE ADVENTURE: Norway, Greenland & Iceland: - baggage restrictions

Baggage Restrictions: On internal flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen, Svalbard,  checked baggage (23 kg) 50 lbs. per person; hand baggage: (5 kg) 11 lbs. per person. Baggage restrictions are subject to change and will be confirmed in final documents.

Q9. What currency will I need and how much money should I take with me?


There are limited opportunities for purchases during the voyage, and they can be expensive.

GREENLAND: in Sisimiut there is one small shop selling Musk Ox woven items of high quality. Qiviut is the super-soft, super-warm fur used to make buffs, hats and gloves – approx. £100 for a buff, and approx. £70 for a beanie hat.   Payment by Krone or card at this shop. This is the only place on the trip that offers Qiviut items,  but if staying overnight in Anchorage Alaska, it might be possible to visit the Oomingmak Co-Operative of Musk Ox Producers of woollens in the high street.  

Ilulissat: two small shops selling, among other things, assorted ivory carvings.  Note that ivory and seal skins cannot be brought back into the UK.

Kullorsuaq: sometimes the local community have three wooden pallets outside with a handful of knitted goods – children's woollen hats (approx. 150 Krone - £20) , or bead work. These can only be paid for in Krone.  During the voyage, you may wish to buy something not only as a souvenir of your holiday, but also to give back to the remote communities visited.

CANADA: Gjoa Havan – famous for carvings, that are collectable.  There is a shop selling mostly large heavy carvings, some of which can be several hundred Canadian dollars. There are also smaller items such as beaded earrings available.  While the museum shop should accept cards, this is not guaranteed; Canadian dollars are preferred. 

Holman:  Here you can pay by card or with Canadian dollars (the card transactions take time).  This area is famous for prints and artwork. There are Uhu knives and felted items like tea cosies on sale, but check your items to make sure that no seal or ivory is used.  The tea cosies are approx. 80 Canadian dollars (about £52).

On board you can pay your account in Euros, US Dollars or by card.