When I signed up for the Antarctica Complete 22-day Expedition Cruise aboard the Greg Mortimer, my first thought was I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GOING TO ANTARCTICA!! My second thought was how am I going to survive the Drake Passage? I often suffer from motion sickness. One minute of looking down at my phone in a moving car, and I start to feel nauseated. You can imagine my worry. This was my first time on a cruise, and I was about to embark on expert-level seas.
The infamous and unpredictable Drake Passage is the 2-3 day sea crossing from South America’s Cape Horn in Chile to Antarctica. The passage is completely at open sea with no landmass in sight and is considered to be one of the most “treacherous” voyages for ships to make due to its powerful currents. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
So why do almost all Expedition ships make this widely notorious sea crossing? Well, mostly because they have to. The Drake Passage is the only way for ships to get to Antarctica from Argentina or Chile. But have no fear! It’s not as bad as it seems…well, my experience wasn’t anyway.
Our voyage was a lucky one. Our Drake crossing was the “calmest of the season” according to our Expedition Team. What the crew would describe as a Drake Lake. We experienced sunny skies and calm winds during the 2-day journey. I’m not going to lie, the boat was continually rocking, and the feeling was a bit uncomfortable. When you don’t have your sea legs, it feels like you’re drunkenly stumbling around from left to right. The included wine at dinner surely did not help the situation.
The Greg Mortimer staff did everything they could to make us feel comfortable. From streaming lectures live, so we could watch them from the comfort of our own beds on TV to offering free, and most importantly, effective motion sickness medication, the crew was super attentive and understanding. A special shoutout to the restaurant staff, who were total pros at gracefully serving our food despite all the rocking.
Now, the way back was a real adventure! The last two days of the trip were spent sailing from the Falkland Islands to Puerto Williams, Chile. We all had our sea legs by then, and we were grateful. We experienced 8-meter waves crashing onto our balconies! It was an amazing sight, and although fewer people were present at mealtimes, it was really something to be in the middle of the ocean trudging through massive swell.
The best part of one’s Antarctica cruise is seldom the crossing of the Drake Passage, but these 5 helpful tips can make you feel more comfortable and may even make you enjoy the rocky ride:
- Accept that it is part of the Antarctica Expedition Cruise experience
You can’t say you went on an Expedition Cruise to Antarctica without crossing the Drake. Part of the adventure lies in the discomfort. Plus, it will feel that much more amazing when you finally wake up to the calm bays of Antarctica.
- It’s all in your head…at least a little
If you feel queasy, try to distract yourself. The more you ignore it, the less intense the feeling. Participate in the lectures, either from your cabin or in the theater. Talk to your fellow passengers, spot wildlife from your balcony, or even go for a nap.
- Take your meds
And take them early! If you are prone to seasickness, start taking your medication a couple of hours before sailing the Drake. Talk to your expedition team. They know what is best.
- Go out on deck
A breath of cold, fresh Antarctic air is sometimes all you need when you’re feeling unwell. The outdoor observation deck is the best place to be. Stare out into the horizon and watch the skilled Albatross, Terns, and Prions follow your ship all the way to your final destination. If you’re lucky, you can even see blowholes in the distance.
- Easy on the food and alcohol
This is by far the hardest tip to follow. With a breakfast buffet, a lunch buffet, and a 3-course dinner with complimentary beer and wine, skipping a meal isn’t easy. But you’ll feel a lot better when your belly isn’t full. Stick to foods you can easily digest. Then once you’re in the calmer seas, it’s time to indulge!
If the idea of crossing the Drake Passage really terrifies you, you can also book an Air-Cruise. This is a great, albeit more expensive option to cruise Antarctica. You will fly directly to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands, and begin sailing from there. Check out these Air-Cruise options!