So now we’re off sailing the Drake Passage to Antarctica and it’s the part of the trip that we were the most anxious about. Especially as this crossing can take up to 48 hours. I’ll explain why.
Before that, just to quickly recap, so far we’d travelled from London to Buenos Aires and now to Ushuaia where we would be catching the Ocean Victory ship by Albatros Expeditions to take us to Antarctica.
It was such a mix of emotions by this point. We were super excited (for obvious reasons) but also kinda nervous thanks to the Drake’s Passage crossing we were about to embark on.
The videos we’d seen of the passage looked terrifying when it’s all stormy. 12m / 40ft high waves will do that to you.
The ships are built to be able to sail through this but not everyone’s stomach is so our biggest worry was getting seasick. And as you might know, once you feel seasick, it’s so hard to shake off.
Oh, and the crossing goes on for 2 days so the potential of 2 days of seasickness was definitely playing on our minds.
But here’s the thing about this crossing – it can either be really rocky or just really calm.
This is why it’s known as either the ‘Drake Shake’ ( when it’s rocky) or the ‘Drake Lake’ (when it’s calm).
And it’s not seasonal either, it could happen on any day so there’s no better month or time of the year to visit to avoid this. Trust me, I asked around a lot about this.
We did find something rather useful before we left – a website called passageweather.com.
This website is a prediction of the winds, wave height and surface pressure you can expect over the next week on the Drake Passage (and other passages in the world).
We still have no clue what to do with the surface pressure information but the wind and wave height information – those we understood.
That website definitely helped take our nervousness away. The prediction for our sailing was for the ‘Drake Lake’ and even though we know the weather can change at the drop of a hat, it was enough to calm us down.
So yeah, with that – let’s get on board the ship, shall we?
Actually, before that – I almost forgot about this part…. which ended up being one of the most mentally-stressful parts – testing for you-know-what before boarding the ship.
See, if you tested positive, you wouldn’t be allowed to board the ship. A policy that makes so much sense for everyone’s health and well-being.
And don’t worry, even if you can’t go on that sailing – you could go on other sailings at a later date so your money isn’t wasted.
In fact, if you end up testing positive and as a result miss half of the trip, you are automatically entitled to another trip to Antarctica on a different sailing.
So for the test, we showed up to a gymnasium where we were tested in groups of 30 and it felt like we were in Squid Games.
People were just getting picked out at random and although you couldn’t really hear what they were saying to them after they left the group, their sobbing made it pretty clear what news they’d just been told.
We had to wait around for 30 minutes for the all-clear and those 30 minutes were just stressful. You don’t want anyone to say your name and call you out of the group.
During those 30 minutes, you were basically doing your best to avoid making eye contact with the lady picking people out of the group. Like that would have made a difference.
And I don’t even know why we were so nervous either, we’d literally done a test that morning and had tested negative so our nerves had no business being that frayed.
I think it must have been the whole auditorium thing giving off major Hunger Games or Squid Games vibes.
Oh, and by the way, this is the norm for every cruise ship, not just for ours or ships going to Antarctica, it’s the same for every ship. You need to test before you board.
Before we left, there was a ship that had been lax with their testing and almost half of the passengers ended up testing positive on arrival back to Argentina so the whole ship had to quarantine for 10 days.
Anyway, so we tested negative and with huge sighs of relief hopped on board the ship, where we were welcomed with cocktails, snacks and a light lunch to have in our rooms.
And so off we set to Antarctica. The forecast, by the way, was correct and for the two days of crossing the Drake’s Passage, the water was relatively calm.
Some people still got seasick but we’d started taking our sea sickness medication – Promethazine, before we left the port.
Another great sea sickness medication is Meclizine, but Promethazine is the one NASA apparently gives its astronauts to help them avoid sea sickness so that sounded good enough for us.
We couldn’t get Promethazine over the counter in the UK but luckily our ship’s pharmacy had it and they gave it to us for free.
We actually then started off with Meclizine on the first day before switching to Promethazine. (No real reason why – it’s just what we were given).
Both tablets do make you very drowsy though but I’d rather be drowsy from the medication and grab a coffee to wake me up than seasick and yet still drowsy and exhausted from sea sickness.
I don’t know if you’ll find this interesting but this is apparently how the sea sickness tablets work.
So your eyes, your body (like your feet on the ground) and your inner ear usually tell you when your body is in motion.
The first two send signals to your brain saying you’re in motion and your inner ear corroborates that information and your brain is like “Okay, we’re moving” and all fine.
Sea sickness happens however when your inner ear says that you’re moving (because it can feel it) but your eyes and body say that you’re not, which can happen if you’re in an area with no windows or if you’re not constantly staring out of the window.
This difference in information confuses your brain and makes you feel nauseous.
So the drugs work by silencing the signals from your inner ear so your brain doesn’t get confused and you don’t feel nauseous.
But yeah, the drugs, coupled with a relatively calm crossing meant that for those two days we could just relax and enjoy sailing across the Drake’s passage.
The real fun starts after you’re done with the Drake’s passage but that doesn’t mean you’re just sat around doing nothing, unless, of course, if you want to.
While you’re sailing, you’ve got wildlife outside (we had our first whale sightings on the Drake’s passage), you’ve got lectures (which I promise you are way more exciting than it sounds and really help put into context what you’re about to see) and in the downtime, you’ve got so many movies on your TV in your room as well.
In our downtime, we ended up watching a new show on we just discovered on Sky. It actually not a new show per se. It’s new to us but there are like 5 seasons of it.
The show is called Gomorrah and it’s in Italian. It is set in Naples and is all about the drug cartels in Naples. Like an Italian Narcos, I guess.
It’s kind of based on a real-life infamous housing estate in Naples.
We originally found out about this show while we were travelling in Naples and spotted the estate in the distance.
Our Italian friend we were travelling with regaled us with tales about it (like how they’d randomly found a tiger in there once just sat there as someone’s pet) and told us about how at one point even the police were terrified to go to this housing estate.
We’d been watching this before we left the UK and just downloaded it on the Sky Go app to take travelling with us, which turned out to be a brilliant plan, especially seeing as we were planning on isolating the entire time before we boarded the ship anyway.
But yeah, before I finish off this vlog, I figured I should probably show you around the Ocean Victory ship, so let’s start this quick tour with the bedroom…
Then let’s move to the dining room. This is where you have all your meals.
Breakfast has a buffet (it’s still table service) with other items you can order off a menu (like omelettes and waffles).
Lunch and dinner are a-la-crate with lots of different and rather delicious options (so don’t worry if you’re vegetarian or vegan).
This is the library. It’s such a cute and calm space.
This is the lecture theatre.
This is one of the bars. And there’s another bar up here in the observation lounge, which has one of the best views on the ship.
To be honest, once you’re in Antarctica, there are great views everywhere.
The hot tub and pools are at the back of the ship. The spa is inside.
This is the main viewing platform in front of the ship.
There’s also a shop and a couple more speciality restaurants as well as guest lounges dotted across the ship.
There’s also a ‘mud room’ downstairs which is where you, de-contaminate and get the zodiac boats to take you on a cruise or over to land.
And there you have it. Catch you in the next post when we finally arrive in Antarctica!