December 4, 2019 Cruising the Drake Passage

About 1:30am we awoke to the ship rocking from side to side. The continual motion of the ship and the rattling of things in the cabin would wake us regularly until morning. The Drake Passage waterway connects the Pacific and the Southern Oceans. The enormous fast-moving ocean waters are squeezed between this narrow passage of about 400 miles creating sometimes peaceful and sometimes treacherous waters. Named after the 16th-century British explorer, Sir Francis Drake, this passage is a stretch steeped in history and legend, and a true travel milestone on the way to Antarctica. The staff say that our passage was fairly mild and that it is often much rougher.

For breakfast each day there is an enormous buffet breakfast with cereal, eggs, pancakes, fruits, breads, pastries, sausages, salads, seafood and so much more.

This was a day of preparation for our landings in Antarctica. Each cabin was assigned a group number and a name from an animal that lives in the arctic. Most of our group was group 2 and our group name was the Chinstrap Penguins.

We met with one of the expedition leaders in the theater for a 75-minute lecture on the do’s and don’ts of traveling in Antarctica. The expedition companies that take guests to Antarctica have formed an association where they have set up rules for all companies to abide by when traveling in Antarctica. Nothing is to be taken from the region and nothing is to be left in the region. No food is allowed on shore and there is no peeing in the snow.

We learned about the tenders or rubber rafts that would take us ashore, how to get in and out of them. They explained about how to dress in layers to stay warm, but not to be over layered where you are uncomfortable to walk. We learned that we are to avoid the penguin’s highways up and down the hillsides and that we were to stay at least fifteen feet away from all wildlife.

From noon until 4:30pm there were vacuuming stations set up in the lobby areas on several floors where we were instructed to vacuum all of our outer clothing we would be wearing ashore. Camera bags, hats, gloves, coats, pants, etc. would need to be vacuumed to assure that we would not introduce any seeds or pollutants into this unique and pristine environment.

Dinner on this evening was a sit-down dinner served at an assigned table for two. The menu included an appetizer of goat cheese on walnut toast with honey, onion soup, a choice of chateaubriand or halibut, a strawberry sorbet and an apple tart for dessert.

After dinner, we attended a briefing by the expedition team where we learned about where we would be landing the following day. They prepared us for the local weather conditions, what we might see and more. We are expected to arrive at our first stop about 1:00pm on a very small island where we should see our first penguins.

We attended a fashion show by the onboard shopping shop keeper who showed a large variety of items available for sale. About 14 crew members including the captain modeled t-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, sweaters and even bold black and white striped vintage style swimwear for those wanting to do the polar plunge.