Drake Passage Survival Tips

First and foremost: Don’t let fear of sailing through the infamous Drake Passage prevent you from experiencing a trip of a lifetime to Antarctica with kids! There are no ocean crossings that create more trepidation in people than the Drake Passage, the turbulent stretch of water between the tip of South America and Antarctica.

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The reward of experiencing Antarctica far outweighs any discomfort during the ride over

Tips for Sailing Through the Drake Passage

No Pain, No Gain

There is not a single person on our Lindblad Expeditions Cruise to Antarctica who wasn’t either excited about or dreading our crossing (or a combination of the two) — my family included. We traveled with a cornucopia of seasickness meds, including wristbands, Bonine for nausea and prescription ear patches. We were not alone; even the most intrepid sailor comes prepared for the possibility of being seasick in this part of the world.

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Our money and preparation were not wasted. We endured big waves that covered top-story windows, and there were definitely passengers who missed meals. What I will share is that the trip is 100 percent worth it! Even the passengers who were horizontal for our 48-hour crossing in both directions would tell you that they would do it all over again in a heartbeat to experience Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions.

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Drake Shake or Drake Lake? A Drake Passage crossing is unpredictable

What’s It Like?

Conditions very greatly and you never know if you’ll get the Drake Shake or the Drake Lake, i.e the Drake Passage either lives up to its rock ‘n roll legend or is flat as a pancake.

We had a little bit of everything. The waves constantly shifted size and direction; we did have some periods of 20-foot swells that redefined the term “motion in the ocean.” There’s no walking around the ship without a hand on a rail, and getting plates filled with food from the buffet to the table is an exercise in balance. You get used to it after a while. For those who aren’t sick, it’s kind of fun … and definitely part of the Antarctica experience.

The rolling can be very relaxing, though we had one wave in the middle of the night that turned our room sideways while projecting our alarm clock across all three of us. The key here is that you must have the utmost confidence in your operator. And we were definitely in that frame of mind with Lindblad Expeditions. There was not a moment where we didn’t feel comfortable and confident that we were in the best hands possible with our captain and crew.

I loved having a room with a big window overlooking the water. If you are lower down in the ship, waves do wash the windows at times, so if that is uncomfortable, being higher up is better. Likewise, there can be more motion higher up and toward the front of the ship.

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Drake Passage Preparation Tips

My biggest piece of advice here is to expect the worst and then be happy with anything better than that. Come prepared for every scenario by visiting a doctor ahead of time who can prescribe and/or recommend a variety of medicines, as they all work differently on people. I just had dinner with a couple who had 40-foot waves for their crossing, and they’d repeat it in a heartbeat to go back to Antarctica.

Activities requiring too much concentration, like typing and even reading can make things uncomfortable, so bring things to do that are low-key and easy. Games, drawing and, honestly, just taking the time to appreciate doing nothing are wonderful perks. Talk about a true escape from the stresses of the world in the ultimate never-never land — this is it!

Relevant Links:

Antarctica: Read all about a journey to the White Continent with Lindblad Expeditions

Why expedition travel is the ultimate educational adventure for families

10 family vacations that will change kids forever

Editor’s Note: Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.

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