Worse than childbirth!

Our trip to Antarctica was on the relatively small ship the MV Antarctic Dream.Originally built in Holland in 1958 for the Chilean navy, it was converted into an Antarctic cruise ship in 2004. An excellent ship and crew, highly recommended.

About 25,000 tourist visit Antarctica each year and 98% of them start from Ushuaia.

Our trip starts in the sheltered Beagle Channel, and this produces a false sense of security.

Although we had only paid for the lowest class of cabin (at a considerable discount) we were all upgraded* to the next class of cabin with a large window rather than just a port hole.

The high quality of the cabins, the excellent briefing, the impressive first meal and the well organised lifeboat drill all added to the false sense of security.

However, eventually the calm of the Beagle Channel turns into Drake's Passage, one of the roughest stretches of sea in the world. When we were there the wave height was seven metres, considered normal.

The captain said our crossing was "average, just a bit choppy". Mo said it was "worse than childbirth".

There were about 60 passengers on board. Only 12 of them made it to breakfast on day one. The majority of passengers spent the first 24 hours in their cabins crawling to the toilet to be sick, many times!

Judy was taking Dramamine and was sick only once. She spent 24 hours in bed. Stephen was taking Buccastem and was sick eight times. He was in bed for 36 hours. Both Mick and Mo were taking Dramamine and were sick an "uncountable" number of times and had to call the ship's doctor after 48 hours.

This is normal. Almost everybody is seasick, often for 36 hours! You have been warned. Note that on a "10 day" trip you will spend 5 days getting to and from Antarctica and only 5 days in Antarctica.

But by day three most people were able make it to the New Year's Eve party, which was good, if a little subdued. Happy new year.

* We later learnt that our cabin upgrade was due to the intervention of the Expedition Leader who's family tree included "Newings" (a surprisingly rare name).

Stephen Stewart.

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