This is the second part of a four-part series of my cruise to Antarctica with Albatros Expeditions on the cruise ship Ocean Victory. During this part of the trip we cross the infamous Drake Passage with fairly calm conditions to arrive a bit early to the Antarctic Peninsula. This gave us a bonus day of exploration on this voyage.
Read Part One: Embarkation Day in Ushuaia
Read Part Three: Out For Plenty of Adventures; What to Pack
Read Part Four: A Big Finish and My Final Thoughts
Where We Were
These were almost two full days at sea onboard Ocean Victory, but we made such good time across a calm Drake Passage that we were able to get to the peninsula early and have a bonus stop at Half Moon Island.
What We Did
During our first full day sailing, we had a few things to take care of ahead of our arrival to the peninsula. This included the IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) talk, which outlines the international rules for visiting the peninsula. There were also kayaking and snowshoeing orientations for cruisers who wish to take part in those activities, as well as a briefing on Zodiac procedures and safety. The briefings are mandatory in order to go ashore and do these excursions.
Zodiacs (inflatable boats) are used to take passengers from the ship and to the shore, with people preparing and loading from the Mud Room at the bottom deck of the ship.
Expedition guide Ab Steenvoorden also gave a fun talk about the penguins of Antarctica.
During this time, we also had our "Boots Camp" to get fitted for our rubber boots that we use throughout the trip.
Each cabin on the ship has an associated locker in the Mud Room, and passengers store their equipment for shore landings in the lockers. This would typically be parkas, boots and the Zodiac life vests (PFDs).
Albatros assigns color groups that are in place throughout the expedition. These groups go ashore together, and the system of four-color groups works to allow people to prepare in the Mud Room and gather on shore for their excursions in an orderly fashion.
In the morning before the biosecurity and boot-fitting sessions, I took the opportunity to get a Swedish massage treatment from the wonderful Shanteel, who provided all the massage and other spa services onboard Ocean Victory during our trip.
It was a great way to rejuvenate my body after all the air travel en route to the ship, and it also was the best time to enjoy the massage before things got really cranking with the activities once we reached Antarctica.
Video Feature: Cruising the Drake Passage
Mid-morning on the first full day at sea, I started to see seabirds, such as storm petrels and wandering albatrosses drifting around the ship and following in its wake. The skies were mostly gray, and a little bit of rain spit on the windows and outer decks. It was windy but not too fierce to keep people from wandering outside to get some fresh air, gaze at the birds and waves and embrace their hearty sailor spirits.
Just before dinner, we were sailing through the sunshine on an incredibly calm Drake Passage when we spotted pods of fin whales and humpback whales feeding. Our captain adjusted course to get us in a nice position to view these giants gently swimming around on each side of the ship. There were about a dozen in total blowing frequent spouts of mist above the shimmering waters of the Southern Ocean.
By mid-afternoon, we had arrived to Half Moon Island, with snowflakes gently falling and the skies overcast. This is it! We had reached Antarctica!
Our groups swapped activities, with two groups going ashore to visit a chinstrap penguin colony (we also saw a lot of gentoo penguins) while the other two groups were on Zodiac rides around the bay.
The Zodiac tours were awesome. We were able to get fairly close to a humpback mother and her calf and watched them move through the bay and feeding while breeching several times during their dives.
What I Ate
Dinner was served a la carte at the main Beagle Restaurant, and the menu for the two dinners on these days included prime rib, oven-baked cod and rigatoni with mussels in white wine.
Of course, I'm always grabbing a couple chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies each day from the coffee station in the Shackleton Lounge.
Thanks for reading.
Our Other Cruises to Antarctica
VIDEO RECAP: Atlas Ocean Voyages Cruise in Antarctica
VIDEO FEATURE: Antarctica Cruise on Ponant Le Lyrial with Abercrombie and Kent