Our Journey to Antartica aboard National Geographic Explorer – Day 1 to 2 

We hope you enjoyed the preview of our journey to Antarctica.  As promised, here’s the first installment of the day-to-day detail of our expedition.

We were surprised to have received so many questions about our experience on this trip  – How did you get there? Did you get sick? Was it scary?  Where did you sleep? What and where did you eat?  Did you get off the boat? What did you wear? Etc., etc.. etc. We will try to answer the questions as we go through each post.


“How did you get there?”  Our exciting and well-anticipated journey began when we flew to Buenos Aires, where all expedition participants stayed for a night as part of the pre-expedition itinerary (we arrived earlier and stayed for 2 nights) and where we enjoyed meeting our fellow travelers at a reception hosted by National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions.

Reception for National Geographic Expeditions -Antartica Expeditions

Welcome reception at Caesar Park Hotel in Buenos Aires;

The next morning, we all flew on a private chartered flight to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and is where most expedition ships to Antarctica sail from.

View of Ushuaia from the planeThe flight offered us a stunning view as we flew over the rugged terrain of Patagonia before we landed in Ushuaia.

Catamaran in Bahia Lapataia, Tierra del Fuego, ArgentinaUpon arrival in Ushuaia, we were whisked to the  breathtaking Lapataia Bay, where we were treated to a nice lunch while cruising the scenic and wildlife-rich Beagle Channel aboard a catamaran.

Bahia Lapataia, Tierra del Fuego, ArgentinaThe picturesque Lapataia Bay in Tierra del Fuego

Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, ArgentinaThe spectacular view of Beagle Channel and its amazing bird colonies.

Bird colony in Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, ArgentinaBird colonies upclose in Beagle Channel.

National Geographic Explorer docked in Ushuaia pier, Tierra Del Fuego, ArgentinaAs we cruised closer to the port of Ushuaia, we finally caught sight of our expedition ship, the National Geographic Explorer, for the first time  She’s a beauty!

08-National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition from Ushuaia, ArgentinaAnd finally embarkation time! We’ were excited to finally be on this expedition ship we dreamt about for so long! It felt so surreal.

Many have asked: “How was the ship like?”  National Geographic Explorer is considered one the world’s ultimate expedition ship and is described as”part 5-star hotel and part floating research center. It is a state-of-the-art ice-class vessel, fully stabilized and purpose-built to explore the wildest places on earth while providing exceptional comfort.”

The focus on Explorer is enrichment. We traveled with National Geographic photographers, scientists and naturalist who gave us lectures, workshops, and presentations throughout the expedition.

The 148 guests aboard the Explorer enjoy many amenities that include a library, an Observation Lounge, Bistro Bar, restaurant, a lounge with a bar and state-of-the-art facilities for presentations and slideshows, a chart room with 24-hour coffee service, a gym with scenic view, a spa with massage therapy services and a sauna, mudroom with lockers for expedition gears, internet café, paid Wi-fi access, laundry service, etc.etc.

Amenities on National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition-2

How was the accommodation like?”  Our lovely stateroom was spacious with queen bed, oversized picture window,  seating area, modern roomy bathroom stocked with botanic toiletries, ample closet space, flat screen TV, a large desk, individual climate control, and reading lamps. Fluffy bathrobes and slippers were also provided. We were very comfortable.

Category 3 cabin:stateroom, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition.jpg

The orange special edition expedition parka provided to us was awaiting on the bed when we checked-in.

Room and Bathroom on National Geographic Explorer

Sailing Away from Ushuaia, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionThe view as we were sailing away from Ushuaia.

How long was the expedition? ” We spent 10-days aboard the Explorer – 2 days at sea to reach the White Continent, 6 days in Antartica and 2 days to sail back to Ushuaia.

Crossing the Drake Passage

Here’s where we got the tons of questions. How rough was the Drake Passage? Did you get sick? Did you take anything before crossing the Drake? Was it scary?

The excitement we felt upon embarkation was soon clouded by our worry about crossing the Drake Passage.  Lying between Cape Horn and Antarctic Peninsula, Drake Passage is one of the most tumultuous bodies of water in the world. If we had any qualm about taking this trip, it was the concern about the “Drake Shake.” But then it’s part of the intrepid travel experience.  As our Nat Geo itinerary states,” …crossing the legendary Drake Passage is unforgettable – a milestone in any adventurer’s travel history.”

“Did you take anti-seasickness pills? Did you get sick?”  Yes, we did take the pills. During our first briefing, our expedition leader advised that we start taking the anti-sea sickness pills during or right after dinner. She assured that it should be enough time for the pill to set in before we enter the Drake by 10:00 that evening. She also advised that we take it every 12 hours during the passage if we wished.( Pills are provided on board so you don’t have to bring them).

True enough, by 10:oo pm the motion of the ship started to feel so exaggerated – big sway to the left, big sway to the right. Thanks to the pills, we didn’t get sick on this crossing,  Although feeling drowsy from the pill, I didn’t sleep well the first night due to the motion. Keith, on the other hand, slept like baby. He said he felt like he was in a huge cradle being lullabied to sleep.

We were well into our journey across the Drake Passage when we woke up the next morning. Here’s the video that Keith took of the Drake Shake that morning from our room.  According to the crew, the condition was mild. If this was mild, we didn’t know what rough was.

One of the naturalist rated the condition as 3; however, the captain told us it was a  5/6. I guess because the ship was highly stabilized the condition felt milder on board than it actually was.

National Geographic Explorer, Roped up for Drake PassageDuring the crossing, the staff roped up the area that leads up to the dining area to give us something to hold on and to help keep our balance.

“What did you do on board while crossing the Drake Passage?”   Well, Keith and I did quite a bit of napping. The pills made us really drowsy. There were several talks and workshops scheduled during the crossing. When the photography workshop was announced, we forced ourselves to stay awake and alert; we didn’t want to miss it.

Photography Workshop aboard National Geographic Explorer Antarctica ExpeditionWe had wonderful, inspiring, seasoned Nat Geo photographers on board – Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson. Most of the naturalists on board were also certified photo instructors. For the photo workshop, they divided the participants according to the kind of equipment they used – iPhone, point and shoot and SLR, which was further divided into beginner and advanced users. Then there was another group for creative photography for more advanced shooters.  I think everyone found this workshop very helpful for shooting throughout the expedition.


There were  more wondrous events that took place during the crossing of the Drake Passage.

“Surrounding our vessel were a number of rare and beautiful seabirds. Varying species of albatross and petrels followed us …This created a prime viewing and photography opportunity, especially when accompanied by our naturalist staff giving talks emphasizing the birds flying by.”

“The timing could not have been more perfect. Interrupting a staff naturalist’s talk on winds and currents that had carried the ice our way…a large tabular iceberg appeared two miles off the port side of our ship. Even at such a distance, its grandeur was enough to cause everyone to rush outside with camera in hand to capture this immensity.”

They were amazing!  Unfortunately, we missed them:(  We only learned about them through the Daily Expedition Report. Those pills really knocked us out and we were napping while those  events were happening.  Uggh…those pills!!  I guess  our systems are not used to pharmaceutical products (we don’t even take Tylenol), and they really took a toll on our bodies. We didn’t like the feeling.

image1Our fellow traveler and wonderful photographer, Jack Tan, allowed us to share with you his stunning image of the tubular iceberg that we missed while we were under the influence of the anti-seasickness pill and could not snap out of our nap.

The second night was much calmer and sleep was better. We woke up the next day knowing that the worst of Drake Passage was behind us  (and no more pills,  thank God!). Once we were over the hump, the Drake was a far away memory. Other than the drowsiness we felt cause by anti-seasickness pills, crossing the Drake was not a bad or scary experience at all. It’s a small price to pay for experiencing the great wonder of the White Continent

It gets better from here. We look forward to share our experience about out first landfall in Antartica in our next post.


Linking to: Travel Photo Thursday. Weekend Travel Inspirations, and The Weekly Postcard.

Travel Notes & Beyond

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

46 responses to “Antarctica Expedition: Sailing from Ushuaia & Crossing the Drake Passage

  1. Oh how marvelous. This is the trip of the a lifetime, if there is one. My co-worker took this same trip in 2013 or early 2014 and she enjoyed it – the trip, the lectures, the sightseeing and all the wildlife. Can’t wait to see the rest of this trip.
    Photo Cache recently posted..Driving Through YosemiteMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Maria, It truly was a trip of a lifetime, althought we wish to go back for more.

    • Marisol

      It really was, Lilli.

  2. noel

    You guys take the most amazing trips, I am so in awe! What an amazing state room – this must have been the trip of a lifetime (really envious). Looking forward to the other installments.
    noel recently posted..Crabs in San FranciscoMy Profile

  3. It sounds super exciting a definite list maker for me. I do get horribly seasick so I bet I would get sick, tablets or not. What a bummer missing that iceberg. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. Can’t wait to hear more.
    budget jan recently posted..Looking Through the Chu-mon Gate at Ninna-JiMy Profile

    • Marisol

      HI Jan, you know a bit of sea sickness is worth it to experience the great wonders of Antarctica. Yes, we were bummed to missed that iceberg during the crossing. Fortunately, there were some more later in the trip.

  4. This is wonderful. Your shots are great, and I can imagine what would be like to learn from some of National Geographic’s best. Thanks for linking up this week. I’m looking forward to reading more, and seeing your photographs as the trip unfolded.. #TPThursday
    Nancie (@Ladyexpat) recently posted..Chiang Rai: The Golden Triangle for Travel Photo ThursdayMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Nancie. It was such a privilege meeting and learning from Nat Geo’s best. I hope you’ll enjoy the next posts.

  5. Romer

    I love reading about your travels. Your experience was amazing!

    • Marisol

      Hi Oggie, thank you! I’m really pleased you enjoy them. I also enjoy following your travels with Bruce. I look forward to read your blog someday.

  6. Taking a trip with National Geographic must be amazing. When we met up in NYC, I was coincidentally reading the book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which has a trip to Antarctica as one of its plot points. I’ve got passages from that book running through my head as I read your post. I get horribly seasick, and I’m wondering if the Drake Shake is enough to completely put me off the idea of going to Antarctica. My daughter wants to go someday, so I may just have to deal with it. Your photos are wonderful, but I’m sorry that you missed that fantastic iceberg while napping. C’est la vie.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..I Couldn’t Believe They Carried That on a MotorcycleMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Michelle, yes it was every bit an amazing experience. Don’t let the idea of seasickness put you off going to Antarctica. It will be totally totally worth it. It will be a great family experience.

    • Marisol

      Hi Phoebe, it was truly an amazing opportunity and we’re deeply grateful. I hope you’ll enjoy the next posts.

  7. My ultimate dream is to do this! Loved loves reading about your experiences and the pictures…absolutely stunning! Would love to do this one day…hopefully soon..Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Marisol

      Hi Sam, I’m so glad you enjoyed this. I really hope you can do this amazing adventure one day. It will be an incredible experience for your family.

    • Marisol

      Hi Anda, this trip with Nat Geo is more expensive than most companies. But for a trip of a lifetime, we wanted to do it right and go with the best. We’re happy we did; it was well worth every penny. I wish from the bottom of my heart that you get to do this trip someday.

    • Marisol

      Hi Lyn, do keep the hope alive. Its a trip worth fighting for:)

  8. Bama

    Almost in every boat trip I took, I always ended up vomiting due to seasickness. I’m really that prone to having one but I’m just too stubborn to take any motion sickness pills. But if I am to cross the Drake Passage one day, I’ll make sure I get those pills! :) Marisol, this really looks like a journey to one of Earth’s ends. Incredible is an understatement, I believe.
    Bama recently posted..Pura Singapadu: Beauty in DetailsMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Bama, it’s worth fighting your stubbornness in taking motion sickness pills if you cross the Drake. It truly was an incredible journey. Just wait till you see more:)

    • Marisol

      Yes, crossing the Drake is surely worthwhile, Margherita . I hope you get to live your ultimate dream soon.

    • Marisol

      Hi Paula, Yes! I really hope that every travel lover get to take this amazing adventure.

    • Marisol

      Hi Corinne, I hope you can do this dream trip of yours soon. And yes, we highly recommend Nat Geo. It will be worth your every penny.

  9. Your trip sounds like it was the perfect adventure (minus all the drowsiness).I would absolutely love to take part in such an expedition. I’m an avid reader of Nat Geo and I am definitely looking forward to your next post. I shall live vicariously through you.

    • Marisol

      HI Rachel, it was a perfect adventure and the drowsiness is just a small price to pay. i have no doubt that you will enjoy this expedition. I hope you get to do it soon.

  10. What a wonderful experience. I don’t normally get sea-sick but that video had me feeling quite queasy!

  11. This is my dream trip! I would love for the hubby and I to go to Antarctica one day, just need to keep saving. Did National Geographic offer a polar plunge? When in Antarctica….lol.

  12. Mike

    Oh my gosh this is not only probably my fav post of YOUR’s but my fav travel post I may have ever read in relation to my own dreams! I’ve been a subscriber to the Nat Geo Expeditions for quite some time and have always looked and dreamed of that Antarctica trip. I never wanted this post to end, Marisol!! I’m so glad to talk to some “first-hand” that I know that has been on the boat now. If you don’t mind me asking…what Category room is that? I ask because I’m always looking at their chart vs price and wonder. Thank you! :)

    • Marisol

      Hi Mike, thanks. That’s such a compliment that this is your fave post! I’m telling you, we only have great things to say about our Nat Geo Expeditions experience. It’s a dream worth reaching out for. I really hope you get to take this trip someday. Our stateroom was cat 3. Based on Keith’s research, the best cabins for less shake is in the middle of the ship and in the lower deck, and that’s what we got. We were so happy about it.

  13. That Drake Shake sounds intense!!! Kudos to you (and the pills!) for making it through…I took a boat to Bimini from Miami once and was sick the entire time! Guess my sea legs kind of suck;-)

    And your accommodations are gorgeous, truly 5 star! I’m loving following this adventure with you!:-)

    • Marisol

      Thanks Jess! It was pretty shaky but after it was said and one, it was forgettable, especialy after our incredible experience in Antarctica. I’m glad you’ enjoy following our adventurel.

  14. Freya

    This is so amazing WoW. I so want to go on an Antarctica expedition. I also love your room, it is the nicest one I have ever seen on photos from Antarctica expeditions. I’m not sure whether I could handle the Drake Passage but I heard there is an option to fly over it, so who knows 😉

    • Marisol

      Hi Freya, the rooms were really nice and very comfortable. Don’t worry too much about the Drake. I’m pretty sure you can handle. Once you get pass it, it will be a far away memory.

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