What to Look for in a Travel Agent

Snowed!

Oh Snowed!

You never realize just how valuable a travel agent is to your vacation until disaster strikes.

A few years ago, I was traveling to South America to take a cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula. This was the first time I had done something like that so my travel companion and I planned for eventualities. We booked our tickets with the cruise line (not recommended, because the travel insurance does not cover weather, which we thought it did) and planned to arrive in Argentina, a day ahead of boarding.

The cruise line booked us to fly north before heading south. It seemed extremely dumb at the time because we started at an international airport (MCO) and there was another south of us (MIA). Weather turned and we got stuck and then stranded in Atlanta as first our flight was delayed and then cancelled. We were shuffled out of the secure part of the airport to rebook and that was when having a travel agent worked to our advantage.

Our travel agent was booking us on flights as soon as one cancelled (and many did). She figured out how to get us out of the US when other travelers were giving up and figuring they’d get refunds on the cruise. Long story short, we managed to board a plane the next day and get to our cruise for a fabulous adventure at the bottom of the world.

I learned from that experience what to look for in a travel agent and the five most important items are:

  1. Knowledge: A knowledgeable travel agent is the first step for any strategic vacation plan. A good travel agent will know basics about areas where you want to travel, but a great agent will recommend places to go, things to do, what to pack, what to expect, etc.
  2. Willingness: If you have a knowledgeable travel agent, but your travel agent isn’t willing to work for you, then you are better off using Google to search the Internet for your travel needs. A travel agent willing to get you the best deal, to ensure you make it to your destination, or to assist in an emergency is worth her weight in gold.
  3. Ability: If willingness doesn’t match ability, you’re sunk. Your travel agent no matter how willing to help you also needs to have experience in her field. She should excel from start to finish concerning all aspects of your booking.
  4. Out-of-the-Box Thinking: When everybody else is stymied by the unexpected, your travel agent should remain cool, calm, and collected. She should be three steps ahead, coming up with alternative solutions while everybody else stews.
  5. Friendship: If you are friends with a travel agent, I would recommend using your friend at least once. Nine times out of ten, your friend will treat you better than any other travel agent you could find. They will go the extra mile for you and these are the miles that count!

If you find a travel agent with all five qualities, do not let her go! I know I haven’t!

Share your best/worst experiences with a travel agent!

Follow in Shackleton’s Wake

elephant island in light fog

Elephant Island in Light Fog

The Ernest Shackleton Story:

Ernest Shackleton is a polar explorer renowned for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–1917) which got stuck in early iceflows and eventually sank after the pressure from the ice cracked the hull. 5 days later the entire crew managed to land on Elephant Island with the lifeboats from their ship Endurance.

However Elephant Island was inhospitable with seals as the only food source so Shackleton risked his life and 5 crew members to cross the ocean some 800 miles to the South Georgia whaling stations in a lifeboat modified by the ship’s carpenter. They took 4 weeks of supplies with them, knowing if they needed more they missed South Georgia.

Point Wild, Elephant Island

Point Wild, Elephant Island

Making the journey even more impossible, the crew experienced stormy seas and hurricane forces for 15 days. Somehow they navigated to South Georgia despite cloud covered skies and fluctuating horizon lines. They couldn’t get accurate readings from their sextant because of the weather. If they were off in their navigation by a degree they would have missed South Georgia completely.

Interesting Fact: The same hurricane sunk a 500-ton steamer bound for South Georgia from Buenos Aires.

elephant island

Elephant Island, Antarctica

They landed on the southern shore, but the whaling stations were on the northern shore. Leaving 3 crew members on the shore, Shackleton and 2 others crossed 32 miles of mountainous landscape to get to the whaling station at Stromness.

Once safe, Shackleton sent a boat to pick up the 3 members on the other side of the island and worked to put together a rescue for the men trapped on Elephant Island. His first 3 attempts were foiled by sea ice but his appeal to the Chilean government, which offered the use of of a small seagoing tug from its navy, was successful.

Cape Valentine Elephant Island

Cape Valentine, Elephant Island

22 men were evacuated from Elephant Island. Not a single person died, changing what appeared to be an unsuccessful drive to the South Pole into heroic terms.

See pictures from my visit to Elephant Island on my Antarctica Cruise. Amazing isn’t it what a 100 years does for travel and exploration? It’s hard to imagine Shackleton’s story as anything other than miraculous when you think of everything that went wrong and just how many things went right to get them all home safely. Truly God was with them.

Antarctica Journal Day 18: Miami to Orlando

Mom and Keira saying goodbye to Argentina and Antarctica

Mom and Keira saying goodbye to Argentina and Antarctica

We got to Orlando right on time 8:10 AM and Dad was waiting for us.

Passport control: It was miles from the plane to the passport control in Miami. Then through customs, picking up our luggage, and dropping it off in the next room Orlando area. Thank God there are trollies. It was a long trip!

Mary Jane was so sweet. She offered us a ride from Orlando if we’d needed one.

Dad told us about an incident Kevin had in Barcelona. Geez Louise! I’m glad we didn’t know anything while on our trip as it would have made Mom super worried and she wouldn’t have had much fun.

Home: I got most of my stuff put away, amazingly enough. I didn’t expect it.

Then we watched the trip video – or slept through part of it. Mom slept for a while sitting up. I slept later in the afternoon.

Now we are watching some of our taped TV shows. We had Orville Redenbacher Gourmet White Popping Corn – new kind of air popped and so much better, no shucks.

Antarctica Journal Day 17: Buenos Aires to Miami

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

We ate some breakfast (I had toast and fruit) (Mom had fruit).

Buenos Aires Tour and Tango Show: Then we went to the Martini Bar on Deck 5 by 7:15 AM. We were off the boat by 7:30 AM. The bus was comfortable, and the tour guide, Amalia, was very nice and competent. She was an older woman and happy to be taking us around. She took us to the shanty area, but likely not the worst of the worse. She wanted us to ask questions. Mom asked her about the homeless we saw – a man dressed in rags; a man sleeping on a mattress on the street and those living under the bridges.

One of the most interesting places was the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, La Recoleta Cemetery. Much of it has been declared a national treasure. If there are no descendents, the government keeps up the gravesites. Reminded me of the New Orleans cemetery in the Double Jeopardy movie.

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

We liked the little art area, but most was closed when we got there. Mom bought a cute little crèche scene for about $10.

Then to the Tango Show. The food was mediocre at best, but the show was more than excellent. And so were the costumes and the scenario. I got quite a bit of it on video on Mom’s camera.

(We heard later that the other Tango show’s food was excellent. If it is the one on the video we bought, the show itself was not as good.)

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

Buenos Aires airport: Then to the airport by 2 PM, but our flight wasn’t until 9:30 PM and they wouldn’t let us check in until 6 PM. We ended up playing cards, first Misery, then Rummy, with Lynne from the boat for a couple of hours which killed some time.

Another group of 4 played Euchre and sort of taught us how. Their flight wasn’t going until 11:30 PM. It was a zoo. Most airport workers spoke no English. We had lined up in the wrong area, but it didn’t take long to get through the right area. A fellow came along and gave us all a computer print out. We then knew we were in the right line.

Chatting with one couple, they asked if we got sick on the boat, didn’t believe we’d been to Antarctica because they hadn’t seen any of what we were describing. Turns out they were on the Norwegian boat, not our boat. Ha.

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

Amalia took a couple of couples back into Buenos Aires to shop. She said she didn’t know why Celebrity planned the tour for so early, it could be done later without so much airport time.

Inside the security part of the airport we had a chicken calzone, which was excellent. Then we had a Fanta – it tasted so good! Mom window shopped around the airport, but didn’t buy anything. Lots of perfume; Hermes; Mont Blanc; liquor; chocolates. Everywhere we paid with US dollars, and usually didn’t get any change, though we got 1.25 pesos at the airport.

Mom and I were separated on the plane because Mom exchanged her aisle seat in front of me with the sister of the family with a baby in that row. Mom then had the cattycorner aisle. Lucky.

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

The flight dinner was excellent: chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies and a sort of caramel egg custard (not my thing or Mom’s.) The OJ was excellent! Breakfast was fruit, more OJ and a croissant that didn’t hold up to the croissants on the boat.

Antarctica Journal Day 16: Montevideo

Welcome to Montevideo!

Welcome to Montevideo!

A little boat trivia: There is no jail on the boat, but there is security. The crew is not allowed to handle difficult guests. They call security. Evidently on the Christmas cruise a man was beating his wife in their room. The room next door called to report it. They ended up holding the man in house arrest, in his room with a security man outside the door. They had to find a place for his wife, as the boat was completely booked.

We are now in Montevideo. The boat is docked but we are not yet cleared to exit. Both of us slept pretty well as the sea was calm. We both think we only half-sleep when the sea is rougher.

Pretty residential building

Pretty residential building

We turned on the TV and found a local live CNN report that Chile, specifically Santiago, had an 8.8 magnitude earthquake at 3-something AM Chile (local time). It was felt as far away as Buenos Aires, where they evacuated the downtown office buildings in the middle of the night. They said it was cleaning crews who were evacuated. They say the energy expended is like a nuclear explosion.

Throughout the course of the cruise we have heard lectures on the fault lines, continental drift, and etc.

We know of one Chilean family here because they traveled with us to the railroad in Ushuaia. They were here with their two young daughters, about 12 and 15. Our prayers are with Chile.

Fun wind up figure graffiti.

Fun wind up figure graffiti.

Montevideo: We took a free shuttle from the boat to a leather shop, but not the one the boat told us about. Mom figured it was safe, because no one would be allowed on the dock if they weren’t.

The shop was by Independence square, one of the places we wanted to see. The shop was tiny, similar to those in Italy. The square was full of soldiers, readying for some presidential event on Monday. We think it was an inauguration.

We walked from there to Constitutional Square. All the way down were little tables full of people’s antiques, silver, pictures, or jewelry. I found a couple of rings I liked. We felt we would keep looking and come back. I decided not to buy one of the rings. Then we found a really cool agate necklace for me, then an agate ring ($3) from another seller, then glass earrings from another seller. Mom found a cool agate necklace that looks like water and icebergs or like a cruiseship on water. She also bought a couple of glass earrings. We really had fun wandering. One seller had interesting whale earrings (but we’d not wear them) and also earrings that clamp to the mid point of your ear (ditto.)

Independence square and statue of the 'father' of Uruguay, General Gervasio Artigas

Independence square and statue of the 'father' of Uruguay, General Gervasio Artigas

Constitutional Square was also being worked on. So it was basically an unusable space in mid city. We ran into Suzanne and her mother and took pictures!

Along the way we met Ken and his partner. They took a picture with us with the church in the background. They were heading out to try to find the old train station, which they found but it was cordoned off with razor wire too. They told us to be sure to look in the church. If they hadn’t, Mom and I might not have even thought of it. They also told us about women begging for money. We did see one woman, but she didn’t approach us. The church was beautiful, dark, elaborate, and creepy. The gift shop smelled weird. Like old dusty bones. Part of it was in a smaller room with a walled off old fireplace.

The city was dirty. Lots of potholes to walk into – or pavement that was uneven. Graham had warned us in his talk, and he wasn’t being facetious. We found a nice gift shop. It had some knitted garments in it too.

Keira in front of a fountain on our walk

Keira in front of a fountain on our walk

People were sipping mate tea thru silver straw spoons, with holes in them to filter out the tea. Mom said it would have been something interesting to buy, but would she ever use it? Suzanne and her mother bought a painting.

We just continued to walk down the central street to the Plat. We crossed the street, turned right, and walked quite a ways to the ship, but it didn’t seem as far as it had looked when driving it in the free shuttle. We followed another couple who were Spanish speaking who made it clear by gestures and smiles that we were walking in the right direction. Mom’s original thought had been to go to the other leather shop and take their free shuttle back to the boat. The walk was interesting. Lots of dogs free of leashes, but with collars. The doors along the street were old and intricate.

Keira and Suzanne in Montevideo

Keira and Suzanne in Montevideo

Mom said [tourists] really are at a distinct disadvantage if [they] don’t speak Spanish. I think she feels this way because we are in South America in Spanish speaking countries; we usually travel elsewhere where it is not so prevalent.

We went back into the boat, had some lunch (hamburger, veggie lasagna, fruit, soft ice cream.) Then we went to play some trivia type games.

It's the Opera!

It's the Opera!

We had reservations at 6:30 PM at the US restaurant on the boat, SS United. It was classy inside, multiple waiters. Mom had a Wellington scallop appetizer. I had the goat cheese soufflé recommended by our maitre d’, then Dover sole. The chef sent us (and all the tables) a small cold tomato soup, quite delicious. Mom had the filet. They flame it at the table after it is somewhat cooked already. She loved the sauce. We ordered the chocolate soufflé and the Grand Marnier mango soufflé.

The chocolate was similar to a volcano cake. Mom and I shared the chocolate as I didn’t like the other. Mom liked them both, but couldn’t have eaten a full one by herself. I asked them if I could take the other with us to eat later. Mom gave it to Joseph and Teresa because we knew she loves Mango. It reminded us of Crème Brule, but not as sweet, and not quite an egg custard texture, definitely better than Crème Brule.

Archway on our walk

Archway on our walk

Mom made sure to look up Mili to say thank you again to her. She thanked her! Said, Mom really was happy the whole trip. She was!

We went back to our room, changed to our traveling clothes, finished packing, and left our suitcases outside the door. Then we went up to the Constellation, but hardly anyone was there. Carole and Joan had been and gone. Mom didn’t want to spend the last night in our room, but there was no 11:15 PM movie. Suzanne and Chrissi were there the Suzanne and I went off to play some cards (and exchange emails.) Chrissi and I chatted, until it was just too noisy.

Afterward we watched an Antarctica show on TV. Late night by the time we went to sleep.

Antarctica Journal Day 15: Sea Day

Our awesome waiters

Our awesome waiters

We have moved the clocks ahead one hour.

It’s rocking and rolling quite a bit.

Quiet, happy day on the boat. It really makes a big difference to have a lovely boat to be on. There is something about the Infinity that makes it big enough to have things going on. And the areas around the boat are so pretty to walk through. All the common areas, except for shopping, have views of the sea.

I brought food for us to the Rendez-Vous Lounge where we played Catch Phrase with another woman and the man who made the boat in Ushuaia. It was really fun. No one else showed up for it, as it was 9:15. He gave us all luggage tags. We laughed every time they offered the tags and we didn’t have our luggage yet – that we would win the tags but have no luggage.

I began to play the Millionaire game. Mom watched for a while, then left to see what the hoopla was about shopping. Carole and Joan were buying the blown glass.

I came up and joined her and we went to hear Allan’s take on the lighter side of leaving. He told a lot of jokes. They had a large number of staff come onto the stage, and the captain spoke. He said something like this: “Amazing cruise. This time we see everything: Paradise Bay, Falklands…etc.” Then he missed a beat, with a small laugh. “Last cruise we see nothing!” Made us glad once again that we were on this one.

It seems a miracle that we saw it, as well as that we made the boat!

Another bit of trivia: During the bridge tour we were told that the last cruise had very high winds, and the boat listed to 15 degrees because of the wind. Kyle told us that they steer in a way to minimize the wave effect, so it isn’t necessarily a straight course.

All dressed up!

All dressed up!

Then it was on to Trivia with Allan. We played with our table mates. The questions were hard! It was possible to get 27 points and the best was 19 points. We had 8 points, but there were a couple of teams that had even less. At any rate, it’s a lot of fun with whooping and hollering, and groaning at his groaner jokes. He told a joke where he had to say hiss a number of times and he never made a mistake. It was funny just to hear him do the tongue twister. This is his last cruise until he starts up with the Constellation in May.

We ate lunch out by the outside pool. They had a band and the officers served a buffet lunch out there. The weather is mild and sunny. It was nice to have the fresh air.

Then we went to the Thalassotherapy Pool for a couple of hours. We soaked and read. It felt like we were getting sunburned even with the glass ceiling overhead.

We took our showers and headed right out for Graham Sunderland’s last lecture: Flipper, Fur, and Feather. The first half hour was explaining the things to do in Montevideo. I’m sorry we missed his presentation on what to find in Puerto Madryn, though we did find the silver things we bought. There wasn’t much there.

He also told us some stories of WWII history of the area. Mom says knowing a bit about this already, she never had a strong desire to visit this area, including Argentina.

Mom looking very pretty.

Mom looking very pretty.

He told us to pay attention to where we walked because there are large potholes. Scan 100 yards ahead, walk them, scan, etc. He said people would fall in. He also told about one building where the interior is all black, including the staircase, to let our eyes adjust before we walked any farther or we’d end up down the stairs.

We ended up going back to our room to read – and sleep – after he was finished. I woke only in time to go to the evening 7 PM show. The singer was Dana Paul. Mom liked his outfit: black pants, black shirt, white jacket, black and white shoes. He put on a good show, but no one particularly liked it. Mom liked his last song. He was playing to a cold audience, if that makes sense. No one knew who he was, so he had to win us over. Unfortunately he told jokes we had already heard. You know the drill. But if someone well known had put on a show as good, people would have been happy, because they would have started warm already.

Then dinner. After dinner the the 50s and 50s sock hop party.

There were a couple of the entertainment staff dressed in poodle skirts. I danced some, but then they played couple dances, both slow and fast, and the couples took over the floor. There was a short Name that Tune competing for the very terrific prizes of T shirts, luggage tags, and a bag. Joan raced up one time and was there at the same time as another woman. She is so funny! Her laugh is enough to make everyone laugh. They gave both women a prize.

We decided to watch Last Chance Harvey after we went up to the 50s and 50s sock hop party. I think the only way we could do that was because we had both napped.

Antarctica Journal Day 14: Puerto Madryn

Puerto Madryn

View of Puerto Madryn from Boat

11:16 AM: Mom noticed we had a message waiting from yesterday. It was from Violeta, the concierge, wanting to talk to her. They want to offer us a meal at the exclusive restaurant because of our inconvenience with the lost luggage.

Steven S. called us to tell us they were meeting at 8 AM, then leaving the boat. They had no solid plans. We said we’d see if we saw them outside or not. We never did see them. Later we found out that some went biking to Porto Lumo. The rest went by cab. Ken went out to the Welsh village to have tea and bought a tea cozy. He said they put on quite a spread for tea. They all said the roads were bad, gravel and dusty.

Teresa and Joseph (he will be 72) went to see the penguins. They said it smelled. Box lunch was nothing to write home about. No gift shops or anything. Interestingly enough, where Mom and I went in the Falklands did not smell. Thankfully.

Playground on the beach of Puerto Madryn

Playground on the Beach of Puerto Madryn

Steve B. wished us a good day and we did the same on the elevator.

The pier is very long. Too far to walk off. Immediately off the ship there is a stand to order various trips if you didn’t want to take one of the boat tours. The trip to Tumbo to see penguins is $100/each for a 6 hour trip. Checking when we got back, the trip through the boat was $150 each. At least one couple was being met on the pier by someone holding a sign for them. There is a free shuttle bus that goes into the town and back to the boat.

We really just wanted to walk around, though Mom wondered if we had made a mistake because there is so little to do in town, at least at the time we got off the ship. I’m so glad we aren’t on a 6 hour ride!

Besides the penguins are the same ones we’ve seen. Some of the stores opened at 9:30 AM; the rest at 10 AM; though one didn’t open the entire time and we had hoped it might. There is a mall, but we did not find it. Some folks were given fliers when they got off the boat, but we were not. There was evidently a craft show area too, which we didn’t find. We did see a couple of men setting up cloths where they would sell jewelry along the water.

Keira on Beach of Puerto Madryn

Keira on Beach of Puerto Madryn


The town reminded us in some ways of Naples. Lots of graffiti. Lots of dust in the air.

Not a lot there. We walked quite a ways down the main street by the water, then back along the water’s edge. Several small children’s parks, several statues, most covered with graffiti.

They said this is a stop so you can see penguins and sea lions. But they had both been available before. Perhaps we should have gone to see the sea lions.

Mom and I found two little shops almost next to each other where we each got silver pendants. Mom also got earrings. They have some of the cave drawing depictions from local Indians. We paid in US dollars and got change back in US dollars.

We came back to the boat, had a snack, took a short nap, had lunch, then went to the Thalassotherapy pool. We stayed there several hours, reading in the only spot in the shade.

Keira is Ready for Cocktails

Keira is Ready for Cocktails

Evidently all the buses came back simultaneously with a huge line to reenter the ship.

Shortly thereafter, there were a couple of games that we went to do. Photographic memory. That one was hard to do, because it didn’t work on his big screen, so we had to gather around the laptop. Then Deal or No Deal. My team just barely lost.

Then we had some pizza and stir fry to tide us over until dinner.

Later the guys invited us up for a cocktail hour in their room. They had quite a spread! They ordered room service and got fruit, crackers and cheese, offered drinks and soda. It was a lot of fun. Then we went down to Deck 5 to the Martini Bar (and music) to await dinner. We also took photos with them on the long staircase.

They had lobster tails for dinner, but not with drawn butter, with a sauce that looked like 1000 island, but wasn’t. It was quite good.

The show was at 10:45 PM, which is late, but it makes the time less rushed when you get back into the ship, as well as lets people wear their formal wear for longer. There were quite a few tuxes. The guys got complimentary tuxes since they had no luggage. (They said for their luggage to go back to Atlanta. A friend of theirs went into the bowels of the Atlanta airport and found them. Meantime if he hadn’t picked it up, it would have gone to some other place for unclaimed luggage.)

It was the last show by the production dancers and was terrific, music around the world.

Afterwards, we were so tired, we came right back, and fell into bed. Zzzz…

Antarctica Journal Day 13: Sea Day and Bridge Tour

Second Officer Kyle on Bridge Tour

Second Officer Kyle on Bridge Tour

7:45 AM : Wake up call, then dressed and breakfast.

8:50 AM: Bridge tour; I loved it; we were allowed to take pictures.

Kyle, an extremely handsome young American (seriously hot!) is one of the second officers. He went to college at the Maritime College, has a BS, and then his coast guard heavy tonnage license. He really loves his job and is a good statesman for Celebrity. Interesting to hear how many man the bridge at various times and to learn how the stabilizers work.

"Keira on Bridge, Captain!"

"Keira on Bridge, Captain!"

Movie Scene-It Trivia: That was fun! We met a man who had missed his flights to the boat, no insurance. They joined the cruise in Ushuaia, although their luggage made it to Buenos Aires. He was happy about the change in plans, but we wouldn’t have been if we’d missed the boat!

We returned the jacket to Miriam. She is just the best.

The Wheel on Bridge

The Wheel on Bridge

Elaborate brunch for lunch. We missed the first one, not knowing what it was. We sat with a couple Mom had sat with before. It’s really a trio from Australia, such a nice woman. It’s her husband and a friend of theirs. When his wife was alive they shared a cabin, the 4 of them.

Then we went up to the Thalassotherapy Pool. It was warm and bubbly, certainly warm enough not to need to go to the whirlpool! Then we sat and read for a long time.

Celebrity Infinity Bridge

Celebrity Infinity Bridge

Afterwards we went back to the room to shower and do hair. Mom went up on Level 5 to read.

7 PM: Brooks show again. He was great! He played a song with a typewriter; the old typewriter song. Some people chose not to see him as they had seen him twice already. Bad choice. He was really good. This time he had the ship’s orchestra with him, even a cellist!

Keira and Second Officer Kyle

Keira and Second Officer Kyle

8:45 PM : Dinner. Mom had duck a l’orange; I had chicken alfredo.

10:45 PM: Sizzle interactive dance show; we didn’t stay long; I clonked out not to long after getting back to our room.

Antarctica Journal Day 12: Cape Horn

Sailing around Cape Horn

Sailing around Cape Horn

Cape Horn at 7 AM!

Windy and rocky. We could see rocks and islands. Ojakangus gave commentary and we took lots of pictures. It would blow you off the deck it was so windy. They made a decision to stay on one side because it was very rocky (waves). Now there are a lot of waves, but not so much rock.

Meantime, our luggage did arrive yesterday, and it has been good to have our own clothes. What would have been worse is if: our luggage didn’t arrive after they said it would; or if it had made the boat and we had been late and watched the boat sail off into the sunset without us.

In Chilean Waters Going Around Cape Horn

In Chilean Waters Going around Cape Horn

I’ve been pretty amazed thinking how I ever got through the time in Atlanta and actually made the boat.

12:33 PM: Miscellaneous trivia ~ This boat feels like Las Vegas, especially the casino area. It’s so big and decorated like Las Vegas. Of interest, the Casino is closed in Chilean waters. Some folks were not real happy about that.

The couple at our table: Mom and I just love our couple at our table. Yesterday they had their 39th anniversary. He had special flowers on the table. Then when she expected to get mangos after dinner, when she lifted the cover, there was a necklace he had bought her ‘with 24 K gold inside’ – They are Indian, so all of her jewelry is 22K. 24K is too soft.

Light on Cape Horn or somebody's flash?

Light on Cape Horn or Somebody's Flash?

Anyway, tonight Oscar our waiter asked them how long they had been married. 39 years? She nodded yes, but Joseph said, rolling his r’s – 39 years and ONE DAY.

Then Oscar wanted to know how long they had known each other before they got married.

One week.

He asked her if she would marry him. She said yes, if he asked her father. [Later at the Tango show we met another couple who had had an arranged marriage in India. She said it wasn’t quite how her husband told the story – of never meeting her until they married. They and another couple where the man is Indian and his wife is not, talked about bait and switch marriages, where one girl is shown, but marriage is to another one.]

Look at that Sky!

Look at that Sky!

Rocking and rolling: The boat rocked and rolled today. Ojakangus said he had seen Cape Horn worse, and he’s seen it better. About the only time it didn’t rock a lot was at dinner, when it was comparatively smooth, though the sea was magnificently rolling. It really was gorgeous.

It’s rocking again tonight and the back of the boat rocks more than the middle, low down, so other than knowing I’d feel like I was in a cave, a room at the bottom away from the engines would be much smoother.

Everyone was checking out floor 4 or 5, keeping low in the boat and centered. I got lunch on deck 10, then had to take it downstairs to eat. Mom couldn’t find me, but didn’t see anything she wanted on 10, so she went down to eat at the dining room, where she met a very dour couple.

Cape Horn in the morning

Cape Horn in the Morning

Mom wanted to check on David to see how he is doing with the rocking — he is doing well – he wears a patch. One of the other guys removed his patch a few days ago because it was drying him out, even his eyes. I suppose that makes sense, but I didn’t realize it had any side effects. I am wearing the wrist straps that Ming gave to us.

Mom and I were going to go to the pool, but it was roped off – perhaps too rough for the equipment. So we split a small portion of stir fry, taking it to the room, to tide us over.

Then we showered and put on some makeup.

Cape Horn at a Distance

Cape Horn at a Distance

Dinner as usual, very good. Prior to dinner we were both hungry so we got some snackies at the tapas area (just chicken) and took it with us to see the show, a guy who does juggling and balancing – I dunno about that!

10:30 PM They had a show of Kareoke, photos, couples’ dancing, and jokes. The singers were all excellent. Jellvis won. He was good, but so were the other two. Joanie went first and told two jokes. She looked gorgeous! The couples dancing tied each other. One did the tango; the other danced disco (lots of turns, very well executed.) I was surprised the Asian couple wasn’t entered. Another couple was supposed to be entered, but backed out for some reason.

They gave out life time awards (the first ever) to a chicken dancer (Old McDonald) and a cow. Our chicken dancer was better, and Steve did a wonderful gorilla. I think he would have liked to have won something. He entered two photos. The photo I picked won (three penguins all with lifted feet – entitled Happy Feet.) I’d love a copy of it!

It really was a very cute show.

Last of Cape Horn

Last of Cape Horn

Then I went off playing cards with Suzanne.

I am scheduled to see the bridge tomorrow morning. Very excited. We didn’t realize you had to set up a time. We thought it was simply offered at various times. I can’t remember ever seeing one before, though Mom knows I did at least once when I was younger.

Another early day tomorrow and a rousing day at sea! I wonder if it will rock as much?

Antarctica Journal Day 11: Ushuaia

Docked in Ushuaia

Docked in Ushuaia

5:30 AM: Mom took pictures every so often. It was really beautiful with the sky lightening and the back drop of mountains with snow.

We don’t have anything planned here, but we understand there is plenty to do – and plenty to choose from, if we wish. The catamaran that we canceled because we didn’t know we’d have warm jackets, goes to a penguin rookery with the same kind of penguins that we saw already, so we didn’t need to do that. Other choices were to go out to a national park or kayak. It is possible to take a taxi to the national park. I think that is what Suzanne and Chrissi were planning to do. There is also a railroad and a cable car (which goes to a glacier area.)

Keira walking around in Ushuaia

Keira walking around in Ushuaia

Carole has been here before, says it is beautiful. She only visited shops because they didn’t have as long a time in port. She and Joan have nothing planned either.

7:30 PM: Mom and I had a nice day. We are now sitting up on deck 11 in the Constellation, in the far front, waiting for the boat to sail, which it has just done. We are heading to Chile next. There will be about an hour delay at some point while the boat is cleared to leave Argentinian waters and enter Chile’s. We are on the way to Cape Horn. Woot!

Laguna Negra in Ushuaia

Laguna Negra in Ushuaia

We saw our luggage on the dock as we exited the boat. We had high hopes that it would make it to our room. It did. It was there when we got back. It took two tries, because we felt we needed to dress warmer, plus it was raining a bit, so we went back up and got geared out, then went out.

On the dock we saw the info about the railroad, and it sounded like a winner. We had almost an hour before it left for a 3 hour excursion. So we went up into the town. Up, is the operative word. The lecturer said yesterday the climb would kill an older person. That was an exaggeration, but it was steep.

Mom drinking hot chocolate

Mom drinking hot chocolate

We just looked around. Mom and I are not ones to buy leather purses or etc. We found Laguna Negra right away, which the lecturer had recommended for hot chocolate. That’s what we did, and it was yummy.

Back to the dock to buy the railroad tour (49 USD for one or 97 USD for two). They bused us a half hour in each direction to and from the train aka Tren Fin del Mundo (Train at the End of the World). The bus went past what looked like some slums, including graffiti, then some richer looking homes right smack on top of the road. Once out of the city proper we drove on dirt roads, but the bus was very nice.

On the Tren Fin del Mundo

On the Tren Fin del Mundo

We didn’t run out of camera battery until we had taken nearly all the photos we wished.

Ushuaia bills itself as the southernmost city, at the end of the world. There is another city in Chile which has hardly any inhabitants so it doesn’t really qualify (at least according to Argentina!) It is the stopping off place for going to Antarctica. It really is lovely, nestled into the mountains, and the mountains are high peaks. It doesn’t look like there are roads or houses up there, though there may be.

Keira by map for the Tren Fin del Mundo

Keira by map for the Tren Fin del Mundo

After the train, we went back to Laguna Negra for more hot chocolate and a kind of cheese and ham tostada. The second time it was quite noisy with a couple of loud tables. One table had musicians from the boat.

Then we went back to the boat. The wind had picked up so much that we practically flew, literally, down the dock. One couple said they had to help an older lady who was holding onto a pole.

Keira and Waterfalls

Keira and Waterfalls

Oh joy! To get our luggage. I had the idea to go to the whirlpool before we showered and dressed in our own clothes. Mom says, “Great idea!” We went up to the Thalassotherapy Pool – it is warm sea water (with chlorine) with bubbly areas flowing over metal tubing that slants to the side edge. Heavenly!

One man said the view from deck 11 was fabulous. He was bringing his beer up. Mom went up, robed from the pool, and chatted with them. Then down to clean up. Heaven!

View out the train of the Tela del Fuego

View out the train of the Tela del Fuego

Meanwhile I stayed in the pool and whirlpool for longer. I sat and chatted with Sky. Sky said she overheard someone saying that they would commit suicide if their luggage didn’t show. How ridiculous!

After we were ready to go out, I wanted to get Tapas and go to the library. Mom wanted to return some of the borrowed coats, etc. So Mom met me on deck 5, then I got my sweater from Deck 9, and we met on Deck 11 (Mom with the food.) Musical decks?

More waterfalls, the sound is so lovely!

More waterfalls, the sound is so lovely!

So now here we are, heading off into a cloudy sky and fog on the top of the mountains. It is very lovely.

Earlier in the day, the sea was like glass, literally, in this beautiful bay (deep enough for large ships.) Now it is choppy with white caps, buy not rocky. Everyone is still sitting here.

Bye Ushuaia!

Bye Ushuaia!