Byzantine Journey to the Ship, VIP Status, Clueless Fellow Passengers, Stupid Broncos, CC Meet and Mingle

We got up this morning to cool temperatures, wind and more rain. Attire for the day obviously had to include our Broncos AFC Championship T-shirts and hats, which got lots of blank stares, smirks or positive comments, depending on the nationality or affinity of the observers. The taxi ride was short and the city looked very quiet on a Sunday morning.

We got to the port terminal and got in a long line for the first check-in point, where we gave them our bags for delivery to our rooms. Then we went through security, ahead of most folks in lower category cabins who had to wait to be called (we have an Aqua class cabin). My knees did NOT set off the metal detectors, which was a bit alarming. We proceeded to another check-in area for suites, Aqua class and concierge class, with a huge line of folks waiting for check-in. We finally got to an agent, who processed us through the check-in and gave us our cruise cards; she said something about how they will confiscate our passports until we reach Chile. When I told her we don’t go to Chile on this cruise she seemed bamboozled buoy this information. Right at the end she also handed us VIP badges. Steve worked diligently over the last few weeks to set up an interview opportunity for his job with TUAW with the the iLounge director on the ship (they sell Apple products and manage the internet on-board). This will turn out to be a very nice thing.

After checking in, we had to go through “Migracions” again. Once again, the Argentine customs officials took our pictures and thumbprints. I guess they will have four of those for both of us before we leave the country. My back was hurting a bit from all of the walking on Saturday and standing in line for embarkation, so we got to jump the long line for Migraciones. After this step, we turned in our passports for the duration of the voyage, or at least until after the Falklands.

During this whole process, we were walking through a building with big picture windows looking out to the dock area.  The big question emerged: Where was our ship? This mystery was answered shortly, when we descended to the ground level and went outside and boarded a bus to Infinity (and beyond? Buzz Lightyear was there in spirit at least).

The bus went through a gate and around to the Main Street in front of the cruise terminal, right near where our taxi dropped us off.  He went down the street to the next intersection and turned right through another security gate and we started a labyrinth-like journey through stacked container vessels and under huge bridge cranes until we finally spotted our ship.  We had to use the outside gangplanks to board and were happy the rain had stopped.

The VIP tags paid dividends almost immediately on boarding.  A crew member escorted us to the VIP lounge (Michael’s Club), where we had nice little canapés and drinks while waiting for our stateroom to be ready. Steve talked to the guest relations representative about setting up his short interviews with the iLounge and Innovations store personnel. We can use this lounge for the rest of the cruise, which is quite nice.

We went to our stateroom at 2:30 (cabin 9084, midship, starboard side). The cabin is nicely decorated, although a bit small and the bathroom has a faint musty smell, but it appeared very clean.  The Aqua class cabins have fresh fruit brought in daily, lots of bottled water and nice herb teas.  We also had a bottle of champagne, which we uncorked and enjoyed on our balcony, gazing at a lovely view of stacked container vessels (Maersk, Maersk everywhere) and the oil tank farm, but we could see the city skyline in the distance.  Our cabin steward Lino also came in and introduced himself (a nice fellow from India).

Our bags didn’t show up until just before the muster drill at 4:15 pm; our muster location is on deck 4 in the large casino and we sat at a Texas Hold’em poker table during the drill. We came back to the room right afterwards and unpacked, implementing our signature “Happy, Tidy, Tidy, Happy” policy, at least for right now.  The departure time had been revised to 6:30 pm due to some delayed flights with quite a few passengers. I am always perplexed at people who fly in on the day of a cruise, especially with all of the flight delays and weather problems, and most particularly on a cruise like this that doesn’t get to the first port until Thursday.  I guess that’s the “TJ” part of my Meyers-Briggs personality (as in “ENTJ”), which automatically kicks in when we are planning a trip so we allow ourselves extra time to get there.

We decided to explore the ship a little bit after unpacking. We went up to the pool deck and sat at the bar. In brief conversations while standing in line and also overhearing some discussions, we began to realize that some of our fellow passengers were quite clueless about the nature of this cruise.  Some folks didn’t bring any cold weather gear (“Isn’t it summer in Antarctica?”).  Others had no idea that we could have very rough seas crossing the Drake Passage. I think the worst we overheard, though, was a woman asking if we would see Polar Bears on this trip.  Steve blames those stupid Coca-Cola ads that show animated Polar Bears and Penguins living in harmony, a situation only possible in a zoo, but only then in separate enclosures. I do wonder why people go on a cruise like this without doing at least a modest amount of research about what they’re going to see.

We also signed for the Internet, which is a complete rip-off.  There is no unlimited package (we had that on our last three cruises) and the plan costs are exorbitant.  So far, the service is also very slow.

We had a nice pasta bar dinner in the buffet as we sailed out of Buenos Aires, then made our way to the theater for the Super Bowl.  There were more Broncos fans than Seahawks fans and they had the theater divided into sections for fans of each team.  The feed was from ESPN International, so most of the ads were for rugby, cricket and soccer games, although someone on board the ship did slip in a few DVR’ed commercials from the Fox feed. Sadly, someone forgot to tell the Broncos to go to the game and they apparently substituted some B-squad ringers from a Girls School in New Jersey (I’m a “girl” writing this, so no screaming about sexist comments). Right after the botched snap and safety early in the first quarter, I made a prediction that they were going to lose in a ugly way.  Manning looked like a pithed frog and threw like a blind man; I like the guy, but he really failed miserably, as did almost everybody else on the team.  We left at the half, settled in on our balcony to enjoy the nice evening and didn’t even see the final score until this morning. We bought Super Bowl knit caps to wear in Antarctica, I’m embarrassed to say.  We’ll probably put our Roll Call buttons (they say “Infinity Icebreakers” and have the dates of the cruise and a nice picture of King or maybe Emperor penguins) over the Donkeys logo so we can wear the hats without getting a lot of flack.  The Broncos should apologize to their fans for making Denver the laughingstock of elitist coastal talk shows for months. Bah, humbug! Congratulations to the Seahawks, who apparently did take the right bus to the stadium and definitely earned their first championship.

We got up a little early this morning to go to our Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle at 9:30 in the Constellation Lounge. We met some of the folks we have been communicating with for almost two years; these cruisers are extremely savvy and know exactly what to anticipate on this cruise, so we are glad we have met many of them.

The public areas on the ship are very nice and elegantly decorated.  Shortly, we’re going to have a light lunch, so look for more posts soon (and hopefully some pictures).

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