Made it Home! Highlights and Lowlights

Our rebooked flight made it into Denver on time Monday. The Captain thought we would get some turbulence (oh, goodie), but that never panned out. We got our bags, hopped the shuttle to Wally Park and headed home on a beautiful day. Old girl Ruby was stunned to see us and began her usual post-trip hunger strike. We took a nap, showered, hit Big Bill’s for pizza (very busy with the holiday) and later I sunk into deep sleep in the comfy chairs in front of something on TV. We were back at work yesterday and I have finished my Tamiflu course (feel very good, other than a cough). Forgot to mention that Global Entry is money well-spent! We walked up to a kiosk in Houston, put on our passports, smiled for the camera, did four fingerprint scans, answered four questions and we were done! Whrrrr, buzz, click!!

Now, my usual trip round up:

Highlights:

1) Antarctica! The 7th continent is remote, daunting, inhospitable, cold, haunting and very beautiful. We are so glad we have seen it, as we are not sure we would do the journey again. The whole process of crossing the notorious Drake Passage and coming back makes this a very interesting and unpredictable trip. The ice bergs and their fantastic shapes and sizes are included here as part of the top highlight, because those ubiquitous chunks of ice define Antarctica’s challenge.
2) Wildlife: Sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins, guanacos, albatrosses, petrels, cormorants and most especially penguins were the center pieces of most of our cruise. We wish we had seen more types of penguins up close, but enjoyed seeing them in any circumstance. The waters off Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands were filled with Chinstrap Penguins and this was an enthralling moment I will never forget.
3) Ushuaia: This southernmost city in the world is in a very beautiful location and it is fascinating to see all of the expedition ships and ice breakers there. Circumnavigating Cape Horn is included here (not very interesting in general, except knowing that you were at the bottom of a continent).
4) Estancia La Mimosa: The estancia we visited on the last day of the trip was a wonderful place. We loved this little piece of heaven in the countryside north of BA. The gaucho show was a bonus and the food was fantastic.
5) Buenos Aires: Although the city is having some issues, we did enjoy seeing some of different areas of town and our dinner at I Latina was unforgettable. Recoleta cemetery was fascinating and La Boca is fun, although probably too touristy.
6) Service on Celebrity Infinity: This was the best service we have had on a cruise. The VIP treatment was a pleasant surprise and we loved the special ship tours.
7) Falkland Islands: Port Stanley is very charming and very British and the beaches in the area are filled with penguins.
8) Pampas Devils: The on-board show with four very talented Argentine performers was absolutely wonderful.
9) Valdes Peninsula: Although not very scenic, the wildlife sightings made this very interesting and the estancia was quite nice (food was merely ok).
10) Qsine: This was our best meal, hands down, on the ship and our second-best meal of the trip.

Lowlights:

1) Flu Jail: Getting quarantined for 48 hours was a very unpleasant surprise and it did affect my perceptions of the end of the trip. I am impressed with Tamiflu, however. We are sorry we missed our nice tour in Montevideo. We had a few other times on this trip where we both did not feel good and I also had asthma problems, even before the influenza.
2) Flights: Other than the amazing experience on the 787 from Denver to Houston, we had pretty unpleasant flights to and from Buenos Aires and got stuck in uncomfortable middle seats on our final flight to Denver. There were mechanical issues in both directions to/from BA (time to retire the 767s, United?), the lie-flat seating on those aircraft was quite uncomfortable, and we had the persistent turbulence for many hours of both long flights.
3) Aqua Class and our cabin: This was not worth the extra fare. The cabin was very standard and had a large overhang over the balcony (it did come in handy in Antarctica). We could hear people walking on the pool deck above or could hear them them dragging the deck chairs around and also heard band music on the rare nice days at the beginning and end of the cruise. Blu, the Aqua Class specialty restaurant, was very disappointing. In three meals there, I only had one thing I liked (strip steak) in all of the food ordered. Our small bathroom had a smell in it throughout the entire cruise that was either musty or smelled like urine. We told them about it but it never went away.
4) Fellow passengers: Other than the great folks on our Roll Call and a few nice folks we ran into in various places (we will keep in touch with some of them), this cruise matched the 2012 cruise on Marina for obnoxious passengers. Many people were pushy, rude, or genuinely clueless. I cannot count how many times someone or multiple someones had to race around me to get there first or step right in front of me. Most people never queued for the elevators. People on buses in the back immediately jumped up to get off first, oblivious to folks sitting closer to the door. Seeing people in the bars or casino while we were in Antarctica was mind-boggling. Why were they there? I hope that one woman saw her imaginary polar bears ;-).
5) The stress of the situation with Steve’s Dad: Although this turned out well, this did cause a lot of anxiety right before we left. It’s interesting to note that I made a comment to Steve a few weeks before we left that this trip did not capture my imagination as much as other trips and I was uncertain that we would even get to go (this was before the angioplasty procedure that Ed required). I am glad we went and saw Antarctica, but nine days at sea out of fourteen is too long, especially with the crowd we had and in closed conditions, obviously a contributor to my bout with the influenza.

Cruise #24 is in the books, a decidedly mixed affair. Celebrity was good (especially in customer service) but may not have crossed the barrier into “must cruise again”. We are claiming Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Antarctica from this adventure. Being on the sea nearby or docked at the port is good enough for me.

Next up: In October, we have a 15-day cruise booked on Regatta (Oceania Cruise Lines) from Montreal to Miami. We like Oceania very much, but have read some alarming things on CC about declining standards of service. We hope for a good experience again.

Thanks for reading!

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