Archive for Celebrity Infinity Journey Past Antarctica 2014

Our furthest south latitude

After yesterday’s visit to the Antarctic Peninsula, we asked the VIP Concierge, Anca, to find out what our furthest south latitude was. We got the answer today:

64° 50.4′ South

In July, we were at our furthest north — 80° 28′ North

Now all we need to do is get all the way around the world…

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Antarctica Photos

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Antarctica!

Our experience on Saturday, February 8 and this morning, February 9 cruising the 7th continent was so amazing that words can’t begin to describe it. However, I will try to capture bits and pieces in a series of short segments, not necessarily in any kind of order. Hopefully, Steve can put a few pictures on the blog later today.

Land Ho

The seas calmed down late yesterday morning and we spotted land! The Schollert Channel goes between two large islands in the Palmer Archipelago in the northwest part of the Antarctic Peninsula. The clouds covered some of the higher peaks; we also saw our first ice bergs. We went up to the pool deck (deck 10) to see the port side view and found that the deck covered by a couple inches of snow and ice! Infinity slowly cruised through the channel as they continued to evaluate the wind conditions. Most of the features in this region were named by the Belgica expedition that came through the area in 1898-1899 and had to overwinter in the peninsula. Commanded by Adrien de Gerlache, the crew included the American doctor Frederick Cook, who explored with Robert Peary, and a young Roald Amundsen, who later became the first explorer to reach the South Pole just ahead of the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott expedition. There were low clouds, but we could see more and more of the landscape. From this channel, we then entered the Gerlache strait and saw three other ships (the Seabourn Quest, a three-masted schooner, and a large fishing vessel).

Paradise Bay

Our main objective yesterday was to make it to Paradise Bay, an inlet on the peninsula, surrounded by spectacular peaks and glaciers. The Captain stopped for two hours in a beautiful area and did station keeping with thrusters (no anchor). They opened the helicopter deck in front and Steve braved the frigid conditions to go out there and do panoramas while I looked for wildlife from our deck. The scene was unreal and very monochromatic – huge snow fields and glaciers, ice bergs of all shapes and sizes in the water, dark rocks and cliff faces, grey calm seas and clouds. We never did see the sun, but we did get great views of this absolutely forbidding but beautiful scenery. I believe our most southern latitude achieved was around 64 degrees, 30 minutes, but we are trying to get confirmation. The Antarctic Circle is at 66 degrees south (as I noted in previous posts, most expeditions and cruises do not venture that far south). If that is close to the number, we traveled more than 100 degrees of latitude total for this trip from Denver and we can claim that we have covered approximately 145 degrees of latitude on the planet from north to south (out of 180).

Wildlife Extravaganza

The whale-spotting began in earnest as we neared Antarctica and we saw dozens of humpback whales throughout the day and this morning (and probably a couple of other types of whales), plus we could see many penguins at a distance on rocky shores. Later in the day yesterday, we spotted the cute little birds on ice bergs close by the ship, where they were waddling around and then diving into the water. This morning, off Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands, we saw thousands of chinstrap penguins in the water! There were a variety of flying birds as well (petrels, albatrosses). Also this morning, we saw a seal in the water close to the ship.

Icebergs

One of the most amazing things we saw were the incredible number of icebergs, large and small, with fantastical shapes. The glaciers and snow fields are everywhere and are constantly moving and shifting; the edges finally succumb to pressures near the water and break off. I could hear the ice cracking but we never saw a calving of an iceberg. The crevasses in the glaciers and many of the bergs had a bluish-green color caused from diffraction of the light in the compressed ice. Some bergs we saw were the size of aircraft carriers, while many others were house-sized. We saw shapes like castles, large Victorian sofas, giant hot tubs, bridges (with holes through the middle), and various fantastic animals. Thankfully, modern ships have surface radar to see where these bergs are in the dark (and we did have nighttime because we were north of the Antarctic Circle). Obviously, back in the days before radar and sonar, these beautiful bergs were real navigation hazards.

Cold!

It was frigid yesterday, not even reaching 20 degrees, and we often had a stiff breeze and snow pellets coming down. The thermal pants and jackets, gloves, knit caps and other layers came in very handy.

No Elephant Island

As we departed the area last evening, the Captain told us that sea conditions were too rough for our cruise by Elephant Island that was scheduled for today. So we substituted Deception Island, an active volcano with a sheltered cove located in the South Shetland Islands. We arrived there early this morning. The island was not very interesting, but we did see lots of wildlife in the area, including the thousands of swimming chinstrap penguins I referred to earlier. We have continued cruising through the Shetlands and have been abeam of a huge island with a monstrous snow field now for a couple of hours (appropriately call Snow Island). The sun popped out briefly a short time ago (of course). I would have liked to have seen this place, which was the residence of many of the crew members of the failed Endurance expedition (1914-1917), who waited here for Ernest Shackleton and five other crew members to make it to South Georgia Island and mount a rescue, but our Captain on Infinity knows best about the sea conditions in this godforsaken part of the world.

Antarctica Summary

We are very grateful we were able to see this incredible place and see the wildlife. I do not envy one bit the brave souls who inhabit the research stations here and the conditions reinforced in my mind the firm decision not to consider an expedition cruise. In another life, one where I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, balance problems, bad physical conditioning and silly personal fears of ice and snow, I would probably go on one, but I am just glad to have seen Antarctica with my own eyes from the relative comfort of a large cruise ship (and it was much cheaper).

Next up: Tuesday February 11, we are supposed to call at the Falkland Islands. Ships anchor here and the persistent winds often force a cancellation of the stop because conditions are too rough for tendering We are signed up for a tour of Long Farm, to see how these folks live here with their sheep and cattle and peat production. Many folks are doing long and challenging 4WD trips to penguin viewing areas. That would have been fun (seeing the penguins up close), but the last thing I need is a compression fracture or other back problems, so the farm will be interesting and we will hopefully see penguins in our excursion from Puerto Madryn. Steve is wonderful as a traveling companion, as he is content doing pretty much anything, and is happy to go with me to the farm.

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The Drake Shake!!

Well, it was too good to be true. During the night, a front came in faster than expected and we now have the high winds and heaving seas that make these latitudes so notorious. We are not too far away from the first islands in the Antarctic Peninsula and it will hopefully get calmer soon. Unfortunately, the visibility is terrible, so we might not see anything anyway. I guess that’s a chance you take coming down to this part of the world. The forecast at the German-run Bernardo O’Higgins satellite receiving station near where we are supposed to go today was for partly cloudy conditions and temperatures in the low twenties, with a 25-30 MPH wind. Brrr…..

The wind leaks around a seal in our balcony door and it sounds like someone whining and moaning. A chair on the balcony next door is slamming against the partition. The bulkheads are creaking and groaning. Fun!

We had room service breakfast and are both feeling fine. I guess, in 23 cruises, we haven’t yet found the magic combination of seas that are a problem. I’m shocked that we have Internet service.

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Cape Horn, the Drake Lake!!

Early this morning (5:50 am), we set our alarm to get up and throw on warm clothes to go out on the balcony to see Cape Horn. The Captain woke us up with an announcement a few minutes early and we looked out to see a stark island that looked very similar to Bear Island, Svalbard. Cape Horn is rugged looking,with a few hills and covered with peat miss and lichens and with very little large vegetation. It was larger than I expected. The seas were calm, so we were able to circumnavigate the island and cross between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We are so lucky that we booked a starboard side cabin as we did not have to leave to see everything.

Cape Horn has a lighthouse and very small naval station. Apparently the current Chilean officer stationed there has his wife and two children with him in this desolate place, but an assignment here is popular due to 300% pay for the position and rotates often. There is a large monument on a hill near the lighthouse, known as the albatross monument, that was constructed in the early 1990’s in memory of the hundreds of sailors who have died in ship wrecks around Cape Horn. The souls of these sailors are said to inhabit the beautiful and huge albatross birds that follow ships In this part of the world.

We went back to sleep for a couple of hours and woke up to the Drake Lake!! The notorious Drake Passage is almost as smooth as glass, with partly cloudy skies and no waves or white caps. Thank you, Lord! I hope the weather is at least this good tomorrow when we cruise into the Schallert Channel, Paradise Bay, and the Gerlache Strait.

We haven’t see very many of our Roll Call folks. Apparently, they all like trivia (which we are avoiding on this cruise) and 40 of them went on a private tour yesterday in Ushuaia to Marillo Island, where they walked among Magellan, Gentoo and a couple of Emperor penguins. Sounds like it was a lot of fun but would have been challenging for me, so hopefully we’ll see a few of the comical flightless birds on the shores in Antarctica and in the Valdez peninsula.

Steve posted a few photos (yay!), so you have something other than my blathering to enjoy.

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Some photos from the last few days

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Engine Control Room, Land Ho!, Scenic Ushuaia, Xue Long at Dock, Pushy People on Tour, Hope for the Drake Passage

Steve’s interview went very well with the iLounge manager yesterday and right after he returned to the room we headed back to Michael’s Club for the engine control room tour.   There were 18 VIP guests on the tour and we took the elevator down to Deck 1, had a security screening and followed the security officer to the control room.  This was a typical control room space, with lots of camera feeds and electronic dashboards showing status for various systems on board the ship. The nice young Greek officer in charge gave us an overview of the power plant and propulsion system.  Infinity is powered by two gas turbines; each turbine is 33,000 HP and almost identical in design to a 747 engine and they are built and serviced by GE in Houston. The gas turbines burn high-grade quality kerosene fuel oil that is purified and is quite expensive, but this type of fuel is required for any cruising in Antarctica (and other pristine places), as it has a low-sulfur content. The gas turbines are about 37% efficient and are housed in soundproof enclosures that also ensure good fire protection. In addition, there is also one Diesel engine (16 cylinder, 30,000 HP) that uses lower-grade and cheaper fuel and has a higher efficiency and they also have a high-pressure steam turbine (~27,000 HP). The ship has two spare Diesel engines on board.  The fuel costs for our cruise are in excess of $1.1 million.  Since they probably clear this in bar tabs alone, they’re probably doing ok.

The propulsion system consists of two Azipod engines. The Azipods are a unique design and are capable of forward and reverse motion that is highly maneuverable. There are two self-adjusting stabilizers that extend out nearly 21 feet from the ship on each side and also two bow thrusters used for dock maneuvering.  Infinity uses two incinerators on-board to burn all the trash and a reverse osmosis water desalinization plant, plus fresh-water tanks.  The sea water can only be brought on board for desalinization when the ship is going 6 knots or faster and is at least 12 miles from shore.  The top speed of the ship is around 24 knots (rarely achieved); typical cruising speed is around 15-20 knots.  This was a very interesting tour and gave us good insight into the inner workings of this ship.

Last night we ate at Blu, the “healthy” dining room option exclusively for Aqua class cabins. We got a table right by the window and could see rugged land off in the distance on the port side (this was apparently Staten Island, Argentina, not to be confused with Staten Island, New York) .  The food was ok, not spectacular.  I had the carpaccio and a rigatoni pasta with roast chicken.  Steve had the lump crab cocktail and duck.  We haven’t eaten in the Trellis dining room yet but will have to try it soon. Infinity later steered into the Beagle channel heading west towards Ushuaia as we prepared for bed.

We arose early this morning as our excursion departed at 9:15 am.  Originally, we were supposed to tender here, but apparently we got upgraded to dock space. We opened our blinds to beautiful scenery and interesting ships along the dock. It snowed here a couple of days ago, which is a bit unusual this time of year, but occasionally it happens in summer, which is always on the cool side. The dramatic peaks in all directions had fresh snow and the temperature was quite crisp.  Docked right across from us was the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon), which garnered fame a few weeks ago when it tried to rescue the idle rich Eco-tourists who got stuck in all of that icy Global Warming in Antarctica. Other expedition ships lined the docks, including another Russian icebreaker (not the one that got stuck), the Ocean Diamond (Quark Expeditions) and a couple of others getting prepped to head south.  The Quark ship had a huge stack of zodiacs on the back and other racks of sea kayaks.

Our tour today was a combination catamaran cruise on the Beagle Channel and bus drive through Tierra del Fuego National Park. The tours met in the large theater (site of the Super Bowl debacle the other night).  It was a general scrum, with almost every seat taken and people wandering around looking confused, in spite of the staff’s good announcements.  They called our tour and we headed to Deck 1 to the gangplank.  Just as we got in the exit line, some minor functionary from the Argentine government got annoyed with something and shut down egress from the ship for a while.  We finally got off and followed a guide with signs down the dock to the catamaran.  I walked as fast as possible, but most our fellow passengers on the tour surged ahead of me almost racing to the catamaran, so Steve went fast with them to get us a decent seat on the lower enclosed deck. Most people wanted to be up on the second deck or even the third open deck, but I did want a window seat somewhere.  I get tired of people pushing around me or around other people that walk slower or with canes, just so they get a better seat in the bus or boat or get in the elevator ahead of you.  We have people from an astonishing number of countries on board, so you get varying degrees of rudeness and pushy behavior, along with the usual language barriers.

Ok, so now that we had our seats on the catamaran (and very few people sat on the lower level), we could see that it should be easy to go outside on the deck to take pictures.  We cruised across the Ushuaia harbor to the Beagle Channel, where we started seeing lots of birds in the water.  There are several varieties of cormorant that reside in these waters and, although they can fly, they resemble penguins when walking around on land.  The islands in the channel are wildlife refuges and we got near three or four of them, including one with an old light house. There were no penguins, but plenty of cormorants, skuas, flightless geese, petrels, and fulmars. Two of the small islands had fat and sleepy seals draped over the rocks. Steve overheard several people loudly complaining about the smell from a large colony of cormorants that we approached; I wonder what they will think if they walked among thousands of penguins?

Our catamaran cruise continued through the channel to the west and we docked at an access area for the national park.  We were swapping our load for the other groups who did the bus tour first.  Yup, you guessed it – the race to the buses started now.  Steve and I got the last two seats together on our assigned bus and of course they were almost all the way in the back.  We can’t wait for the shoving and pushing on deck as everyone jostles for the best position to take pictures as we cruise Antarctica.  I’m glad we have a balcony to retreat to.

We had three stops on the bus tour. Our first was at a freshwater lake that is shared with Chile. Then we stopped at the park headquarters for a short visit.  Finally, we stopped at an overlook of the Beagle Channel.  The bus brought us back to Ushuaia, where most passengers got off in the downtown area.  We were both tired and hungry, so we went back to the ship and had a burger on deck (the temperature was cool, but not bad).

We departed at 9:00 pm and are now cruising through the Beagle Channel.  The dock at Ushuaia is amazing, with constant ship movement.  Just as we were heading out, the National Geographic Explorer came in. This looked like a really elegant expedition ship.

Our ship will stop briefly in Puerto Williams, Chile, in a short while to drop off the Argentine pilot and pick up the Chilean pilot (a very political process, apparently).  At 6:00 tomorrow, we should make first sighting of Cape Horn and they intend to circumnavigate the island, weather permitting. Then we begin our Drake Passage crossing!  The weather looks pretty good, with 6-9 foot seas and a 35 MPH wind out of the east (pretty mild, compared to how it could be).  I hope to post this tonight or tomorrow; we likely won’t have Internet in Antarctica, so stay tuned!

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Lunch in the solarium, dinner at Qsine, Approaching Tierra Del Fuego, Sea Birds

When I last left off the tale of our journey, it was Tuesday morning. After coffee in our favorite coffee bar, we hung out for a while, then had a small salad for lunch in the Solarium (covered pool area). We spent some time in the Constellation Lounge on marine mammal watch, but had no luck. We did suffer through the racket of a Zumba class in the lounge. They kept stopping songs and starting other ones, all at loud volumes. Last night we had a dinner reservation at Qsine, which is a unique new dining concept on Celebrity.

Qsine is located on the 11th deck midships, just under the stack. The room is decorated in orange, black and white and has different sized chairs at each table. There are huge picture windows, which had blinds, but the setting sun was still very bright. Above a large table in the center of the room is an upside-down chandelier. The menus are on iPads, with a variety of bizarre combinations of foods. The menu screens are bright and fun and a few items have little animated videos.

We ordered the M&M combination plate and the Painter’s Filet Mignon. We also ordered Persian chicken kabobs but canceled that order because the first two shared plates were definitely more than enough food. The M&M combination had a variety of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern delicacies (hence, the M&M designation). It arrived in a rack that looked like a combination of an open suitcase and large spice rack and each little selection was in a different type of container. There were thirteen total small containers and pretty much every item was delectable. We had tabouli, hummus and tiny pita breads, falafel, lamb chops, Spanish chili (beef and lamb), tzatziki, chicken kabobs, chopped vegetables, and some delicious meat concoction that was like a sausage.

This was followed by the Painter’s Filet, which had two petite filets cooked to perfection on a plate that looked like an artist’s palette. The little side dishes in the “paint cups” included yummy mac and cheese, potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and a wine reduction. No wonder we canceled the third dish. Good grief – a lot of food!

After we finished the entree, they brought over two popcorn boxes. These had little cubes that you could open in various directions to see the dessert options. Steve got the gelato silver bullet and I went for the Qsine surprise, which turned out to be a lava cake. The silver bullet looked like an old science fiction rocket ship. This was a very fun dinner and we had a nice sunset, too.

Today we woke to choppy seas and even cooler air. The ship handles the seas nicely and there is little or no motion. It is partly cloudy as we make our way towards Tierra del Fuego. The Falkland Islands are to the east. There are many more sea birds in this area; according to a wildlife spotter card I bought in the ship store, the flying birds in this area are mainly petrels and albatrosses, with a few terns and gulls thrown into the mix. Of course, the land areas are populated with many varieties of penguins and seals. We are on marine mammal watch again, as there are also quite a few whale and dolphin species in the area.

Steve has his interview with the Innovations and iLounge personnel shortly. The VIP thing continues to pay dividends as we have been invited later this afternoon on a private tour of the Engine control room! Woo-hoo!

Tomorrow we reach our first port of the cruise, which is Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost town in the world (unless you live in Puerto Williams, Chile). We are supposed to tender from the ship. We have a ship excursion that has a catamaran trip through the Beagle Channel followed by a bus excursion into Tierra del Fuego National Park.

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Good Coffee, Lunch by the Pool, Dolphin Sighting, A Nice Nap, Appetizers for Dinner, A Question for the Captain, Fresh Fish, South Latitude Record Watch

It’s Tuesday, February 4. This is our second full day of the cruise and another day at sea sailing through the southern Atlantic on our way to Ushuaia, Argentina. The seas have been very calm and the weather is quite pleasant, although it is cooler today than yesterday.

After our Meet and Mingle on Monday we found the good coffee at Cafe Al Bacio, a coffee shop on Deck 5. The regular coffee on-board is terrible, so we are glad we have the beverage package so we can use it to get the best beans. The Cafe is quite popular, as you might imagine. We hung out for a while, sneaking on-line occasionally for sporadic hits of the slow and expensive internet service. After much-improved Internet service, with lower prices or unlimited access on our last three or four cruises, this is definitely a major step backwards. I find it very ironic that Celebrity is owned by RCI, as the Internet on Oasis of the Seas was the best yet, and this is like the frustrating stuff we had three or four years ago. Steve’s interview with the iLounge person may be a bit hostile ;-).

In the early afternoon, we went up on the pool deck in search of a burger to split. The grill cook whipped up a yummy bacon and cheddar burger that was just right for sharing. As we were finishing it, someone yelled over by the window that they had spotted dolphins. Sure enough, there were quite a few grey porpoises frolicking by the ship and Steve got a couple of passable photos with his rented telephoto lens. We also had a long conversation with a retired couple from the UK that was mostly pleasant (as long as we got off the topic of National Health Care).

We decided to head back to our stateroom to sit on the balcony and look for more marine mammals. The temperature was quite pleasant and we were nodding off before we knew it. Nap time! We slept for an hour, then dressed for dinner. Because if the VIP privileges we got when boarding, we were invited to a private function in Michael’s Club to meet some of the officers. We planned to go to Blu for dinner (the exclusive restaurant for Aqua Club), but they kept tempting us with good appetizers. The Captain (Michael Sympouras) and few officers showed up and came by each table to chat briefly. I asked Captain Sympouras what our approximate southernmost latitude might be in Antarctica and said he would definitely announce that from the bridge.

We decided to skip dinner after all of the appetizers and we sat in the Rendezvous Lounge (dance club) for a while talking to other couples in our Roll Call. Back in the room getting ready to go to bed, I popped out on the balcony for a quick weather check and was startled by a very strong but not unpleasant smell of very fresh (obviously alive) fish. Apparently, we were cruising through an area that must have had many fish in the water and we have never smelled anything like this on any other cruise. Fascinating!

This morning, the Captain’s status announcement noted that our latitude at that time was 43 degrees south, which means we are setting southern latitude records every moment we continue in a southerly direction. Previously, our southernmost point in our travels was the airport in Auckland, New Zealand, at 35 degrees south.

Stay tuned!

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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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