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Air-Cruise with Antarctica XXI on the Ocean Nova

Author: Dileep Bhandarkar
Date of Trip: December 2012

We had our farewell champagne toast with Captain Alexey and the Expedition Staff and we remembered through pictures all what we had been doing during these intense four days on board M/ Ocean Nova. The farewell dinner was capped off with the catering staff parading in Baked Alaska!

13 December 2012
gentoo penguins ardley islandWe cruised in to Maxwell Bay in the morning. The weather looked clear, but as we closer the fog set in. Antarctica didn’t want us to leave! Weather was not good and the incoming flight was delayed. That gave us the opportunity of landing at Ardley Island where we observed Adelie and Gentoo penguins feeding their chicks, which are very rare at this early time of the Southern summer. In the morning we also went cruising to get a close look at Humpback whales! A big bonus, since it was the first time of the voyage we could see them from a close distance. After lunch we were welcomed at Bellingshausen and Fildes Stations where we visited the Russian Orthodox church, a souvenir shop at the Chilean station and the living quarters. We got our passports stamped at both stations.

A nice bonus day to make up for our late arrival to start the cruise. Now it was time to pack our bags and be prepared to leave the ship the next day!

14 December 2012
On waking up at the usual 7 am we were told that the flight from Punta Arenas had not departed and they were in standby mode. We would probably not leave until sometime after lunch.

We were give $10 internet credit per person to send emails or contact our travel agents. We did not have much luck! Just wait and see.

Finally, we learned at noon that the flight was leaving soon and we were to disembark by 3 pm. The zodiacs took us ashore for the long uphill walk in deep snow to the end of the runway. We waited and watched the BAE 146 come in and land. Then we were driven to the other end of the runway where the airplane was parked.

We watched the incoming Chinese tourists leave for the zodiacs, their luggage being unloaded and ours being loaded. Fuel was being siphoned in from steel barrels. It was a very long wait in the cold and some of us were not well prepared.

We boarded and waited for a Mineral Air flight to land taxi and park next to us. It appeared that there were passengers on a day trip to the stations on King George Island.

We finally took off just after 5 pm and were in Punta Arenas at 7:30 pm, eager to rebook our ongoing flights.

The local LAN staff had no access to information on international connections in Santiago, but they could book us on a midnight flight to Santiago!

We had enough time for a refreshing beer in the bar and then wait for the flight out of Punta Arenas. Many of our travelling companions went into town and spent the night at the hotel, but we chose to get to Santiago to book our remaining flights home.

15 December 2012
Our flight from Punta Arenas departed just after midnight. The final adventure had begun. We picked up our luggage after the flight landed at 3:30 am and went up to the 3rd floor to find the LAN sales desk. There were 8 of us Adventure Lifers eager to see what flight we would get from the trip home. The earliest flights out were after 10 pm. Fortunately, there is a Holiday Inn across the street! But wait, they have no rooms at 4 am and their lobby is closed until 6 am. Why not have a bite to eat at the airport and kill some time. We got our rooms at the Holiday Inn at 7 am - day room until 6 am for $105 with breakfast included. We need to get some sleep and a second breakfast was not needed.

The next priority was to get our boarding passes. Partial success as LAN printed them for the flight from Santiago to Los Angeles. They could not do it for the Alaska Airlines flight from LAX to Seattle. We found out why the next day!

The Holiday Inn lobby has very comfortable couches and plenty of computers to access email. The restaurant is good too.

16 December 2012
Our flight landed a few minutes late at LAX. We had a long walk (seemed like a mile) to Terminal 6 where Alaska Airlines is located. After a 15 minute wait in the MVP Gold Priority check in line, we learned that LAN had not made a confirmed booking on our flight to Seattle and not all our information was sent over to Alaska! MeganB did a great job getting us exit row seats and we were on our way home shortly!

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