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Christmas & New Years Cruise South America Style

Author: Amelia Hesson (More Trip Reviews by Amelia Hesson)
Date of Trip: December 2012

We had an hour to wander and take pictures at this magnificent place. Park rangers roamed to make sure we did not disturb the animals. There were also a lot of Terns on the island; we found several nests with eggs in them as well. After an hour we gathered and boarded the boats to go to Isla Marta, another fabulous ecosystem filled with Sea Lions, Cormorants, Skuas, Austral seagulls, Antartic pigeons, and Sea Elephants.

We did not disembark here, instead we circumnavigated the island while viewing the wildlife. If we wanted to go to the outside of the boat, we had to put life preservers. This was a magnificent opportunity to photograph and admire all the wildlife without disturbing their ecosystem. After a half an hour we headed back to the mainland and the waiting buses that brought us back to the office in Punta Arenas. We got back at 4 pm, which left some time to shop and see the town since the last tender was at 6pm. We made our way to the main square that was close by, it was lined with crafts vendors. The prices were much better here than at the shops in the port, however the vendors did not bargain here at all. The prices we still very reasonable and I got another Alpaca sweater with no pulls for $20.

Back at the port, there was a wine store, and more shopping up the prices were so high and we were all shopped out. It was raining now and we noticed that Celebrity's tender line was covered while ours was not. That was fine, the rain stopped and the line was fast and we stayed on the top part of the tender because there was a wonderfully brilliant rainbow. There were rainbows everywhere until the sun set by 10:30, actually it hardly got dark all through the night because I get up several times looking for the southern lights! The sky was beautiful, not sure if I saw the lights but its my thing, it's on my bucket list!

We used soloexpediciones, email canales@soloexpediciones.com. Cell +56 0982393545 Carmen Gloria Pacheco.

12/28/12--Glacier Alley in the Straits of Magellan

Wow! We are cruising down glacier alley, past a series of glaciers including Espana, Romanche, Aleminea, Francia, Italia, and Holanda glaciers. There are visable from the port side and spectacular to see. Joe May and the Captain are narrating this unbelievable strait where you can see the glaciers melting and a mix of fresh and salt water.

As we pass the Romanche glacier we are treated to a spectacular sight, this glacier is huge and it is melting fast, there is a giant waterfall baring witness to the melting and it is one of the largest waterfalls I've seen. As we pass, a giant rumbling occurs and we witness a calving so tremendous it thunders. I've never seen a calving like this, as it breaks off the glacier it tumbles down the waterfall and there are gasps all over the ship. Make sure you get a port side balcony to witness this spectacle at its best.

One by one we pass glacier after glacier, this is more incredible than anything I've see in Alaska. As we arrive at Italia glacier captain Perrin continues narrating and Joe May is translating. We will stop here and turn around so the Starboard side of the ship can see it too. After this a pilot will join us to navigate through the rest of the straits all the way to Ushuaia, where I have a halfday excursion to the national park. Talk about swooning! Off to finish the viewing and grab lunch before we get to Ushuaia.

12/28/12--Ushuaia (Tierra Del Fuego), Argentina

We got to Ushuaia late and got off the ship at 2:45pm, after being trampled by unruly passengers who felt entitled to push, shove, and cut into the line which was kept so well by staff members Theo and Veronica. I felt sorry for them, every time they turned their back a slew of people took the non manned stairs down to deck 4 where disembarkation took place. They could not manage the large crowd alone, Princess should have provided more staff to man each elevator and staircase like they do in muster. Getting off a ship mid day is always chaos. I heard horror stories about people in princess tours as well as private tours. Be prepared for this!

Our guide Gaston was there as we walked off the ship and saw the beauty of this port, our first stop in Argentina. Surrounded with snow capped Andes mountains and the Beagle channel, this town touts itself as the southern most city in the world. It is the starting point for ships like the National Geographic Expedition's journey to Antarctica. The ship was in port in front of our ship and across the dock was Celebrity which has followed us everywhere. Ushuaia (pronounced oo-swy-ah, not oo-shwy-ah like I had been saying) is considered the end of the South American world; interestingly it is not as south as Fairbanks, Alaska is north.

We headed out of town to visit the National Park of Tierra del Fuego, a beautiful wilderness of forests, rivers, and green meadows typical of the steppes. We stopped at several scenic points for hikes and lakes, including the end of the Panamerican highway where the famous sign indicates the distance between here and Alaska. This was a pretty impressive place, with a boardwalk that takes you out to beautiful lake. As we headed through the park Gaston suddenly stopped the van, he spotted some woodpeckers and we slowly crept toward then with cameras in hand. We encountered several, males with their red heads and females all in black, and I was able to video them in action pecking at the trees. We started to leave when Gaston spied a red fox up the road. The red fox was not afraid of us, in fact it was clear it was waiting for food and sure enough, another car filled with visitors started throwing food out to get it to come closer. This is a terrible thing to do, these animals should not be so close to humans and Gaston ran up to them and told then just this. They quickly picked up all the food and were off, thankfully. This was an awesome animal encounter marred only by the stupidity of those people!

Next we headed to the park headquarters that housed a nice museum, lookout point, restaurant, and gift shop that was way overpriced. We used the facilities and took off for the "end of the world" post office where I got a passport with several stamps for 3 dollars. This was a great photograph spot, the post office was on a small pier in a wonderful glacial lake.

As we drove through the park, we spotted a lot of hawk like birds, especially in the campgrounds. We even found several RVs, giving birth to an idea of driving our Winnebago down here! We probably would never want to drive through Colombia, and that leg of the Panamerican highway is accessed by a ferry, which probably doesn’t take 30 foot RVs! As we headed back to Ushuaia, we saw the most southern Golf course in the world, and there were people playing on it. One of our last stops was a spot near the airport where we had great views of our ship in the port, this always being an important photo opportunity for us! Finally we arrived in Ushuaia, we drove down the main shopping street and Gaston showed us where the best Rhodocrosite shop was as well as the wine shop, and market. This was the end of a nice half-day tour.

We paid $65pp for the tour plus $20 each for the park entrance fee. We used edgardocalaio@gmail.com to book this tour and enjoyed it very much. Gaston was our tour guide and he was very good.

Shopping in Ushuaia is expensive, especially for stuff you can get in North America. The Rhodochrosite here is very nice, it's the national rock and unique to Argentina. I found a good shop called Inca Rose which is on the main shopping street, go left when heading up from the port, it's on the far side of the street (right side) after you turn left. I also found some good semi-sweet Chocolate that was made here and a decent price, there are many places to buy that.

12/29/12--Cape Horn

I Woke up early to a very cloudy sky although the seas were gentle. After writing for awhile, I looked up and saw the sky's had cleared and the seas remained calm and we were approaching Cape Horn, passing Celebrity going the other way as they don't go to the Falklands like us.

We are currently rounding Cape Horn, the seas are calm and the sky's are only partly cloudy with a temperature of 43 degrees F. Time to go gawk at the beautiful islands and try to find whales, dolphins, and birds!

Captain Perrin began narrating as we circled the islands going from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and back to the Atlantic in a grand circle. Captain Perrin said he had never seen the seas so calm around here, not to mention the incredible blue sky's mixed with high fluffy clouds, and we were able to get so much closer than normal because of the favorable weather and seas! For an hour we circled Cape Horn as the captain narrated points of interest like the Albatross statue and lighthouse. Joe May translated his narration, adding his own perspective to this incredible experience. The day was another Wow day, filled with Ohs and Ahs from the people in the port side balconies. What a spectacular morning we had once again.

Later I saw the Captain talking to my friends Chris and Pat, he told them that he had no doubt that we would certainly make it to the Falklands tomorrow. He said the weather changes frequently but according to his reports, we would not encounter weather of seas that would prevent us from going. He warned us about the long tender ride, two miles, that might be bumpy but nothing terrible. We are looking forward to getting there and hope all goes well!

1/1/13--Happy New Year

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