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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Antarctica – Jan 4 and 5 – Day 8 and 9 – Cruising Drake Passage back to Ushuaia, and Covid Update

As I mentioned in the previous post, we departed the Antarctic Peninsula early and were cruising at a high rate of speed, I assumed so we could get to Ushuaia as early as possible. Waves were splashing above the windows on deck 4. The ship was rocking, and we were unsteady on our feet. We sat in the Atlas Lounge with Monica, Jonathan, Jacqueline, Barry, and Debbie chatting, enjoying drinks, playing Yahtzee, putting together a 2000-piece puzzle, and watching the waves. It was so rocky that at lunch, plates and drinks were sliding off the dining tables. In fact, Barry caught his glass of iced tea in mid-air as it slid off the table, spilling only a few drops. The guests in the restaurant applauded!

There were several lectures, and I attended two given by guest lecturer, Peter Lasorsa. The first was on how to travel safely. He provided great tips and tricks on how not to look like a tourist (carry a local newspaper with you), how to secure your belongings (for example, put your paper currency in an empty lip balm container) from theft and pickpockets, and how to avoid being kidnapped (for example, don’t get into a car at an airport just because someone holds a sign up with you name on it. Instead, provide a password to the driving service so you don't get into the wrong car).

Peter’s second lecture was on how to read body language. It was very interesting and included tips on how to convey power in an interaction, how to show interest or disinterest, and how not to convey the wrong message during an interview or negotiation. Now I’m finding myself examining people’s body language rather than just paying attention to the verbal exchange!

It was kind of spooky with how few people were in the dining room and lounges. I didn’t document the number of cases we heard at the time, but it was around 8 positive cases with guests and still over 50 quarantined. In addition, at least two crew members tested positive, with an unknown number quarantined. There were definitely crew members out of commission, as servers in the lounge had disappeared. Here’s a photo of Shelly sitting in an empty Atlas Lounge.

We saw Ricardo, the head butler, carrying tray after tray of food and drinks to the quarantined guests. Eventually, the ship had to enlist Expedition Team members to prepare and carry trays. We were told that 30 quarantined cabins received room service. Although I cannot tell you from first-hand experience, I believe the Atlas crew did their absolute best to serve and care for the quarantined guests. Here’s a photo of Shelly and Ricardo.

We heard that we would be getting to Ushuaia around noon on January 5th and spending the day and night in port. We would not be touring Cape Horn, Chile as stated in the itinerary. We also learned we would be ushered off the ship at 7:00am on January 6th and taken to a hotel ballroom where we would receive an antigen test, spend the day and evening, before heading to the airport for our return flight to Orlando. We were supposed to tour Ushuaia on our last day. The itinerary mentions touring either the wild forest of Parque Yatana or Martial Glacier, or shopping on Ushuaia’s main streets. We were both disappointed and angry that we would lose another tour opportunity and be cooped up in a hotel all day. This is not what we expected nor what we paid for. Shelly called Atlas’ Vice President of Guest Relations to inquire as to why the itinerary was changing. She left a message and we have yet to receive a response.

So, we made it through the "Drake Shakes", through the Beagle Channel, and docked in Ushuaia. We spent the day similarly to the previous day, bubbling with our crew, talking, and enjoying drinks from the bar.

After dinner, we got word from someone that the next cruise scheduled for tomorrow, was cancelled by Argentina authorities. We heard the guests scheduled to board the charter flight in Orlando were told 15 to 30 minutes before boarding that they would not be leaving. We were sad that the next group would not be able to enjoy the marvels of Antarctica as planned.

Our bubble was talking about the cancellation, and tomorrow’s departure at 7:00am, and we thought, if the next cruise is cancelled, maybe we don’t need to leave the ship and spend the day at a hotel. Perhaps we could stay on the ship until it was time to depart for the airport charter. Shelly went to guest relations to inquire about this and was told by the purser that Atlas could not accommodate it. Shelly asked for the hotel manager, was told he was off duty, so she left a message. She reported back to our bubble, and we were all kind of fuming. Why would they need to boot us off at 7:00am now, unless they didn’t want any more responsibility for us. If we were off the ship, no new guests to test positive, and no more Covid to deal with. Since there was no communication from Atlas, this is the kind of speculation that goes around.

We had dinner, packed our luggage, left it outside our cabin for pickup, and went to bed. After an amazing expedition, we now had a bit of a sour taste in our mouths.

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