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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Antarctica - The Atlas Check-in

We were ready for breakfast, which was included in our trip (up to $25 per person), so we went to the restaurant in the Hyatt. I had pancakes and bacon, and Shelly had pancakes and fried chicken. Both were decent and filling, which was good because we would not eat again until after 4:00pm.

We went back to our room and Shelly decided she wanted some sunshine and warm weather, so she headed for the pool. I was tired, so I layed down to try to sleep. Shelly came back after an hour or so and she decided to nap as well. By noon we were rested and ready to repack our belongings (we’re Hyatt rewards members so we got a 1:30pm check out. I suggest you join Hyatt’s reward program before staying there). At 1:00pm, we headed to the lobby and checked out. We went looking for the ballroom where we were to assemble at 2:00pm and an Atlas staff member asked if we checked in. We asked “checked in to what?”. It turns out we were supposed to check in at the Atlas desk and present our passport, Argentina Health Declaration, negative PCR proof, and Covid insurance proof. I don’t believe this was in any Atlas communication. They gave us a card with check marks on it and a boarding pass group number, and told us that we would be called after 2:00pm to go get our boarding passes. This was not communicated in advance either. They also picked up our luggage that we were checking and took it to what I assumed was the airplane. I think it would serve Atlas’ passengers to have written instructions as to what happens at 2:00pm, maybe a timeline would represent well. We learned a lot of what we had to do because Shelly asked the Atlas staff or we read it on the Atlas Ocean Voyages Cruisers Facebook page.

At around 2:20pm, our boarding group was called and we were escorted to the National Airlines counter in the Orlando International Airport terminal. National was providing the charter flight to Argentina. It was less than a 5 minute walk from the Hyatt. We were reunited with our luggage, checked it in, and got our boarding passes for the flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, scheduled to depart at 8:00pm. We went back to the Hyatt and checked in at the Impact Health desk, and was given a Health Information card. It asks for your name, phone, email, and confirmation of your Covid antigen test they were to give (the negative PCR test was required by Argentina. The Covid antigen test is required by Atlas to board the plane). We got our nostrils swabbed in a ballroom, and waited for about 30 minutes for the results. We were both negative (another milestone passed!) and felt great relief. We then left that ballroom for another ballroom where we would wait for 3-plus hours while everyone got their boarding passes and antigen tests.

A message for future passengers: Because of the Covid pandemic, be prepared for some anxiety while you schedule your tests and wait for your results, and fill out the Argentina Health Declaration (if you experience what Shelly and I experienced with the form, give yourself at least an hour to complete). It’s out of your control, so try to be patient and just breathe.

Atlas made the wait very comfortable. We were given a pair of Atlas pajamas and slippers, and were entertained the entire time by a magician, a violinist, and a Spanish guitarist and flamenco dancer.

All the performers were wonderful. They kept us entertained, and made the atmosphere lively. There was a bar with beer, wine, and soft drinks, wrapped sandwiches, assorted bags of chips, fruit, and Kind bars. We had met Monica, Jonathan, and their daughter Jacqueline while getting our boarding passes. They sat next to us and we chatted the entire time. They are very good people, and we hit it off nicely. At 6:30pm, we got called to board. I have to say Atlas did an excellent job in making the wait more than tolerable. The entertainment was great (although a bit loud), the food was decent, and passengers were in a joyous mood. Here's a photo of the guitarist and dancer.

We were escorted to the TSA screening lines. Shelly and I made it to the kiosk and our passports and boarding passes were checked. This is where our first mishap occurred. It turns out we were given two boarding passes at the National counter, but they were both in my name. Shelly did not have one. The TSA agent told us we needed to get her boarding pass and return to the line. A bit of panic ran through my veins, and Shelly got agitated. When we received the boarding passes, I only glanced at them. My bad, I should have reviewed them thoroughly. So my advice is to verify your boarding passes before leaving the counter.

I told myself to be patient, and that it would work out. Shelly marched us back to the Hyatt ballroom and told several Atlas staff what had occurred. Mike, who we had previously met, escorted us back to the National desk in the terminal and called for assistance. A National representative responded quickly, worked the problem, and got us the correct boarding passes. We walked hurriedly back to TSA check in, and were blessed with an empty line. We also breezed through screening, and jumped on the train to head to our departure gate 94. We arrived at the gate around 7:20pm, with plenty of time to spare. More kudos for Atlas and one for National for managing us and correcting the situation. We were on the plane and ready to go!

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