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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Yes, there's a Pandemic, but Traveling is back!

2020 and 2021 have been lean years for Shelly's and my travels. Even though we are fully vaccinated and boostered, we pretty much stayed home. We've managed to continue to go to Ocean City once a month, and worked in a few short trips. When we were traveling, we were very careful, wearing facemasks, eating only outdoors, and keeping a safe distance from others. For people like Shelly and I, who love the experiences of traveling, it's been tough. But things are looking up!

In January 2021, Shelly told me she found a great deal on a cruise to Antarctica. Cruise Connections, a company specializing in luxury cruising based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was promoting a cruise on a new cruise line, Atlas Ocean Voyages. Atlas was offering a 9 day cruise to Antarctica departing from Ushuaia, Argentina. All the cruisers would fly from their gateway airports to Orlando, Florida, then board a chartered flight to Ushuaia, and depart for an exciting 9 days of adventure, beautiful marine life, and gorgeous sea and landscapes.

Cruise Connections offered roundtrip air and transfers, an overnight stay in Orlando prior to our departure to Argentina, shore excursions, up to $1,000 in onboard credits, plus other amenities. So it was an all-inclusive. All we had to do was to get to and from our gateway airport, Washington Dulles.

Shelly contacted Cruise Connections and spoke to Dianne Maano, a cruise specialist. We learned about Atlas and the ship, World Navigator, travel date options, and the deals that were offered. Shelly and I decided on the spot to book for late December 2021, summer-time in Antarctica. We hoped and prayed that with the vaccine coming out, the pandemic would be under good control by then.

As I said, Atlas Ocean Voyages is promoted as the first new luxury cruise line in two decades. The ship, World Navigator, holds 196 passengers and about 130 crew members, and was completed in August 2021. The first voyages were scheduled for November 2021. Since it's a new cruise line, we expect there will be a few kinks, maybe a disruption or two. Throw Covid in and who knows. We will be flexible and tolerant of delays, and go with the flow.

Fast forward 11 months, and our departure is near. We've been so excited for this time to come. We read all the materials that Dianne and Atlas provided, bought base, mid, and outer layers of clothing, waterproof gloves, rain suits, oxybenzone-free sunscreen, water proof camera case, and waterproof backpack. This is how I imagined I'd look like:

But this is what I feared I would look like:

Anyway, we are prepared. Atlas provides waterproof boots, and gives us a parka to wear and take home. We're almost fully packed, and ready to Uber to the airport.

We have been reading Facebook, Instagram, and Cruise Critic posts from those on and returning from the recent cruises. There's definitely been a few glitches, a delay or two, and some lack of communication on Atlas' part, but all reported amazing trip experiences. And that's what Shelly and I are looking for.

We depart Ushuaia and navigate through the Drake Passage, one of the most temperamental sea passage on Earth. We hope the Dramamine will keep us from getting the "Drakie Shakies". We have 4 days for shore excursions, and I believe there are two excursions per day. We take Zodiac boats from the ship to shore. There we should see penguins, seals, and hopefully some whales will turn up on the route. We also should be going to the southern-most post office where we can mail postcards. We're also interested to see what Atlas does on New Years Eve. Here's the itinerary, whether permitting.

We return through Drake Passage and tour Cape Horn, before arriving back in Ushuaia. We jump back on our charter and fly to Aruba, where we go through U.S. customs (Argentina has not complied with some sort of CDC or State Department regulation, so there are no direct flights from Argentina to the U.S.). From Aruba we jet to Orlando, then home.

The omicron variant is raging now. We've been pretty much quarantining for the last two weeks. A negative PCR test is required to get into Argentina, so we have a test scheduled for Sunday morning. We have to have a negative antigen test to get on the charter flight to Argentina. That's scheduled for Monday afternoon. Then we get tested on the ship 3 days in. So everyone is playing it safe.

Dianne and Cruise Connections have been great; responsive and accommodating. Atlas took a while getting our flight itinerary to us, but they have been very accommodating as well. Both organizations are committed to us having an exciting and enjoyable experience.

We'll be posting on Facebook, Instagram, and on this blog during our trip, but Internet will be limited and likely spotty. Check our Trip Gallery in late January for details, reviews, photos, and videos of the trip. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to you all!

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