This was my seventh cruise, the first to South America, and the first on a small (585 passenger) ship. I arrived in Buenos Aires after several much-delayed American Airlines flights. (I should have flown the far more comfortable LAN on which I returned.) Stayed at the Los Suites Esmeralda, convenient to tree-filled downtown parks(occupied by courting couples, the elegantly-dressed, and the homeless), restaurants, and tango parlors. The next day, left via an Aerolinas shuttle chartered by Discovery for Ushuaia, a small-town in Patagonia whose surroundings strongly resembled an Alaskan port. The charter was two hours late, but once in Ushuaia, the Discovery staff took over: No long lines waiting to board, and a steward to show me from the gangway directly to my stateroom. (My luggage arrived just before dinner.) Dinner was the one down side. Although all ingredients were first class, British food is rather tame, and our chef was stuck in the past when everything was cooked in too much butter. My fellow passengers were a mixture of Brits, Aussies, Canadians, and Yanks. The Brits were somewhat reserved, but even with them first-day nods soon became voiced good mornings and then conversations on every subject under the sun. Our destination--Antarctica--seemed to have attracted only the already well-traveled and well-educated. Our education was furthered daily by a group of Kiwi professors who lectured on the geology, botany, sea life, and bird life of the area. They would also announce from the bridge when albatross, whales, seals, or schools of penguins came into view. Disclaimer: The Antarctic and Patagonia weather is highly changeable, so what I saw on the cruise on which I report at length at http://mysite.verizon.net/res7sf1o/Antarctic_Diary.htm may not be shared by others. For example, the Discovery cruise two weeks before us was unable to make even a single Antarctic landing. We were fortunate in being able to spend the entire morning ashore at the Paradise Cove penguin colony. One group, not mine, alas, reported a whale circling their zodiac on route to the landing. Our Ship's Captain was willing to try a half-dozen alternate routes and landing places one day, a necessity as icebergs and high winds require flexibility. On point, only small ships like the Discovery can navigate in the Antarctic and along the narrow channels of the Chilean fjords. The Discovery is small, yes, lacking a heated swimming pool and ice rink, but still there were more than enough activities aboard and ashore--dance and bridge lessons, shore excursions, trivia contests and quality entertainment in the evenings--that I never had time on my hands and frequently missed activities such as a jazz concert and a cooking lesson that I would like to have attended. I participated in two shore excursions once we were amid the Chilean fjords, saw rhea, geese, and Andean condors on the first, and volcanoes, waterfalls, and lakes on the second and rate both as musts. Being cooped up with others for long periods can be hell in some instances, but on the Discovery all I met were experienced travelers with not a loud-mouthed drunk or a constant complainer among them. Oh, and one final and important plus. The photographers were non-obtrusive, none of the in-your-face that nearly ruined my Alaskan cruise.
Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner"