Buenos Aires is still third world in many parts and taxi drivers delight in ripping off their passengers - even when there is a meter! Public transport is cheap and plentiful and the subway seemed safe enough to us. You have to ignore the many beggars as it is not your city and so you can never tell which are genuine. The main shopping streets are pedestrianised and the malls are worth a visit; however, do not expect bargains - even at sale prices!
We joined the Infinity by taxi from our very good hotel, the Marriot Plaza, situated conveniently for access to all areas and not far from the port - our taxi driver however, had no idea what to charge us and flagged down another taxi to ask!! We did better than our table companions who were (they believe delibrately) dropped at the wrong terminal and were threatened with violence if they did not pay extra! Fortunately, an Americam passenger who was passing in another taxi stopped and provided them with additional funds to reach their destination - they were Australian and unfortunately they had not allowed for additional pesos. I know they paid the good samaritan back after some detective work by Celebrity Infinity's Guest Relations. Perhaps the sourest note on the whole cruise experience was the embarkation as it was handled by very inept locals who required passengers to carry their own baggage into the terminal whilst rain drenched the line - Infinity's excellent Hotel Director was ashamed and angry at the way we had been treated but could only apologise as it was Argentina's port staff not the ship's who created the problem. This was not an excuse but genuine remorse and she vowed to make it known to their home office in the strongest possible terms.
This attitude by officers and crew typified the voyage. They were the happiest crew and officers we have come across in our 14 cruises and they deserve many accolades as they were subjected, very unfairly, to enormous abuse by the Latin American passengers. The reason? Well, these were the stormiest seas we have encountered on any ship and the Captain had to avoid our first port of call at The Falklands to sail away from enormous waves and strong winds in the area BUT worse was to follow as the same problem prevented us from visiting Elephant Island and the beauties of Antarctica!
We sailed on to the supposed stormy Cape Horn where to sea was like a mill pond! We gratefully sought out land in Ushuaia and saw penguins, sea lions and many sea birds in the Beagle Channel, followed by a tour of the (disappointing) Tierra del Fuego National Park - although those who hiked up to the Glacier from the chair lift, said it was wonderful; obviously choose tours carefully!
Then a surprise!! It was announced that the Captain believed the weather sufficiently safe to retrace our steps to Antarctica so we would all (crew included, as this was to be their first experience too) get to see the magic of that glorious, breathtaking area. So on we sailed, rough seas but who cared as we were to achieve sights so few in the world had experience. And so it was that we arrived at Paradise Island and sailed slowly around taking in the animals enjoying an ice floe or two (was that solitary penguin waving to us?) and the whales presenting their flukes to us on many occasions as they dived for food - the water was calm and blue and our breaths were frozen on the air as we could not get enough of this amazing, lagely unexplored land.
The two wildlife presenters onboard gave us a running commentary and caused much running from side to side to observe new sights in the peaceful world of Antarctica. We sailed away with regrets at our short stay but filled with a new sense of wonder for Mother Nature. We then visited Puerto Madryn where much wildlife can be seen, although a word of warning to those who believe whales can be sighted here - it is not the right time of year as they appear around April not when most cruise ships visit, at least that is what we were told aqt the Eccocentre. A nice little town of limited resources for shopping but the promenade and beach are worth a visit, if not taking one of the wildlife tours available. So we sailed on up the coast of Argentina, across the River Plate.
We arrived at Montevideo the day before diembarkation in Buenos Aires but few could enjoy the city due to the very high humidity levels, although the cool and wonderful interior of the Cathedral presented a reason for visiting. Much of this city shows its small third world underfunded infrastructure with very uneven and broken paving to trap the unwary.
Disembarkation should have been a dream after the initial experience but again, if not taking a Celebrity tour or transfer, taxis were the only means of reaching hotels and they charged accordingly with the minimum of US$25 plus a long wait to be offered a vehicle at an offer, as the saying goes, you could not refuse.
We finished with an extra day in Buenos Aires, meeting and eating with new friends from the ship and the overall experience was to realise that more sea days equals more conversations and new interests although it proved a big ask for the activities team onboard but principally, we had seen that wonder of the world which is Antarctica, perhaps only scratching the surface of a vast continent but seen we had and we shall never forget how different it is from Alaska and why superb Captains like our Capt. Margolitis are so revered in the maritime world. GO VISIT while you can!!