We are first time cruisers and did not know what to expect on a cruise of this type, expecially considering the probable changes in weather which would require packing a varitey of clothing. The embarkation process in Buenos Aires went very smoothly and we were at sea on schedule. Throughout the cruise we were impressed by the attentiveness and professionalism of the ship's staff. We had wonderful dinner partners-Kim, Bob, Eileen, and Jim, who made the cruise even more enjoyable. Our first port was Stanley in the Falkland Islands where we went ashore by tender. We took the Patrick Watts tour, which is a 6-7 hour tour mostly by 4-wheel drive vehicles to Volunteer Point, home of magnificent colonies of penguins. Our driver was Sharon, who also is Deputy Editor of the local Penguin News, and she was extremely knowledgeable and pleasant. I rate the Patrick Watts tour as absolutely top notch.
During "At Sea" days the ship had scheduled three scientists to give lectures about the geology, geography, history, and birds and animals to be seen. My wife and I attended all of the lectures and found them to be very informative.
Our next stop was Elephant Island, off of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the crew of the ill-fated Shackelton ship "Endurance" were marooned for months. As we approached Antarctica the weather turned very cold, and on arrival in the vicinity of Elephant Island fog blanketed the sea. Luckily the fog lifted and for several hours we had beautiful views of Elephant Island. However, a series of very severe storms were approaching Antarctica and when we were about 50 nautical miles south of Elephant Island (near Gibbs Island), we were informed the captain was turning the ship around in order to escape the storms. We were, of course, disappointed to not see Paradise Bay, but understood the requirement for the safety of the ship and passengers.
Since we had gained an extra day by missing Paradise Bay, the ship scheduled two days at the port of Ushuaia on the tip of South America. This time was well spent as Ushuaia is a beautiful area and our weather was very nice, as we were informed by the locals that the weather is usually windy and rainy.
Following Ushuaia we cruised to Cape Horn and again we had good weather in what are frequently some of the roughest seas in the world. The ship cruised
around the craggy rocks of Cape Horn for several hours allowing some great opportunities for photography.
From Cape Horn, our next port was Puerto Madryn, part way north on the coast of Patagonia. Here we took a tour scheduled by the ship to a Penguin colony of up to two million Magellan penguins. The tour requires about 3 hours each way on the bus, but we had an interesting tour guide and the penguin colony is wonderful to see.
Our last port before returning to Buenos Aires was Montevideo, Uruguay. Here we took a private tour (thanks again to Kim's efforts), done by Liz at "Real English Tours". Liz is a transplant from the UK, and she gives an outstanding tour, capped off by a tour of a local vineyard and tasting of some excellent wines. I highly recommend this tour, www.realenglishtours.com, if you are in Montevideo.
As first time cruisers we did not know what to expect, but were very pleased by the ship, its crew, the ports and the tours, and the overall experience.
Scott (Brewmeister10) and Alene