Another trip of a lifetime. We arrived in Buenos Aires 5 days early and took a side trip to Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. If you are ever in the area, this is not to miss. We were there in December which is summer and it was 100 degrees in the jungle but walking the paths and seeing the falls worth every minute of the heat.
The cruise was not without problems. A crane hit us as we were leaving and we had to wait for officials to assess the damage costing us a port day. Who knows if the Argentine harbor pilot put us in the wrong spot, HAL didn't follow the harbor pilot direction or the crane was at fault. The people who had booked a weather cancelled Antarctic landing were disappointed in the alternative, as it seemed the excursion company made promises they didn't keep. I hope HAL discontinues using that tour company. We had an obnoxious 50+ group on board who did everything together, were demanding and rude. This caused delays for the rest of us at open seating dinner and during tendering. But even as I write this, I have to think back on the problems. The good times completely overshadowed the bad.
Our first glimpse of Antarctica was Elephant Island at 4:30am. It was light outside! The sun set at midnight and came up at 2:30am. It never got completely dark, so the Aurora Australis was not showing. We had open water for the next few hours with lots of icebergs. My, my, how photogenic those icebergs were. Then we spent 3 days cruising through Antarctic waters. We had great weather. No rain, snow or strong wind. We were gifted blue skies for part of every day. Temperatures at night were in the 30's but reached the 40's during the day. There were four people with 100+ years combined Antarctic experience on board. They gave color commentary during the days in Antarctica and lectures other days. The grandeur and spectacular scenery never got tiring. Watching for penguins, whales and seals was easy. They were everywhere. We took on 16 people from Palmer Station who gave lectures on our last day. We saw icebergs of every shape and size, glaciers on every shore, rocky mountains and penguin colonies. And on one fine day with blue sky and no wind, the water was so calm, it was like a reflecting pond. The photos are unbelievable.
A storm blew in as we left, so the passage to Ushuaia was rough. Amalia Glacier was beautiful, but after Antarctica, any other ice is a let down. I've been ruined! and happily so.
This cruise is not about the service, ports, entertainment or amenities. This cruise is about nature. HAL provided 4 professionals to enhance the experience with lectures, and we had a great time. The three days spent cruising in Antarctica will never be forgotten.