Not-Walking Antarctica




For ethical reasons, perhaps we shouldn’t have gone. For financial reasons we chose to go the cheap way, by cruise ship. For companionship, we went together, even though it was Bruce’s idea, completely his idea, his idea from the beginning and thoroughly his idea to go in the first place. His reasoning went something like this: having already put our feet onto the earth in six continents, we should visit the seventh. We’ve done other faulty things for less well-thought reasons before. And so, for adventuring reasons, we did go.

Here’s the story (and remember, this was entirely Bruce’s idea):

We settle in to the massive ship, and I am torn about being here. Is it comforting that we have so much protection from the elements and the rough seas? The ship is completely full, and over-run with older people carrying large amounts of camera equipment, Audubon guides and Sir David Attenborough’s audio books. I learn that there is a naturalist who will be making presentations as we get closer to Antarctica.

Before we go to sleep the first night, there is a grumble in the atmosphere of the ship: A slightly unsettled blip in the inter-personal current. I think it is just me getting used to this place, just me getting my sea legs.

The next morning, long after the time when I could jump ship and swim to shore, we get a revised itinerary. It will take us longer than anticipated to get to our destinations, so our first stop, at Ushuaia, Argentina will be shortened. There is a vague explanation that is mumbled around the ship – an engine is not working quite right. And we are heading to one of the most turbulent oceans on the planet.

The stop in Ushuaia is even more brief than expected, due to weather or winds or engine trouble. Once back on the seas, we are told that it will take us longer than expected to reach Antarctica, due to weather or winds or engine trouble. We entertain ourselves with visits to the naturalist’s programs. Each one is entertaining and so crowded people are sitting in the aisles. What else is a ship full to do?

Passengers begin to emerge who know a thing or two about oceans and engines. I hear people complain about ship-shape upkeep and the seriousness of less-than-perfect engine function in the middle of a rough sea.

We do make it to the shores of Antarctica.

The continent itself is thrilling. Ice, snow, rock and ocean. Completely gray and white, with a bit of astounding turquoise when a piece of sunshine hits the two-story ice just right. Overwhelming in a black and white movie style, Antarctica spews its coldness into view. It seems to me a world apart from everything I know. It is unthinkable that I am here.

As we leave the continent, it is announced that we won’t be able to make our next stop, Elephant Islands. Bad weather, landing conditions, faulty engines.
That night, it is announced that we won’t be able to stop at The Falkland Islands. The next morning, we learn we won’t make the last stop in our itinerary, Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

During one lunchtime, Bruce – the one who wanted to be here – and I step into the buffet, and walk right into a security guard. Security guard? It’s not like he announces himself, but just by standing where he is standing and looking like he does, I know that’s what he is.

Then I notice that the buffet’s seating area is packed shoulder-to shoulder with passengers, and the multi-lingual speech is getting louder and louder. The windows are fogged up with the charged emotion that did not come from lunch’s sliced roast beef sandwiches. People are speaking in animation and high-emotion. I am uncomfortable and Bruce is nearly laughing. He asks the security guard what is going on while I sink into the background, losing my appetite.

It seems a joining of forces is occurring – the Argentine passengers and the larger tour groups (from the Philippines and from China) – have come together to sign petitions of formal complaints about the condition of the ship and the restructuring of the voyage’s schedule. They think this mechanical problem was foreseen and that we all have been defrauded and that King Penguins will be lost in the fray if we passengers don’t receive some recompense for having lost the opportunity of a lifetime.

I don’t know where to look for fault – the cruise line for skipping 3 out of 4 planned stops and running a huge ship on a faulty engine, the passengers for being as selfish as I didn’t want to be in booking this trip, or Bruce, whose idea it was in the first place.

We make it back to Buenos Aires, a safe place in any comparison, and nothing ever comes of anything. The petitions signed by every passenger (probably twice by most), the formal complaints to the governments and the companies involved, the simple violations of the rules of civility in promising one thing and delivering something quite different – nothing ever happens. It remains just one more life experience. Sometimes we just don’t get what we expect, but we do get something.

I got a continent I would never have seen by myself, and a never-ending story to recap time and again with the partner and love of my life. It was, after all, all his fault.

31 Replies to “Not-Walking Antarctica”

    1. LeggyPeggy – It was a January trip. The weather really was not the problem. The problem was the lying cruise line 😉
      I am very happy, though, that you made better use of visitng a wonderful spot on our earth. Cheers – Susan

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Anabel – Oh, my. I thought I was being subtle, so I am surprised you picked up that it was BRUCE’s idea 🙂 I drew on your travel nightmare to finally gather the strength to write my, much safer, experience. Thanks – Susan


      1. Anabel – it was of those times I counted on the safety of numbers. I figured the Argentinian Navy wouldn’t leave a thousand stranded passengers and their voluminous camera equipment out in the cold for long 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Sorry you had such a difficult experience but I hope you really did enjoy what you saw in Antarctica. So few are able to do it. We were astounded at the beauty of the early morning light and thrilled to see penguins swimming along the side of the boat. Being part of that aged population, we also chose a large cruise line because Alie could never get in and out of Zodiac — but now she too can say she has been/seen all 7 continents [I haven’t made it to Africa].

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ralie – that’s the two of you, right? I’m of that generation, also, and I admit the convenience of traveling by cruise ship is tantalizing at times. Looking back on this experience is quite entertaining, and I will always be grateful for all our travel opportunites 🙂 Thank you kindly for stopping by – Susan


  2. Oh you write so well. I was thoroughly entertained by your story. Probably moreso than you were experiencing it. I’d have been pissed! Missing 3 of 4 stops – that’s pretty outrageous, but I appreciate your focusing on what you did get.


    1. Alison – funny, I know I read and replied to you earlier, but don’t see it here now. Sometimes I am at a complete loss as to what my computer does when I tell it to do something else :))) Hope your day is wonderful – Susan

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! How great to have seen Antarctica, but what a disappointment to miss 3 of 4 stops. I am surprised that the cruise line didn’t offer much in the way of an explanation, or reimbursement. Travel always involves some amount of risk, though, and it sounds like you packed the most important item in your luggage… a good attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janis – So it goes in life, right? The vistas of Antarctica were otherworldly, and by far worth any little disappointment I may have had. But, once again, I am reminded that ice and I do not get along. Hope your travels are smooth – where are you now? -Susan

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It was a unique opportunity. Don’t regret it. Though I wouldn’t dream of getting on any of these ships. You just confirmed what I have read – beyond the crowds – they don’t seem to respect plans, schedules and offer no excuse (or refund) for it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Equi – No regrets! And, actually, I have been on enormous cruise ships when the experience was a good way to get where I wanted to go, economically. Like most of travel, you have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages (or, like most of living, right? ;)))

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Are you have a generational issue, here, about cruise ships (regardless of the destination?). I’m not thrilled with the idea of being some place that you cannot leave as you see fit (engine trouble or mutinies from disgruntled passengers).


  6. haha! quite an entertaining post. i have to sympathize with bruce on this. the wife does the same thing to me when things go wrong in our travels. (which is almost always!)😅 hmmm… maybe i’ll write about that next time. but then again, that just might trigger another war, no? 🤨🙃🤪

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Susan, this is very funny and I had a great chuckle – best post I’ve read all day. I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot, but Bruce is a man after my own heart. If you consult with Terri I’m sure she can tell many tales about me coming up with some knucklehead travel idea about visiting some geographic milestone spot – “Well jeez, it is the geographic midpoint of the lower 48 states … for cryin’ out loud!!”

    Sorry about all the screwups on the cruise, but if it’s any consolation, you came out of the experience with something to remind poor Bruce of for the rest of his life – no small advantage I reckon. Great post! ~James

    Liked by 1 person

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