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#21 Posted : Thursday, February 07, 2019 8:05:44 PM

Posts: 34

good luck...on those new knees. I have had one...i wont do it again...lol
#22 Posted : Friday, February 08, 2019 5:33:38 PM

Posts: 55

Calaf wrote:
Cathy and Steve,

Calaf...thank you so much. This was most helpful!

I do have a question for you...when you got back to the ship after the excursion....what did you do with your clothes? One lady on the facebook forum...told me that they left the outerwear in the hallway due to the smell. However she did not tell me...if they just left it there all night or just for a little while or whatever.

Can you also tell me...were you disappointed in anyway about anything? What were your highlights? Did you fly in to Buenos Aires early? How were your flights? Anything you feel like sharing Steve and I will appreciate! I apologize now...if i am bugging you...I truly appreciate your firsthand knowledge

Happy to respond. Give me a day or two to formulate my response to these latest questions.

There was usually 4 to 6 hours between the morning and afternoon Zodiac excursions. During this time there were lectures, events, lunch, etc. So after the morning excursion I preferred to change out of my expedition clothing. I didn't find it necessary to leave my clothing outside the room, nor did I notice others doing so. Yes, the penguins smelled bad, but in my opinion not as horrible as some reports say. I suppose it depends on the size of the rookery, etc. I found that after 10 or 15 minutes I was generally unaware of the smell. I suppose if you sat in the snow, or otherwise got penguin poop on your clothing, then yes, that might pose a problem. The other concern is your boots, but upon returning to the ship everyone must walk through a flowing water hose, then scrub their boots in a water tub, then walk through a disinfectant bath, thereby eliminating any debris and smell. No one took their boots into their cabin as a rubberized mat is placed outside every cabin to place them on. All travelers are requested to not wear their boots walking through the ship, so you will walk from your room to the lounge departure point, and back, in shoes you can leave there, or stocking feet. In my case, I used an extra pair of the disposable slippers provided in every cabin.

I flew into Buenos Aires 2 days early, using a Tauck "gift of time" night and adding one of my own. Normally I would only arrive one day early, but flying out of Philadelphia in January risks an ill-timed snowstorm and flight cancellations. I added the extra day as "storm insurance". Flights were fine: American Airlines - Phila - Miami - Buenos Aires and return. The internal flights from B.A. to Ushuaia were just okay. They were on-time, always a good thing, 3 1/2 hours each way. Food service is minimal (a bag of chips and soft-drinks); the seats are very narrow with limited leg-room. The flight from B.A. to Ushuaia requires an EARLY morning start. Breakfast was 4:15am and hotel departure 5:00am.

I would have been totally satisfied without the added days in Buenos Aires. I hadn't been there previously, and I'm happy to have visited, but I can't number it among my most favorite of cities. The Hilton was well located and perfectly acceptable. I found the service to be excellent; the rooms were fine, if not basic, the breakfast buffet average. Just know it's not of the higher standard hotels Tauck often uses. For my money this trip was all about Antarctica; staying in a 5 star hotel was unnecessary. There is a higher-priced hotel option available that I saw no reason to elect. We were a group of 104 travelers of which 2/3 stayed at the Hilton.

Nothing in particular disappointed. The highlights of the trip were numerous. Among them: that first look at Antarctica, literally stepping foot onto the 7th Continent, that first whale sighting, getting up close and personal with penguins, seals and whales, the Zodiac expedition when we were surrounded by 20 or more whales, the magnificent sunrises and sunsets...

Tauck handled all the logistics of this complex trip wonderfully and our 3 tour guides were excellent. On our final day we arrived back in Buenos Aires a little after 12 noon. All of us had flights that left 8pm or later, based on Tauck's advice. Rather than abandon us at the airport to 8 hour, or longer, waits, Tauck took us to a very nice lunch and Gaucho show. They then transferred us to the airport around 4:30pm.

I found the ship to be comfortable, modern and well appointed. My cabin was perfect, with a comfortable king-size bed, more than adequate storage space, a Nespresso coffee maker, tea pot, fully stocked minibar, and large flat-screen TV offering a decent (not Netflix) selection of movies. The crew, staff, Expedition Team, food and service were all of high caliber, contributing to an excellent experience.

Be advised the ship will take your passport upon arrival and hold it throughout the cruise, returning it the morning of departure, due to Antarctic regulations. Embarkation and disembarkation were handled smoothly and efficiently. You can settle your shipboard account in dollars, euros or by credit card. They will not take Argentinian pesos. I withdrew a small amount of pesos from an ATM my first day in B.A. and used what was left against my hotel bill rather than be left with unusable pesos.
#23 Posted : Friday, February 08, 2019 6:00:31 PM

Posts: 34

Oh that was very helpful and answered many of my questions! We are coming in a day early using the "gift of time" as well and i think our agent put us in the Alevar hotel? She thought it might be more "Argentinian"...we really did not care which one we are in. We have never been to BA so we are looking forward to being there. We will be flying AA from STL most likely to Miami as well. How long was the flight from MIA?

That is indeed an early flight but i am sure it will be worth it. I am very short so leg room is not usually an issue for me...not so for my husband though...lol I am sure it will be fine, and a little snack should suffice.

Someone had recommended to me to pay very close attention to the precautions to keep Antartica safe and pristine and that is substantiated by your details of boot cleanliness.

I love your list of highlights and i imagine mine will be the same. On more than one trip I have been taken aback by the realization that...we are REALLY here...and those moments seem to stay with you for a lifetime.

We have been on other trips where the ship took our passports and did not give them back until the trip was over.

My husband wants to know which camera lens you found the most useful? and perhaps The one you took that you could have left at home?

Again your answers have been most helpful and we thank you so very much for your time.
#24 Posted : Friday, February 08, 2019 6:58:23 PM

Posts: 55

Miami to B.A. Flight was 9 1/2 hours. Going down I had a 3 hour layover - no worries. Coming back I had a similar layover but AA changed the flight leaving me less than two,hours. I called to change to a later flight but they wouldn't allow it based on the ticket I bought. They claimed I would have enough time. I was concerned because you have to clear immigration and customs in Miami and then claim your baggage and re-check it onto your onward flight. I have Global Entry so clearing immigration took less than 5 minutes. Fortunately my bag came quickly and the baggage claim and re-check process was quick and efficient. I made the flight with almost an hour to spare.

My camera is a 9 year old Digital Canon with a built in zoom that I bought for my first trip to Africa. It's a dinosaur by today's standards but it still takes great pictures, perfectly good for my needs. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, is my motto. There were quite a few people on the trip that had serious camera gear with them. I would recommend you start a new thread asking for camera advice for Antarctica. My guess is you'd get some good responses.
#25 Posted : Friday, February 08, 2019 7:54:22 PM

Posts: 34

Unfortunately , we have flown in and out of MIA many times...it is a ZOO! But we too have global entry which truly helps. The flight is not as long as i had feared..so there's a positive!

I wll see if Steve wants to start the camera thread...I have a lovely camera he bought me for Xmas that i can use his lens on...but he is the photogrpaher in the family. We are going to Africa in September and felt it would be wise to have 2 cameras.

Thansk again...I may be asking more questions as we go along.
Atlanta Dave
#26 Posted : Saturday, February 09, 2019 10:55:36 PM

Posts: 16

CathyandSteve - First - Caleb is giving good feedback. The only place we differ is that we brought hiking sticks and used them quite a bit, but probably would have been ok without them. We are regular hikers and use them quite a bit so am use to using them. I wouldn't bring them if you don't use them already. I actually got a special stick that had a camera mount built in so it acted like a mono-pod for some of those zoom shots I took where being steady is important - something to consider. It was <$20 for a single stick at Walmart.
As far a drying clothes, we brought collapsible hangers and hung our wet stuff from the vents. Think about it - every layer you are wearing getting sweaty x two people! It looked like we were having a garage sale! There isn't much air movement in the room but the air is dry and things dried fairly well if not cotton. Didn't notice any smell issues but left the boots outside and you want to make sure you stand them up so they can breath inside. If you bring extra liners for them, you can pull them out to dry as well. Each day we wore less layers. In the end - I was only wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and a thicker fleece shirt and the parka did the rest. For pants, I bought some waterproof pants for hunting years ago and just used them - but they didn't breath at all like some of the more expensive "ski pants" do but that was ok. Under those pants I just wore full length running pants that I use for my daily running when it's below 40 in Atlanta (About the same warmth as long underwear). That seemed to be enough most days and one one windier day I threw on a pair of "zipper pants" over the running pants - came back sweaty, but I do sweat more than most.

Disappointments - Didn't get to see killer whales - but there were a lot of humpbacks. Buenos is nice but really a lot to do there that is special - its just nice to walk around. The park along the river is also a nice <2 hour walk (free) but you don't see much - one of those situations were the close trees/bushes make it so you can't see far - but there are a couple of nice views. Ushuaia was probably better than expected but we didn't get much time there either before or after the at sea period.

We got to Bueno a day early and just walked the town that first day. You don't want to arrive the same day that the tour starts - some of our group did that and had to immediately join the tour and not even check in. Most people need to recover a night after a red-eye flight. With one day early you have a 1/2 day in the PM that day, the morning free the next day (Which is officially the first day of the tour) and another partial day on the third day (The official 2nd day) - so it's hard to book much of any tour or anything else of significance with only partial days so we had two 1/2 days walking the city and one half day in the park area. It wasn't exciting, but it was relaxing to just walk around. The evenings cooled a little and it was nice being up on the pool level watching the sunset over the city.

Language - Our Spanish abilities are basically non-existent and it surprised us, for an area with so many tourists, how finding people that spoke much English was also limited in both retail and restaurants. We considered it to be part of the fun but when they had to keep getting the cook for us to get drinks and food at a nearby restaurant it became challenging at times.

The outlets in Argentina were different than what we brought adapters for but the hotel was able to give us a nice, multi-plug version. The ship had one 110 outlet (Bring a multi-plug if you want to charge more than one thing at a time) and another lower power one in the bathroom.

Surprise - They had two "Captain Nights" and a "Wear Black and White" night for dinner that we didn't know about. Not a big deal, but we felt a little unprepared for "dress-up" nights. This is not a suit/gown situation, but some dressed a little nicer.

Highlight - "Whale day" as I call it where we were at a bay where you could hardly look in any direction for more than a couple minutes and not see a group of whales - sometimes 2, sometimes 6ish. One came right along the ship for a great view looking down and then it was to the Zodiacs to ride along side them. I knew about the sounds of the blowhole but got to hear a lot of other low frequency moans/groans/breathing - pretty cool. Not sure how common this is at any particular place or time but even the crew seemed pretty excited.

Probably enough for now - Let me know if you have more questions. - Dave
Atlanta Dave
#27 Posted : Saturday, February 09, 2019 11:06:55 PM

Posts: 16

I just remembered one thing - the flight to and from Buenos to Ushuaia only had one snack of some chip offered for the flight (Either sweet or salty till they run out of one or the other). You eat breakfast before and have lunch after so it's not a big deal, but it's good to know there isn't more than that snack with a single drink severing offered for a 3+ hour flight. You can bring bottled water through security for these flights, but on the flight back to the US, they won't even let you bring a water bottle you buy in the concourse. They did extra bag checks before we boarded too.

Parkas - We wanted to keep them but adding such a big item x 2 to already full bags can be a challenge. We had a light duffel from a previous Tauck trip that we packed in our bag and we ended up using that. I was going to let that be my carry on but they ended up letting us check it. The parkas aren't really that heavy (4 lbs maybe), but roll up to still be the size of a small shoebox at least (You roll it into the hood and then cinch the hood tight).
Atlanta Dave
#28 Posted : Saturday, February 09, 2019 11:16:38 PM

Posts: 16

Camera lens - What you want and need most is ZOOM! Neither of us had an official SLR but my wife has a Nikon P700 with 60 zoom and I have a Cannon with 730SX 40x and you still are reaching out as far as you can to get whale shots. At the same time, the scenic side of it - you can 't get wide enough. If you haven't worked with your camera on beaches/snow it would be good to read up on it as you may want to tweak your exposure, add filters (if you can) or change the settings for best shots. Because of the long days, your periods of sunrise and sunset are longer than normal and we had some beautiful periods of each as the sun worked it's way through different cloud layers as they moved.

Another idea - At the beginning of the trip I encourage our Tauck group to all give me their emails and have set up photo sharing site that they have been invited to. About 30 of the people did that as we now waiting to see who are willing to share their shots (And are organized enough to do it in some reasonable amount of time). Shutter-fly is a good place for this for photos, but videos we need to find a different option as they don't support that. But with people planning on this, it makes it so people take more shots of each other of things you can't take of yourself.
#29 Posted : Sunday, February 10, 2019 1:15:11 PM

Posts: 34

Thank you Dave...this information you have shared is invaluable. I am going to print out this entire thread to put in my file and will refer to it often. You all have been so tremendously helpful. I am SOOOO glad you told me about the dinners....I would not have been prepared and i would not have been happy about it.
#30 Posted : Wednesday, February 13, 2019 5:20:53 PM

Posts: 1

I am still in research mode and have looked at 6-12 different ships/operators for my Dec 2021 trip to Antarctica. I keep coming back to Tauck/Ponant! Thanks to all for posting information about your experiences. A soon as the 2021/2022 season opens for booking, I'm going to contact Tauck.
#31 Posted : Tuesday, February 19, 2019 7:45:37 AM

Posts: 6

cathyandsteve, the December 2020 trip is the one my husband and I are going on. We have several other trips planned this year and next, but still getting excited about doing Antarctica! Good to “meet” someone else who will be on the same trip! Thanks to everyone for the great tips. I need to read back on forum postings and make notes now!
#32 Posted : Tuesday, February 19, 2019 8:11:36 AM

Posts: 34

oh Barb!! Nice to meet you!!!!

This year we are going to Jamaica, and doing a road trip to the bad lands, and going on the Tauck Botswana, Zambia, Cape town trip. Next year we are doing a regent cruise from Tahiti to Sydney, a road trip to New England and the Antartic cruise. So we have a pretty full agenda and I dont know which one I am more excited about!

I cant wait to hear what you have planned.
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