Are we there yet?
My 10-hour nonstop American Airlines flight delivers me from JFK to Buenos Aires where, thankfully, Atlas Ocean Voyages has arranged a free overnight hotel stay at the lovely Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel & Conference Center. Tomorrow, our charter flight to Ushuaia, considered “the end of the world” thanks to its southernmost location, departs. My transfer to the hotel is punctual and I sip the bottled water provided as we speed along highways to the city center, about 50 minutes away, passing colonial buildings, theaters, the “Pink House” residence of the country’s President and a building that sports a massive color mural of the late soccer legend Diego Maradona.
The next 24 hours prove to be a whirlwind! The evening’s special event for maiden expedition guests is dinner and an extravagant tango show at the famed El Aljibe in San Telmo– an atmospheric celebration of the city’s culture and an unforgettable dinner that is an introduction to exquisite Argentinian beef and the country’s heady and delicious Malbec wine. The bad news is that the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet tomorrow begins at 3:30 a.m. and the airport transfer departs at 4:30 a.m.
It’s a sleepy group that boards the airport coach at that ungodly hour, but the four-hour charter to Ushuaia is aboard a comfortable Airbus—not the propeller plane I had envisioned. By the time we deplane, we are prepared for our pre-cruise morning tour (also included) of Tierra del Fuego National Park where we find ourselves surrounded by thick forests and dramatic scenery and get our first glimpse of glaciers before heading to the port and World Voyager’s naming ceremony.
In the shadow of the Andes Mountains, we board the eco-friendly, polar-class yacht, are offered champagne and greeted by cheering crew and members of the expedition team who will educate us and guide us through our journey to the White Continent.
At 4:00 p.m., the naming ceremony begins. Poolside, beneath sunny Ushuaian skies, Atlas Ocean Voyages CEO James Rodriguez addresses crew and guests alike with an emotional message of appreciation to officers, staff, crew and guests. Captain Terje Ulset adds his thoughts and, following a blessing by Father Luis Ascona, World Voyager’s godmother, Harpreet Kaur “Preet” Chandi, the first woman of color to ski solo to the South Pole, takes the podium. “My journey and now your experience is all about pushing boundaries and experiencing an adventure that will leave you changed,” she says. “There may be times when you’re intimidated by the wind and the cold. I remember times like that when I didn’t want to get up! But there’s beauty in the wind and the cold so face them, as I did, in the spirit of the explorer.”
Uh oh…I don’t like the sound of that. But I’ve travelled to the end of the world, woken at 3:00 a.m. and have a bag packed with more thermal gear than I ever imagined I’d have, so there’s no turning back. The penguins are waiting.
Cover photo: The southernmost national park…filled with dramatic scenery!
Photos credit Judi Cuervo
Cover photo World Voyager, credit Atlas Ocean Voyages
Coming Soon! Part 3: REVIEW: World Voyager: Atlas Ocean Voyages’ Newest Ship – The Right Ship for the White Continent