Shifting Travel Itinerary on a Dime in the Middle of the Southern Ocean

When I started planning my Argentina vacation, I looked at a variety of destinations within the country to visit. Eventually I decided to spend my time in Tierra del Fuego and Argentina Patagonia, in addition to my Antarctica cruise. I had wanted to fit in Iguazu Falls up in the way northeast of country (bordering Paraguay and Brazil), but I just didn’t have the time to fit it all in. I figured MAYBE I would fit it in on another trip to the area, but I didn’t expect to really come back to Argentina.

Fast forward to the third day of my cruise to Antarctica. We spent two somewhat queasy days traversing the Drake Passage, and we were excited that the next day to finally hit landfall in Antarctica. And then…we knew something was off when the ship captain gathered us all in the lounge for a group meeting, because it was important to tell us in person. A passenger had been seriously injured and needed to be medically evacuated. In most of those situations, the goal was to get the passenger to an airstrip in Antarctica, and then fly them back to Argentina. But bad weather and clouds were expected to roll in, and that would close the airstrips. There was also the possibility that we could transfer the passenger to a returning cruise ship. However, the nearest cruise ship was 600 miles away, so that wasn’t really feasible. So that left option number three, turning the ship around and returning to Ushuaia.

As you can imagine, there was quite the uproar. We had spent the previous two days experiencing a version of the  Drake Shake, and we had to go back and do it all over again. All without even seeing Antarctica from a distance. Some of the passengers tried to argue, but there was really nothing that could be done.

So that left me thinking of how I could spend the time upon return. The cruise was supposed to be 10 days, and I already had my itinerary booked for Patagonia upon my return. But that left five days to fill with time. I briefly considered staying in Tierra del Fuego, but I felt I had seen what I wanted to see. I had a week scheduled in Patagonia, so I was going to see what I wanted there. So of course my mind wandered to Iguazu. I really wanted to see the waterfalls, and it seemed like I could fly up there and enjoy the waterfalls for a few days before flying to Patagonia.

So I was trying to coordinate all of this via WhatsApp in the middle of the Drake Passage. Thankfully the ship turned on their WiFi, and it was good enough to communicate back to the mainland. I am super grateful for the quick and professional response from Oriunda, my travel company in Argentina. I was able to explain the situation and what my desired itinerary was, and they put together an itinerary that met my needs within 24 hours. So before the night was even over after we turned around, I had a viable travel alternative planned for when I arrived back to Ushuaia.

It is to their credit they were able to book a series of flights to get me from Ushuaia to Iguazu (because I had to overnight in Buenos Aires coming and going to the town of Puerto Iguazu), and have some excursions booked. I am forever grateful they responded as well as they did, and I was able to add in a place I wanted to visit anyway. Of course this side trip wasn’t cheap, but I would say it was overall worth it.

So I can’t say really anything about Antarctica just yet, but thankfully the company comped us new voyages, so I am going back in November this year to try again. I’m hoping this time I will get the Drake Lake on that crossing. The weather wasn’t as bad as it could be, but the ship was small (which is great for maximizing landings in Antarctica), and it didn’t have stabilizers, so we definitely felt the rolling sea more than the bigger ships. It was most interesting when eating meals. The crew put down sticky placemats on the tables, so the dinnerware didn’t shift, but sometimes it still felt precarious. And I saw the wisdom of having beds with bars on them, so we didn’t fall out of bed when the sea really starting getting up. This cruise was almost like a preview cruise for this coming year. I got to see some really nice views of Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia from the Beagle Channel. I got a couple nice sunsets. And I got a better understanding of how to maneuver around a ship that is rocking from sea swells. And of course reinforce that you shouldn’t take a shower when crossing the Drake Passage.