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February 25, 2012
Day 8: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Russell and Gail in Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands

We are getting to the part of the cruise that Gail has been anticipating the most: sailing around the southern tip of South America. Today’s port of call is Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.

Princess Patter: Stanley is the farthest and most remote capital city in the world. The main attraction in Stanley is its wildlife, particularly the curious Gentoo penguin colonies that frolic off shore. History enthusiasts and military buffs should also note that the Falkland Islands was the site of a 1982 war with Argentina, and Stanley is scattered with battlefield sites, bunkers, fox holes and unused munitions, the remnants of this interesting 74-day war.

The view from the ship as we approached the Falkland Islands

We had no scheduled excursion today. The tours offered by Princess Cruises – and Cruise Critic – mostly consisted of going out penguin watching. Gail decided that it wasn’t worth upwards of $300 to drive for two hours on an unpaved road, look at the penguins, then drive two hours back on an unpaved road (all without restrooms).

It’s a good thing we didn’t have anything scheduled, because Gail is still recovering from the cold she has had since Montevideo, Uruguay. She has already lost two “at sea” days trying to get better. Her nose was so stuffed up that we had to beg some nasal decongestant from a neighbor (the onboard ship doesn’t sell any.) This morning, Gail slept in and we took our time eating breakfast.

Because Port Stanley is in such shallow water, the cruise ship has to anchor two miles out. Several motorized lifeboats are used as tenders to shuttle passengers back and forth. When we tried to disembark shortly after 10:00 am, we received tender ticket numbers in the 1380s. They were currently calling 800s. We sat down for a long wait.

Princess life boats, acting as tenders, shuttled passengers back and forth from the ship to Port Stanley

We didn’t disembark in Port Stanley until almost noon. Our first priority was to find an Internet connection to upload the website. The visitor center at the jetty offered wi-fi, which was a bit of a fiasco. It cost $2 for 10 minutes. There were no tables. The closest thing we could find was a postcard writing station that faced into the direct sun. We wrestled with dozens of souvenir shoppers for space. We could barely read the PC screen. The connection was slow. Even though we bought two sessions, we barely updated our website before we ran out of time. Gail asked Russell if he wanted to buy more. He said no.

Gail tries to read our laptop screen, battling the bright sunlight and the cramped space

It was time to check out the actual town of Stanley. Gail had researched and brought a self-guided walking tour. The town itself is very small. The main street, Ross Road, runs alongside the waterfront. A few blocks of residential houses go up into the hills. That’s it.

A panorama of Ross Road, the main thoroughfare in Stanley. Note the colorful rooftops of corrogated metal.

We walked west from the jetty. We saw Christ Church Cathedral, the most southerly Anglican Cathedral in the world (1892). Next door was Whalebone Arch, consisting of the jawbones of two blue whales. Up the hill we saw the Colonists’ Cottages, colorful pre-fab houses constructed by the first British settlers 150 years ago. We passed the 1982 Liberation Memorial, the Royal Marine Monument and the WWI Battle Memorial. We made it all the way to the Falkland Islands Museum, but decided not to pay the admission to enter.

Whalebone Arch. This is one of the biggest highlights of Stanley.

Gail wanted to try to spot all ten of the little penguin statues in Stanley. We only found three.

We also shopped in the West Store Supermarket for more medications, and some treats for the kids and grandkids.

We should say a few words about the politics of the Falkland Islands. They are rather bitter and controversial. FI is technically a British Colony. Argentines feel quite differently, and have their own name for the islands: Las Malvinas. The Argentines hate the British. The British hate the Argentines who come over and hold demonstrations. The Falkland natives hate the Brit ex-patriots who come over and settle here.

An example of a resident making a statement.

It almost feels like the British are rubbing it in. We walked streets with names such as “Pioneer Row” and “Thatcher Drive.” We half-expected to find “You’re-Under-Our-Thumb Avenue” somewhere.

Between these two photos, you’ve pretty much seen Stanley

Fortunately, the natives are friendly to the tourists, though they can’t wait for us to leave. After our walking tour we stopped into a random restaurant to get Gail some food. She ordered fish and chips at Michele’s Café. She ended up chatting with the two workers, Trina and Jo, for almost an hour. They are both Stanley natives – Trish is sixth-generation. She moved to England for 25 years and moved back, never to leave again. She says that being in a town of more than 3,000 people stresses her out.

Michele’s Café.
Gail chats with Trina (center) and Jo (right).

We took a return tender and re-boarded the ship at 4:30 pm. Tonight was Italian Night in the dining room, the dinner that Russell was anticipating the most. Unfortunately Gail developed a migraine, and she didn’t make it to dessert. We ended up having another early evening.

Tomorrow is the absolute highlight of the entire cruise for Gail: cruising around Cape Horn and through the Straits of Magellan. We are hopeful that she will be feeling well enough to enjoy it.

This is the closest we got to seeing penguins. We passed Gypsy Cove with its Magellanic Penguins on the way back to the ship.


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