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February 27, 2012
Day 10: The End of the Earth

Cruising through the Chilean Fjords

Our port of call for today was Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on Earth. From here, one can take a variety of excursions to the southern tip of continental South America, Tierra del Fuego, the so-called “End of the Earth.”

When we were planning our cruise months ago, Gail couldn’t decide which excursion to take. One was a bus ride to the End of the Earth. The other was a 4x4 off-road adventure around the area. Gail liked the idea of visiting the southern tip of South America, but she really didn’t want to do it in a tourist bus. She preferred the idea of a more rugged adventure, but the 4x4 wouldn’t take us to the End of the Earth. In the end, she reserved both excursions.

When we actually boarded ship, we had to cancel one of the two excursions. Gail cancelled the bus ride. Then she caught a cold and wasn’t sure she could endure the 4x4. Aboard ship, she investigated whether we could simply rent a car and drive ourselves to the End of the Earth. She was advised that it would take so long for an American to rent a car, we wouldn’t have enough time to go anywhere. So she kept the 4x4.

Yesterday evening at 7:00 pm, the captain came over the loudspeaker to announce some trouble with Ushuaia. Apparently there was a freighter parked in our arrival berth, and the crew was on strike. They were not going to budge until at least 7:00 am this morning, the time that we were due to dock. The captain estimated that we would dock one hour behind schedule today.

We have already talked about the political problems between Britain and Argentina regarding this part of the world. At 7:00 this morning, the captain came over the loudspeaker again. Argentina was not allowing any British ships to dock in Ushuaia if they had recently been to the Falkland Islands. This included both the Star Princess and another ship similar to ours. Princess had been communicating with Ushuai and Buenos Aires throughout the night, but Argentina would not budge.

Our port of call in Ushuaia was officially cancelled.

We awoke this morning to find our ship surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The temperature outside was 42º.

The Star Princess crew worked hard to make it up to the cruisers. We would have an additional day at sea today, but we would spend it taking a leisurely cruise through the Beagle Channel (named for Charles Darwin’s ship) and the Chilean Fjords on the southwestern tip of South America.

Gail was ecstatic. The original plan had been to zoom past the Chilean Fjords at high speed in the evening during our transit from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, Chile. Instead, we would now take our time and get to see them in full daylight.

We were able to take our time getting up and having breakfast. We parked ourselves in the Horizon buffet dining area at a table on the starboard side. We were joined by two couples from San Jose, a couple of cities away from us back home in California.

Gail sits in the Horizon Court breakfast buffet, watching the fjords go by

We spent the morning in Glacier Alley and saw several glaciers, including Holanda, Italia, Francia, Alemania and Romanche (they are named after different European countries). The ship came to a full stop and made a full 360-degree spin at each glacier, giving everyone on the ship ample time to view each one. We ended up taking more than three hours through the fjords.

Italia is the only tidewater glacier in the alley, meaning it comes all the way down to water level

Romanche is literally dissolving – melting into waterfalls

Gail is still recovering from her cold, so she took some cough medicine with codeine and took a nap for several hours. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing a board game (“Risk Express”) and chatting with people. We had a fascinating conversation with a woman whose husband was the Senior U.S. Military Diplomat to Turkey for several years.

Everyone has received a full refund for their cancelled Ushuaia excursions. We took advantage of our “found cash” by booking a reservation in one of the two high-end restaurants aboard ship, Sabatini’s. Normally, all food on the ship is included with the cruise. For a slightly additional fee – $20 per person – you can dine at a super-duper fancy restaurant that emulates the service level of old-time cruising.

We got out of the restaurant in time to attend the “Name That Beatles Song” contest. We didn’t win the contest (Russell got 19 out of 20 correct), but we won the consolation bottle of champagne for shouting the emcee’s name the loudest.

At 10:00 pm, the ship passed through the fabled Straits of Magellan. It was the perfect ending to a really marvelous day.

Gail, looking and feeling terrific, poses in front of the Chilean Fjords


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