Our ship holds about 450 people. Authorities only allow about 100 passengers to be put on shore in Antartica at a time. This means we will have to take turns and might lead you to believe that a smaller ship would be a better choice. But smaller ships are less able to handle the rough waters and their Antarctic cruises get cancelled regularly because of weather. It's a crap shoot. Big ships are also somewhat cheaper due to economies of scale. This trip cost plenty already.
Getting everyone to the ships is an organizational challenge. It is our impression that most of our fellow passengers are in the same hotel we are. So this morning everyone had to fly to Ushuaia at the same time. Four charter flights were scheduled to do so. This started with 4am breakfast calls. We felt lucky to be on the last flight with an 8am hotel departure. We put our bags out last night and a bag transport company gathered up all the luggage for 450 people and we would see it when we get off the plane. We are lucky that the weather in BA has been in the 70º's, rather than over 100º as it was last week. This makes putting on all those layers of clothes to get on the plane more tolerable.
We had our first meeting with our tour leader last night and were impressed. He has made over forty trips to Antartica and has the right temperament to handle 45 minutes of questions ranging from the relevant to the inane. He has emphasized that we will have a good time no matter the weather and we are ready to take him at his word. He said that we should not count on wifi for most of the trip. I'll keep writing, but it may be a while before you can read it.
At the airport it became clear that our later plane departure time was going to be a problem, because our plane was delayed due to mechanical issues. By the time we got to Ushuaia, we put our luggage in the truck and rode straight to the ship with a brief stop overlooking the city. I was pretty hungry since we had nothing to eat since 6am breakfast. Lunch in town was a planned activity, but the ladies who wanted to shop were hopping mad. No time for that either. It is amazing how many folks wanted to mail post cards, but the post office was already closed. When we got on the ship, they were just putting the afternoon snacks away. Not a good introduction to the Midnatsol.
I would have felt badly about missing Ushuaia, but we have already spent two days there on a tour of Patagonia and this southernmost city in the world is kind of a nowhere place. Argentinians have been bribed to relocate there by fabulous salaries and low taxes, but this windswept spot is challenging to live it. Staging Antarctic expeditions like ours is one of its main revenue generators.