Friday, 3/22 was a pleasant day, although the temperatures were getting cooler, as was expected.
Arriving at Puerto Madryn on Saturday, 3/23 found a relatively pleasant, mostly-sunny day. There is not actually much in this town, which is a popular vacation spot. We had scheduled the Penguin Rookery tour, which took us about a 2 ˝ hour drive to a natural penguin colony. They migrate here for the summer months, then head north for the winter.
The drive was pleasant, with our guide giving us some facts about the region. Arriving at the rookery, we found a huge area, with marked off paths for us to stroll around. We were not allowed off the paths, but of course, the penguins had full run of the place. It was quite amusing to see busses stop for a penguin to cross the road.
The sight was amazing - penguins were everywhere. Many were starting to molt, which proved for an interesting sight. We spent about an hour at the spot and I took loads of pictures. These endearing creatures looked at us curiously. Everyone was smiles when we got back on the bus. It was one of the highlights.
Our drive back was uneventful. We had the option of being dropped off downtown (Celebrity had a shuttle going back and forth), or going back to the ship. We hopped off downtown and strolled around a bit. Not much was open, so after about an hour, we headed back to the ship.
We had been told to keep an eye out for sea lions, who languish around the dock area (it was an industrial dockyard). Arriving back at the pier, we had ample chance to photograph these delightful creatures. They were laying on gangplanks, steps, anywhere they could. Looking down at a bunch of them, I said something to them and one of them just looked up at me and barked!
Sunday was a scheduled day at sea, the day prior to cruising around Cape Horn. Up to this point, the seas had been fairly calm. Crew had told us that this season had been particularly mild. This changed during the night on Saturday. Sunday gave us what one would expect on a trip of this sort, winds up to 90 knots, seas of about 20 feet. The spray from the sea was coming up over the side of the ship and spraying into the pool area. The ship would list and everyone would walk at an angle! The lounges soon filled up with the curious. Barf bags were laying around and the Guest Relations Staff were busy giving out sea sick pills.
Looking out at the sea was an absolutely beautiful sight, as we rocked and rolled through the day. The production show for the day was cancelled, and many skipped dinner. Overall, I enjoyed the day very much.
Monday dawned considerably calmer then the previous day. This was the long-awaited day of cruising around Cape Horn, which was expected to be rounded around 4:00 p.m.
Temperatures were getting much chillier. Scenery very picturesque. As we got close to the Cape, the cruise staff held the ‘Penguin Plunge’, in which brave passengers would take a dip in the unheated pool. As a crowd of about 30 gathered to do this, they announced that it wasn’t safe (pool was entirely too cold) to plunge, and requested that those who wanted the certificate could merely get in the hot tub. Stephanie was one of the first!
The Mercury rounded the Cape, passing the lighthouse and the weather station where 3 Chilean Military officers live. Pictures were taken aplenty as the ship then circled back around to head into the Magellan Straits for the trek to Ushuaia on Tuesday.
We arrived in a cool Usuaia on Tuesday, March 26. The skies were party-sunny and it was overall a very pleasant and delightful day. We had scheduled the afternoon tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, including the train ride. This departed after lunch, so as soon as we could, we got off the ship to explore on our own.
To put it mildly, we absolutely loved this place, it is picturesque and the people friendly. We dropped by the Tourist Information office and got a map. There is a glacier nearby that has a ski lift up to it, and we planned to take it. However, it did not open until 10:00 am and we didn’t have time to do it and comfortably get back to the ship. We strolled around, mailed post cards and just generally enjoyed the magnificent scenery.
Our tour left on time and we were headed to the ‘End of the World’ as they say. Words cannot aptly describe Tierra del Fuego. It is absolutely magnificent, and the train ride took us to parts that many don’t normally get to. There were several stops (very unrushed) for picture taking, both during the train ride and afterwards as we rode through other parts of the park on our bus. It is simply breathtaking.
As the ship departed, we were headed for 2 days of cruising the Magellan Straits, Darwin Channel and Chilean Fjords.