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A Different Kind of Holiday

Joyce Hartman
Montrose, Colo.
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When one of many cruise brochures arrived several years ago (we appear to be on every cruise and tour company mailing list since retirement), my husband salivated over the possibility of finally seeing Patagonia and, on this particular trip, Antarctica.

“Wow! These pictures look great!” he said, perusing the six-week itinerary that would take us from San Diego around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro.

He passed the pamphlet to me. I gave it a glance and was less than enthusiastic.

“It also says that in order to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, we would have to cross the Drake Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific. That’s some of the most dangerous water on the planet. No way!”

Now he read over my shoulder. “If it were that bad, cruise ships wouldn’t be doing it.”

I pointed to the itinerary. “According to the dates, we’d be spending Thanksgiving in Acapulco. “What would we have for Thanksgiving dinner – tacos?”

“Very funny.” He reached around and ran his finger further down the list. “But look at this. We’d spend Christmas cruising along the Antarctic Coast.” One photo showed penguins marching up an iceberg. I had to admit it looked intriguing.

“Assuming we made it through the Passage and avoided the icebergs,” I mumbled, turning to him. Visions of the Titanic flooded my mind. “This says we’d only be 85 miles from the Antarctic Circle.”

“It would be more exciting than driving to the Arctic Circle.”

I had to admit he was right. Several years before, we had visited the Arctic Circle on a trip to Alaska. When we arrived, all there was to see was a map marked “You are here,” a picnic table and a privy. Hardly the stuff travelers’ dreams are made of.

The next day, Doug was on the phone to a cruise representative and before I knew it, we were pulling out of San Diego Harbor at dusk, lights twinkling in the distance. So far, so good.

After several stops along the Mexico coast, we indeed arrived in Acapulco on Thanksgiving. We spent the day at a beach resort (with a lavish native buffet) and returned to the ship for a real Thanksgiving dinner for the benefit of Americans on board. Maybe not like home, but close.

Many more interesting stops, including the Panama Canal and a group of islands off the South America coast known as the Galapagos of Peru, brought us to the southernmost cities on Mother Earth. At dinner the night before we headed across the dreaded passage toward Antarctica, a woman on her fourth rounding of the Horn regaled us with stories of a previous trip when the waves were 35-feet high. I reached for a fresh seasick patch.

To my grateful surprise, the crossing was only choppy and Christmas Day along the Antarctic Peninsula dawned mild and calm. Chunks of blue ice floated in emerald green water as penguins darted in and out around the ship. We were comfortable in turtlenecks and running suits. When hot chowder was served on deck mid-morning, Doug leaned over and whispered, “Told you so.”

When one of many cruise brochures arrived several years ago (we appear to be on every cruise and tour company mailing list since retirement), my husband salivated over the possibility of finally seeing Patagonia and, on this particular trip, Antarctica.

“Wow! These pictures look great!” he said, perusing the six-week itinerary that would take us from San Diego around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro.

He passed the pamphlet to me. I gave it a glance and was less than enthusiastic.

“It also says that in order to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, we would have to cross the Drake Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific. That’s some of the most dangerous water on the planet. No way!”

Now he read over my shoulder. “If it were that bad, cruise ships wouldn’t be doing it.”

I pointed to the itinerary. “According to the dates, we’d be spending Thanksgiving in Acapulco. “What would we have for Thanksgiving dinner – tacos?”

“Very funny.” He reached around and ran his finger further down the list. “But look at this. We’d spend Christmas cruising along the Antarctic Coast.” One photo showed penguins marching up an iceberg. I had to admit it looked intriguing.

“Assuming we made it through the Passage and avoided the icebergs,” I mumbled, turning to him. Visions of the Titanic flooded my mind. “This says we’d only be 85 miles from the Antarctic Circle.”

“It would be more exciting than driving to the Arctic Circle.”

I had to admit he was right. Several years before, we had visited the Arctic Circle on a trip to Alaska. When we arrived, all there was to see was a map marked “You are here,” a picnic table and a privy. Hardly the stuff travelers’ dreams are made of.

The next day, Doug was on the phone to a cruise representative and before I knew it, we were pulling out of San Diego Harbor at dusk, lights twinkling in the distance. So far, so good.

After several stops along the Mexico coast, we indeed arrived in Acapulco on Thanksgiving. We spent the day at a beach resort (with a lavish native buffet) and returned to the ship for a real Thanksgiving dinner for the benefit of Americans on board. Maybe not like home, but close.

Many more interesting stops, including the Panama Canal and a group of islands off the South America coast known as the Galapagos of Peru, brought us to the southernmost cities on Mother Earth. At dinner the night before we headed across the dreaded passage toward Antarctica, a woman on her fourth rounding of the Horn regaled us with stories of a previous trip when the waves were 35-feet high. I reached for a fresh seasick patch.

To my grateful surprise, the crossing was only choppy and Christmas Day along the Antarctic Peninsula dawned mild and calm. Chunks of blue ice floated in emerald green water as penguins darted in and out around the ship. We were comfortable in turtlenecks and running suits. When hot chowder was served on deck mid-morning, Doug leaned over and whispered, “Told you so.”

When one of many cruise brochures arrived several years ago (we appear to be on every cruise and tour company mailing list since retirement), my husband salivated over the possibility of finally seeing Patagonia and, on this particular trip, Antarctica.

“Wow! These pictures look great!” he said, perusing the six-week itinerary that would take us from San Diego around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro.

He passed the pamphlet to me. I gave it a glance and was less than enthusiastic.

“It also says that in order to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, we would have to cross the Drake Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific. That’s some of the most dangerous water on the planet. No way!”

Now he read over my shoulder. “If it were that bad, cruise ships wouldn’t be doing it.”

I pointed to the itinerary. “According to the dates, we’d be spending Thanksgiving in Acapulco. “What would we have for Thanksgiving dinner – tacos?”

“Very funny.” He reached around and ran his finger further down the list. “But look at this. We’d spend Christmas cruising along the Antarctic Coast.” One photo showed penguins marching up an iceberg. I had to admit it looked intriguing.

“Assuming we made it through the Passage and avoided the icebergs,” I mumbled, turning to him. Visions of the Titanic flooded my mind. “This says we’d only be 85 miles from the Antarctic Circle.”

“It would be more exciting than driving to the Arctic Circle.”

I had to admit he was right. Several years before, we had visited the Arctic Circle on a trip to Alaska. When we arrived, all there was to see was a map marked “You are here,” a picnic table and a privy. Hardly the stuff travelers’ dreams are made of.

The next day, Doug was on the phone to a cruise representative and before I knew it, we were pulling out of San Diego Harbor at dusk, lights twinkling in the distance. So far, so good.

After several stops along the Mexico coast, we indeed arrived in Acapulco on Thanksgiving. We spent the day at a beach resort (with a lavish native buffet) and returned to the ship for a real Thanksgiving dinner for the benefit of Americans on board. Maybe not like home, but close.

Many more interesting stops, including the Panama Canal and a group of islands off the South America coast known as the Galapagos of Peru, brought us to the southernmost cities on Mother Earth. At dinner the night before we headed across the dreaded passage toward Antarctica, a woman on her fourth rounding of the Horn regaled us with stories of a previous trip when the waves were 35-feet high. I reached for a fresh seasick patch.

To my grateful surprise, the crossing was only choppy and Christmas Day along the Antarctic Peninsula dawned mild and calm. Chunks of blue ice floated in emerald green water as penguins darted in and out around the ship. We were comfortable in turtlenecks and running suits. When hot chowder was served on deck mid-morning, Doug leaned over and whispered, “Told you so.”


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