Antarctica, the Last Continent (Day 1) – Embarkation & Sail

…read in continuation with my previous blog on Ushuaia.

Tierra del Fundo – Ushuaia (Part II)

At 3.3.0 pm I, alongwith the others stepped out to head to Ushuaia port. Embarkation was scheduled to begin at 4. Even with the luggage it was just about a 10 mins walk. There was already a queue ahead of us at the gate & we joined it excitedly like school kids eager to discover the world on the other side! Of course not everyone was boarding my ship & embarkation was going on for a couple others as well.

As excited as a kid at the entrance to Ushuaia port

We entered the port & had our first encounter with our ship Ushuaia (yes, the ship was also named Ushuaia much as the city itself) which would be our home for the next 10 days. 

The Ushuaia at the pier

A little introduction to our boat is in order here.

MV Ushuaia cruise ship is an expedition vessel operated by the travel company Antarpply Expeditions, Argentina. The ship was built in 1970 for the USA’s NOAA agency ( “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration”). It served the agency for 20 years under the names “Malcolm Baldrige” and “Researcher”.

The USHUAIA is very well appointed and provides ample deck space and an open bridge policy. The full complement of inflatable landing craft ensures superb landings and wildlife viewing opportunities on the otherwise inaccessible coastline.

It’s carrying capacity is 2923 Gross Tonnage and her current draught is reported to be 5.1 meters. Her length overall (LOA) is 84.82 meters and her width is 15.7 meters.

We filled out the Health Declaration Forms (made neccessary because of COVID-19) & were ushered inside the ship to the lounge where check in was in progress. It was turning out to be a lucky day! I soon came to know that I had been upgraded to a Premier category room as promised. Yayyy 🙂

A Premier Twin category room on the MV Ushuaia
My Premier Twin room

After depositing the required documents & passports with the staff I was shown to my room. It looked nice, cosy & more comfortable than I had imagined. I eagerly looked out the window for the view – it was partly blocked by the lifeboat outside! But what the hell, it was still better than looking out a porthole & feel like you’re peeping out from inside a washing machine!

The bags had still not arrived. There was an introductory briefing planned at 5.30 pm. With about 20 mins to kill I went around the ship familiarising myself.

Winding around corridors & staircases I made my way to the top deck to catch a bird’s eye view of the surroundings & for some much needed orientation. The wind was already strong & cold. I was surprised to find that a small town like Ushuaia also boasted of a cargo terminal!

A view of Ushuaia port
View of the port from the top deck

Visit my youtube channel here for a video.

There were a number of other ships berched too, a few real luxury ones! I was still happy with my choice of a basic but more intimate expedition class ship.

One for the camera

After a bit of exploration I returned to my cabin & bumped into my roommate Vlad, a young, bespectacled & soft spoken Ukrainian. It seemed like I would be comfortable with him. Thank God!

At 5.30 pm everyone gathered in the bar/lounge area & were introduced to the Expedition Leader & his team who were to be our mentors & guide on this trip. Here’s a little brief about each of them.

1. Pablo Petracci – Expedition Leader

2. Juan Cascallares – Assistant Expedition Leader

3. Julia Farenga – Team Member

4. Martín Di Leo – Team Member

5. Malena Osiroff Pato – Team Member

Pablo & his team

Pablo, with his boyish smile & ready humour immediately struck a chord with everyone as he went about unwrapping the suspense & mysteries of this voyage.

A glass of wine (first of the two free on this cruise :)) was later offered to everyone for raising a toast to the safe & successful accomplishment of this cruise.

By 6.15 pm everyone was waiting eagerly for the ship to start sailing which was originally scheduled for 6 pm. We were informed that the ship was taking time to manoeuvre out of its position as it was tightly sandwiched between the pier & another ship behind it with the task being made more difficult due to strong NW winds.

The introductory briefing was followed by a Safety briefing which spelt out the essential do’s & don’ts. At 7 pm the Ushuaia finally began to move out of the harbour & pick up speed. Seeing everyone craning their necks to look outside the windows, the briefing was interrupted & we were allowed to go outside for 15 mins to watch the proceedings.

The receding coastline of Ushuaia

Visit my youtube channel here for a video.

It was very windy with a high chill factor which made me wonder what the Antarctica weather would be like!

We returned to the warm comfort of the lounge & the briefing resumed. The Expedition Leader very nonchalantly informed us that the Drake Passage (more about it in the next blog) was expected to be rough & substantiated his claim by showing a slide on the expected height of the waves which pegged it at 7-10 mtrs! Wow!!

A pictorial representation of the Drake weather

The briefing was followed by a safety drill & familiarisation with the life boat. With still some time left for the dinner bell I returned to my cabin to settle some of my stuff.

Dinner was served a little after 8 pm & consisted of salad followed by fish & a dessert which I politely refused. Too much sugar! During dinner the doctor came around distributing seasickness medicines to everyone which proved to be a lifesaver for many to withstand the rock & roll of the Drake Passage over the next day & a half.

By now the daily programme had been put up on the notice boards at designated places, the expedition team’s way of keeping everyone informed of the planned & envisaged activities for the next day.

Post dinner I returned to my room. Vlad was nowhere to be seen. With less obstruction & more elbow space in the confined cabin I used the opportunity to lay out my things in the cupboard & prepare for the coming 10 days on the seas.

I had vowed to start writing a daily journal to keep pace with the daily activities & so spent an hour doing so on my 4 kg laptop (which had been a pain to lug around airports & flights all this while!!).

At 12.30 am it was finally time to sleep amidst the increasing pitching & rolling of the ship as it made its way to high seas & the Drake Passage.


  1. Great sir 👌, nice narration..have you changed your job 😉, will seek inputs from you … while planning trips abroad…have a safe journey regards

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