Monday, January 20, 2014

South America/Antarctica Cruise - 12/16 & 17/2013 - Getting to Rio

This post is the first in a series of posts 20+ posts covering our cruise to South America, the Falkland Islands, and Antarctica.  There will generally be one post for each day on the trip.  This Adventure is one more step in getting to our goal of visiting all seven continents.  Antarctica will be #6.  Only Africa remains after this cruise.

Rio De Janeiro is where we get on our ship, the Holland America ms Zaandam.  The map below shows the ports of call for the cruise.  The future blog posts will have tons of photos and commentary on the trip.

Our trips starts in Kansas City.  We were up by 6:00 am on December 16th to finish packing and prepare the house for our long absence.  I won't go into detail on our preparations but we do have a standard list of things to do before leaving on long trips.

The limo picked us up at 11:15 am for the 50 minute ride to the airport.  On longer trips (20 or more days), it is a break-even on the cost to park at the airport versus using a limo service.  In the winter, it is especially valuable to not have to scrap windshields and worry if the car battery is dead due to the cold.  Any time of year, it is very convenient to be dropped at the door to your airline and then have someone waiting for you when you return in the baggage claim area.  Usually, you are exhausted on returning and don't need any hassle to get home, take a shower, eat, and sleep in your own bed.

We were very concerned about traveling this time of year given the unpredictable weather and potential flight cancellations.  We traveled a day early so if we had bad weather we might be able to recover and still make the embarkation time for our ship.  We also make sure that we have lots of time between flights....we do this any time of the year....we are retired and not in a hurry.  This will prove to be a smart thing to do on this trip.

We arrived at the KC airport at 12 noon for our 1:45 flight to Chicago.  Our journey to Rio is via Chicago and Miami.  The weather in KC was cold but no snow or ice.  We arrived in Chicago on schedule at 3:10 pm.  Our flight to Miami is scheduled to leave at 5:15 pm.  It has just started to snow in Chicago as we arrive.  The snow picks up as time passes and as we board the plane, there is significant accumulation on the ground and on the plane (photo below). 

We sat on the plane looking at the snow builing up on the wings and wondering why we hadn't taken off already.  It turns out that the luggage compartment door on the plane wouldn't close properly.
 A mechanic was called to work on the plane as we sat on the runway.  After about 30 minutes, the plane was fixed but now had to be de-iced before we left the gate.  That took another 20 minutes and then we finally got off the ground headed towards Miami nearly one hour late.  The photo below was taken from our seats on the plane as they de-iced it.

We arrived an hour late in Miami but that was okay because we had built in extra time between flights.  If we could just get in the air towards Rio, we would have it made.  Our Miami flight was scheduled to leave at 11:20 pm (EST) and we arrived at 10:20 pm so all was good.  We did have a little bit of a hike to get from where we came in to where the Rio flight departed from in the terminal.  Due to other flight delays, they slipped our scheduled departure from Miami to 11:40 pm.

We had time for a little snack and then boarded the plane.  We pushed off from the gate and then stopped for about 15 minutes.  The pilot came on the PA and told us that there was a problem with the Pitot Tube on the plane and a mechanic had to be called.  The Pitot Tube tells the pilot how fast the plane is going so it is a critical piece of flight information.  The mechanic determined that the tube needed to be replaced and it was a four hour job so they had us all get off the plane.  There was a replacement plane available but it needed to be serviced for the long trip to Rio and all the food and drink and luggage had to be transferred from the old plane to the new one.  Long story short..... we didn't take off from Miami until 1:30 am on December 17th.

The flight to Rio was good but very late.  Our 11:00 am arrival turned into 1:30 pm.  Holland America was waiting for us to transfer us to our hotel.  We had to wait for other coming in so we didn't leave the airport immediately.  We finally arrived at the hotel around 4:00 pm Rio time.....about 31 hours after our travel day began.

Driving from the airport to the hotel was an experience reminiscent of China or Peru.....near total chaos.  The roads are inadequate and the rules of the road were obviously meant to be broken in Rio.  The congested traffic actually moves decently.  The weather was very overcast and gloomy....nothing to cheer two very tired travelers.

I will talk more about Rio in the next post.  The photos below were the view from out hotel balcony.


Tomorrow, we get on the ship and do some sightseeing in the evening.  I will discuss Rio a little more in the next post.

Remember that this is just the first of more than 20 posts on the trip.  The cruise was way too big in scope to cover it in one post.  In a blog, the posts stack on top of each other so the newest post is on the top of the stack.  If you start with this post, you need to move to the next Newer Post to see the trip in chronological order.  You can find individual posts in the Archive List in the right hand column of the screen.  You might need to click on a date to expand the list and see the posts.

We took over 6,000 photos on the trip and I am still working on them to get them ready to post so there may be days between new posts on the patient and check back for new ones.

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