Antarctica - Omicron in Buenos Aires

I am booked and was eager to go on the Jan 8 Antarctica trip, but, although healthy, I am on the higher end of the age spectrum. With that in mind, I am concerned there is not enough time for the scientists to figure out to what extent existing vaccinations protect against the new Omicron variant. As a longtime Tauck traveler, I am hoping Tauck will be responsible enough to consider the welfare of its customers and allow us to rebook for next Antarctica season. The risk of a passenger infecting others on a small ship in the middle of nowhere, with minimal medical facilities is greater than it might be in other circumstances.

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Comments

  • Our last Tauck/Ponant trip was in August/September. Everyone on the ship is vaccinated and tested. We were tested five times during the trip due to different country requirements. I feel safer on a Ponant ship than I do at home, and we live in thee ‘safest’ county in the U.S. as far as covid is concerned. That being said, if you are not comfortable you should not go. I’m sure Tauck would rebook you for another time. All of this winter’s trips are sold out, so they probably have a waiting list.

  • Vaccinated people very rarely get sick with Covid. There’s a possibility the Omicron strain will fizzle out. It just hasn’t been studied enough yet. Another one may take over by January.
    My concern would be any other form of illness happening while there, heart attack, stroke, broken hip from a fall on rough seas and on and on, not Covid.

  • British
    Vaccinated people very rarely get sick with Covid.

    Depends how you define rarely. About 20% of current Covid hospitalizations are in vaccinated people. Of course, many of them have underlying conditions, but I wouldn't characterize 20% as rarely.

  • I often book trips as single traveler. Tauck Antarctica has too much of a surcharge for solo travelers. My upcoming trips to Ireland and Israel/Jordan have surcharges less than 25%. For Antarctica it is 40% and although that may sound reasonable, I checked into Ponant's website for their Antarctica trips and they have some trips with no single supplement. I booked one of their trips for January 2022 and it turns out that trip is also a Smithsonian journey. I'm still on the Tauck endorsed ship (L'Austral) and I still have the advantage of the experts and lectures from a reputable tour company, but I'm paying a whole lot less. If anyone travels often as a solo on cruises I'd recommend looking into the ship's website for better pricing options. For land tours Tauck is great because of all the quality they offer, but on cruises it is the ship that is more influential in decision making.

  • As always you must shop til you drop. I did compare our Tauck cruise with the booking with Ponant option. At the time of booking (for two) the Tauck option cost less for ‘more’. There are elements like airport transfers, excursions, and hotel quality that are different or are added cost options with the Ponant trip that are included with Tauck. I’m sure that Tauck books blocks of rooms in each category and that probably ‘fixes’ the cost of the room as a double. I have noticed that I could have booked a lower category room with Ponant than with Tauck and saved some money there. What date in January? We are on Le Lyrial around the 20th.

  • I’ve always noted that Ponant is way more expensive, but admittedly not as a single. Does Ponant include transfers and pre and post hotels, tips and all excursions? I can’t remember for sure, but when I added up it was more for whatever reason.

  • My daughter is a marine scientist working for a company that tour’s Antarctica. She reported 2 days ago that almost every ship cruising Antarctica has Covid cases. You will not hear that from any chats and Tauck may remove this post. Keep in mind that if you are in contact with a positive case you will be restricted from leaving your room. Argentina is very through with its mandates and once off the ship you may have problems getting home. Omicron has screwed everyone everywhere
    If your trip goes be extra diligent with social interactions and expect changes in landings and docking.
    We were booked on The second January trip but canceled early in November. Too many what ifs . We hope to go next year but pandemics and epidemics usually take 5 years to burn out. We are only in year 3 so who knows. Safe travels

  • Thanks Cathy. I also feel that we will be safer on an upcoming trip than here at home.

  • Cathy: We figured out that Rob is supposed to be on the trip that is about to depart. We may have met Stacie on the ‘Treasures … ‘ trip. Does she live in Florence? In any case, we have never been disappointed by our TD’s so I’m sure she is great. We did really enjoy our times with Rob, and I’m sure we shall meet again. We have two more Tauck trips this year … a return to “K&T”, and a river trip, “Rhine Enchantment, Amsterdam to Milan”. We do not normally do four Tauck trips in a year, but these are not normal times. We have rarely gone a year without cruising on Windstar’s Wind Surf, but the “Star” boats are really nice also. I’m sure we will be aboard a Windstar boat in January 2023. We have yet to choose our Tauck trip(s) for 2023.

  • toriliz: Curious. Who are your tour directors?

  • Dale! She’s been fabulous.

  • Nope, only one director! Maybe they cut down because we’re a very small group - I believe only 16 of us. There’s only 77 passengers on the ship total!

  • Wow, lots of people must have cancelled, especially as January is a more popular and better time to go weather wise.
    Would love you to post pictures.
    SeaLord, when does your tour go? I thought you were going early January.

  • Cancelled my Jan 19th trip and rescheduled for Jan 8, 2023. Feel uncomfortable with the Covid spike in cases in Buenos Aires. (Highest rate ever, surpassing last years spike). Planned to arrive two days early, and with the following three days with Tauck pre cruise, felt that there was a higher chance of getting infected. Did not want to be quarantined on the ship. Obviously a personal decision, wishing those who travel a safe voyage.

  • Rogfam, has Tauck extended their lenient cancellations into 2023?

    Just discovered that they are now open on Saturdays starting yesterday.

    We have to make our final payment for our Israel tour early today because we are leaving the country at 6am tomorrow. We had stopped the automatic payment feature a while ago and don’t know how to turn it on via our Account page, does anyone know how?
    We are pretty sure this tour will be cancelled and didn’t want or pay in advance of the payment date. We have been so fixed on our upcoming tour that we forgot we will be away when the final payment is due.

  • British, we are on the January 19 trip that rogfam was on. We are a group of four. Our travel ‘buddies’ are from Middletown, New Jersey. We actually ‘met’ on Celebrity’s Xpedition Galapagos website and since have done a number of travels together, Sorry rogfam dropped out, but I do understand. I’m ‘as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs’, but if we can jump through all the hoops we are going. We go to an airport hotel a week from today, and fly out Monday afternoon SFO-MIA-EZE arriving Tuesday morning. BA temps this week are supposed to hit 108 but should be back down in the 80’s when we arrive.

  • Thanking everyone there words of support. Needless to say, very disappointed. Was suppose to go Jan 2021. Daughter calls it my anti-Artica trip. Hopefully next Jan will prove that three times is a charm.
    British, no problem rolling the money over. Traveling with friend from west coast , who also cancelled. Each having single room, which did not allow us to rebook for Dec 2021 tour. Even though space was available, no singles available. Hence we ended up in 2023.

  • We, too, are on the January 19th trip. We are still planning to go, and are very excited, but, are also nervous about what lies about. We were originally scheduled to go in January of 2021. I really appreciate everyone sharing your experiences and concerns. Helps to know that we're not alone in our thinking. We'll be flying out on January 17th, ORF/JFK/EZE...as long as our PCR test results come back good! Sealord, hope to see you soon!

  • Doreen, gather you are on the AA JFK -EZE nonstop. Have been on it a number of times, nice flight. Last time clouds cleared when we flew over the Amazon. Great view! Suppose to be on Sunday’s flight.

  • DoreenC: Our friends Ted and Terri may be on your flight JFK-EZE.

  • So I have been following the chats about the Ponont Antarctica trips. I posted a few days ago some information about Covid cases on most cruises in Antarctica. My daughter is there working for a cruise company. Her last report was this. Her ship has 7 confirmed cases that are quarantined . Here are some issues you won’t hear or know unless you have direct contact with cruise line. A waiter on the ship tested positive thus anyone who he waited on has to quarantine. 3 of the guides are positive so landing s are limited. Scheduled stops are limited. The issues go on and to add to that, Ushia’s dock workers are not reporting to work so departures are not on schedule and dock space limited. Not sure why Tauck/Ponant is not being up front about the situation. Hope if you decide to go you stay safe .
    Some good news is the weather has be great and the seas calm.

  • Cathy - ..that every time you enter the main lounge on a ponant ship...your temperature is automatically taken?

    Just curious if this is the same as on our Iceland tour or if Ponant has made some changes/improvements. On our ship when you entered the main dining area you presented your face in front of a device and it displayed your temperature. Is that the same as on your Antarctica ship?

  • Not Antartica related but...our temperature was checked every time we returned from a site visit and re-boarded the Oberoi Zahra on the Jordan-Egypt tour. I'm assuming if anyone had a high temperature, they would have been required to quarantine.

  • If I thought I had a high temperature! I’d take an Acetaminophen to lower it before it was checked. Temperature checks are not a good indicator of Covid, few places take them any more, certainly not when you even walk into a hospital clinic. It’a false reassurance.

  • We are not having our temps taken on L’Boreal on current trip (1/8 departure). We will be tested once again before we exit ship in Ushuaia.

  • There’s a review on the Points Guy today on how ships are handling things

  • I wanted to wait until we were officially off the boat before posting again, just to make sure I didn’t jinx anything. Before I say anything else, I want to underscore how wonderful Dale has been through the trip and how supportive Tauck is.

    But Ponant has been absolutely abysmal with their testing process over the last week. The first seven days of the cruise went off without a hitch, and we experienced a once in a life time Antarctic cruise. Wonderful weather, great landings, etc.

    On Day 7, the captain announced some crew had tested positive, so we would be testing the whole ship again. Up to now, we had been doing throat swab antigen tests. This time, it was a saliva antigen test. My fiancé tested negative, I tested positive, and we entered cabin quarantine for an unknown amount of time. We were told anywhere from 5-10 days depending on Argentina. Luckily we only missed a bad weather day with no excursions and then the Drake crossing. My partner continued to test negative, which was odd considering the nature of Omicron. On Day 10, the whole ship was tested again and I tested negative. That afternoon the captain announced the saliva tests were not accepted by Argentina as they had a tendency to draw false positive tests. I was one of them, and after testing negative again on Day 11, we were allowed out of our cabin.

    The afternoon of Day 11, we had to again test to leave the ship for good - with the Argentinean authorities. The second round of tests didn’t come back until midnight, and the cruise director woke us up to say I was positive again and we wouldn’t be able to leave. Naturally, we were distraught and canceled all our plans in Buenos Aires this coming weekend. Only for the cruise director to knock on our door ten minutes later to say there was a clerical error, and to give us both our negative tests. Truly an experiment in emotional whiplash.

    We were able to disembark this morning and get back to the Buenos Aires, but at least 30 passengers are still on the ship after testing positive or being a close contact of a positive test. We feel very lucky to be off the ship and changed our flights to tonight so we had a guaranteed way out of Argentina without having to test again.

    I reiterate: Tauck has been amazing. Dale is not only a great tour director but she advocated for all of us and acted as our champ when the Omicron chips fell. The expeditions themselves were fantastic. I will treasure the memories made here, but please, please mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of quarantine. Bring your own tests if you can, just for peace of mind. The Ponant testing is just so poorly managed. They are amazing at cruising, but like the rest of us, are at a loss with Omicron. And unfortunately, most of us do not trust the Argentine or Ponant testing at this point.

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