Friday, March 11, 2011

South America – Panama Canal Cruise – Celebrity Infinity – March 9 – March 28, 2011

Getting There…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - Chicago, IL

Overcast, dreary, and 40F.  At the airport waiting for our first of three flights that will get us to Santiago, Chile.  This leg (AA3855) is to JFK.

Our aircraft, A Canadair RJ70 is a little late arriving – there is weather in the area and the ceiling at ORD is pretty low.

 CRJ 70 Ready to go (Small)

Our plane departs about 45 minutes late (late arriving) so this will potentially reduce our connection window at JFK.  It is all about the pea soup tonight – after liftoff, the plane enters the shmoo almost immediately.

Climbout ORD (Small)

Climb out Chicago and into the pea soup

It’s always great when the plane breaks into an open and sunny blue sky.

Above the clouds (Small) 

The trip to JFK is pretty much OK except when we get near JFK.  The plane is ordered by ATC to enter two holding patterns of about 30 minutes each (due, according to the pilot to traffic flow and an “emergency” on the ground.  Holding patters are not that bad except you’re circling in choppy air.  Seat belt signs are on and everyone who had planned to go to the washroom prior to landing will need a new plan.  The second hold is smoother and we break out of that pattern about 9:10PM. 

 Final Approach JFK (Small)

Final Approach to Kennedy International Airport

It is literally a mile walk from Gate 33 (where out plane parked) to Gate 3, where our 777 awaits. We had wanted to try to get bulkhead seats so we could stretch out for the long flight to South America but when we got to the gate, there was a mob present and we were told the plane was full. 

AA955 (777) took off about 30 minutes late after running into a computer problem (according to Captain Trudeau) .  The plane then sat at the starting line for about 15 minutes before departing (no reason given). 

The meal service on overnight flights are very strange.  Dinner is served about 11:00 PM local time (the middle of the night destination time).  No one can then figure out why they can’t get any sleep.  We actually had two dinners – cold cuts we brought along on the flight to JKF and the meals on this flight.  I actually did sleep a little (a first for me) but in my zombie like sleep, I recall the plane in rock and roll mode.  A very bumpy flight the entire way.  The route took us way out in the Atlantic, over San Juan Puerto Rico, down over the Amazon, and into Buenos Aires. 

777 over the Amazon Forest (Small) 

Over the Amazon forest

   Nearing BA - see river (Small)

On Final Approach to EZE (Buenos Aires) – River visible

Final Approach BA w Smog (Small)

Final Approach to Buenos Aires (note the smog)

 EZE airport - our 777 (Small)

The picture above includes our recent friend, the 777 that got us to Buenos Aires.  Another long hike to the LAN (National Airline of Chile) gates but we make it on time.  We change our seats from an aisle and window to adjacent aisles.  However, when we get on the plane, it is practically empty.  All the exit rows were empty so grabbed our own exit rows.

Our plane was at the gate and ready for boarding

Lan Airbus ready to go (Small)

LAN454 ready to go

Our flight on LAN was great.  The A320, which looked brand new – took off on time.  The pilot did something I had never seen before:  The wing slats were in the takeoff position before the plane pushed from the gate

Lan flaps down right away (Small)

The air was smooth all the way, and the flight gave us a spectacular view of the Andes Mountains. 

We have our own exit rows (Small)

Exit row seats all to ourselves

 Climbout BA (Small) Climbout BA 1 (Small)

Climbout from EZE – Smooth as silk

The sky was nothing to high pressure cumulus clouds – associated with smooth air.  That was indeed the case; you could not tell the plane was moving.  Also, the A320s engines were quieter than most – a comfortable ride.  As we got closer to the Andes mountains with border Santiago on the East, the plane dodged a few isolated thunderstorms.


Enroute to SCL - fair weather clouds (Small)

On to SCL avoiding t storm (Small)

BA to SCL more T storms1 (Small)

Top:  Fair weather skies; Middle and Bottom: Thunderstorms in the distance

About 45 minutes from SCL (Santiago), the plane was approaching the Andes range.  Passing over the Andes must always be bumpy since there is an automated PA announcement indicating that we need to buckle up since we will be flying over the Andes Mountains shortly.

The Andes were spectacular (and not bumpy at all).

The range is spectacular with multicolored terrain (copper maybe), visible glaciers, and the murrain, where ex-glaciers have left their trail.

   Starting Andes Flyover (Small) Andes2 (Small) Andes and glaciers (Small) Andes and glaciers2 (Small)

One past the mountains, we were on final approach to Santiago Airport, which is located out in the countryside. 

Final approach to SCL (Small) Touchdown SCL (Small)

A smooth landing finished off a wonderful short flight to Santiago.

Miracle Alert:  All of our luggage arrived with us so I won’t have to wear Celebrity Logo Wear on this cruise.

Our hotel had arranged for a cab to pick up.  He did not show up so for an additional three dollars,we took another cab to our hotel (condo) in the city.

Total Flying time (scheduled but actually longer to the ATC holds); 2 hr 25; 10 hr 45; 2 hr 20 total of

15 hr 30 min

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