From the end of the world we started out trek up the west side of South America. I’m going to combine these three because there was not a whole lot of activity. The weather was starting to transition from the polar cold to a more moderate climate and with that came a lot of rain and cool/cold weather. We did most of the trip within the fijords of Chile which was very scenic but being in the fijords and that far south didn’t help our connectivity.
The first stop, Port Chacabuco, we didn’t even get off the ship. It was a rainy cold day and the town is very small. If you weren’t going on one of the guided trips, there wasn’t much to do and we were only in port for 6 hours.
Next stop was Port Mont which was probably the best of the three stops. The trip we wanted to take was full so we opted for a market shopping trip with one of the chefs on the ship. This turned out to be a real memorable day for the cruise. In Valparaiso, the expedition team members who were leaving the ship did a few minutes on there best memories and one who went with us said outside of Antarctica, this was the most fun they had so if you can make that kind of impression on the expedition team, it definitely wasn’t bad. So what made it fun??
Silversea had a bus and guide waiting for us for the 30 minute trip to the market where you get fresh meat, fish and vegetables. There are some closer markets to the ship terminal, but this is where the locals shop. It started out with Chef David planning to get some things for a cooking demonstration he would be doing the next day. By the time we left we had crates of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, wheels of cheese, tomatoes, onions, a bunch of fish and some Chilean spices. All of us were helping to carry the bounty back to the tour bus to return to the ship. The other thing that happened was Silversea tasked one of the other trips going to a German area to stop at a bakery and get cakes and pastries. We ended up with a feast of fresh goodies that were featured for the next days lunch.
We arrived in Ushuaia around 10:00 pm Saturday night after a fast crossing of the Drake Passage. The captain referred to the conditions we had as the Drake Lake which is a rare occurrence. Since it was Sunday, most of the shops were closed so it was very quiet. Ushuaia is a great little town at the end of Route 3 that runs the length of South America. It’s kind of like the Key West of South America. We had the town to ourselves until 11:00 am when a giant cruise ship docked and added about 4,000 people to the town. The town had a very European feel with neat buildings and bright colors. We did some souvenir shopping and I’m starting a hat pin collection. My first pin was from Antarctica at the Chilean Navy base and now I’ve added Ushuaia. Last night’s dinner was a lot of fun with a family we’ve met and one of the expedition leaders who specializes in whales and lives in Tonga. I asked her if she knew Moana for Ava but we think Moana lives on different island than EJ 🙂 The dinner was in the Italian restaurant and on Sunday’s, they try to do something different with food and some entertainment.
I’m going to try and start loading some photos now as we are cruising through the Chilean fijords today. We’re sitting in the Panorama Lounge as we cruise past mountains, islands and glaciers.
Next stop is Puerto Chacabuco, Chile on Wednesday.
We left Antarctica about noon yesterday and started north to Ushuaia, Argentina. The Drake Passage has been unusually calm this time and the captain told us on his noon update today that we had set a record speed from Antarctica through the passage because we didn’t have to slow down down for the rough seas. We were supposed to arrive in Ushuaia at 10:00 am tomorrow morning but will now dock at 10:00 pm tonight and have some extra time there. It was somewhat sad leaving Antarctica but we’re also excited about what’s in front of us for the rest of the trip. I was up on deck doing my walk and talked with one of the expedition team that this was the first time in a week I had not seen a whale or penguin in the water around the boat.
I will start trying to load photos now that we’re getting farther north. It may still take a while but they will get there soon.
This is now Monday, February 17th and we’re just getting reliable internet to start loading photos again. Sorry for the delays but that’s how it goes on the other end of the world.
Today we landed on a small island in the South Shetland Island area of the Antarctica Peninsula. It turned out to be a beautiful day with 30 degree temps and sunny sky’s. We met the Chinstrap Penguins which are a little smaller than the Gentoo’s. We wandered around the island taking pictures and were also able to see a rare occurrence of two breeds of penguins, the Gentoo and Chinstrap next to each other. According to the ornithologist, this is a rare thing since the Gentoo’s are normally found in colder areas than Chinstraps. You’ll also see a picture of an old abandoned whaling boat that is now a monument. This boat is about 100 years old and still survives the weather here.
Day 3 finds us at a Chilean Navy research station in the Paradise Bay area. Chile has a base here and also a penguin rookery that surrounds the station. Because of the number of penguins and distance we need to stay from them, we’re limited to staying on the sidewalks between buildings and the landing area. We were allowed to tour the base facilities and see how they live during their 5-6 months in Antarctica. It’s a pretty spartan life style with basic eating, living and sleeping facilities. Penguins can be a little “fragrant” when they number in the 1,000’s and when you throw in a little misty rain, it gets stronger. First thing we’re doing after we leave Antarctica is to have all our clothes we wore there laundered, the smell gets in to everything. For tomorrow, we had to change plans again as the weather forecast was for high winds. We were supposed to go to the Argentinian Base Esperanza and you might have seen that base in the news because they set a record high for Antarctica of 65 degrees on Friday. Our expedition leader was in touch with the base and it was nice until around 10:00 am when the winds came up, so we made the right choice for a change of locations.
This morning we boarded our Zodiac at 8:00 am for a Zodiac tour of the bay. As soon as we left the ship, we found a mother and calf humpback whale. We followed them around the bay for about 20 minutes while they fed on krill and then moved on to a seal lounging on an ice flow. This was a crab eater seal which are a light brown color. He seemed very content to lay there, stretch and wave at us every once in a while. After that it was through an ice field looking for a leopard seal. Unfortunately that didn’t work out but we sat off of the Argentine Antarctic Base Brown which had another bunch of penguins hanging out. It was now time to start heading back to the ship and we spotted a group of penguins on an ice flow. We maneuvered the Zodiac in to a position with the penguins in the forefront and our ship in the background which was really fun. Today was a little colder and overcast so on return to the ship we got out of our gear and headed to the restaurant for a late breakfast. Great day when you can see whales, seals and penguins before you have breakfast !!
We just had our briefing for the next two days and due to weather in the target area that was planned, we’re now going to a Chilean base where there is a penguin colony and rookery. At least that’s the plan for now, we’re finding out your plans need to be very fluid here as the weather can change quickly.
I’m going to be doing text updates for now until we start getting better satellite for the internet. Photos will be very challenging to load but we do have a lot to share.
We spent two days going through the Drake Passage which can be anywhere from really bad to rough. We were lucky and it was only rough. Previously, we had been in the 10-15 ft seas but they were mostly wind driven. The Drake Passage can have the wind, but has really big, in the 15+ ft range, rolling waves without the wind. We had great weather and had the latter, so great passage.
Yesterday we landed at Danco Island, Antarctica to spend time at a penguin colony. As most everyone would agree, penguins are really cute little guys. We got off the Zodiacs and on to the island and were met with 1,000’s of Gentoo Penguins (yes you have to learn the different species so you can talk about them). They had no fear of us and although we had a limit with how close we were supposed to get to them, they don’t always observe the limit so if you are still and taking pictures, they walk right past you with no cares. Their nesting area was on top of a ridge where they built nests made from stones and then they take turns going down to the water to feed and you see these skinny penguins coming down the hill and when they go back it looks like they just had Thanksgiving Dinner.
The weather was absolutely incredible with full sunshine and the temperature about 34 degrees. We were almost too warm with all our gear on and speaking of gear, put big parkas, rain pants and boots on a bunch of people and we looked a lot like the penguins walking around.
The cruise line was fantastic with some of the travelers with mobility challenges. They told everyone, if you can walk a couple of steps and step down we’ll get you ashore and they did. The expedition crew would walk people on to the island from the Zodiacs in the water and find a rock for them to sit on and enjoy the sites and it was really impressive.
After visiting the island, we cruised through the other islands around us sight seeing and saw many whales. All the time with a sunny sky and light winds, it was incredible. Silver Sea had another of their expedition ships in the area and we met up with them around 6:30 pm. Jane and I thought okay, a couple of big ships meeting up. Well it turned out to be a lot of fun. As Silver Cloud pulled up along side, the railing on their top deck was full and everyone one was waving and yelling back and forth. The Silver Cloud passengers even started doing the “wave” at one point. On top of that, many of the crew knew each other as well as the expedition team so they were all on deck yelling back and forth. We were within 50 yards of them which was really close given the size of the ships. After a time, most of us went on to dinner but the ships stayed together for over an hour as they took photos from boats and drones, read big marketing opportunity. So if in the future you see two ships in Antarctica in some advertisements, that was us.
Yesterday morning, we arrived in Puerto Madryn which is on the smaller side of the ports compared to the rest of our stops in South America. We are starting to get in to colder waters and seeing more things like cold weather birds and penguins along side the ship. So Friday had us going on a tour of the interior of Argentina to a Welsh village and touring an eco farm there that has all kinds of fruit and vegetables. This is in Patagonia and is very different from things we’ve seen so far. The land is much flatter and more of a desert. After a 2 hour ride, we arrive in this valley at the town of Gaiman. The valley has a river flowing through it that has a source in the Andes and is the reason there are so many farms there. After all that desert, you’re now in an area filled with fruit and vegetable farms. They keep all this growing through a series of canals that run throughout the valley. The canals were built back in the early 20th century and mostly dug by hand and steam shovel. After the farm tour, we went to a historic church where a local lady, who is somewhat of a celebrity, told us stories of the history of the area and the church. After that it was off to a lunch in a building that was once the local flour mill and then a tour of the valley followed by high tea and all sorts of desserts. Finally, after all the food we head back to the ship. We were greeted at the ship by our butlers and then back to the room where we decided for a quiet evening in the room and ordered a pizza.
So, about 15 minutes before lunch an announcement was made that in 15 minutes the captain and expedition leader would be in the show lounge for an important announcement. I’ve not seen so many older people move so fast to get there 🙂 It turns out the weather forecast is very bad for the Falklands with winds 40-50 mph and high seas. As we have to anchor there and tender in, that wasn’t going to work so the decision was made to skip the Falklands and head straight to Antarctica. This means we’re now on a 3 day sail to get there and will arrive on Tuesday the 4th. The good news is this gives us an extra day in Antarctica plus a stop at another location there. So it’s sad we won’t get to the Falklands but good that we get an extra day to explore Antarctica.
It’s hard to believe how time flies doing almost nothing. We’re at sea for two days headed to Puerto Madyrn, Argentina so I’m spending the morning catching up on the blog. I slept a little late this morning and was awakened by our butler calling because we had not ordered our coffee and juice yet. Jane was up, as usual, with the curtains shut between the bed and sitting area pulled, so I’m claiming I didn’t know it was light yet.
Last Saturday, the 25th, found us in in Punta del Este, Uruguay for a short stop. We anchored out in the harbor and tendered in to the local docks which were very busy with the local fish market. Punta del Este was a very low key and walkable port. Although it is not a small city, the port is in the old town with beaches and a very nice shopping district. We walked around for several hours seeing the main sites and window shopping then spent some time walking through the fish market. That got our appetite going so then it was back to the ship for lunch and that afternoon we started for Buenos Aries.
Buenos Aries was a great two day stop. As our world cruise is actually broken up in to multiple smaller cruises, this was the end of the first segment and beginning of the second segment so we had an extra day in port which turned out to be a great thing. After arriving on Sunday morning, we took the ship’s shuttle in to the city center and spent some time walking by some parks and a pedestrian walkway through the city shopping district. Since it was a Sunday many of the shops were closed but it was also nice because it wasn’t overly crowded. Sunday evening was one of the special nights for people doing the full world cruise with a Tango show and dinner at a very exclusive venue. The evening started off with about 200 of us boarding buses for the venue and when we arrived, you were transported back in time to the early 1900’s with the restored building and all the characters in period costumes circulating through the crowd. After welcome drinks and hors d’oeuvres, we were led down through some of the old tunnels and up in to a large dining room where we ate as were entertained by the Tango dancers and musicians. After a wonderful evening it was back to the ship and we went to bed as this was a late night!
For Monday, some friends we have met had found a private tour of the city and asked us to join them. This was a fantastic way to see and experience Buenos Aries. Our guide was a native of Buenos Aries and kept us informed of all the history and sights as we rode through the city. We stopped at several places and learned more about the history and were able to take some great pictures. One of the most significant places was a cemetery filled with ornate mausoleums of the very wealthy citizens of Buenos Aries. The mausoleums went from incredibly ornate to modest, which were still impressive. Eva Peron’s was more on the modest side and still has fresh flowers at all times.
After two great days in BA, we left for a short trip to Montevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo was another old port next to the old city part of Montevideo which was very walkable. We took the shuttle bus in to city center then walked back to the ship via pedestrian shopping walkways and parks. Jane’s fitness tracker’s battery went dead the day we got on the ship and it’s a special battery so we had not been able to find one at any of our stops so far. We even looked in to shipping one via Amazon to a future port and by the time you added shipping and duty, it was about the cost of a new fitness tracker. As we walked through town we found a small electronics shop that didn’t have a battery but they had a fitness tracker for $28 USD. It wasn’t fancy but it did all the needed tasks so Jane can now keep track of how much we’re walking. Although we do walk a lot in port, we may not be walking near as much on the ship, so I’m not sure I really want to know our activity.
We are now heading in to the expedition part of the cruise. Puerto Madryn offers activities like kayaking with sea lions, visit to a penguin rookery, snorkeling with sea lions, etc. I was interested in the snorkeling trip right up to the point I started reading “once we arrive, you’ll put on your wet suit” as in really cold water.
So this should catch us up for a couple of days. Next stop Puerto Madryn on Friday where we will take a but to tour a ranch in Patagonia. The Sunday we’ll be in the Falklands to visit the largest penguin rookery in South America and, oh yeah, I think there’s a football game on. GO CHIEFS!!
We arrived in Rio the afternoon of Tuesday, the 21st with an overnight in port. The last two days were smooth sailing and light winds. As we’ve started south, you can feel the temperature now starting to change from the tropics. It’s still short sleeve shirt weather but not quite so hot and humid. Tuesday night we had dinner at the pool with the hot rocks again. Opted for the tiger prawns instead of veal and again had a great dinner.
Wednesday morning we had to actually set an alarm to get up for our tour! It turned out to be a good thing as we got to Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer, early and were able to catch one of the first trains up. It was starting to get a little cloudy at the top but we were able to get a few photos. We were also lucky heading down and were able to do that without a lot of delays. As a result our tour was ahead of schedule so the tour leader took us to Impanema Beach and then Copacabana Beach. We stopped for a few minutes on Copacabana Beach to walk and take some photos. After that back to the ship with a little local shopping along the way. They have some great menu offerings on the ship but if you happen to like seafood, it can be exceptional. To that point, they were grilling lobster tails by the pool and wanted to make sure you weren’t going away hungry. Read that as they kept piling lobster on your plate until you pulled away and it was great cold water lobster.
We left port around 6:00pm yesterday and it was a little cloudy so luckily we were able to get some good pictures on the way in Tuesday. Seas have been a little rougher today and forecast to continue in to the evening so we may be bouncing around a little.
I had mentioned before about the seafood buffet at lunch and today happened to be the day. When you combine that along with some rainy weather, the restaurant we chose for lunch was a little more crowded than normal. We were seated at the captain/crew table and had great company and stories with the captain, cruise director, HR director and some other staff as they came and went. Net is, lot’s of fun. So enough of the text and get on to the photos.
So, we’re now starting the expedition portion of the trip and the Antarctic expedition guides boarded in Rio. They have started a series of lectures on what to expect in Antarctica, wildlife, etc. We attended our first lecture on the differences between the north and south poles today which included what critters live where and this afternoon, we have a lecture on whale identification. It may not sound real exciting but so far, the speakers are very interesting.
We arrive in Puna del Este, Uruguay Saturday morning at 8:00 am.