First of all, I have nothing but exceptional praise for the entire hotel and dining room crew of the Veendam. The staff seem to go out of their way to make everyone feel special.
We spent a few days in BA before sailing. We stayed at Teressita B & B and really enjoyed her and her husband's hospitality. We used her neighbor, Buda, for our transfers, and he, too, was wonderful.
Sail away was after dark, so there was no real party atmosphere. We enjoyed a glass of wine from our balcony after dinner. We enjoyed our day in Montevideo, and stocked up on wine for our 2 days at sea. The 2 days at sea were uneventful.
When we awoke anchored off shore from the Falklands, it was already windy, with alternating sun and clouds and rain. We thought tendering would be too rough, so stayed on board. Good choice. When returning to the ship, tendering was temporarily delayed due to the wind and high seas, and one tender even had a front window broke out by the waves.
Leaving the Falklands on Sunday, the captain warned us that there was a storm ahead and that things "might get rough". What an understatement!! We quickly took showers, which turned out to be a good plan. We made it to dinner OK that night, and to breakfast Monday morning, where people were taking lots of pictures from the Lido of waves breaking over the bow of the ship. That afternoon, one of our room stewards said it was the worst he had seen in 13 years at sea. He said 50% of the people on his level were sick! Later, the captain would tell us that it was the worst storm he had seen in his 27 years at sea.
It was that Monday afternoon, Dec. 13, that things really got ugly. To this day, and I'm sure I will never know, why we continued to sail into the heart of the storm. We initially went north, seeking shelter, then west, then south and eventually lost our TV location map. While the captain indicated that the storm was "north of us", he did initially head north before turning south. Was he hoping to enter the Magellan Strait and get out of the worst of it? I don't know.
From around 2 p.m. on Monday, the 13th, until some time in the early morning hours of Tuesday, we spent about 16 hours of HELL!! Life vests would have been useless, because of the water temperatures. No lifeboat was going to survive in 98 foot swells and 110 mph winds, and air and sea rescue would have been impossible! The ship not only rocked and rolled to great extemes, but also shuddered and vibrated and often sounded like it was just short of literally coming apart. Even reading was impossible, because you couldn't hold the book still enough. We had a balcony, and I don't know if it was more horrible to look out the windows in the daylight, or not being able to see after dark. We had to prop pillows around us to keep from falling out of bed. We never take sleeping pills, but did take some antihistamines around 1 p.m. At 2 p.m., we had the loudest and worst vibrations and jarring yet. We found out later that was when we lost some part of the bow anchor and 1,000 feet of chain was now dangling into the sea. This took hours the next morning to "retrieve," and I understand there was some sort of mutiny on the lower decks from loud banging noises down there.
My memories of the rest of the cruise were simply the joy of being alive. We made it to Ushuaia around midnight Tuesday night, spent Wednesday there and then Thursday in Punta Arenas. Because of being behind schedule, we had to skip Puerto Montt, although I wondered if it was because it was a tender port, and the bow anchor still had "problems". Every one I talked to would have preferred to skip PA and go to PM. Puerto Montt was probably going to be the best of the ports for many people.
while we were given a credit towards a future cruise, it can never be enough for what we went through.
Can I fault HAL? I don't know. My brother is a river boat captain, and my ex-husband is a retired airline pilot, so I know these guys get blamed for tough situations, when they are often doing the best they can under the circumstances. Why did we head into the storm? What were the alternatives?
This is not written to discourage anyone from taking this cruise. Life is a gamble, and "if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room."
We're off to our annual sojourn to Mexico next month, which many consider so dangerous. Zihuatanejo will be like a second home of safety and tranquility after this cruise.