We are in Buenos Aires, Argentina about to board the Seabourn Sojourn for a trip around Cape Horn to Valparaiso, Chile. Our ports will be Montevideo - Uruguay, Stanley - Falkland Islands, Ushuaia -â€“ AR, rounding Cape Horn (not a port, but a destination) and Beagle Channel, Puntas Arenas, CH, Chilean Fjords cruising, Puerto Montt, CH, Puerto Chacabuco, CH, and Valparaiso, CH.
We are very excited to be returning to the Sojourn, our favorite cruise ship. We sailed her from Singapore to Dubai earlier this year on a World cruise segment. It was one of our best cruises ever due to the fantastic crew and staff. Can't wait to get aboard. We have been following the Seabourn blog of the reverse of our itinerary, as well as Clarky's posts and they have increased our enthusiasm. We'll try to return the favor in terms of posting our experiences aboard this "bucket list" itinerary. It is our first time in this part of South America.
We flew non-stop from Washington Dulles to Buenos Aires. We have rented an apartment in the Recoleta section of the city through VRBO dot com who we have found to be an excellent resource site as we have traveled throughout the world. The apartment, which has a beautiful private garden, is perfectly situated in a beautiful neighborhood, close to many shops and restaurants.
Yesterday we walked the area, visiting beautiful and haunting Recoleta cemetery, unlike any we've ever seen. Eva Duarte Peron is buried here, along with many of Argentina's other famous people. We then visited the Museum of Fine Arts for a few hours. We ate at a neighborhood restaurant, Melo, recommended by our apartment owner. We retired early to recover from our overnight flight.
The next day dawned warm and sunny and proved to be high 80 degree temperatures. Everywhere the Jacaranda are blooming and birds are singing. We set off for Plaza de Mayo to see the Casa Rosada and other monuments, then walking casually up to Florida Street, the main shopping area in Buenos Aires. Shops line this street for many many blocks, and small vendors have their stalls laid out on the ground or in small carts. Virtually anything can be bought here, from small souvenir to magnificent leather goods and jewelry. It was a great photo opportunity as well.
We decided to have a late lunch at El Mirasol and enjoyed fantastic Ojo cuts of Argentine steak and a wonderful Malbec to go with it.
To work off our meal, we walked back to the park next to Recoleta cemetery, where afternoon and evenings, there is an excellent artisan market. This is one of the biggest in the city, and the offerings were unique and above average. Tango dancers and music enhanced the fun atmosphere.
We slept well and mid-morning took a taxi to San Telmo Mercado and walked the area on Defense Street which is famous for its Sunday Market. It seemed as if everyone in BA was out enjoying the warm temperatures and the lively atmosphere of San Telmo.
The shops lining the street had beautiful antiques, leather, jewelry, clothing and weavings. There was an antique market to rival Portobello in London. In addition, artisans had booths set up on side streets.
Musicians played guitar and accordions, old men sang, tango dancers danced and mimes held their poses. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in San Telmo and topped it off with another late lunch. This time we ate at La Brigada, an old Argentine restaurant on Estado Unidas. The restaurant is filled with Argentine sports memorabilia and was vibrant with people enjoying their meals. We had outstanding Lomo steak and salad and, again, a wonderful Malbec for a very economical price.
We now are preparing to leave for the ship and our South American adventure. We will post more when we board the ship.
Our driver picked us up at noon and we drove the 15 minutes to the port terminal. There were about 20 couples waiting. We filled out health forms and chatted for about 15 minutes. We then were called to go upstairs to check in. That took about 10 minutes, we went through immigration, and were bussed to the beautiful Sojourn. It was great to see the waiting line of staff and receive their warm greetings. We were escorted to the Grand Salon where beverages and sandwiches were available. We were pleased to see some wonderful staff members whom we knew from past Seabourn cruises. We enjoyed meeting more fellow passengers and exchanging stories of our trips down and Buenos Aires activities.
We were shown to our cabins about 1:30. The room is set up well, with lots of closet space, nice seating area and comfortable bed. We particularly like the fact that there is a real table with two chairs, for in-room dining, working on a laptop, or other functions. It is set up on the side, and leaves the center of the room empty for easy maneuverability. The bathroom is very convenient with separate shower and bath and two sinks. Drawers are a bit shallow, but there are a number of them, so plenty of space. The television has movies on demand and also all the shore excursion information, as well as cable tv. The cabin is a lovely place to call home for the next two weeks.
Our stewardess, Meagan from South Africa, came by with offers of different soaps and had already prepared the cabin with our choice of in-room liquor and drinks. She was very upbeat and accommodating. We unpacked and checked the restaurant menus for the evening. We decided to try Restaurant 2 for the evening and made a reservation.
Down at Seabourn Square, we were happy to find that Claudio is our shore excursion manager. He was very welcoming and we were glad to see him again. We discussed some shore excursion possibilities, although we also have booked private tours for this trip. He told us the Antarctica trip which had been offered was cancelled due to only 5 people having signed up. However, onboard, many people were disappointed that they could not book it. So, if you take this cruise and want to do the Antarctica side trip, you must book it 30 days before.
The ship is not full. It has about 350 aboard and certainly does not feel crowded in any way. We love the sense of space on this ship. Our Captain is Hamish Elliott, our CD is John Howell, our Hotel Director is Hubert.
Guest lecturers for this trip include Richard Cowley who is a Latin American expert, and has escorted four members of the Royal Family on visits to Montevideo. He served as Director-General of the Anglo-Uruguayan Cultural Institute. John Pilkington is known as a broadcaster with BBC World Service and was one of the first people in modern times to retrace the Silk Road from Venice to the Yellow Sea. He also walked the 1,600 mile Royal Road of the Incas in the Peruvian Andes. We are looking forward to their talks, the first of which will be tomorrow evening. Showtime this evening will be Magician Martin John.
We had lifeboat drill at 5 pm, changed and met in the Club bar at 6 last evening with other CC cruisers and had an enjoyable time as the ship left Buenos Aires. We then went up to Restaurant 2 and had a wonderful dinner. We were happy to see Priscilla the wine steward from our previous Sojourn cruise. She poured a nice NZ Sauvignon Blanc and we enjoyed the chef's small plates creations.
It was 9:30 when we returned to our cabin. We turned our clocks ahead 1 hour and sat on the balcony a bit enjoying our trip down the Rio Plata.
We slept in and awoke to find ourselves docked in Montevideo, Uruguay. It is the largest city and capital of Uruguay. It was established in 1726 as a strategic move during a Spanish-Portuguese colony at Colonia del Sacramento. It is the southernmost cosmopolitan capital city in the Americas and third most southern in the world.
We will take the ship shuttle into town today and walk around viewing the city sites and do some shopping. The ship will leave at 5 pm this afternoon.
Tonight's menu in the restaurant includes first course choices of roasted vegetable terrine, seared Tuna with Soba noodles, curry dusted scallop, black mussel veloute and onion consommÃ©. Entrees include pan seared halibut, duck a L'Orange, Veal Chop, and potato Leek Crepes.
The Colonnade is having a different themed dinner each night on this cruise. They will be Spanish, French, American, Old England, Italian, Russian , South American Tuscan Market, Seafood and Polynesian.
What a charming surprise Montevideo was today. We took the free shuttle bus into town and walked around the square, then down the pedestrian walkway. (Actually, it also is an easy walk). There were vendors and stalls lining the avenue, and interesting shops. We visited the museum, and walked into the park which had an antique fair. We so enjoyed talking with the people about their wares and learning about Uruguay and Montevideo's history. Many of the people spoke excellent English and were very anxious to talk with us.
We then walked down to the Mercado, which is close to the ship. There are arts and crafts stores with local artisan goods, paintings, jewelry and weavings. We entered the Mercado, on the advice of one of the shop owners and enjoyed a parradillas (bbq) lunch of fabulous chicken , frites and salad. The Mercado is much like a South American beer garden with various restaurants showing off their bbq'd meats and fish and vegetables. We were serenaded by guitar players and thoroughly enjoyed our time.
Back on the ship, John Howell had arranged for the Montevideo Tango Show to perform in the Grand Salon at 3:30. It was a wonderful show of song, dance and music, with passenger participation. The audience gave an ovation to the group. It was a great way to end our day here.
We're sailing a bit late because we're awaiting the arrival of a few passengers who have been delayed because of a volcanic ash cloud affecting the local airports. Once at sea, we're on our way to the Falkland Islands.
It was nice to have a relaxing day at sea today. We slept in and had breakfast in the room, after getting some cappuccinos from Megan at the Sojourn Square coffee bar. Seas are about 5-7 feet, but the Sojourn is very stable and is handling them well.
We attended a Destination Talk by Shore Excursion Manager Claudio. He provided a great overview of all the ports, including photos he had taken on the previous cruise. That cruise was the reverse of our itinerary so it was nice to have real time information about the excursions and ports we're visiting.
A small group of passengers made up the teams for Trivia today. CD John Howell ran a lively session though, and our team, the Pollos Rellenos (stuffed chickens), won trivia today.
This afternoon's lecture by Richard Cowley was on the Fascination of the Falklands, and he included information on the Falklands history and makeup of the more than 700 islands that are the Falklands. He highlighted the conflict between Britain and Argentina, and spoke of the sites we will see.
Also on the agenda today were a navigational bridge visit, golf putting, duplicate and social bridge. There is a bridge group of about 30 who have brought their own teacher along, but Seabourn also provides lessons.
Tonight was formal night with a reception at 6:45pm with the Captain. He said that it is looking good to make the Falklands, although the weather will be cold and windy. The total passenger contingent was confirmed at 330, so we are enjoying lots of space onboard.
We were invited to have dinner with the Chief Engineering Officer Magne, and his wife, Linda. We had a delightful evening with them and four other passengers, including CCers Jim and Cynthia. On the menu were foie gras, lobster bisque, salads, chateaubriand, truffled chicken, and lobster.
Showtime was "Can't Stop the Music" a tribute to UK and American bands.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! It was a bit rougher at sea last night as we make our way to the Falklands, and the cabin creaked quite a bit. This morning dawned sunny and beautiful with moderate seas. It's a really gorgeous day about 50 degrees.
One thing we have been impressed with on Sojourn is the fact that the officers are very visible, and walking around chatting with passengers. In fact, the Captain came round Seabourn Square this morning and he told us it is looking good to get into the Falklands tomorrow. That's great news as we have a private excursion booked to Volunteer Point to see the penguins.
Today being Thanksgiving, Chef Andrew Soddy is giving a cooking demonstration of pumpkin risotto with goat cheese, and pecan pie with bourbon glazed apples.
We'll do trivia at noon and attend the lecture by John Pilkington on Introducing Patagonia. There is a special Turkey Trivia this afternoon and a Galley Tour as well.
On the menu tonight are Smoked Tea Crusted Salmon, Scallops and Beef Ribs, Rack of Lamb, Three Cheese Tortellini, and of course Thankgiving Turkey with all the fixings. Chef Andrew promised lots of cranberry sauce, and CD John Howell says he gave the chef his Aunt Lucy's Corn Pudding recipe. It should be a fun evening.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with CD John Howell and a few other guests he invited to share the holiday dinner. Chef Andrew outdid himself and we enjoyed the wonderful pumpkin soup and turkey, stuffing and yes, Aunt Lucy's Corn Pudding. John was a wonderful host and we all agreed it was an enjoyable festive evening.
STANLEY, FALKLAND ISLANDS
Wow what a day we had! We awoke early to smooth seas and to the ship being guided into Stanley Harbor. We were very fortunate that this day dawned sunny and warm for the area with highs in the 50s.
After breakfast in the Colonnade, we boarded the first tender. We had a private excursion booked to Volunteer Point to see the King, Magellenic and Gentoo penguins. Ken Morrison, our driver was waiting shore side with our names on a placard and quickly escorted us to his Land Rover 4 x 4 and we were off. Ken was born on the big west island of the Falklands (there are more than 700 islands which make up the Falklands) and moved to Stanley with his family about 20 years ago. He says he's still considered a newcomer. Ken regaled us with tales of the Falklands conflict in 1982 and pointed out sites of battles, encampments, downed helicopter wreckage, and discussed what it was like living there during the time.
The Falklands are starkly beautiful with "stone rivers" which came through millenniums of freeze and thaw when large mountains of rocks have broken down into small boulders that have created these fields of rock debris. They make a mosaic on the mountains and a literal stream of rocks on the ground. Gorse was blooming in the fields, as well as spring flowers in town. Some of the island is still fenced off with signs warning of land mines left from the Argentinean invaders.
We first drove on the paved road, then on a dirt track for about 1 hour, and then went totally off road on basically a peat bog surface to get to Volunteer Point. Having a 4X4 was definitely the only way to go, and Ken did a superlative job of finding the best track and avoiding slippery or waterlogged areas. The Falklands have had a lot of rain recently, and tracks, which would be dry and dusty normally in the summer, were waterlogged and deep in mud. We were happy when Ken told us he was the town mechanic! After 1-1/2 hours off road, we arrived at Volunteer Point.
How beautiful it is, with the seas an emerald green, waves crashing on the beach, blue sky, sun and thousands of penguins. There are three types: the King Penguins with their yellow cheeks and about waist high. Then there were the burrowing Magellenic penguins on their nests, and the smaller Gentoo penguins.
We were the first vehicle to arrive at Volunteer Point and had about an hour to ourselves before the caravans of other private tours and ship's tours arrived. The King penguins were so friendly and walked right up, although we knew the rules said not to touch or go into marked off areas. We saw hundreds of brown furry babies who stayed close to their parents. It was an amazing sight we'll long remember. The Magellenic penguins stayed pretty much in their burrows on the beach, but we got great photos of them, and then went over to the hoards of Gentoo penguins, some molting their feathers, a few babies, and many still sitting on their nests. Seals lounged in the sand on the beach. The entire experience could not have been more positive.
We ate the boxed lunch Ken had brought for us and we were off across the peat bogs for another 1-1/2 hour journey back to the gravel and then, paved roads. Ken then took us on a tour of Stanley, which is a charming, clean and lovely town. Ken pointed out the Governor's mansion, the church with whalebone cross, and some of the homes brought in for residents after theirs were destroyed in the war. He showed us his lovely home with a beautiful greenhouse where he grows fruits and vegetables for the family. He also showed us the town's racecourse where, in the 1960's a highjacked plane was forced to land right in the middle of the course, barely fitting within the fence. The plane eventually was stripped and flown out, but the photos of it sitting on the racecourse, wings touching the galleries on each side were amazing.
We did some shopping and reboarded the tender back to the ship. The seas still were fine and the sun was shining. We were scheduled to leave at 6pm, but the Captain announced that one of the tours to Volunteer Point would be a bit late returning. We found out that this was because one of their 4x4s had lost an axle and a few of the vehicles had become "bogged" and had to be pulled out. The passengers affected were quickly transferred to the other cars and all did return safely, not too long after. Everyone we talked with agreed that this long and rocky journey was totally worth the effort. We highly recommend it if you are taking this itinerary.
We cleaned up, had drinks in the Observation Bar, chatting with fellow passengers comparing the day's experiences, and then went to the Colonnade for dinner. The Colonnade is on the 8th deck aft and is casual with table service. There is an outside dining area, but it was too cold to use. The menu is smaller and features a theme dinner each evening. Tonight it was Old English and we enjoyed Dover Sole and Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding as entrees, along with a Sauvignon Blanc Semillion Blend. All in all, a most enjoyable day and we are so grateful that the weather and seas allowed us to experience this most delightful island.
We cannot say enough about how much we are enjoying the Sojourn and especially the warm and wonderful staff. The ship is in beautiful condition, the food has been excellent and the wines very good. Some excellent Malbecs, Shiraz, and Sauvignon Blancs are available on the everyday list.
We had a small issue with our cabin for a few days, and, upon reporting it, were immediately given excellent service by Murat, the Guest Relations Manager and Hubert the Hotel Director. They graciously moved us to another cabin and were very solicitous about our comfort and ensured that all was well. Murat is exceptional in managing the Reception Desk and dealing with passengers in a friendly and conscientious way. We are so impressed with omnipresent Hubert who is definitely a hands-on Hotel Director and genial with both staff and customers. Just amazing. CD John Howell also is everywhere, and hard working and fun, interacting constantly with passengers. He also has an outstanding singing voice.
This morning the Captain had a Q&A with passengers, joined by Magne the Chief Engineer. It was interesting to hear about the ship's operation, our journey ahead and both were very interactive with the audience.
We listed to an excellent talk by John Pilkington entitled "Pioneers and Bandits" which included history of Patagonia, including stories of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their antics and robberies there.
Team trivia today was fun and our team finished ahead in the cumulative points as of today.
Lunch in the main dining room was followed by a lecture by Richard Cowley, "With Darwin to Patagonia." Both speakers have been excellent and have been generous with their time with passengers during off time.
Also on the agenda today were bridge, golf putting, suites tour, Spanish course and Chocoholic Tea Time.
Dinner entrees this evening include orange roughy, soft shell crab, sirloin and short rib of beef, double cut pork chop and gnocchi. Appetizers include veal carpaccio, yellow fin tuna Wellington, mushroom minestrone and cream of asparagus soup. Restaurant 2's small bites includes octopus ceviche, lobster corn dog, chicken brick parcel, butternut squash presse, foie gras sandwich and roasted salmon in Sake Ginger and Orange Soy Duck.
Showtime highlights tonight are Vocalist David Karl and Comedian Gary Thompson.
Ushuaia is the capital city of Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina and is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world. It also is a starting out port for many Antarctica cruises. It is bounded on the north by the Martial mountain range and on the south by the Beagle Channel. It has a population of 60,000, many of whom are descendants of English speaking settlers and who survive on sheep-raising, lumbering and fishing. Ushuaia's subpolar oceanic climate is similar to Unalaska and Reykjavik with mean temperatures in summer of 50 F. Snow regularly occurs throughout the year.
We ate an early breakfast in the Colonnade and made our way to the pier to board our Beagle Channel catamaran excursion. The weather was overcast with intermittent rain and a curtain of clouds covering the mountain peaks, but the Channel was smooth as glass. This was a nature cruise for about 2-1/2 hours viewing cormorant nests, sea lions, flightless steamer ducks, albatross, lighthouse points and the beauty of the Beagle Channel. Richard's lecture on Darwin came to life as we say many species mentioned in his journals. The wind is so strong here that trees are whipped and grow sideways making for a beautiful but haunting landscape. After the cruise we walked the town streets, but because it was Sunday, half of the stores were closed. However, we can tell you that if you want to buy a penguin in any variety, this is the place to get it!
As a side note, friends took the two-hour horseback riding excursion along the mountainside and said the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was very enjoyable.
We reboarded the ship about 1 pm and had lunch in the dining room with wonderful Vindora as our server. We were scheduled to depart at 4 pm, but the Captain announced that officials said that a regatta was going on in the harbor and, since the wind was not blowing sufficiently (in Ushuaia??) they were finishing late. We could not leave until they vacated the harbor. About 5:30 pm, we were on our way.
We sailed back up the Beagle Channel and are on our way to round Cape Horn at 7 am tomorrow!
Dinner in the Dining Room this evening was Chefs Dinner -â€“ a set menu with a choice only of Halibut or Filet Mignon, with appetizer and salad and dessert courses especially prepared by Chef Andrew Soddy. We were invited to sit with Guest Relations Manager Murat and Guest Relations Supervisor Liesl and other guests. Convivial conversation accompanied the dinner and we were astounded to learn one of our tablemates had been a wing-walker in her youth in Australia! A standout on the menu was Roast Pumpkin Risotto and the Hot Raspberry Souffle for dessert.
Evening entertainment was "I Write the Songs" based on Billy Joel, Elton John and Barry Manilow." The entertainment on the ship has been good and we also particularly enjoy sitting in the club before dinner having a drink and listening to the Six of Hearts featuring Pauline. They are outstanding.
The staff has been so excellent, we'd like to mention a few who have gone out of their way to make this a wonderful cruise: Vindora and Christian, Andrew and Stephanie in the Restaurant, Felim and Matt who are Bar Staff, Meagan our stewardess, Murat and Jo at reception, Megan at the coffee bar and John Howell who has been outstanding.
ROUNDING CAPE HORN AND GLACIER ALLEY
What an amazing, astounding once in a lifetime experience of a day we have had. This day represents why we go to sea and why Seabourn Sojourn is our ship of choice.
We woke early at 5am, showered and went up to the front Observation Bar at 5:45 am to get seats for our trip round Cape Horn this morning. The staff had set out coffee, juice tea and pastry already, which helped us wake up.
As we approached Deception Island which is often mistaken for Cape Horn, the winds outside were blowing 55 mph, with sprinkling of rain and mist. The seas however, were not overly high. About 6:30 am Cape Horn came into view and we eased our way up to the north side of Hornos Island. Kathy went out to take some photos, and the blowing wind pushed strongly against her, making her few steps become a step, blow backward, step, blow backward journey. It was exhilarating she said.
Cape Horn is one of the most evocative names on the map and in maritime history and sits where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet at 56 degrees south. If you were to sail east or west from Cape Horn, the next land you would reach would be Cape Horn! It is not a dramatic site, but there are gales or worse on more than 200 days per year with 20 meter waves quite common. It still is considered one of the major challenges in yachting and the Volvo Ocean Race sail around the world via the Horn and speed records for round-the -â€“world sailing are recognized for following this route.
There is a small lighthouse, a chapel and a weather station operated by a handful of Chilean personnel stationed here, along with an albatross sculptural marker. The current lighthouse keeper has a one year old baby.
The observation lounge was filled with passengers enjoying this rounding together, and excited conversations were exchanged. Speaker Richard Cowley provided commentary on the history and maritime experiences of the area. Staff passed out delicious hot chocolate.
The most amazing thing is that, once we reached the northwest side of the Island and began rounding, the wind died down, the sun came out and it was smooth sailing. Cape Horn had become a calm pool. We sailed past the south side of the Horn itself, a small rock jutting out of the sea, taking myriad photos and videos, stunned with the gorgeous conditions we were experiencing. The 11th deck proved to be a great place to take unobstructed photos of the entire scene, and we recommend going up there to get the best shots.
The entire trip round finished by 8 am, and the Captain and other speaker John Pilkington said that they had never experienced such fantastic conditions in prior sailings. We were truly fortunate.
We went up to the Restaurant for breakfast, viewing the beautiful scenery as we cruised back up toward Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel once more.
Richard Cowley's morning enrichment lecture was very interesting. His subject was the tango and its history from the gauchos to turn of the century Buenos Aires, to present day. He accompanied his excellent and funny talk with some great, classic tango music, concluding with Carlos Gardel.
Team trivia was very tough again today, but our team, the Pollos Rellenos triumphed again and we remain in cumulative first place, by a hair.
John Pilkington, the affable and enjoyable speaker from the BBC, spoke this afternoon about "A Shipwreck, A Glacier and A Surprise." He talked about the seafarers who've foundered on the Patagonian coast, took us on a flight over the stunning Moreno Glacier and told us of a last minute trip to Antarctica which left him stranded there for 18 days when his pilot took off without him! Quite a surprise and a riveting talk! Ballroom dance class with Elena and Dmitry featured, what else?, the tango.
For our second astounding experience, we then made our way back up to the Observation lounge for viewing of Glacier Alley in the Beagle Channel. On our way, passing Ushuaia, the sun was out and we were able to capture photos of the peaks and the city in the clear weather that we had not been able to get on our original visit.
The weather was a bit colder with wind, but the seas very calm as we passed the first of the astounding glaciers that soar over the channel. We have been to Alaska and loved it, but this experience is equally if not superior to the glaciers there. The height and width of them is mind-boggling.
We decided to go down to the stern of the Sojourn, off the Club Bar to capture shots as we passed the glaciers on both sides of the ship. We, along with Claudio the Shore Excursion Manager and three other people, were the only people on the fantail! We felt as if we were sailing our own yacht through a dream world.
The wind did whip as we captured shot after shot of 5 glaciers, named after countries. We felt we could touch them and the stark mountain peaks surrounding them. As we stood looking at the Romanche glacier, a rainbow appeared off the fantail and it added to the magic of the experience. The stunning hanging glacier with a huge waterfall was awe inspiring. We were cold, wind whipped but joyous with the wonders we were seeing. Patagonia is an astounding, surprising place that we know we will explore further.
We had room service for dinner which was served exactly to our order, quickly and efficiently. As we sat and ate, another rainbow appeared just off our balcony adding an ending punctuation to our day. We watched a movie and talked about the most wondrous experience aboard the magical Sojourn.
PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE
We continued our trip overnight into the Straits of Magellan and docked at 8 am in Punta Arenas, Chile. The name means Sandy Point, and it is the largest city south of the 46th parallel south, with a population of 130,000. It is recognized by its red-painted metal roofs. Excursions here included a trip to Otway Sound to see the penguins, an Estancia Tour, an 11-hour land/flight trip to Torres del Paine National Park ($1,199 pp), and a city tour. Since we had seen lots of penguins in the Falklands and a recent trip to New Zealand, we opted to take the ship's free shuttle bus to the main square. Punta Arenas is a lovely city with colonial architecture and friendly people. In the main square, vendors had wooden carts selling penguin themed items, hand knit shawls, sweaters, and lapis jewelry. We enjoyed walking through, and then walked around the city, viewing the restored buildings and shopping at artisan shops. Surrounding the Plaza are mansions of the wealthy sheep farmers of the 19th century. About 1 pm we went down to the waterfront on O'Higgins Street to Sotitos, for lunch. We had a fantastic meal of avocado salad, fresh King Crab (for which Punta Arenas is known), and shared a plate of spit roasted lamb, paradillas style. We had a crisp Chilean Sauvignon Blanc as well. The crab and lamb were phenomenal and we highly recommend this, to Americans anyway, medium priced restaurant.
After our lunch we walked a bit more and took the shuttle back to the ship. A short nap restored us. We are having dinner with new friends from New Orleans at the Colonnade, which is doing a Tuscan Buffet. Tonight at 9:45 pm is the "Rock the Boat Dance Party" which features the entire Entertainment Team.
CRUISING THE CHILEAN FJORDS
We woke this morning to mist and light rain as we made our way through the beginning of the Chilean Fjords. We are anxious to compare these fjords to those of Norway and New Zealand and Tracy Arm in Alaska. The landscape in Tierra del Fuego was quite dramatic and stands up to any we've seen.
We began the morning with a quiet breakfast in the Restaurant, with Vindora and Stephanie as our servers.
Richard Cowley gave a wonderful lecture on the creation of the Andes Mountains, the icefields, glaciers and the volcanoes of the Chilean fjords. He is a very funny and engaging speaker and we hope you have a chance to hear him on a future cruise. He will be doing the next segment back to Buenos Aires so we know some of you will have that opportunity.
At noon we played trivia, which was again very challenging. It is a fun experience though and the Pollos Rellenos, our team, is hanging onto first by a thread.
Ballroom dance class was the Tango and we gave it our best shot. Let me say there is much more to be learned......
We grabbed our cameras and jackets and made our way to the outside decks for our viewing of the Amalia Glacier, a huge Glacier more than 1 km wide. We knew we were approaching as we saw bergie bits in the water and, in the distance could view the pack ice on the water. It was relatively warm but still was misty, so our opportunities were not the best today for photography, but we could easily view the glacier's incredible size and grandeur.
The ship sent out a speedboat with three crew members who gathered and brought back some of the glacier ice to the ship's bars. The crew bobbed around in the frigid waters and took their time finding just the right pieces. We enjoyed watching them then speed all around the Sojourn with a big white hand on a board waving to all the passengers who were taking photos and waving back. We stood by the side as they hoisted the boat back onto the ship with their prize catch. Kathy was thrilled to have the crew, in their immersion suits, hand her a chunk of ice and pose for a photo opp. The ice then was taken to the bars around the ship for passenger viewing, but, not for use in drinks. It was a fun chance for all to share the experience.
One note to follow up on a prior post I made. The group that took the 11 hour excursion to Torres Del Paine National Park had an amazing experience. Although it was misty and rainy for those of us who stayed in Punta Arenas, they had clear blue skies and sun in the park. Their photos are amazing. They saw guanacos and reas with their babies, and had a clear gorgeous view of the famous Towers of the Park. All said it was a wonderful day.
In the Club Bar tonight, Kathy tried a Pisco Sour. Sorry, the Lemon Drop Martini wins out again!
On the menu in the Restaurant tonight were Roasted Salmon, Jumbo Scallops, Osso Bucco and Grilled Lamb Loin. Appetizers were Salmon Tartare, Besaola, Chicken Cassoutlet "En Croute" (it was incredible), Carrot and Ginger Soup and Chilean Potato Salad.
We were invited to dinner with John Pilkington and had lively conversation about John's travels, including his recent trips to Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and all the "stans." John's enthusiasm is contagious and one can understand the British Royal Geographic Society presenting him with the Ness Award for his work in popularizing geography and a wide understanding of the world. He is a familiar voice on BBC World Service with his travel documentaries. We will add that his photographs also are amazing. If you get a chance to hear him, don't miss the opportunity.
Showtime this evening was "The Vocal Fireworks of Justine Balmer."
CRUISING THE CHILEAN FJORDS
We went to sleep to calm seas, had a bit of heavy seas in the night, and this morning woke to calm seas and sunny blue skies. The fjords really stand out now and ice capped stark black mountains combine with the green and rock strewn hills to make a beautiful landscape. It is warm today and very relaxing sitting on the balcony reading a book and watching all this natural beauty as we glide by.
The morning's activities include the sixth Spanish course conducted by Heidi, Chef Andrew's Cooking demonstration on Asian Spiced Seabass, and his famous Glazed Lemon Tart.
Trivia is at noon and Richard Cowley's lecture on "Lost in the Snows of the Andes." The talk reveals the details about the plane carrying a team of soccer players that crash landed high on the Andes mountains between Chile and Argentina. It is a great survival story.
John Pilkington is doing a Round Table discussion and book signing as well this afternoon. We will attend Ballroom Dance class with Elena and Dmitry this afternoon to give it another go...
A couple of notes: Internet has been working fabulously on this trip. It is a real contrast to the issues we had with it on our Singapore to Dubai trip last Feb/March. Nigel, the computer expert is very helpful and we complimented him on the great service we're getting.
Susana, our new stewardess, is doing a super job of keeping our room spotless. And, for those of you concerned about past experiences with the lack of Moulton Brown products, we have not had to ask for any- they are immediately replaced in our bathroom cabinet. It is obvious the staff on this ship is happy and the camaraderie we see is genuine.
The passenger component has been American British, Australian, and German and we have made the acquaintance of a number of lovely couples. There are no children aboard. We must say that the fact that we are down 100 passengers from capacity make this ship feel incredibly spacious and provides many opportunities to find that quiet corner to curl up with a book.
Right now the only thing we would change is to forbid smoking on the balconies and in cabins, as the smoke consistently wafts over to our balcony and the smell is in the hallways. I know it is a matter of choice, and controversial to say this, and we knew Seabourn allows this. Just our opinion.
Dinner entrees in The Restaurant will include Turbot, Crab Cake, Herb Roasted Chicken, New York Strip and Swiss Chard Ricotta Ravioli. The Colonnade has a Polynesian themed dinner which includes Yellow Fin Tuna, Shrimp Spring Roll or Blue Crab Papaya Bisque and main courses of Grilled Orange Roughy or Hawaiian Barbequed Chicken.
PUERTO CHACABUCO, CHILE
Puerto Chacabuco is a Chilean town in Aisen Province at the head of the Aisen Fjord. It is the main port of the region because in 1991 Mount Hudson volcano erupted. This resulted in the original port of Puerto Aisen having its navigability decrease due to ashes and earth erosion. Puerto Chacabuco is a tender port and the sail in was amazingly beautiful as we glided past the fjord to our place in the harbor. The weather was great and actually warmed to sunny 60 degrees
One note: There is absolutely nothing in Puerto Chacabuco itself, and a shore excursion definitely should be booked here unless you just want to spend a day on the ship. The ship's excursions took up every bus in the area, according to Claudio, and it was the first port where most of the ship was on excursion. Some passengers took a longer excursion over the Andes to the small town of Coyhaique and while they enjoyed it, they said it was a long ride on rough roads.
We chose to take the half-day tour to Aisen National Park which was lovely. We hiked the park for a while, viewing beautiful flora and fauna, and we spotted our first condors of the trip. We hiked to a lovely waterfall, and everywhere the spring flowers were in bloom. Lupines, fuschia trees, and buttercups were really showing their colors. One caution: the large black flies are out in force, so insect repellant is advised and don't wear perfume as it is a magnet! At the end of the hike we were taken to a small lodge where lamb was cooking on the barbeque for later ship tours. We were served empanadas and other appetizers, along with champagne, pisco sours and Chilean wines. A local folkloric dance troupe also performed the traditional Chilean handkerchief dance and some of us were invited to partner with the dancers and join in. After a visit to the lake, we reboarded our bus for the 15 minute ride back to the ship.
The ship departed at 2 pm and we attended John Pilkington's lecture on Llamas and Incas. Ballroom dance class was the jive, and we then changed for drinks in the Club listening to the Six of Hearts, and dinner. The Colonnade had an Indian market this evening, and it was immensely popular. The ship's officers including the Captain were present for the feast. We must say the chefs outdid themselves and the food was absolutely outstanding. It was Broadway Cabaret night in the Club after dinner.
PUERTO MONTT, CHILE
It was overcast and misting as we dropped anchor in Puerto Montt this morning. The forecast was for rain, but it held off as we dressed, breakfasted in the Colonnade and went down to the tenders. We had booked a private tour through Patagonia Shore Excursions, and our driver was waiting at the port.
Puerto Montt is a port city at the northern end of Reloncavi Sound in the Chilean Lakes district. The area originally was inhabited by the Mapuche Indians who drove the Spanish out in 1599. The modern town was founded in 1853 during the German colonization of Southern Chile where immigrants were given free land, timber, a cow and citizenship. It is the gateway to the Chiloe Archipelago and Llanquihue lake, the third largest lake in South America. The area is dotted with chalets, farms and looks much like a country village in Germany. We visited Puerto Varas which is a lovely town about 40 minutes from Puerto Montt and is situated on Llanquihue lake. The town square was filled with decorated Christmas trees, and a band was playing on the stage. The town has some nice crafts made by the local inhabitants and we purchased some for souvenirs of our trip.
Our tour guide Geraldo and driver Jeanette took us to the town of Fruitilar which looks like it is in Germany , but has a sandy beach. We drove to Parque Nacional Perez Rosales, Chile's oldest national park and the home of the magnificent Osorno volcano, 8,700 feet tall. The volcano looms over the entire area and is the subject of many photos, with its perfect triangular shape. Petrohue Falls in the park is a gorgeous setting and often photographed. While we didn't have rain, the mist stayed just on the top of the volcano, so our hoped for photos were not to be. We visited a llama farm and got up close and personal with Gaston, the male llama who lords it over the herd. We had a wonderful lunch in town and then headed back to the ship. While we had intended to shop at the Angelmo craft market near the port, one pass by showed us it was the normal tourist stalls, so we passed. It was a good thing because the skies opened and it absolutely poured as we took the tender back to the ship.
At 4 pm a local folkloric show, "Brotes De Angelmo" came aboard and performed traditional songs and dance routines in the Grand Salon. The ship departed at 6 pm and we eased our way out into the Pacific Ocean for the final day of our cruise.
It was formal evening tonight and we were so happy to be asked to join the table of Hubert the Hotel Director. At the farewell reception prior to dinner, Captain Elliott thanked the 91 returning Seabourn passengers, and the new Seabourn sailors for being part of this incredible cruise. Our table at dinner was a really fun evening, and we all discussed the terrific experiences we've had on this trip. Hubert was an excellent host, and we laughed a lot. We enjoyed choices of the foie gras, white tomato cappuccino soup, lobster, chateaubriand, lamb chops and lemon tart or chocolate soufflÃ©. It was a great evening.
Our final day onboard Sojourn was spent cruising the calm Pacific Ocean. We really have been so lucky this trip as the seas have been wonderful, weather has been unbelievably great, and the staff and fellow passengers have been outstanding.
We went to the restaurant for one last breakfast and then up to Richard Cowley's last lecture, "Chile From Top to Bottom." There was a sign-up bridge visit available as well. We then went to the room and packed our bags for the trip home tomorrow.
At noon it was final Team Trivia Challenge and John Howell, Diana and Heidi had some really tough questions for us all. For the final bonus question we had to bet our scores to determine the winning team. I'm happy to say that the Pollos Rellenos (Stuffed Chickens), our team, won the final team trivia and therefore were crowned the champions. We each received a Seabourn stuffed bear for our efforts. It was a fun time with the other teams, all of whom had a great sense of humor, and John ran a great trivia, which is not always easy to do!
It was Galley Market Lunch day and so we eagerly made our way to the restaurant for the chef's staff to show off their masterpieces. It was beautifully presented, tasted great, and each area of the kitchen was proud to show off its foods. The dessert table alone was stunning.
We attended John Pilkington's lecture "The Royal Road to Cusco" which included his photos and commentaries on Machu Picchu as well. Ballroom dance class with Elena and Dmitry was the waltz.
Pre-dinner Showtime was vocalist Justine Balmer. We had drinks in the Club before having a casual dinner at the pool grill. The weather was a bit cool, but lovely and we enjoyed chatting with fellow passengers while we sat under the stars. There was a latino beats farewell dance party in the Club, but we went back and watched a movie, then had our final night's rest on the Sojourn on calm seas.
All too soon our two week South American adventure was coming to an end. We arose early and had room service breakfast -â€“ prepared perfectly and served promptly. We must say room service overall was excellent on this trip.
We had a flight out of Santiago on Air Canada and had just been informed by the airline that they had moved the flight time up two hours, making it a seemingly tight connection for us. The flight to Buenos Aires was our connector to our United non-stop back to Dulles. We had arranged a private driver -â€“ Christian the Van Man -â€“ for the trip and he assured us via email that he would get us there on time.
We must give kudos and great thanks to Claudio the shore excursion manager who was magnificent and helped us immensely, even though we had not booked a ship's transfer. He ensured that we were first off the ship, actually rode the shuttle with us to the port entrance, and got us through security quickly. He went above and beyond to help us get to our waiting car and driver. Claudio actually is from Valparaiso and his excitement at being there made us want to come back to visit this lovely colonial town.
Christian our driver was waiting for us and gave us wonderful commentary on the area in perfect English as we drove through the winery region on the way to Santiago airport. As promised, we arrived with time to spare and with boarding passes in hand, went through security and onto our plane. (By the way, do not lose the white paper the Chilean authorities insert into your passport. You need it to leave the country along with your written declaration). The flight over the Andes was spectacular and the mountains were absolutely gorgeous in the clear blue sky. We used the Red Carpet Club at Buenos Aires Airport until our uneventful flight back to Washington DC.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
We thoroughly and completely enjoyed this stunning, surprising and culturally expanding trip to South America- all 3,961 Nautical Miles. We are so glad we chose the Seabourn Sojourn to take our trip. The weather and scenery were fantastic and more than we could have expected. From start to finish the staff was charming, friendly and professional. The food was the same quality we had enjoyed on previous Seabourn cruises. The wines, although not quite up to former quality, were very drinkable, and we found that if we asked for those we preferred, they were poured quickly.
We have so many people who provided outstanding service that it is hard to thank everyone. But some real stand-outs were: John Howell, an exceptional customer- oriented and talented Cruise Director, Hubert the Hotel Manager was a very involved, pleasant and caring leader. Captain Hamish Elliott was very visible and affable, and cared about passenger comfort.
In the restaurants, food staff members Vindora, Christian, Stephanie, Andrew, and Priscilla for wine were superb. Bar waiters Matt and Felim were personable, and provided great service. Our room stewardesses Meagan and Susana were excellent and kept everything in our cabin(s) perfect.
Claudio was an outstanding Shore Excursion Manager, Nigel was great with computer issues, Murat was a terrific Guest Relations Manager (and actually went to sleep in our first cabin after we left to determine the cause of the noise issue we had). Yelena was always there smiling with made to order coffee at the coffee bar early in the morning.
Truly there is very little to find fault with on this cruise. There were very few lapses in service (mostly in the Observation bar). The Restaurant was open for lunch most sea days and some port days. We prefer the Restaurant for meals and service because the tables in the Colonnade are a bit too close for our taste and we like to be served. But the Colonnade is a lovely room with the opportunity to see the views all around.
We would return to the Sojourn in an instant, and hope that Seabourn will consider taking its ships after refit to Antarctica along with this itinerary. We'll be there if they do.