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Home > Virtual Cruises > South America: Around Cape Horn on Regal Princess
South America: Around Cape Horn on Regal Princess
Day 1: Pre-Cruise Stay in Buenos Aires
Day 2: Embarkation, Cruising the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: Valentine's Day in Puerto Madryn
Day 5: Port Stanley
Day 6: Rounding Cape Horn
Day 7: Ushuaia
Day 8: Punta Arenas
Day 9: At Sea/Amalia Glacier
Day 10: Puerto Montt
Day 11: Disembarkation in Valparaiso, Post-Cruise Stay in Santiago
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Day 10: Monday, Puerto Montt
Puerto MonttPuerto Montt sees 220 days of rain a year, and today was no exception. When the anchor dropped (loudly) this morning, the city was wet and dark, blanketed by thunder and lightning. We might have been disappointed had we not known that this, our last port of call, is the capital of Chile's Lake District, the second rainiest area in the country. This is par for the course and we accepted the fact that we were experiencing normal weather for once rather than abnormal!

Mike and I joined the mass of people booked on ship-sponsored excursions in the International Show Lounge (folks on tours were brought to the tenders ahead of other passengers). Our tour was called Osorno Volcano, Petrohue River & Puerto Varas. We were surprised people didn't seem more tired this morning -- last night was Princess' trademark Champagne Waterfall, which was surprisingly fun. A tower of Champagne glasses (this one standing at 13 rows of over 650 glasses) is set up in the atrium, and folks take turns climbing up to a podium to pour Champagne into the top glass -- with the help of the maitre d' -- which eventually trickles down to fill the many glasses below it. The party kicked off just after 11 p.m. with loud dance music, balloons, streamers and free bubbly. More people were out and about than I ever expected, and passengers that I normally would have bet money on being in bed at this hour were doing the electric slide and YMCA. Mike and I actually pooped out on the party while it was still going strong!

We decided to take a ship-sponsored tour here rather than explore on our own because it really gave us the opportunity to see several spread-out attractions in one day. But our rainy morning on the bus reminded me what I like best about touring on my own -- a guy was sitting in the back yakking on his cell phone while our guide, Mauricio, attempted to fill us in on a little bit of Puerto Montt's history. Rude.

I did my best to pay attention. Puerto Montt was settled by German immigrants in 1853 (long before the beginning of World War II, which many wrongly assume was the reason for their initial flight from the country). Though the city grew rapidly, gaining a railway in 1912, most of it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 and then rebuilt; then, in 1979, Puerto Montt became the capital of Chile's Lake Region. Still, some German influence still remains, such as wooden shingled roofs. The nearby community of Frutillar is home to a German museum, Museo Aleman de Frutillar, which provides insight into the accomplishments and lifestyles of the original settlers.

Our first stop was the Petrohue Falls in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. We entered the park and walked about a quarter of a mile of trail along with what seemed like every passenger from Regal Princess. We could hear the rapids long before we could see the water smashing against volcanic stone. It was a beautiful spot for nature photography, lush and green, with bright blue water and steely mountains (on a clear day, you can see Mount Osorno in the background; today was just a little too foggy). Mike was in his glory, snapping away as if he was on assignment for National Geographic, but I thought it was too crowded -- and because of the crowds, shuffling around in orchestrated herds, it felt more like a tourist trap than any other place we've visited on this cruise.

Fog or no fog, it was time to visit Osorno. Osorno is often called the South American Fuji, because of its nearly perfect symmetry; the volcano has retained its classic conical shape as it has been dormant for nearly 140 years since the last known eruption in 1869. The booklet from which we chose this particular tour says that you will "climb the flanks of a volcano." Let me set the record straight: A bus climbs the flanks while you sit there gripping the seatback in front of you, white-knuckled in terror. Or at least that's what I did -- the 3,000 feet traveled uphill were steep and scary, particularly when cars came in the opposite direction. But our driver was top notch, taking the roads slowly and steadily.

Our final point was a ski lodge at the foot of the ski lift. I had no idea you could ski on a volcano! I held onto Mike's arm as we climbed off the bus and into a thick cloud of ... well, clouds. We were surrounded on all sides by dense fog, blocking any and all views of the cone above and the lake below. And adding the proverbial insult to injury, we'd come all that way, and I didn't even have enough cash for a hot chocolate at the lodge or a keychain souvenir from the ski shop. On the plus side, the fog began to clear just as we were getting back onto the bus, and the breathtaking view of the lakefront city and the majestic volcanic peak appeared as we began our descent back down to terra firma.

To distract us from the equally harrowing drive downhill (the tactic worked, thank goodness), Mauricio told us the legend of Osorno. According to this legend, a local Indian tribe believed the peak known today as Osorno was inhabited by an evil demon, spitting fire into the sky. They believed the demon could only be subdued by sacrificing the most beautiful girl in the village, who just happened to be the chief's daughter. She agreed to sacrifice herself to save her people; her one true love, the bravest indian in the village, was actually given the task of slicing her heart out of her chest as an offering to the demon. A hawk swooped down, snatched up her heart and flew up to drop it inside the volcano's opening. Suddenly, it began to snow, and it continued snowing until the demon was silenced ... and Orsono's signature symmetrical white cone has topped it ever since.

I had to laugh at the irony of the story: Just a few moments earlier I had been peering around the bus wondering, "What will happen if this volcano begins a-rumblin' and we have to sacrifice a particularly gorgeous woman?" Honestly, I'd pretty much given up on the whole busload of us.

We made it down in one piece (phew!). Our next stop was a restaurant right on the lake for a salmon lunch -- Chile is fast becoming one of the world's top salmon producers. We were greeted at the door with Pisco Sour cocktails, and offered red and white Chilean wines at the table with empanadas and tasty biscuits, and, of course, grilled salmon. I've avoided ordering much fish onboard because what I have had (shrimp cocktails and such) has been mediocre and what I haven't had I've heard many passengers complain about, so it was nice to enjoy some fresh catch.

Mike and I sat with two young guys from California (probably in their late 20's or early 30's) named Jonathan and Ken, and a party of four from another bus who didn't speak much English but, judging from their laughter, seemed to be having a great time. It was a heck of a lot better than the group we joined at the teahouse in Gaiman. I wish we had met Jonathan and Ken earlier on in the cruise -- the four of us clicked, shared a few laughs and swapped a lot of stories about our travels. I am jealous of the four nights they spent in Buenos Aires before boarding Regal Princess, and we debated lightheartedly about whether the nicest fjords are found in Alaska or Chile. I still maintain that I was more impressed by Chile's Amalia than I was by Alaska's Inside Passage.

The sun was shining in time for the last portion of our tour: a trip to Puerto Varas, Chile's famed "City of Roses." The bus left us right at the main square in Puerto Varas, surrounded by a casino, little eateries, jewelry stores, handicraft shops and, of course, blooming roses. Even the concrete medians in the streets are decorated with roses! We ducked into a few shops and found the sweetest souvenirs for our friends and family, handmade wooden magnets resembling the little German cottages we passed in the bus. If we could do this port all over again, we would have found a way to spend more time in Puerto Varas (ditch the falls?) -- 30 minutes was just a cruel tease. We would have liked to have had a picnic lunch in the waterfront park.

Just before getting back on the bus, we ventured to a perfect vantage point for viewing and photographing Osorno, on the lake one block from the square. Just then it hit me that we'd ascended 3,000 feet of that very volcano. Even if we didn't have the best view while we were there, it will be fun to go home, point to a spot just below the white cap of snow and tell our friends, "Yep, we were standing right there!"

The excursion pretty much lasted our entire port call, and when we returned to the tender dock, the line of passengers waiting to return to the ship was mind-boggling. We were among the last folks back onboard, and stood on the promenade deck watching our last port (before disembarking in Valparaiso, of course) diminish in the distance.

Mike was exhausted and didn't feel like getting dressed up for the dining room, and I had to agree that it would be a nice change of pace to skip the formal meal for something a little more casual. We decided to try out the Bistro -- each night, an area of the lido buffet is sectioned off and transformed into an alternative (free) dining option with tablecloths and waiter service. The menu is the same every night, though there are daily specials and soups offered. The food was fine but not fantastic: I had very mushy ravioli and Mike had very tough pork chops. Still, I'm glad we did something new. There were only a handful of people here compared to the hundreds in the bustling dining room, so our waiter was especially attentive, and our table for two was set facing the floor-to-ceiling windows and a view of the ship's wake, which was a nice touch.

After I challenged Mike to a game of Scrabble in the Card Room (and won), we headed to the Bengal Bar for a nightcap just as a really good jazz band was finishing up a set. We were shocked to see that the room was practically empty -- there were more musicians than there were audience members! Mike loves jazz, having played the saxophone for several years, so we sat and waited for the band to return for the second set before heading off to our cabin.
Day 9: At Sea/Amalia Glacier red arrow Day 11: Disembarkation in Valparaiso, Post-Cruise Stay in Santiago

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