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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 9: Friday, At Sea/Amalia Glacier
At Sea/Amalia GlacierAhhh ... spa. What better way to kick off a day at sea? I arrived early for my appointment as I always do, but there's no real benefit to this on Regal Princess other than to get started on your treatment faster. The Lotus Spa, located deep within the bowels of the ship (a real-life example of past cruise designs) rather than up high on the Lido, is pleasant but without trendy modern-day amenities like thalassotherapy pools, heated tile loungers, private saunas and whirlpools, etc. In fact, there aren't even changing lockers and robes -- you are brought straight to a treatment room and left to take off the necessary clothing and make yourself at home under a towel.

I'd always wanted to try aromastone therapy. It isn't cheap -- $175 on sea days for 75 minutes -- but I figured there was no time like the present. Once situated in the dim room, face down on the table and about to fall back asleep to the soothing New Age-y music, my therapist Lerissa began placing hot volcanic stones, atop my shrouding towel, on various pressure points, like the small of my back and in my cupped hands (when I turned over, hot stones were placed behind my shoulder blades and even on my forehead!). At first the weight seemed like something that might bother me, but within seconds I forgot there was something there, as if the stones had melded with my body. With the stones in place, Lerissa began the massage, using both warm oils and hot stones directly on the skin. The word "hot" actually doesn't do them justice -- on first contact, I wondered if I was being branded with the Steiner logo so I could never patronize another spa again for as long as I live. But just like climbing into a steaming hot tub, once the initial shock wore off the temperature felt just right, soothing aches and tensions I didn't even know I had (turns out my calves weren't as excited about all the walking, hiking and climbing as I was).

Seventy-five amazing minutes later, I was like a bowl of Jell-o. The captain had come over the loudspeaker at one point (he's allowed to "interrupt" people in their cabins and such) to let everyone know we'd be going to the Amalia Glacier instead of Pio XI due to icy conditions at the latter, and that the ship would arrive in the area around 1 p.m., much earlier than was listed on our cruise documents. If I'd had to make a decision at that point whether to see the glaciers or stay at the spa ... well, it would have been a close call! Luckily, I was out the door (with a list of "suggested" products and prices, but no hard "you can't live without this" sell) just in time for the viewing.

Pio XI, the glacier we were originally scheduled to visit but bypassed, is actually the largest one in South America, but Amalia, Captain Hamish assured, is just as gorgeous if not more so. We believe him -- the Chilean fjords are more spectacular than anything we ever saw in Alaska, with narrow channels that allowed our cruise ship to get so close you could almost reach out your drinking glass for some fresh ice cubes. Amalia Glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the largest contiguous ice field in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctica; it descends from the Andes, and is approximately 73 square miles in area.

There was literally no space on the starboard side, where the best view of the approach was to be had, so Mike suggested we scoot over to the port side to get a front row seat for the second half of the viewing. He had a point: Eventually, Regal Princess would have to turn around and depart the same way it came in because the glacier was in the equivalent of a dead end. As we inched closer to the glacier, icebergs became visible on the horizon. Icebergs are like thumbprints -- no two are alike -- and can be as large as the state of Connecticut. Luckily, these were on the smaller side, floating alongside tiny hunks of glacial ice, some of which I could swear resembled little ducks with necks and pointy beaks popping out of the water.

Passengers onboard this cruise saw the fjords in a way most cruise passengers never will -- we were once again blessed with a warm, sunny, still day, and some folks were even wearing shorts. And though it is generally easier to see a glacier's bluish tint (which is caused by air pockets in the compacted ice) when it's overcast, even on a sunny day like today the view was breathtaking. We could see the three "ice rivers" that shaped this glacier, which looked like waterfalls that had been frozen in time as they went cascading down through the rock -- glacial ice is so strong it cuts through mountains like a knife, carving out the glacier. For a while, everyone was silent, awed by the sight. You could hear the Princess Cruises and Bermudan flags flapping in the breeze, and waiters walked around with their drinks trays, but nobody was really interested. The captain continued to bring the ship as close as he possibly could on the advice of local pilots.

Suddenly, the silence was broken when a few of us on the port side spotted the tiniest of dolphins arching through the water. South America dolphins are darker than the gray ones I am used to seeing in the Caribbean, and at first I thought they were baby sharks or killer whales. But they were definitely dolphins, surfacing again and again, playing in the freezing gray-green waters and putting on a show for our ship. Just behind them was a small orange tender carrying Princess crew on a mission to collect a chunk of glacial ice to bring onboard. One man standing precariously close to edge used a big stick to push aside larger pieces until he found a good specimen to heave onto the ship. It was hard to see exactly how this procedure takes place from way up high on the Lido, but Mike took a photo with his zoom lens -- can't wait to view it on the big screen. (Later on, this ice was hauled through the ship on a metal pulley by three tough guys, and used in a carving demonstration!)

It started to rain, so Mike packed up the camera and we came in for lunch. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to see such natural beauty in person. Over 10 years, this glacier has shifted 500 yards; like so many glaciers and ice shelves, Amalia is receding -- in fact, widespread recession of the glaciers in southern Patagonia has occurred over the last few decades, seemingly under the impact of warmer climates. Our unnaturally "balmy" weather on this South America cruise has been a true-to-life testament to changing atmospheres. It is really pretty frightening.

We ate at Bravo again, and this time ordered pizzas. Though one would have been plenty for the two of us, "cruise stomach" was back in action so I insisted we each order a different kind. Mike chose a plain cheese pie and I got one with mushrooms, ham and artichokes. Here's a tip: The first slice, hot and gooey, is delicious with crispy crust, but the longer it sits around the less appealing it becomes. The crust gets soggy, and the cheese starts to look like the stuff on frozen Lean Cuisines I eat when "cruise stomach" is in hibernation. If you do come here with a partner or a family, order one to start with so you can share it while is nice and hot. You can always order a second if you are still hungry!

Just across the hall at Characters, I attended my very last ceramics session, putting the finishing touches on my penguin plate. I added a yellow border along the inside seam that I wasn't crazy about -- the paint cracked! -- but the staffer leading the session promised me it would look much better after it had been fired. I left my penguin plate behind to be put in the oven; good or bad, it will be waiting for me, finished, before we disembark.

Mike and I got dressed early for dinner tonight, and headed down to Bengal Bar for pre-dinner drinks and live piano music. We chose two deep wicker chairs in the corner so we could people-watch and chat. After a few martinis, I began challenging him to my own version of "Name That Tune." He now owes me $20 for my skill in identifying "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" after just two or three bars, though he tried to weasel his way out of it by saying he thought he was shaking on 20 Chilean dollars, which is about three cents U.S.; I teased him doubly for not having recognized it after hearing it in all its glory at a tango hall in Buenos Aires. Admittedly, that was over a week ago, and we're starting to realize, sadly, that our South American adventure is more than halfway through.

No time to get depressed. It was dinnertime once again, and we claimed the window seats for a night of international cuisine. To further drive poor Paulo crazy, we ordered by country. I had Mexico, China and Australia (avocado salad, won ton soup and leg of lamb). A few things went back tonight, like Steve's slimy-looking trout that was served skin-up, but were replaced quickly and cheerfully. Italian tartufo, a chocolate and vanilla ice cream ball rolled in cocoa powder, was brought out for dessert. The surprise inside? A frozen maraschino cherry. Once again, our tablemates ran off to see the show, tonight's being a bit of a talent show for crewmembers. I honestly didn't feel like sitting through another production (and we all knew it would be on Princess in-cabin TV the next day), so Mike and I decided to head up to the Dome casino and nightclub.

Well, this was not where the action was. The casino has actually been closed for the last day or so due to gaming restrictions in Chilean waters, and the musician was on break. Nary a soul was on the itty-bitty dance floor, and there were two -- count 'em, two -- people playing a board game off to the side (the card room is attached to the casino, with favorites like Scrabble and Pictionary on hand). No problem. We took the opportunity to walk around to the back of the Dome, which is really a memorable space. Behind panes of glass that circle the slots are tables and chairs next to slanted windows over the bow of the ship. Though it was too dark to see anything, it was a nice cozy place for the third -- or was that fourth? -- appletini of the night. From hot stones and oils to cold glaciers and drinks, I slept like a baby....
Day 8: Punta Arenas red arrow Day 10: Puerto Montt

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