We flew overnight from Miami to Santiago, arriving 8:30 a.m. We had an interesting 3-hour Turis (Pauline and driver Juan) led tour of Santiago. A very thorough introduction to the historical and cultural highlights of Santiago. Five bus ... Read More
We flew overnight from Miami to Santiago, arriving 8:30 a.m. We had an interesting 3-hour Turis (Pauline and driver Juan) led tour of Santiago. A very thorough introduction to the historical and cultural highlights of Santiago. Five bus loads of Zaandam passengers stayed at the Sheraton Santiago Hotel which made the transfer Sunday morning to the port city of Valparaiso very convenient.
Sunday morning’s 1.5 hr. bus ride with one potty break transfer from Sheraton to Valparaiso terminal. Lilianna was our bus #4 guide who narrated the entire trip. Very informative. As you walk through terminal shops be sure to sample the Veremonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from the Villa de Casablanca vineyards, Chile. HAL registration very smooth, taking barely 25 minutes in queue and processing.
Sea Days provided good opportunities to look back to reflect on activities done, classes or upcoming port expectations. Our Location Guide Ryan was inspirational and a really positive influence as we looked forward to seeing and hearing his presentations.
EVENING ENTERTAINMENT: The Zaandam entertainers and the HALCat band were consistently good. Classique starred the Singers and Dancers was wonderful. Wife even commented she would have paid a fee to see; it was that good of a cruise ship show. Monday SHOWTIME WAS Jaz Danion who entertained us with world class juggling and feats of strength and balance. Tuesday SHOWTIME featured International renowned Harpist Shirley Dominguez performing "When the Harp goes Latin." Backed by the HALcats and superb theatrical smoke and lighting, we few who attended Shirley's passionate performance were really entertained. Truth be told, we went expecting to listen to her first song. We happily stayed her entire 45 minute show. Wednesday’s SHOTIME performer was British operatic Tenor Lee Brantley. We opted for March Madness. Our loss! On Friday we were entertained by both Shirley and Lee…fast paced and powerful. A very good show.
Monday’s SHOWTIME was highlighted by Salvatore Hasard, singer and multi-instrumentalist performing "Life is Music." Moving effortlessly from his "Bride," his pearl white electric guitar, performing several songs with Harmonica, Piano, from which he performed several 'solo-duets,' Saxophone, and Drums from which he performed a tribute to his favorite multi-instrumentalists...Stevie Wonder. His between-song stories and solid playing and vocals made this a fun show. Tuesday’s SHOWTIME entertainer was Comedian Andrew Kennedy. Reality (family) Comedy. From his 83 year old Mister McGoo, proper Brit father to his 5'0" Columbian Latina mother, lily white Andrew looks at life (never judging a book by its cover) through the multi-cultural eyes of a bilingual boy who was born to the interpreter to his father and mother. Showtime entertainment Thursday featured PAMPAS DEVILS GAUCHOS: a traditional South American gaucho show including the Argentinean Tango, Bolas, and Argentinean tap dancing as well as a little comedy featuring show man, Juan Pablo Vino. Showtime entertainment Friday featured the HAL singers and dancers who performed a really professional program entitled simply, "DANCE." We closed each evening with Piano Man Van, a very versatile club piano man / show man.
PORTS OF CALL: Tender ports—Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacabuco, and Stanley…tender operations went very smoothly. In Puerto Montt we had an easy transfer from ship to comfortable bus. I enjoyed the ride as our guide was easy to understand and very informative. First stop, after a short drive, the rushing cascades of Petrohue Falls. We spent 45 mins. there with plenty time to shop a bit at a handicraft market. Our tour took us next up the steep and winding roads to the near peak of Osorno Volcano. Unforttnately, cloud cover blocked our view of the volcano all day. Stopping for lunch at a German Restaurant was a highlight. The food was delicious, lovely atmosphere and beautiful flowers in the gardens. Lastly, we spent an hour shopping in Puerto Varas. The 7 1/2 hour excursion made for a wonderful day.
In Puerto Chacabuco we took the HAL led Northern Patagonia and Coyhaique City tour, an enjoyable day exactly as the brochure describes. Not mentioned was the ‘snack’ we had halfway through the trip…awesome.
In Punta Arenas we scheduled the Off the Beaten Path: Magdalena (Island) Penguin Reserve (as a Plan B in case Stanley didn’t permit entry.) There were still 20,000 to 25,000 pairs of Magelanic Penguins in residence. We had the ultimate in good fortune. The previous day’s tour was cancelled as was our afternoon’s trip. We had smooth sailing (2-4’ seas) for the 2.5 hour ferry ride to the island. Returning though seas built to 8-11’ seas and building. What a magnificent encounter with these burrowing creatures.
Our dockage at Ushuaia was delayed by 1.5 hours due to high crosswinds and very choppy seas. We had an interesting excursion. Our 6:30 departure was adjusted to 7:30 so we were able to do our entire Drive to Tierra del Fuego National Park excursion during which we stopped at a lake across which was an Argentine mountain range which was lovely. We then backtracked to a visitors center / restaurant for a bite to eat / photo op. Another view of the same lake and similar mountain views. In this lake we saw five ducks bobbing in the growing swells. Then we made a stop at crazy Carlos, keeper of the End of the World Post Office in a shack on a wooden pier. Despite getting near 6:30 on Sunday afternoon, he was still open, quite happy to sell post cards, hawking some that bore images of himself in a number of different poses and designs taken over his 30 year tenure.
The absolute pinnacle of our South American journey was the Patrick Watts led Bertha’s Beach / Gypsy Cove excursion which we had booked and hawked to our Cruise Critic Roll Call Family. We wound up with 26 on this excursion. We arrived Prince William Bay / Sound a little ahead of schedule. The trip to Stanley was smooth as silk. In fact, the largest swells occurred when we encountered the wake of oncoming tenders retuning to the Zaandam from Stanley. Excellent boarding of tender, really calm bay to and from Stanley pier. Patrick and his team were right where we expected him to be.. With driver Sara we were in a 7-9 SUV caravan. Tremendous colony of Gentoo penguins. A comical juvenile kept Gypsy Cove , a mine strew beach, a remnant of the Falklands war. Despite there only being 7 Magellanic penguins this late in the season, the elevated walkway around the cove provided beautiful views of the Zaandam and Stanley city in the distance.
In Montevideo we ventured out into town on the suggestion of our location guide Ryan. Armed with a “Circuitous Turistico Walking Tour” map, rain suits and umbrellas, we walked the 15 blocks effortlessly to independence Square. On the way we scoped out the stores we wanted to walk through on the return to the ship. Despite the morning rains, and the persistent threat throughout the afternoon, we got to see and do everything we had set out to do.
Due to our 9:50 flight home on Sunday, we had two full days in Buenos Aires. Saturday we did the HAL led Gaucho Life on the Pampas: great fun—gaucho horse ballet, trick riding, nice walk around estancia, terrific meal of b-b-q steak, chicken, sausage after which guitarists played / sang, and Tango dancers performed. Local wines were very good and, like at every other port, flowed like (excuse me) wine. And oh, those all you can eat empanadas.
Sun. Mar. 20 BUENOS AIRES disembarkation was smooth as silk. Highlights & Tango Show w/airport transfer for those with flights later than 8pm. Buenos Aires tour was very interesting, esp. Recoleta cemetery (Eva Peron (Duarte) story. The Pink Palace from which she addressed her people, Pope Francis's municipal cathedral, the famous La Boca neighborhood, Camalita Street, the soccer stadium. The highlight was the luncheon Tango Show at Cafe de los Angelitos before heading to the Airport. Read Less