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South America and Antartica land and sea

South America and Antartica land and sea

Old Mar 20, 09, 8:16 pm
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Join Date: May 1998
Location: Escondido CA USA
Programs: AS, UA, HY, Hil, Merr
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South America and Antartica land and sea

South America and Antarctic Jan 20-Feb 17 PICTURES NOW READY

This is the report on a trip to SA, then a 20 day cruise that includes going around the Horn, The Falklands, days plying the waters of the AA and then on to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. It has been broken in sections that should help the reader to hone in on portions of the transportation, countries, tours and/or the cruise. It is factual and antidotal. Expect some typos and lumpy structure. This report is a major task. It is prepared for YOU, not me.

Transportation Escondido to LAX and return:

Take shuttle, Lincoln Town Car, RT. (Price 191.13 incl tax and 18% tip up to 3 people) . Drive showed up timely at our house and loaded the luggage. Time was late evening, so no traffic. Service thru GoSedan Service. Payment by CC when making reservations. Return included meet and greet (name sign) at international terminal and luggage to vehicle and at home. 1-888-822-8822.

Club stops on the trip:

LAX club is Continental in Terminal 6 across from gate 62. Wine was free (tip), snacks were minimal (chips, Fritos and cheese). Not crowded late Tuesday night. No plane announcements.

Flights:

Copa Airlines from LAX to Panama (PTY) to Santiago (SCL). Return Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to PTY to LAX. Class of service “D”, business class. Two seats each side. Okay, but not excellent. Way better than coach. Price for the two of us, RT, was about $8500 or half the cost with UA, AA or DL and a much shorter route (ignoring the shuttle ride). We booked online. Again Thanks to FTers for their assistance

Check in at Terminal 6, COPA Airlines (opened before 21:35 1-800-359-2672). Bags were not weighed individually, but we were allowed three checked bags of 50# each per passenger! On the return from Rio that increases to 70#!!! All free. Carry on 46” and checked 62”. We had three bags total and 4 carry-ons (including 2 backpacks) on the way. We checked 2 of our carry-ons on the way home. Status tags were placed on all bags and it did help at both ends. Planes included 737-700’s and 800’s.

The flight starting loading late, left late and arrived late. Terminal in PYT is smallish and it was easy to make the next flight, but not enough time for club. Flight, early AM, offered a snack once skyboard and breakfast (eggs barely cooked) before arrival in Panama. Most of the balance of the time several FA’s slept. It is only a 6 hour flight. The wine was new to me, and the red tasted watered down. Service was good when it occurred. In all, just as good, as business with the majors. Most announcements were repeated in English, but not all. Flight legs were about 6 hours each. We had trouble with seating on our to and from PTY legs. The records of our seat assignment “disappeared” and we were not seated together. This was corrected on the plane without much ado both times.

PTY to SCL was on time, FA’s attentative, meals improved but still “airline”. Another 6 hours, this time including 3 movies. Arrived about 21:00. ON THE WAY to immigration you stop at an area designated to pay your $131 US each to get into Chile and then go on to immigration (we had to recycle, costing all of the business class advantage of first off having missed this stop).

The return flight into LAX was a bit late. There was some issue as to where we were flying into, but ended up at international. We had to take a bus to the terminal. Luggage was extremely slow. While ours was among the first, that was nearly 1 hour later and two moves as to which luggage claim carousel..

Bus to and Hotel in Santiago, Chile:

We booked our hotel thru Holland American (HAL). The hotel was the Sheraton Santiago Hotel. Bus transportation was booked thru HAL as well. Unfortunately, the driver did not show, so we eventually were forced to seek other transportation. This turned out to be a nightmare, but I am not going to repeat it here…no one should face that experience. Alright, looking back it was not as bad as it was at the time. The land package contractors from HAL were not sympathetic, but were rude and did NOT resolve this problem.

Our room was modest, as expected, but had what one needed (safe, hairdryer, alarm clock and air conditioning). 2 single beds (both broken down), windows so dirty you could barely see out of them. Water pressure was good.(room 503). The common areas were quite nice, with the exception of some closed stores.. The pool area was very nice, some shaded seating was available in the area. Food and beverages were served by the pool. This area became our choice for dining a couple times. The hamburger tasted a bit off, but the fries were great. The tomato was mushy, as were the ones at breakfast. Burgers were 7,200 pesos and beer started at 3,800 pesos. Another night we split a chicken Caesar salad out by the pool along with a couple glasses of beer. Breakfast was served in a covered, but open area beyond the pool. It was buffet. Language was a problem. “Raw” bacon and eggs were often on the menu. A large assortment of fruit was accompanied by a large group of bees daily. Always enough “stuff” to get ones fill. The hotel is 12 minute drive from the airport. High speed internet is available. An ATM is available down stairs. For those with status, there is a Club level and lounge. Staff was very good, with a couple exceptions.

Activities in Santiago:

We booked a wine tour with the concierge at the hotel. Not really out of town, we drove about 1 hour to Maipo Valley to visit Conchy y Toro. This well aged vineyard and estate is a wonderful part day tour. I believe it was about 33,000 pesos:US$50/each. The drive is a “not too scenic” tour of the city outskirts. Walls and iron bars protect the homes in the outer areas. Once at the winery, we found a large parking lot and a busy tour business. They have serviceable bathrooms. Our tour guide does a great job of taking us thru the property, to the outside of the estate (entry not allowed), and into the aging rooms and the haunted areas of the winery. Our tour included wine tasting of some more modest nature for we who Drink wine (only 2 wines)! There is a food/wine room that we next visited for the 45 minutes on our own. Leslie and I split a glass of wine (Shiraz-$6 glass). Before we were thru, the “waiter” had refilled our glasses twice more at no charge! The lady we were talking to from Australia also got a 3-4-1! Unfortunately, the time to return to the bus came all too soon. We bought a bottle of Diablo Shiraz ($6 bottle versus the $17 one we were drinking). The glass from the tasting was included. We gave ours away to another couple on the bus. Note road is not great and driver is a bit aggressive. The driver and guide were very generous in where you could get off the bus on the way back. Basically, anywhere along the way. Tour is recommended.

Our second full day we had a plan that we had set up before we left Escondido. We walked about 1-1 ½ miles (about 20 minutes) to the foot of the gondola/skyride for San Cristobal Hill. The ride up and down or RT is priced differently and is payable ONLY in pesos. There is a menu of services and the cashier is good with signing and gestures to take your trip preference. We rode to the top (a two step ride) and then visited the chapel, the 15 meter Virgin Mary and the great views in all directions. You can walk up or down the mountain, averaging 40 minutes, I am told. It is fairly steep. It was smoggy, but clear enough on our visit, that is the luck of the draw. Our view was several miles…expect better and worse days. On the way up there is a restaurant, informal, that serves wine and tapas…misc and water. Bathrooms too (have some toilet paper or Kleenex). The top is 860 meters above sea level. We then went down the other side in the stand up funicular. It stops mid way to allow the up car to pass. Shopping awaits at the bottom. You can visit the Pablo Neruda’s house or do as we did and walk back up to the zoo. The zoo is modestly priced (3,000 pesos), especially for seniors (1,300 pesos). It is smallish and very hilly. Temperature is about 33C, a bit hot for old timers like us to trek up and down the hills. Fortunately, there are benches available to rest on. Lots of children were visiting the day we went. We like to support zoos around the world and believe this is one that is that type. The whole area is part of Jardin Botanico (Metropolitan). Somewhere there is a Japanese garden, but we missed it. After the zoo we set out to go back to the hotel from the other side of the mountain. This is a very long walk and I would not do it again. A small portion went by some boutique eateries, but most of the trip was in an “industrial” area and not likely that safe. We did walk along the river (mostly concrete sided drain/river) for part of the walk and stopped at a service station and split a hot dog (ough!) and coke. Part of the walk was on the highway edge. It is light until about 21:00, so plenty of time. Our trip was about 5 hours.

Lots of other activities were available that we considered. A bus ride to Valpariso (port) where several shops and eateries await. Museum of Natural History. Parque Amocio Shopping Center. There is a tourist bus that runs from 9:30 to 18:30 , 25km’s, 11 stops, full circuit 2 hours, with buses ever 30 minutes. Price about 18,000 pesos or about US$29.

To the ship;

Luggage was not required in the hallway until 08:00, on the day of departure. The same incompetents were in charge of getting us to the ship. Loading of the buses could not have been handled poorer. The first bus left at 09:15. The hour ride was pleasant, narrated in some sort of English. The drive was good. We stopped for 20 minutes, much to the disappointment of all but one passenger. The stop was near the port at a corner with 3-4 tiny stands. One lady just could not wait to shop. Everyone else on the bus wanted to get to the ship, including the woman’s husband. We were told the wait was too long at the ship and we were better off here. A couple people got off to take pictures and one to smoke. The rest sat on the bus. Eventually, we loaded up and continued on to the ship. Sign in was fairly well handled (long, but moving, lines) for those who filled out the online check form from home. Once checked in, there was another bus ride to the actual ship, about 1 mile away.

20 day cruise from Santiago Chile to Rio de Janeiro, including 3 days in the Antarctic (AA)

Weather: be prepared for mild weather in Santiago (t-shirt +), to freezing weather in the AA (30F) and hot and humid in Rio de Janeiro (upper 80’s and very humid). We had lots of rain in AA and Rio. We had snow in AA. Also be prepared for gross changes in a day (on one tour) and dress in layers!

Viewing: do bring good binoculars, camera (extra chips, recharger, extra battery etc), and some note paper.

Security: use the safe in the room. Be sensible. Don’t carry more money than you need. Leave the jewelry and your good watch at home. Consider alternatives to purses and wallets. Be prepared to get a lot of warning about safety, especially in Rio.

Health: I only got food sick once, that was on ship (HAL food). Consider the hygiene of where ever you eat off ship. Keep hydrated. Lots of sunscreen always. Carry some in your backpack to refresh during the day. Wear a hat. Wash you hand often. Carry some toilet paper and hand wipes and fluid.

Clothing/laundry: We wore shorts in Santiago and Rio. Long pants everywhere else. We wore everything in our luggage going thru the channels of the AA when the wind and snow and rain came. That would be thermal underwear, parka, knit cap, gloves and face band. Don’t forget a good pair of sunglasses. The Amsterdam has self laundry. It is $2.00 a load and includes soap and dry. The machines are quite small. The demand is quite large. Other, more expensive alternatives, are available. We brought about 18 days of clothes with us, planning one laundry day sometime about 10 days into the trip. Nice collared dinner shirts can be worn several times, if you don’t then go dancing, or the show every night. Black socks (only worn at dinner) are good as long as you want? I brought 2 pair and washed them once. One tie and three dress shirts for the 6 formal nights, also worked. One suit.

On board Holland American’s Amsterdam:

It is Saturday 1-24-09 and we are aboard. Ate in the Lido and went to our room (not really ready) and sat on our verandah awaiting our steward to finish “doing” our room and delivering our luggage. The rest of the day was composed of the normal chores of doing the safety drill, putting away luggage and getting ready for dinner. The lifeboat drill takes about 30 minutes, but seems longer. From our balcony we spot several large jelly fish in the water (see pictures). There are perhaps ½ a dozen. The largest is about 5’ across, not counting the tentacles. We depart about 17:20

Our room:

We are in Room 6140, a verandah room. There is a small ice box (honor bar stuff), a TV, hairdryer, plenty of coat hangers, hanging space and storage. Two drawers under the bed hold the bed spread and extra pillows. The rest of under the bed stores suitcases. There is a desk, and a hassock to sit on (removable top for more storage…we use for “batches” of dirty clothes). Note we had the honor frig emptied and all payable items removed after a dispute on some missing items. In retrospect, seems like a good idea up front, if you do not use these items. You are allowed to bring on wine and beer of you own. The frig is handy for these items. The room safe is large enough to handle a material bunch of items and easy to use. Robes are included with our room. There are 4 hooks to hang such things, as well as back packs or ?. We had two sheets of personalized writing paper in our cabin (a perk with this category). Leslie has very long hair, so we requested three bath towels in the room, not a problem. Our verandah is the width of our cabin, but not very deep. There is a wood rail over the top of a “Plexiglas”? barrier. One chair, a small table and one lounge chair fill up the area. The bath has a medicine cabinet, average water pressure and a shower over a narrow tub. NOTE many cabins are smaller, and a good number are larger.

Dining:

We have signed up for open seating, and therefore can go anytime (17:50-21:30 most nights). This first night we both have prime rib, the best dinner we have on the whole trip! We are seated at a table of 6. An older couple and their 17? year old son from the Ukraine (they spoke zero English, the son enough to order food), a French Canadian (modest English) and us (no French or Ukrainian, only English). Leslie did her best with the Canadian and I had some discussions with the boy (who I talked to many times during the trip, mostly to help with his questions). Mostly a quiet table. Open seating allows you to choose each night when to eat and at what size table. Upon arrival, you have an opportunity to get some hand wash, they give your room number to the dining steward, along with your option to join others or just sit with your own group. Except for the two nights we were going to the show, we chose tables of 6. This normally gets you a rectangle table (I prefer), often one by the window (many are there) and is a great way to meet many on the cruise over the 20 days. Larger tables are too noisy for me and not very convenient to met and remember all. You will be walked to your table by a seater, an adventure as they often have no clue where the table you are assigned to that night is located. This gives you a chance to work up an appetite as you “cruise” around the dining room. Breakfast is about the same program. We never ate lunch in the dining room and expect it is often quite vacant.

Fixed seating is also available on most of HAL’s ships (for how long?). This invoves 2 or more fixed times (varies by day) for dinner. On our ship, the doors to that dining area close 15 minutes after the stated time to eliminate stragglers.

Alternatives to these “seatings” are in room dining, limited menu but not time. Lido deck dining, a cafeteria style setting, is open breakfast, lunch and dinner. Out by the pool hamburgers and tacos are served daily and sometimes special events (bbq’s) are held. Lido food can normally be brought out by the pool for dining. Special events (private parties, Mariner lunch, groups, etc) round out the balance of dining on ship. Naturally, in port, several options off ship are available, including some tours including one or more meals.

Food:

The quality of the food on HAL is sinking, in our opinion. Several items were not edible. One of those items was the Argentina beef prime rib. This was something most people on the cruise were looking forward to. Our waiter said it was not edible the last cruise and suggested we avoid it (we did). At the neighboring table two people ordered it, but neither could eat it, and barely could cut it. Given this was the 3rd HAL cruise with this schedule and more if you count the ones that do not go to AA, why did they continue to serve it? Why was the meat not replaced on the many stops? This could be said for many other meals, especially the beef (with the exception of the prime rib served the first night, as previously noted). The one night we had lobster, it is tiny and well over cooked and dry. We observed lots of food going back to the kitchen (to be dumped)?

Breakfast room service became our mantra for 6 days of dealing with a cold. They ran out of two of the 6 cereals they offer (in the little boxes) and did not seem to be able to replenish the stock during the cruise! I have no idea what fruit or chemicals the “orange” juice was made from or of. The hamburger on deck, by the pool, was a bit off, and the fries were no good at all. Cooked well in advance of serving, they were dry and toss able.

Service was excellent and terrible. Which waiter, or staff each night, made a huge difference in how you would rate your experience? .

The breakfast in our room, was always brought on time. Only once was an item ordered missing (except those they ran out of) and that was quickly replaced after a call. Lots of choice as to what you can eat on the menu, in the lido, or in your room. Enough for all tastes. Plates were presented well, and most of the silver (90%) had no visible food remains from prior users. Beverages, except the orange juice, were as offered. Bottled wine prices were outrageous, as were most alcoholic drinks.

The Seas:

The first evening and next day were fairly rough, as we got our sea legs. No damage seen, but plenty of swaggering passengers. When we went around the Horn, the water was quite rough, as predicted. Many glasses and plates were “hurled” from the tables in the dining room and some people were holding on to railings throughout the ship. Most of the rest of the trip was “calm”. Naturally, we went quite slow in the AA channels, to avoid collisions, and the water was quite calm. Many times, during the 20 days, wind warning were given, to suggest some areas on the ship too dangerous to walk. We also have some periods when water was breaching the bow and splashing much higher. That is probably why the windows were often very “dirty”.

Tours, tickets and procedures:

Tours are offered, at premium prices, by HAL. You can book online, months before you begin your cruise. Note the penguin tours at Port Stanley were sold out over a month before the ship left. Perhaps 10 tours were sold out before a passenger set foot on the ship. All prices are in US$$. HAL’s web site, describes the tours available, the cost, provides a symbol for physical difficulty, length of tour, food provided (if any) and what things are included and not. READ this data very carefully if booking before you leave for your cruise. It is easy to miss something or to read into what is said. Also try to remain somewhat flexible, as the tours often seem to have some differences in reality, from what is written. HAL makes arrangements to book these tours, but does not run any of them. Independent contractors should be in caps! That said, most of the tours are approximately as advertised. Lots of disappointments are from passengers not reading the material carefully, or because later changes were not discovered thru the multiple channels HAL sets up. Be sure to heed the physical levels indicated by the stick figures. Don’t try to overextend your abilities. Remember the cumulative impact too. This was less important on this cruise, as many days of rest were provided at sea, but the 20 day Mediterranean cruise was brutal, day after day tours in ruins, hillside communities and uneven streets.

Tickets purchased before the cruise are delivered to your room. Look at them very soon and insure they are correct and that the times have not been changed (2 of ours were different times). Tickets may also be purchased on board. This can be done at various times most days from the ticket office.

Information on tours, besides on the HAL web site, is available in several places on ship. The ticket office keeps write ups of the tours and can answer most general questions. We had a list of changes and corrections on the desk in our room when we arrived on board. A presentation is held very early in the cruise and ALL the tours are explained. During the cruise presentations are held to discuss the upcoming port, the tours and alternatives to tours. Also safety, code of conduct, dress, currency, food, etc are explained. Both the “ALL” presentation and the current pre-port presentation are shown on TV in your room as well…multiple times. Generally, a small guide, including a mini map, will be left in your room for each port as well. I will include some of this information in my tour descriptions, but not too much.

For most HAL sponsored tours you meet in the show lounge at the time on your ticket to be given the necessary go ahead to head (and often a color/number dot) to the bus or what ever type conveyance your tour involves. Listen carefully to where to go to exit the ship, as this often changes.



PUERTO MONTT, CHILE -Tender, easy walk to city, can be wet
Lake District, snow covered Volcanoes, forests, small city. There is a ban on taking any fruit/food ashore here. It is emphasized. The penalty is $300 US. Leave that apple or banana you took from breakfast in your room. You will be required to fill out a written declaration that you have none in your possession. You will also be asked at least once by an inspector off ship
Our TOUR: Petrohue Cascades & The City of Roses. 8:30am-4 ½ hrs, $75ea. Dpt pier to Petrohue River/Vincente Perez Rosales National Park with view of Osorno Volcano. Walk along river with views of the rapids. Continue to Puerto Varas, City of Roses, mirrored volcano in lake and city walk. Our guide is Maria, a well educated, fairly understandable young lady (30’s). She often spells words to ease understanding (and note taking). Our bus load agreed on an English only presentation. Maria speaks German and Spanish too. She has 3 children and a husband from Michigan. Edwardo, our driver, drove a bit fast for my taste, but was otherwise fine (no English). On our 45 minute ride to Petrohue to see the rapids, we stop twice to view and picture the two main volcanoes. The small one blew its top in the last 20 years and is still smoking (see pictures). We also stopped at Llanquihue Lake (yankee way?). The walk to the rapids was a bit more than 15 minutes. We were given an hour to complete this, toilet stop and any shopping at the small stalls. The roadway is being widened and repaved which will enhance the ride and speed it up some by the snow season. They are in a drought and several fires are burning out of control (like home in San Diego, mid CA and in Australia and likely many other spots around the globe). We were fortunate that the flies were not out. They have two types of biting flies. A tiny one and one the size of a bumble bee. I had my repellant just in case but was told I would be ok today.

Our next stop is Puerto Varas. We are given an hour to visit the area. Those wanting to stay longer could take a cab back to the ship (3-4 people for about $25US equivalent). Lots of activities at this stop/town. Lots of shops and restaurants. A nearby casino (voted the cleanest toilet in town and supplies paper, hot water, soap and towels!). The shore. The town square had benches, some shade trees and a man playing a flute. Pastry is popular in Puerto Varas, as are meat/pastry sandwiches and beer. No grapes or wine in the district, but you can buy other Chilean wine. Fresh caught fish is popular, but pass on the farmed salmon, which we are told in no good and the raising of it is very controversial. Lots of pollution is being caused by this industry.
Our final stop is back near the ship. We are given direction to a crafts fair about a five minute walk from the bus, or there are a couple of modest vendor sites at the port. One sells wine. We bought 3 bottles, costing all the money I had with me at the time, that was $22US and 6,000 pesos. The bottles were priced at 10, 12 and 15US$’s. Any price is a bargain versus the prices on the ship. These are all ½ or less of the ship “house wine” and about 20-30% of the cheapest bottled wine.

Other tours included: Small towns, a lake cruise, river rafting, food tasting, Alerce forest, fly fishing, horseback riding, and kayaking. Prices run from $69-349 each.


Jan 27-Tue - DARWIN CHANNEL CHILEAN FJORD – Awing the views and watching the speakers on TV, no notes today.

Jan 28-Wed (early AM) AMALIA GLACIER CANAL SARMIENTO
Glacier is on the port side. It is raining modestly. We are in Higgins National Park. Very little ice in the water. The mountains are steep, 21,000 km in length and 50M hight. No so big by Alaskan standards, but still quite impressive from our ship. Wait until you see the pictures Leslie took. We are in 600-700” of water and perhaps a mile from the glacier. Lots of variations in water color. The rain stops and some passengers head for the bow. We continue to monitor things from our verandah. A bit of calving is occurring. The captain turns the ship to afford everyone a good view. It is now about 10:00, we are hitting 21 knots and we are located at 50d51.74’S, 074d05.07”W (guess there is not little o for degrees). The weather is misty –overcast, 86% humidity, 56 F, wind 36 knots and the pool is 80.1d (the daily normal the pool is kept). A few birds have been sighted a one sea lion (it on the Starboard side). The early morning viewing has worn us out and we settle for an early dinner.

Jan 29-Thur (early AM} COCKBURN AND BEAGLE CHANNELS, STRAIT OF MAGELLAN , - We pass Italia?, a very large glacier. Then approach Devils Island, a smallish island in the center of the channel. We see some Southern Giant Petrels, but still awaiting more mammals. No rain, but is is cold and windy and several dozen passengers brave the bow…brrr. We do have a couple hundred Canadians on board, likely warming up from temps at home. Holanda is our 5th glacier since 08:00 today. We spot a fishing boat heading in the opposite direction. We are now 1940 miles from Valapriso where we first started aboard the Amsterdam. The sea is slight; water temp is 50F, wind out of the W @6, partly cloudy, humidity 62. We are located 50d58”S, 68d58’W. It is 09:40

PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE –Commercial docks, as we are too big (3 miles to town). Remote town, Yugoslav settlers, sheep and rolling hills, handicrafts, sweaters ($25), Alpaca scarves ($5+)
Our Tour, Sights of Punta Arenas-Dpts 01:30A-3 ½ hrs $72: Mtn view of Tierra del Fuego and Strs of Magellan, visit regional museum kept by the Salesian Friars; drive to town; visit Plaza de Armas square; Hernando de Magellanes Monument; souvenir stalls; visit Palacio Braun Menendez; visit landscaped cemetery. The tour was sold out prior to boarding! Lots of penguins in the water to see.l


Other tours included penguin viewing (sold out before boarding), Torres del Paine Nat. Pk. (sold out prior to boarding), farm visit and bbq. (sold out prior to boarding), Austral Beer circuit, and trekking. Prices ranged from $72-$225

USHUAIA, ARGENTINA-This port was cancelled because of a dock strike. Too bad, as it is a highlight of the trip, not including AA. [email protected] but pricier than town. Taxis cheap at end of docks. Walk in ok. Sheep wool, beef, wine: Note volatile weather. 2x bus @ visitors center @ end of pier and across street. Southernmost town in the World, surrounded by peaks and the Beagle Channel, home of sea lions and king crab. Located 55dS latitude.

Our Planned Tour-Lake Escondido Scenic Alpine Drive-Dpt 1:30 P-4 hrs., Tierra del Fuego mtn range, leave Ushuaia along the valley of the River Olivia and to the range of the 5 brothers, view the lake. Along the way see the sawmills, beaver dams, forest and sweeping vistas.

Other tours usually available include train ride, penguin viewing, guided wildlife, trekking and wine and museum tour. Prices were $65-141.

We were refunded our prepaid tour charges, port charges and given 1 glass of wine plus we had more cruise time, which was the only real benefit, not up to what was lost though. The decision was a correct one, we could have become pawns in the dispute and not allowed to reboard…if we were able to get off.

Ushuaia is the main departure port for the many smaller boats that feature direct trips to AA, including landings, something we will not be able to do.

One thing we will be allowed to do is go a bit slower, because of our new found time, which may make the trip around the Horn easier.

Our next stop is Puerto Williams, where we clear customs, as a group. The process takes about 30 minutes and we, the passengers, are not directly involved.

Some commentary

We are seeing many more small boats in the area. The bird populations are also picking up along the shores. We have seen many very large “flocks” of mixed birds!

It is 14:45, Jan 30. The water and winds are calm. It is bright out. The sky is 10% dark clouds, 5% blue sky and the rest is a white blend. No white caps on the sea. We are passing low mountains, having a mixture of light and dark green. Not so much trees, as bush. There are islands in this channel to work around, but plenty of open water. I am in a t-shirt and windbreaker. Our verandah protects from some of the effects of the breeze. WOW. We pass a ship of about 100’ + with her bow under water. She seemed to be held up the rest of the way by a sand bar/low island. While abandoned, I do not believe it has been there very long as it seemed to be in tack and not corroded (see Leslie’s pictures---were numbers 333-5—that will change). This was a reminder that there is danger in these waters. Less than ½ mile later, we take a hard turn starboard where the channel divides. A few white caps are now to be seen. The growth, on the islands, now look more like kept orange trees than brush. Birds are becoming more common, however in small groups.

It is 16:00, and we are 55d15”S 066d46”W. Humidity is 50%. Wind force is 7 from the West. Air temp.. is 52F. Sunset is expected at 21:44. Sea is slight (1.5-4”). Only an hour later the wind is force 9 (strong gale). We are traveling at 19.8 knots. Another hour and it is raining.

Dinner was a challenge tonight. We are at and circling the island that is the “Horn”. Waves are quite high and we are rocking and rolling. Thanks to our extra time gained by missing Ushuaia, we are on a roller coaster. Passengers are grabbing on to anything that doesn’t move. Dishes are crashing in the dining room and glasses are flying off some of the tables. Our free wine safely in hand we ride out the dessert from our chairs.

Sleeping was too much of a challenge. Neither Leslie, nor I, slept more that one hour. Lots of noises (and squeaks), added to the wavy action. We got up a few times to stow and secure items in our cabin for our safety.



Jan 31-Sat CAPE HORN AND DRAKE PASSAGE –
Lots of stories this morning about riding out our trip last night. After breakfast, we decide to do some laundry, located a few cabins down the hall from us. Just in time, we are next for the machines. It takes four loads ($2 each) to do the clothes we have to do in these small machines. This onetime laundry use for a couple hours will provide us with enough clean clothes to last the whole cruise and Rio. We could have the ship handle our laundry for $18 a load. There is also a flat fee for the term of the cruise, dry cleaning is extra. It is about 10 days into our travel. We brought 18 days of clothes with us. Laundry is included in the deluxe verandah suites

We are now 2284 miles from Valparaiso. The seas at 10:10 are 12-18’. Wind force 10, from the W. Our verandah, a costly addition, is fairly useless today. Blowing ocean/mists and puddles. The air temp is 42F. We are traveling at 12.3 knots. Sea temp is holding at 50F.

Ship Water: For the next several days we will cruise during the day in the various channels of AA and then, late in the evening, work our way out to open ocean waters. Here we will increase our speed to heat up the engines, a necessary factor in making drinking water. We will also use this opportunity to “dump” our grey water, not allowed in the channels.


Feb 1-Sun WILHELM ARCHIPELAGO –It is 06:00. The “mountains” either side of us are covered in ice and snow. A few humpback whales are seen on the starboard side (luck of the draw). A few seals are also spotted on that side. We are seeing groups of penguins swimming. They leap out of the water and back in like mini-dolphins. By 06:40, the bow has several dozen passengers searching the seas ahead (we can see this on our TV). A half dozen seals swim by poking up their heads. Leslie has been out freezing. I have been in and out. I have taken my eye drops and await the suggested period to put in my contact.lenses. Back out and there are 3 more seals. Oh, then an ice float with perhaps 30 penguins. A few jump off, the other are not frightened by the ship. Birds are everywhere in singles and flocks. Leslie spots two humpbacks (see pictures including the blow) that the bow alert misses (timing is everything). It is very cold (by So.CA standards). We are seeing more “growlers”, ice bergs less than a meter above the water line (most dangerous). No rain. Lots of light. Dallmann Bay. The Waifs are now in sight. As 07:00, yet only an hour has passed, the people on the bow start to thin some (breakfast?). We listen to the silence of the AA, with a few birds making them self known and the ice cracking. We will also get to experience the “smell” of the penguins. I cannot really write this, maybe even the pictures are not enough, to share the experience. Oh, the Gerlache Strait is next.

Cuverville Island (very large) contains insects under rocks being studied, as will as 45,000 pairs of gentoo penguins. As the island in on the Starboard side, we exit our cabin, go aft, exit and cross over on the 6th floor “mini bow” and see the penguins. Remember the binoculars. We are very close to the island, but it becomes a blur without visual aid. They literally fill every inch of land. We are cruising slowly to maximize the viewing, plus the ice bergs are getting bigger and more in number.

Snow is piling up on our railing and deck. A slip and fall warning is announced on the TV and on the loud speaker. Visibility is near zero for us. Hope the captain sees better. He decides to move from the bays to the straits, where we will be safer. It is now just past 09:30. Ice chunks of 100’ or more are floating by. The air temperature is 35, humidity is 78%, winds are force 2, but the wind chill on our verandah is chilling!. Refer to pictures. Only a dozen brave souls are still at the bow “getting their money’s worth”.

Acep, our room steward, is in a short sleeve shirt and asks to clean the verandah. I offer my coat, to no avail. Walls, chairs, Plexiglas and table are all cleaned. He is not there long, but he has 32 rooms!

At 11:20 we head to the Lido for lunch. It is filled with people at the window camped out for the view. The windows are filthy and pictures would be iffy. Still, if you do not have a verandah with warming shed (room), the Lido sure beats standing on the bow or elsewhere on deck. Tables away from the window are empty, so no problem with lunch. It fills up by 11:45, but by then we are getting ready to head back to the room for more excitement from the verandah.

My contact lenses are acting up, so I take them out and lay down, listening to the TV commentary. Leslie remains outside for pictures. Over the next couple hours, sightings include 2 menke whales, some tiger seals and a bunch of penguins. We also pass a major research station. They radio and offer to board and give a presentation. We pass. We already have such plans with the US station.

About 15:30 we pass the Chilean station. A “cruise ship” has put in to their port. The ship carries supplies and about 75 passengers. Two colonies of penguins live here. The first is a gentoo and the second is a chin strap. To put ashore here or elsewhere in the AA, it requires advance permission, documentation and to be appropriately sized. We do not fit any of these conditions. Again such cruises are available out of Ushuaia, and are very primitive and expensive. This station only operates in summer.

Notes for viewing sights (most important for Antarctica):
Lido: Not quiet (passenger, crew and food prep. noise). Taking pictures thru the dirty windows is bad. You do not have the TV, so you get no warning of things coming up. The limited time to see something, once spotted, is poor. You must choose port or starboard. Going for food or to the bathroom requires someone to hold your seat or depend on leaving stuff at you seat. The benefits include: a writing surface, coffee, warm, no wind, not wet, ready for when meals start and best of all you have a seat,
Bow: The announcements are loud and clear. The viewing is unobstructed. You can use both port and starboard with some ease. Nothing to block your picture taking. You really “experience” the hunt for wildlife, have a feel for the sea and are part of the early spotting group for others. You have bragging rights.
You are lower to the sea, and therefore better view of the animals and their relative size. On the other hand, it is brutally cold and often wet. Footing can be dangerous because of snow (crew tries to keep this cleaned up). Bathrooms are far away. Keeping you camera equipment from “freezing” is a problem. It can get a bit crowded.
Verandah: Costly to have such a cabin. In and out of cabin can be a plus and a minus. Stuck with port or starboard (although on most floors you can go to the mini-bow on your floor outside and get the other side…if there is time. There is a limited time to get your picture. It is cold and wet on the verandah. You get a bit of a height distortion of the size of things in the water. On the good side, the bathroom is close, as is TV, beverages, etc. Your room becomes a break room. Meals can be ordered. There are seats on the verandah, but being seated really limits your viewing and they are wet.
Outside decks: Carries some of the pluses and minus of each of the above and seem obvious, once you review the three categories above. . .

By 16:30 we are a bit worn out and are sitting in our room watching the bow camera on our TV. Some passengers are still on the bow. We watch them for movement and pointing. We also listen to the relatively sparse commentary from the bridge (guess he has gotten a bit worn too). Two humpback whales show up on the port side and we catch a glimpse of them (we believe) through the water, once we are up and onto the verandah. The spotter announces he is thru for the day and we will be headed back to the ocean. Time for us to get ready for dinner.

Icebergs: Floating ice sculptures come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like aircraft carriers, others like a space ship or boat (refer to Leslie’s pictures). Colors range from snowy white, eerie blue-green to black stone. Some are clearly very deep, while others seem relatively shallow. Now and again they transport seals, penguins or other birds down the channel. Sometime you will hear cracking and then an “explosion” as a large berg with become hundreds of smaller ones. These ice bergs become the focus of much of the viewing. They are continually being reshaped by the waves, melting, wind, collisions, friction, and the loading and unloading of “passengers” Growlers, the smallest ice bergs, are less than 1 ½ meters above the water line and at most 5 meters long. Burgie bits-are up to 5 meters tall and 15 meters long. Small ice bergs are 5-15 meters high and so on, for medium, large and very large.

Sky: The sky, in all its colors. The cloud formations. Sunrise and sunset. The interface between the sea, land and sky. Pretty amazing viewing.


Feb 2-Mon SOUTH SHETLAND ISLANDS-Its 07:20 and we are near Palmer Station, Bismark Straits, Anvers Island. Sea temp. is 35.6F and the air is 36.7F. Humidity is 62. Air force is 3. It snowed most of last night. It is sunny this morning. We will board several Americans from the Station to give us presentations later today. This is great for us and it also provides them a needed break, hot shower and variety of food. The presentation will happen in the show lounge and be repeated on TV. Leslie has been out taking pictures and should return soon as breakfast is also due soon. The Station was built late in the 60’s to study marine ecosystems, atmospheric studies and the effects of increased ultraviolet radiation on marine and terrestrial communities. Since then, various people have received funding and time at the station to study other interests, including the krill, and its basis of life in the area. The scientists arrive by zodiac about 08:30.

At 13:00 we leave Palmer Station and reenter the Bismarck Strait and eventually Lemaire Channel. Once in Lemaire we start seeing ice in the channel again. We were able to cruise about 8 miles into the channel, before having to turn back. We faced an ever increasing density of ice and the size of the pieces. On the port side we spotted 3 small (minke?) whales, 2 crab eater seals (they eat krill), 4 fur seals (one at a time on floating ice) and hundreds of penguins (singles to groups of 20 or more). We also saw at least 4 different types of flying birds. We saw 3 boat/ships and several zodiacs. We passed 3 stations, including a Ukrainian one. Besides doing research, these stations serve as stops for the small cruise ships (40-80 passengers) and zodiacs. The whole area is a fairy land in the sea. The ice bergs, growlers and surrounding mountains and islands are a marvel to be seen.

It has been sunny all day. At one point, the sea is a reflective pool of diamonds in the water (a picture shows this). Sunglasses are a must. It is still very cold, for we from So. CA, but not as cold as much of the US and other less fortunate area of the world (temperature wise). We pass another of these more modest ships as we exit the channel. Note our size has not kept up from getting up close and personal with many shore lines, sometime within 100 feet or so.



Feb 3-Tue Tuesday THE ANTARCTIC SOUND- it is 05:00, and Leslie is up and working her camera (just for you…well and her and me, etc.). We are in iceberg alley. Some of the bergs seem larger that our ship! Our location is 63d06’S 057d01W. Our speed is 16.7 knots. The air temp. is 28.9F, water 35.6F, wind force 4 and humidity is 76. The weather is snowy. By 06:30 we are both on the verandah, viewing the massive icebergs. The commentator has been working for a while, but not saying much. We have a special iceberg pilot on board to assist the captain, and I believe our commentator is helping them often. The density of ice is tight. We are again wearing everything we brought to keep warm. Soon an announcement that we are headed for Hope Bay, (Deception Island recently passed). Esperanza station will be on our Starboard side in the near future. The bow is empty. No passengers have braved the elements so far. Because of the ice and snow all over the deck, they may be keeping passengers off until they can clear the danger. We pass Hope Bay, pass d’Urville Island, Joinville Island and are approaching Paulet Island. Paulet is on the starboard side. At 0715 I saw a whale break the surface, but no announcement was made. The sun is trying to break out from the dark clouds, mixed with the white clouds, held hostage by the grey clouds. By 07:30 we start to see penguins on the ice. The workers on ship start clearing off the ice from the bow and passengers start filtering out. Paulet Island is home to 10’s of 1,000 of birds. We see the hillside fully occupied by penguins. Where there are penguins, often there are Skuas, as they feed on the eggs, chicks and sick. We also see plenty of gulls and petrels plying the skies. They seem to just float on the air.

We leave Paulet Island, and maneuver between massive pieces of floating ice. It is quite an experience to see how well the ship can turn and swerve. We arrive off the coast of Esperanza Station, on Ross Island in the Trinity Peninsula. The station is run by the Argentines. The island is home to another large colony of penguins. We head off toward Elephant Island without a peep from the commentator for an hour or so.

We have an early dinner and head back to the room and our outside gear. It rained during dinner, but has stopped now. We want to see the much talked about Elephant Island. We do not arrive near the island until about 21:00. It is foggy and snowy, obscuring the view. We are well offshore and it is starting to get dark. We are still a goodly distance from shore. The expected whales and elephant seals keep us alert. A bottle of Carmenere 2007 Reserva Casillero del Diablo from Conchy y Toro keeps up “warm”. We see nothing bigger than a penguin and darkness has set in. We will never see the station around the other side of the island so we call it a day.


Feb 4-Wed AT SEA-We are leaving the AA and headed to the Falkland Islands, Stanley specifically. The Falklands are a British Crown Colony. Population is under 5000. The mainland people are called Kelpers. They sell postage stamps, fishing rights and tours to see the penguins, as well as some other tours. It is almost always windy in the Falklands. They drive on the left. They get lots of rain. They have several different types of penguins (gentoo, magellanic, king and rockhoppers), seals, flying birds (petrels, upland geese, kelp geese, etc) and some dolphins. The food in the dining room does not agree with me tonight and I spend the night in some distress.


Feb 5-Thur
08:00AM PT. STANLEY, FALKLAND ISLANDS Arrival-Tender (25-30 min)-My touch of food poisoning is still a problem this morning. I opt to send Leslie off on the tour herself, with my ticket to try to resell thru the ship. As this tour has been sold out for over 3 months, and a waiting list of 100+ exists, there was no problem. Note another HAL ship (Princendam) is in port with us today and the resources to handle both ships is simply not available. HAL messed up. My stomach is upset and I am not holding down food. The tour starts with a 30 minute tender ride to shore. Then another 30 minutes on a mini van to the farm site. Then reload to a 4 wheel drive vehicle to cross open farm land for another 30 minutes. Good decision on my part to pass on this tour. All tour sales are final…almost. Because this one had a waiting list, we got most of our money back less a material resale charge. With more time we could have scalped the ticket at a profit! (we would not do that).
Falkland summary: Scotland under the Southern Cross. All types penguins, sheep, pubs, tea and wind. Falkland Islands Pound .68/$

Leslie’s Tour: Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery-Dpts 11:30A-3 hrs-30 min. paved roads, 30 min. 4 wheel drive off road across farmland, to Gentoo penguin colony. Magellan and King Penguins nearby along with Skuas, gulls and snowy sheathbills. Lots of pictures in Stanley, mainly to insure I get to see what I missed. Leslie tells me the tender ride was fairly smooth, as was the van ride. The 4dw ride was definitely not (HAL has several comments about who should not take this tour). She went to the rookery at Bluff Cover Lagoon. Once there, they had about 1 hour to view the penguins. Wardens and guides were there to help answer questions, enhance your visit and protect the penguins. Leslie saw 4 of the half dozen King penguins currently nesting there. Perhaps 1000 gentoo were nested, fledging and popping in and out of the sea. She also saw the flightless upland geese and lots of cattle (belted Galloway). The only sheep she saw was a “lawn mower” on some ones front yard (common way to keep lawn in shape there). There was also a sad reindeer (see picture). At the rookery there were reasonable bathrooms. Scones, cookies and cakes were served. A peat fired stove was going to provide for cooking and warm-up. After the tour Leslie checked out the church and a bit of the town. The town is right at the docks. Wild life is often seen along the shore line of town. You can take a double decker bus, or just walk the town. There is also a van, not HAL, you can take for $20-30 RT to see penguins. It drops off a group, brings others back, so you can spend a long time there if you choose to. HAL’s tour above was $168. Leslie brought 3 bottles of wine back from the store in Stanley. They came from Santiago!

Other tours from HAL included: Rockhopper penguins (sold out before cruise), Kidney Island (sold out before cruise), Sparrow cove (sold out before cruise), Double decker bus, Stanley highlights, Battlefields, nature trek and Farm experience. Prices ranged from $66-179.

Feb 6-Fri
AT SEA- I am back to a-ok, just in time for some rough seas. We put our clocks forward today, 1 hour. It is 09:10, air temp. is 59F (15.4), relative humidity is 93, wind force 7 (was 10 earlier) and we are traveling at 20.7 knots. Our location is 46d10’S 056d39.79’W. Sunrise was at 05:10. Wind warning are made for passengers who wish to go on deck, but not leave the ship (ha, ha). Breakfast in the room again…we seem to find it useful. It is rainy, windy and cold, so we are not using our verandah. By noon, the wind has died down. Leslie is getting a cold/cough.

Feb 7-Sat
AT SEA – today we read up on Buenos Aires, our stop tomorrow. We also participate in the Mariner luncheon for past HAL cruisers. As it mostly duplicated a meal (filet or salmon) already paid for, I would rather have a bottle of wine. We also watched an art auction and napped today. I catch Leslie’s cold. We skip dinner. The next several days we go on a “diet” based on not feeling up to “big eating”. HAL really saved on food for us this cruise. Like I stated before it was not that good anyway.
Tonight we approach Buenos Aires (good air or fair winds). We sail thru the narrow and shallow Rio de la Plata for very many hours to get to BA. Our journey is very slow as there is two-way traffic and the portion of the river that is deep enough is quite limited in places. A couple of times when I got up at night, I check out our passage. Some other ships were really close!

Ship Art auction: Today was the “final” art auction. One will be held later, we are told at the end of this auction. Only about 18 people attend at the start with another 10 coming and others going, keeping the group under 20. People can look at the art work prior to the auction and ask that an item, or more, be put up for sale. A bid number is required to get the free glass of champagne but not paperwork or ID is necessary to obtain one. Lots of pre-auction data is presented so we know that we are being recorded and videoed, that some of the art is framed, most is not and some of the art is signed originally, by machine or not and that, it appears that none is actually brushwork. Lithographs, serigraphs, or some other reproducing methods, are used on offerings, although some are “artist brushed enhanced”? Obviously, I know nothing. The lady auctioneer is a great reader of the artists’ history and the pricing history of those things being offered. Almost every item presented comes with lots of commentary. It is quite entertaining for me. We are told the gallery price (theirs), the last auction sales price, and the very low opening price for us (much lower that any of the others). Practically nothing sells. Guess the people that “selected” these items, we not very interested. I found it impossible to keep up with what was signed, or not, enhanced or not, included the frame or not and was a “carry off” or a shipped item. There were items that we were to bid on based on the back of the picture! Bids were not firm and one could change their mind after bidding. Guess this was to see who was alive in the audience. I don’t really want to use the word scam, but I believe most people should, and did, stay away. Prices were from $50 to a few thousand. 4 pieces sold during the hour period. A few of the multi-offers on backs of works, may or may not have added a sale or two.

Future cruise advance sales: While I did not buy an advance cruise on ship, I did wait 30 minutes to ask a question and listed to the spiel another couple received. You put up only $100 to reserve a specific room on a specific cruise, but retain the right to change it and not use it for 4 years. Your price is set, but you can take advantage of any specials your own travel agency offers and they will get “recognition”/commission?” Your main benefit is the small deposit. If you later switch you cruise selection or date, the price will be recast, but the deposit remains in place.

Feb 8-Sun- BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA Arrival-½ mi 2 town center. 0 @ dock. “Paris of South America”, 10 million population in love with football, tango and theater. Iguazu Falls roars away in the jungles. Leather goods and wine are things to buy. We dock at an industrial port. We are not allowed to walk around in the port area, so shuttles take us from the pier to the port gate. We are then “dumped” to find our own way to the buses and our tours. No HAL people are in sight. The cabs and shuttles are just out side the gates. The tour buses are a block or so around the side of the building.


Our Tour is Buenos Aires Highlights: 3 ½ hours, $59. We first drive to Palamero and little Palermo. It is a major city with high-rises. The 16 lane street is quite different. We visit La Boca, an area famed to be the source of tango. It is a colorful area with shops and stalls for shopping. It is located on the water. We are here for about a hour. It is our toilet stop too. I find the prices for leather belts outrageous, and pass on my only planned purchase for the trip. We also visit the Recoleta Cemetery where families are buried in one to two story buildings with basements. It is like mini condos. The Duarte family building contains the remains of Evita Peron. Cats are everywhere. The pictures will help explain. We also bus around town and see the sights.

This is a great port for self directed touring. Lots to do. City is right at the port. Free shuttles will take you to the main center of town. Stern Jewelry also has a free shuttle to take you to their store and then you are free to do as you please (which could include a tour of their jewelry making and sales). Their shuttle runs every 15 minutes. We decided on a ship tour at the last moment. We were going to go to the zoo, gardens and history museum. The importance of this city and the low energy with our colds, changed our minds. We are in port until late, so some of the passengers take more than one tour. Other choices are summarized (by me) as: Subway and café, Gaucho life, Tango show (various), Iguazu Falls, Markets, Waterways, Panoramic, Evita’s footsteps, Wine tasting , Palaces and Architecture and Bikes. Prices were from $46-$1299 per person. Note only 2 were over $100.

Tonight we have a bbq on deck. Leslie passes dinner, and I have something from the buffet on deck. There is also a Gaucho show held, which we watch later in our cabin on TV. The Indonesian Crew Show is also held in the lounge tonight at 22:30. We catch part of it another night on TV.

Leaving BA, we make our way slowly back on the Rio de la Plata. While BA is well upriver, Montevideo is much closer to the mouth and is a mix of fresh and ocean water. Uruguary is the second smallest nation in South America (Suriname is the smallest). The population is about 3 million.


Feb 9-Mon- MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY-We again head for a commercial pier. The city is walk able. Shopping and dining are quite close. The old city has recently undergone an upgrade. Free shuttle to the Leather Factory. Mercado de Puerto (st. fair) walkable. Seafood, steak, leather. BBQ near ship.
Colonial customs, long lunches, siestas and tea. Colonial del Sacramento is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Tour: A Day in Punta del Este-8:30A-8hrs/$142-coach thru Montevideo, past old city and Independence Square, Parque Battle, monument, obelisk and Estadio Centenario. Visit Punta del Estes seaside resort. Visit upscale houses, San Rafael Casino and many small city areas. Our full day tour turns out to be a very long bus ride to and from the “Beverly Hills” area of Montevideo. The homes are large and lavish by their standards, but few, really are the Mc-mansion’s they suggest. It is a very nice area. We stop at the Ralli Museo (see pictures) of little use, and great desirability. I really enjoyed the sculptures. Our lunch stop was disappointing (pictured). Everything was fine, exept the beef entrée, which was very tough. Service, fries, salad, wine and setting were all first rate…especially for a roadside place. Indoor and outdoor/semi-covered dining are available.

Other tours included: Highlights, Colonial del Sacramento, Wine trail, Gaucho’s life, Steam train, and Jewish heritage. Price ranged from $58-259.

Feb 10-Tue- AT SEA- Our colds continued and my naps got longer. These two days at sea were comforting. Lots of activities available on ship, but we kept to the cabin and watched some movies. I stop taking notes. We did sit on our verandah, as the weather is warming up. Getting closer to shorts and a t-shirt once again.

Feb 11-Wed- AT SEA

Feb 12-Thur
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL -Commercial dock, Pier Maua, DT walking distance. We arrive early in the morning and we will overnight on ship.
Samba, Ipanema and Copacabana beaches-a lust of life city

Our Tour: Beaches of Rio & Sugar Loaf Mtn-dpts. 9AM-4 hrs/$73. -See Botafogo beach, Flamengo Park, Aterro park, Stop at Praia Vermelha in Urca district. Cable car (2 stages) to top of Sugar Loaf Mtn, decend and reboard the bus and enjoy the ride by Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches. Our tour is very lucky, as the weather is good and the visibility is quite satisfactory (see pictures). The luck of the draw could have left us on the mountain without a view. I am going to let the pictures tell the story of this tour and the city. We chose this tour as we will be staying the rest of our nights at the HAL selected hotel far away from Rio, as $35+, 1 hour+ ride.

Other tours include: Dinner and Samba, Christ the Redeemer, Panoramic, Corcovado/Highlights, Coffee plantation, Imperial Petropolis/museum, Horse racing, Rio/Air, horseback riding, Tijuca Park and biking. Prices range between $73-399 each.


Feb 13-Fri- RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL- Today we part the ship and our new found friends.

We knew that we would be among the last departing the ship and took advantage to eat breakfast a bit late to avoid the rush and allow those with tighter schedules to get through. We went to the main dining room with only 1 hour left to be served (yes plenty of time). Very few people were there, I guess people decided on the Lido for breakfast today. The service in the dining room was terrible. Well, it is too late to alter the $450 worth of tips, so why should we get any service. Missing silver, sloppy plating and almost impossible refills of coffee. Really slow service. Guess the Captain was doing the cooking?

The process on the Amsterdam is a nightmare. This is not our first HAL cruise. You are given luggage tags with color coding and letters. Generally our tour director use neither. He announced mostly by destination, pre airport tour or pre hotel tour, people were really confused. We have opted to stay in our room after breakfast until called. We were told we could do this and had done so on our previous cruise with HAL to the Med. First the TOI would not flush. This turned out to be floor wide problem (then we found out it was ship wide). Our cabin steward told us we would have to leave anyway because they were going to spray our cabin for bugs (have they been there while we were cruising, or just show up?). We went to the lounge. The tois there were marked closed for cleaning. Nearly 2000 passengers and crew, and all the toi were inoperable!!!!! Several of us went to the Pursers office to complain, soon the core area bathroom were “okay”. When we did finally get called to exit the ship (we expected to be among the last and had not problem with that), the buses were backlogged with people in the street trying to figure out which bus to get on. People had missed their call, because of the incompetence of one person, the tour director. Many buses had no signage yet. It was again a disaster, with nt HAL reps. visible to solve the problems. Over the next 30 minutes the buses finally got marked and we got on ours. Over 30 more minutes passed after all the seats were full before we departed!


Passenger plans are quite varied. Some are going to the airport on their own. Most leaving from the airport tonight, are taking a tour/airport transfer, as most of our passenger’s flights out of Rio are very late. A couple hundred people are staying in Rio for a day or two. We are in that group. We could have signed up for a tour, but we found out from the tour desk that our bus would take a looooong slooow trip to the hotel, with commentary and without additional cost, ie. an inclusive tour. Many of the tours above from yesterday are also available today.

Noonish-Once at the hotel we find out that the rooms still will not be ready until 15:00-16:00. Lots of groans. We are put in one of the many conference rooms (200 people?). Later the ones going to the airport tonight are brought to the hotel to wait too. They are kept in another conference room (they have tiny sandwiches and cookies as well as water and coffee). We have only coffee and water. Almost all of those in our group head off to lunch and or the mall and or the beach. We stay and get out the cards and play a bit of gin. Once the room almost clears, we open a bottle of wine to go with our card game. At our break, Leslie went over to the other room and came back with a sandwich, which we split.

15:00- Rooms are ready. I could not have done a poorer job of passing out the keys as they did. The process took nearly an hour. All paperwork had been done when we arrived. The only job left was to call off names. No, we formed one line and three workers stared at us as we gave our name. Note only some of the keys were ready, so lots of those (including us), were told to sit and wait for the next batch, naturally back to the end of what now was a mob scene at the table. We did not wait the hours it took to get the luggage distributed. I discovered where the luggage was being kept and brought ours up myself.


Intercontinental Rio Hotel, Av. Pre Feito Mendes de Morais 222. 55-21-33232200….Priority Club membership did not bring any benefits. The hotel was nice looking outside. The lobby was okay, but nothing like the Sheraton in Santiago. Ditto the outside and pool area. The pictures will show where the cave-in/demo work is pending, and appears to have been for years. The web site is a pile of history story. The 5 restaurants are really one and a snack bar with a couple stools and very limited hours. The gallery shops is partially boarded up. The room we received was right over the entrance, where the tour buses come and all other traffic entering the front of the hotel. The noise was bad our whole stay. Language was a problem too. Only a few of the staff really spoke English. This five star hotel did not have the services of Motel 6. Even our floor lamp did not work (no light left on). The cord was frayed so bad that it had broken and bare wire was lying on the rug. In fairness, it was replaced when I pointed this out. I cannot begin to tell you what happened in the sink and shower drains, enough to say that they be clogged with hair and some other substance. This too was fixed when brought to their attention. I did not have the heart to tell them the toilet took several flushed to even dilute the water. They obviously do NO maintenance at this hotel that is not requested by a guest.

Our room, 0420, is close to the elevators, but not bothered by them. We get two beds, like in Santiago, but these seem a tiny bit wider. The bed is hard, as are the pillows (think sandbags). We have a night stand, between the beds. There are two chairs, which turn out mostly in the way. One piece of furniture holds the mini bar, drawers and the TV. The TV is old. Also be prepared for the cable to go off and on for periods of time. The loss of cable is bothersome if watching a movie! The closet includes shelving and a safe. The bathroom has only one sink, but plenty of space to put your stuff out. The water pressure was satisfactory. We have a modest size balcony. We do have a view of the ocean.

One day we decided to go to the pool. The door, at just before noon, was locked. It had not been available for days, as no one asked for the door to be unlocked! We did, and they did. It was lightly sprinkling, but very hot and humid. We found an area covered, but still in the sun (tip is clear plastic). The 3 pools are really only two. One has access crashed, and a hold larger than a bath tub in the bottom (see picture). One is a wading pool for kids. I did not see the other one, as it was closed off because of the lack of a life guard. We did manage to get a towel. Much later we actually found a new employee out by the pool that had water in an ice chest. 330 ml for $8.00. Naturally, I have not idea what it really costs, but that was what I was charged when we checked out.

Breakfast is included in our room rate. The café is in the lobby area and is really the only remaining eatery in the hotel. It is a buffet. The room is too crowded. Only one line exists, and one “cook” for the eggs, omelets and waffles. The omelets are “rolled-up” to insure that the egges inside do not get cooked. Orders for over well or over hard, come out runny. I do not believe the “cook” understands ANY English! The waffles are also well undercooked. He has two waffle irons, uses both, but never at the same time. The scrambled eggs (an alternative) also are runny. It is a food poisoning epidemic pending. The “waiters” asks if you want juice or coffee, but bring neither. I believe they clean the tables and keep track of beverages desired. Both are self service. This was every morning. I would not recommend this hotel. Not its location, food, cleanliness or state of repair. I would also caution that language may be a problem.

More on the hotel intermingled in the daily activities below.

Feb 14-Sat- Our plan was to go to Zoologico do Rio de Janeiro (30A, 2100 animals, 350 species. Gift shop and rest. In Qunta da Boa Vista Park. 9-6:30, (bus 472 or 474, R$6. Also National Museum of Natural History, all in the hills of Sao Cristovao. Planned but not done, see prior comments.

We had breakfast and then sought to go out by the pool. Refer to previous discussion. Pizza in the room, room service was great. 1 pizza was enough for us to split. 4 of those 330 ml waters were included (oh-oh). The cart came, flowers, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard came with the pizza? It was listed as 28R on the menu, no service charge, set-up fee or taxes were shown. The bill was 34.xxR, with not room for separate tip, but may have been included (I gave him a few dollars, just in case).


Feb 15-Sun- Take the free shuttle bus to the mall in Rio (Rio Sul). Also stops at the beach and at the Sunday “swap meet”. The hotel sponsored bus holds about 15 people, less that the 17 people waiting. 2 had to wait a couple hours for the next one. The mall in Rio is huge and we believed we could spend a few hours there and have a nice lunch. The shuttle left at 10:00 and got to the mall about 10:45 (Sunday lite?). The mall was not open yet, but several people were waiting to get in. At 11:10, I checked with the three security people at the door (hoping we could communicate). Turns out, thru sign language, the mall does not open until Noon! The other people that wanted on the bus should have beat us out of our seats! We walked around a bit. Not a great area. We found a church, but it was holding services and we were very casual. The time passed and noon came. The next thing we found that the stores do not open until 15:00! We had a coke, walked the mall (a few stories) and then I got an ice cream. We then went out to wait for the !4:30 bus back to the hotel. We had a nice ride each way and saw quite a bit of Rio and the beaches on the RT, otherwise the day was a bust.

We had pizza in our room tonight again. This time the water did not show up, but the price was also a bit lower, suggesting that no material add-on are included in room service. I again provided a separate cash tip.


Feb16-Mon- Easy day, start with breakfast and transfer to Airport w/HAL. The handling of this transfer was great. Only one other couple was going at our time. The driver and our hostess kept us up to date at we made our way to the airport. The traffic much worse today and it took closer to 1 ½ hours+. The hostess came in with us. The counter was not open yet, although there were 50 or so people waiting. The employees were getting ready to open up. Our hostess went to the elite class window, and she then checked us in immediately! WOW…the best HAL subcontractor waits to show up on our 4 HAL cruise on the way home. .
We had plenty of time to go to the club. It was almost empty in the club. Free internet and computer, were available at two stations. Also a variety of drinks were free, and self serve. Modest snacks also were available.



Feb 17-Tue

Take shuttle back to Escondido, pick up at 23:55, Phone 866-8228822 or res 800-9917433. Discussed at the beginning.

PICTURES- ARE NOW READY SEE POST BELOW FOR LINK
Leslie has narrowed down the pictures to about 500, from well over 1000. They have been cleaned up and she is now starting to load them on Webshots and then will add the captions. This is some of her best work. I suspect they will be done and a link added here in two or three weeks.

Last edited by ranles; Apr 3, 09 at 2:17 pm Reason: Pictures are now available
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Old Mar 21, 09, 2:19 pm
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Interesting report thanks for taking the time. I Googled the location of Palmer Island if anyone is interested...

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=...z=3&iwloc=addr
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Old Mar 21, 09, 5:45 pm
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The million dollar question. Is it worth going one day.

I just read it's better to go on a smaller ship than the larger ones. Also a lot of accidents lately.
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Old Mar 23, 09, 10:56 pm
  #4  
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The smaller ships out of Ushuaia are usually old Russian ships, converted for the trade. The trip is completely different and would likely appeal to quite a different group. I have read some of the trip reports on cruise critic, and those in the small ships are like hazmat tours. You must go through "decom" going in and out. If I were much younger, perhaps.

I do not understand about going for only one day. I am not sure that is even available. It is too far for most of us, and way too expensive and special to only get one days worth of visit. 3 days were amazing.
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Old Mar 26, 09, 2:34 pm
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Originally Posted by ranles View Post
This report is a major task. It is prepared for YOU, not me.
Not quite sure what you mean by that? Sounds a bit condescending to me.

A long one but enjoyable nonetheless. ^
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Old Mar 28, 09, 6:11 am
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Very interesting report, thanks.
You said "We sail thru the narrow and shallow Rio de la Plata for very many hours to get to BA." The Rio de la Plata is the widest river in the world, and at some points you can't see both banks. I guess you meant the channel in the middle of the river which is marked with buoys?
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Old Mar 28, 09, 4:11 pm
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Thank you for your effort and excellent accounting of your trip. I will be doing a land/air trip of Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Chile in May/June; so several of the sites, towns and hotels that you visited are on my itinerary. I especially appreciated the information on prices and quality of tours and hotels, etc. With the exchange rate so variable, I don't have a clue how much a meal might cost - should I budget $10 or $50??? I do not use credit cards (just a thing with me)...so your information was very helpful. Unfortunately, I may be staying at the IC Rio - but hopefully will get the Sheraton which is (supposedly) in the National Park. Again, thanks for your effort and details.
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Old Mar 28, 09, 8:38 pm
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Hiddy, sorry. I mean, we do the write-up to help others, as some did for us before we when. We answer questions, as others did, that helped us. You will see some helpless questions coming out of me too. We all can use a hand once in awhile. I only pointed out that the several hundred hours researching a trip and going, is not enhanced by having to take notes through the trip and then giving a detailed report to others. The reward is in the payback and the "pay it forward"

Lovecraft, you are right, the Rio de la Plata is a very wide river. Functionally, for a ship the size of the Amsterdam and many of the merchant ships, the river is very narrow because of its limited depth in many area. We literally could through a rock to some of the ships we passed in our trip.

2travelfar, please be aware that the Rio IC is a long way away from Rio, if that is important to you. You may or may not find our experience similar to yours, if you go. Please note, however, that facts are facts and opinions are opinions. We gave both. Use them as it fits your needs and economics. We have stayed in much worse places!!!! ..but never twice!
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Old Apr 3, 09, 2:15 pm
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The pictures are now ready

1. To access pictures of our recent 27 day trip to South America, including a 20 day cruise on the Amsterdam, highlighted by 3 days in Antarctica, click on the following link:

http://community.webshots.com/user/lagibson76

Click on the South America & Antarctica 2009 (602 Pictures) album, by clicking the Pictured Album with this title

2. Select “slideshow” (recommended) from the Box (in light yellow) to the right of the picture(s). (1 of 5 choices). Slide Show allows for about 5 seconds between each picture, You can sit back and enjoy without any other actions (except you may need to move the mouse every hundred pictures if the screen goes dark). The slide show will start immediately after the selection of that option. (to pause, see item 3 below).

3. While in the slide show one can place your cursor just below the picture and select pause (from the pop up choices), you can also adjust the time between pictures or choose previous or next to view each at your own pace, there is a volume option shown also but there is no music with this presentation. To return to the slide show select Play and it will continue from where you left off.

4. You can view the pictures at your own pace by clicking the first picture ( to view it). Each additional picture maybe viewed in order by clicking on the small picture to the right, labeled “next”. Continue through all the pictures

5. Once done (or anytime you wish) you can then exit the program in one of two
Ways: (a) if you wish to pursue other options available in webshots, select
the “back to full album” to the right of the picture, or (b) if you are done then
just click the “X” in the top right hand corner of your screen.
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Old Apr 4, 09, 7:02 am
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Thanks, I really enjoyed your travel stories and pictures. It was interesting to read a "tourist's" impression and experiences in my home away from home, Rio. I loved the pictures of Pedra de Gavea. I'm sorry to hear you got stuck at Rio Sul, it's a quick 10 minute walk through the tunnel to Copa / Leme, where the Meridian is. You could have spent some time there in Copa walking the calcadao instead...
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Old Apr 7, 09, 4:09 pm
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Thanks. Unfortunately, we did not bring a map with us and therefore were "stuck", not wanting to venture anywhere we should not be, and not even knowing where we really "were". Nice shopping center.
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Old May 7, 09, 3:44 pm
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Brought forward for a friend who wanted to see the pictures.
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