14 Day South America Cruise
Holland America's Zaandam
Buenos Aires to Santiago Chile
December 08 - 22, 2014

MS Zaandam

The cruise industry has seen a downward trend in pricing for many months now. I have seen prices of $199 for 7 Day Caribbean cruise and $349 for 14 Day cruise.
The pricing has been insane for the most part. I started cruising some 31 years ago and can honestly say I have never seen pricing like this.

I noticed about 6 weeks before this cruise set sail that pricing was $599pp for an inside guarantee, $799 for a outside and $1699 for a Vista Suite. These prices remained that way right up to sailing.
I then booked this cruise after some back and forth with Carol.
A few days after I booked my Travel Agent (TA) got an offer for an upgrade (this was a paid offer) with the cost being what it would have cost me at the time of booking. This was no offer I told my TA. 
I then did a count of how many cabins were still available and the number was roughly 105 cabins. I knew at this point there would be other offers.

A few days went by while I was booking the air to/from the cruise. I had checked air out of Seattle as well as Vancouver. It turns out the best air was about $1068 from Vancouver with air from Seattle about $200 - $300 more and not so good flights.
Our flights were Vancouver to Toronto change planes and Toronto to Santiago Chile and a 1.5 hour layover and then onto Buenos Aires.

A few days has gone by and it is November 25th and a new offer arrives. The offer isn't much better than the last. It was offering that I pay about $250 for an outside And about $800 for a Vista Suite Balcony. Still nothing special about this given the number of cabins available.

I waited till Friday and sent Rob an email suggesting that he contact HAL and suggest a $300 pp for an upgrade to a Vista Suite.

December 2nd we get another offer of $160 for ocean view and Vista Suite for $500 and we rejected this offer because I knew the number of cabins available are 3 insides 52 outsides and 48 Vista Suites and 11 Neptune Suites. It is very clear that the least I will get is an outside cabin assignment.

Wednesday afternoon rolls around and Rob calls and says I now have a cabin assignment. It was an outside category DA midship, it is a great "FREE" upgrade.

I am sitting at home Thursday morning and the phone rings and it is Rob my TA with HAL on the phone asking if I am still interested in the upgrade offer of $299 US. I will get to choose my cabin location up to a Cat A. Wow I get a $1 reduction from Friday.

I took the upgrade. Cabin 6178.

The flights to Buenos Aires were long. The first flight was on a new Air Canada 787-8. I have to say the seats were comfortable and the increased cabin height did make a difference.
The windows are also much larger and at a better height for normal people to look out. There is no more window shade as it has been replaced by a button where you can darken the window like sunglasses to completely black.

The Flight from Toronto to Santiago to Buenos Aires was long with a total time of about 15 hours.

We arrived in Buenos Aires just after 3:00 PM and had to go through immigration which also included our Visa. One prints off a page with your visa info before you leave and you present that when you arrive. They take your photo and your right thumb print.
Don't throw this piece of paper away as you will need it several more times.

Once we retrieved our bags we went to the "Official" Taxi desk and grabbed a taxi that we pre-ordered to our the NH Crillio Hotel.
This ride was interesting and took about 30 minutes. Our taxi driver was doing speeds of 120 kph (90 zone) and we were being passed like we were standing still.

We soon arrived at the hotel and while it was an older property it was clean and the front desk staff were good.

We then went out for a walk around the area and covered a major area of the main downtown core.


In front of Statue of Carlos Pellegrini which is a virtual geocache.

Stopping along the way to find a few Geocaches and then stopping for one at Obelisco de Buenos Aires.

Obelisco

Obelisco de Buenos Aires
Obelisco de Buenos Aires

We had left most of our belongings in the safe as we had heard from a fellow passenger that they already had their cell phone taken and the mustard trick done to them. For those that don't know what the mustard trick is someone comes along and spills mustard on you and then someone comes by to offer to clean it off. A group of people gather around all helping while someone empties your wallet and purse without you knowing.
If this happens it is said to just refuse the help and keep walking.
The people from the ship kept walking and avoided this.
When we boarded the ship we heard a Dutch couple had all their credit cards and money taken this way.

During the time we walked around we managed to walk about 8 km and find many Geocaches along the way.

December 8th 2014 - Buenos Aires

This morning we woke and went and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant which was provided free of charge. It provided many good choices.

We went to the wine store next door to the NH Hotel to buy 2 bottles on Argentinean Wine to take on board the ship and must say they were good choices.

After arranging for a taxi to take us to the cruise ship terminal we boarded with minimal wait at approx. 11:00 AM  Once aboard we were greeted by a staff member and taken to our cabin. Normally cabins are not ready until 1:30 PM so this was a pleasant surprise.

617861786178
Click on the thumbnail photo above to see a larger version of the photo

Once we dropped off our hand luggage we headed to the Rotterdam Dining Room for the Mariner Lunch. This lunch is for past passengers. This was much better than heading to the Lido which is usually very crowded and noisy.
We then proceeded for a ship tour and saw many of Captain Stephan Card paintings and a wonderful display of Gingerbread houses in the Explorers Lounge.

Once the tour was complete we headed back to the cabin to find our luggage on the bed. At first glance I was not happy as somewhere between dropping the luggage off at the pier and arriving on the bed I noticed a nice 4 inch cut in the front pocket.
HAL later repaired this with no questions asked.
We soon unpacked and there was plenty of storage space for both of us.

Once this was done it was off to see if we could change our Open Seating Dinner to second seating. I have not understood how when we booked second seating was completely full and no waitlist. I have never seen second seating full since the introduction of Open Seating.
Our names were put on a list and we would be notified the next day if there was room.

Dinner time was upon us tonight and we went to Open Seating and asked for a table for two. Our request was granted towards the rear near a window.
Tonight offered the standard choices of Prime Rib, Salmon, Caesar Salad to name a few.
The one thing that has not changed on HAL is the choice of breads at dinner.

Tonight after dinner is was a walk around the ship to see what was happening. As the ship was remaining in port tonight and would sail tomorrow afternoon at 5:00 PM we soon headed to bed.

December 9 2014 - Buenos Aries

This morning we woke about 9:45 AM well after the time that both of us sleep. It was apparent that the 5 hour time change had taken it's toll on us.

Stepping out onto the Balcony proved it was going to be a very warm day with temps about 25C.

We both needed to shower and dress and head upstairs for breakfast.

We departed the cabin just after 10:30 and arrived on the Lido Deck to find breakfast was over. What's with this missing a meal???? We would now have to wait till 11:30 for lunch to start.

After we managed lunch we elected to stay on the ship and enjoy the warm weather around the pool as we knew this would soon change.

Today was pretty much uneventful.

We returned to the cabin to find that we had been assigned table 62 for dinner second seating.

This afternoon we had lifeboat drill at 5:15 PM as we were to sail at 6:00PM. It appeared to take much longer for this lifeboat drill than others. It appeared at times disorganized.
The one interesting thing was a man was at the front complaining during the calling of cabin numbers because his card said lifeboat 8 and his wife's said lifeboat 10 and the back of the door was lifeboat 10. This guy just would not let this go no matter how many times the Lifeboat Commander said he had made notes about this.
I would agree that this shouldn`t have happened but it did and the Boat Commander was going to correct it. 

From here we went up to the Lido Deck for sail away. Once up there the Captain made an announcement that our departure clearance had been delayed. As a result we would be delayed arriving in Montevideo and our departure would be adjusted.
The other problem is there is a very narrow area between buoy`s that the ship travels despite on how wide the river appears on the map due to depth.

It was time for dinner so off we went and upon arrival were escorted to the table for 6 near the rear windows of the Rotterdam Dinning room on Deck 5.

We sat down and it appeared that we were the only guests at this table. We had ordered dinner when a couple from London arrived and sat down with us.
We soon found out that they were vegetarian which would prove challenging over the coming days. 

After dinner we went for a walk but it was raining outside as we were surrounded by major thunder heads. We returned to the cabin and sat on the Balcony watching for over an hour the light and sound show to the north of us. It was a spectacular show.

Tonight's show was Listen to the Music which was listen to all the entertainers and Location Team. We did not attend.

December 10 2014 - Montevideo, Uruguay

As I said yesterday our arrival was delayed and then we were told that Montevideo is one hour ahead to keep our watches on ships time.

boats at enterance

The ship docked and was soon cleared and we waited for the initial rush and then set off.

Phiatsea
another country to my list

The plan was leave the ship and try and walk to the city centre and grab a geocache or two depending how far they were away from the ship. We also wanted to have lunch at a BBQ house near the ship.
Looking at the first cache is was some 4 km away from the ship thus making it 8 km round trip.

We left the port walking up a pedestrian walkway which had many stalls setup by local venders selling their wares. We soon turned left and continued along the way and at the end of this walkway was a large plaza with a huge Statue of Artigas on a horse.

Plaza
entrance to the Plaza

Argitus

We continued along the way along a main street lined with stores and banks and along the way noticed the banks with ATM`s had long line-ups. Not sure why this was the case but interesting.

While walking around the city we noticed many people drinking something from a small container with a straw. I did some research and found it to be a beverage called Mate.

We soon left the main downtown core and past some schools and then into a residential area of sorts. There were many old buildings along the streets.
As with many European countries there are large garbage bins in each block for one to place their trash. The interesting part in this in this we found a couple of men in a horse drawn cart going through the bins. We saw many of these carts.

Upon arrival at the cache area it showed the cache to be inside a building. This didn`t look right but the description was in Spanish and almost of no help to us. It was the old adage of trying to read it and see what we could make sense of. Carol picked up that it had a name at the top with a number and the street we were near had the same name. Well we assumed this to be a street name and number and off we went. We arrived at said address to find all this "stuff" attached to the outside of the building. Looking at the wall looked like it was going to be a tough one till Carol said would that GC on that box way up there be the cache. I said it sure looked right. I climbed up the wall with a railing and pulled the cache out. I opened it and sure enough it was the cache. It turns out we were only the second ones to find this cache.

Perro suelto
Perro suelto Geocache

It was then off for the return trip and the streets proved to be much busier.

back to the ship
The walk back to the ship

We soon arrived at the building where the market and BBQ houses were.

I had done some research on this before leaving and one of the top BBQ houses in the city was here called Estancia del Puerto.

Upon entering the building we walked right into Estancia del Puerto and it was packed. There were many others in the area of this one and they had no one at them.

Estancia del Puerto

One has to remember that these BBQ houses sell everything you can find in a cow. With the menu being in Spanish one has to be careful to avoid sweetbreads or bull testicles if you don't fancy these. The owner served us with a recommendation of 400 g of steak with fries. We took his advice on this.
We had local draft beer also with the meal.
Now the one thing we did learn is any main meal is made up of meat of some sort and fries or vegetables. The meat has to be the bigger part of the meal as well. The meat consumption is double that per person than in Canada.

400 grams of steak
400 grams of Steak and Fries

We watched the BBQ Chef preparing meat to be placed on the BBQ. It should be noted that the beef is not seasoned when placed on the BBQ. When it is served there are spices or sauces on the table to use.  Lets say there are no health standards here. They take raw chicken prepare it on the cutting board,  then place it on the BBQ, then take a scrapper and clean the board off, then take the cooked beef off the BBQ and cut it and place it on a plate to be served.

think it is clean?
Lets cut the "raw" chicken here and then place the beef we take off on here.

I have to say that the experience and the quality of the food great. The price was slightly more than I would have liked at $65.00 but it was still worth it.

one last look after the lunch rush
after the lunch rush

After departing here we walked around the local market outside and saw nothing we needed or wanted. We did notice as we left the building that we smelled like the BBQ itself.

From here it was back to the ship just before 4:00 PM. We managed to walk around 14.5 km today.

The ship sailed at 6:00 PM where we were on deck watching the departure in warm weather.

MSC  Maginfica
MSC Magnifica

leavingPilot Boatleaving
click on thumbnail for larger photo

Tonight's show was Shirley Domimguez a Harp player. Okay at first read, this sounds like something I would miss in a heartbeat. I have to say I went and watched the show and was pleasantly surprised. Lets say it was interesting but I would likely not see it again.

December 11 2014 - At Sea

The ship is pointed towards the Falkland Islands. The seas are causing the ship to pitch and roll at times. There are sickness bags by the elevators.

So the number one question I get is what can one do while at sea for several days in a row.

On board the Zaandam one is offered things such as cooking classes by Chef Sabastiano learning to prepare Gambas Pil Pil and Pollo Arvejado. There are many different types of trivia. I have to say trivia now a days has become very competitive. There are those that will use Google on their phones for an answer. All this so they can get a small plastic boat or medal that won't see the light of day when they get home.
There are exercise classes with some of them having a charge. Some ships offer a Galley tour.
I attended 3 wine tastings at a cost of about $90 for the three. There were 5 glasses of wine at the first two and 8 on the last one. The last one provided food which was paired with each wine.
There is also a daily movie in the theatre.
On almost all cruises there is Afternoon Tea at 3:00 with special days such as Royal High Tea, Indonesian Tea etc.
Holland America has partnered with Microsoft to have classes on board for Windows 8.1 and other programs. These range from beginner to advanced. I attended one on Windows 8.1 and learned many things I did not know.
I have never lacked for something to do as one can do as much as they like and as little as they like.

This morning I did the Galley Tour.

Steaks from Pinaclle GrillGalley
Galley and display of food from Pinnacle Grill

This afternoon at 2:00 we attended The Navigator Wine Tasting for $15. It was great way to learn about wine tasting and the wines that are in this wine package sold onboard.

Wine Tasting
Navigator Wine Tasting

After the wine tasting we tried to go for a walk around the ship outside, that was soon dashed.

a bit wet and windy
just a little wet and windy

Tonight was the first Formal night and how this has changed. Arriving at the Rotterdam Dining Room there were many Men not in Jackets that were being turned away. In some cases they were offered Jackets to wear for dinner. There were a few confrontations but the Manager stood his ground and pointed them up to the Lido Restaurant.

While walking around the ship the last few days we have come across several areas decorated for Christmas.

ChristmasChristmasChristmas

Tonight's show was a Production show called Classique. We did not attend.

December 12 2014 - At Sea

Today was still choppy with a high of 13 C forecast. How the weather has cooled off.

This morning I went to breakfast in the Lido and have to say it is nice to see that Holland America still serves fresh Orange Juice. Almost all other cruise  lines are charging for this.
One can have Omelets made any way they like or Eggs Benedict about a half dozen ways. Then there are fried Eggs or fresh Waffles along with different potato choices each morning.
There is fresh fruit, Yogurt and different types of toast along with muffins.

The plan for the day Premium Wine Tasting at 2:00 in the Pinnacle Grill. The cost was $35 for this one. Today we would learn how pairing wines with different foods can change the taste of the wine. Very much worth it.
While at the wine tasting we learned from the Doctors Wife that later on tonight there would be a double helicopter lift by The Royal Airforce. It would appear a man in his mid 80's fell out of bed during the night and broke his leg and and it was bleeding internally. There was an elderly Asian man in his 70's that needed to have his appendices removed.

We had made reservations for the Pinnacle Grill tonight for 8:00 PM and wouldn't you know it that is the time of the lift. At about 7:30 PM a C-130 from the RAF made a low pass down the port side of the ship and got everyone's attention including mine. Okay he passed us many times while waiting for the RAF Sea King to arrive on station.
I did not see the Sea King as we had to go to dinner.

C-130
RAF C -130 Hercules

Carol and I arrived in the Pinnacle Grill and were escorted to a table for two in the rear of the restaurant. I would order the Dungeness Crab Cakes followed by the Lobster Bisque then the 18 oz. Bone-in Rib Eye Steak medium rare with green peppercorn sauce with baked potato.
Carol ordered the Dungeness Crab Cakes followed by Caesar salad made tableside followed by 8 oz. Filet Mignon with baked potato.
We shared Asparagus and I had a plate of mushrooms.

table setting

The first thing soon to arrive was a mushroom soup tea.

mushroom soup tea
Mushroom Soup Tea

Once the main course arrived I made a comment to Lucy about the potato not being a Jumbo Baked  Idaho Potato. I knew the reason why I told Lucy this.
Lucy isn't gone more than a minute when the Maitre'D arrived to explain once again about the Potato and how these had more moisture inside them. More to the point don't say it is a Idaho Potato when you know it isn't, reprint the menus.

Crab CakesCeasar saladFilet MignonRib-Eye Steak
The meal as it arrived. click on thumbnail for larger photo

For desert I had the Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake and Carol had the Raspberry Cheesecake.

Volcano cakeCheesecake

The whole meal was very good.

Holland America charges $29 per person for the meal. I get a 25% discount because of my Mariner Status. There is also no more bill as it is just charged to your room.

Tonight's show was Pampas Devils Gauchos with was billed as a traditional South American gaucho show including Tango, Bolas and Argentinean tap dancing. We did attend the show and found it very good. I am not sure how a couple that is doing the Tango gets it right without stepping on each other or injuring the other party. I would not recommend doing the Tango with a Female Partner that you have ticked off because I am sure that she will inflict some pain.

gauchos

December 13 2014 - Stanley, Falkland Islands

We got up early and went upstairs to have breakfast at about 6:30 AM so we could be on one of the first tenders

The plan was to be on a early tender and head ashore to walk and find several Geocaches. The reason being that a couple of then indicated that penguins could be seen from the cache.

Arriving back in the Cabin we dressed for the day in layers. We then went onto the balcony to watch our arrival and look for Penguins on the beach. We managed to see many on the beach as well as several guns on the hills left over from the Falkland Conflict.


Click on thumbnail photo for larger version

Stanley 

We went down to the Ocean Bar to get our tender tickets and we managed to be on the first tender.

Falkland Islands

Arriving onshore we found it to be very windy and cool. We headed out east from the pier through the town. We passed many business and than along the water front lined with houses on one side.
The one note is almost vehicles are Land Rovers with a smattering of Toyotas. We only saw one car the whole day. The people are very friendly and say hi or wave at you when they pass you.

As we walked we came across the cemetery where there is a cenotaph. We stopped and paid our respects.

We soon left the road and following the trail along the waterfront. There was a cache a short distance along here called the Afterglow after the ship HMS Afterglow built in 1919 and what remains of her. At low tide you can see her boiler.

HMS Afterglow

As we signed the logbook for the cache another couple came up to us from the ship and they were Geocaching as well. We talked and they were from Germany and decided to do all this together.

From here we continued along the trail and then across the baily bridge where we did another cache called Boxer bridge. This was a very open area and very windy and now getting cold because of the wind.

Boxer Bridge

Once leaving here we crossed the street and picked up the trail again. Every so often you will see a sign saying don't venture beyond the trail due to the possibility of Land Mines.

mines warning

The next cache from the last cache was about 2.2 km along the trail. We walked along grasslands to a cache called the Narrows. Walking along the trail there was a large hill to the right covered in large rocks. One can't help to think that during the Falklands Conflict how many soldiers roamed these hills.
Rounding the corner we came to the area called ground zero to look for the cache. While the first areas checked didn't yield the geocache we expanded the area up the hill and between the rocks.
There was a regroup and check the GPS to look to see if we were in the right area. It was back to rechecking some areas close to GZ and then Carol moved up the hill where I first checked and I headed up the hill. I heard got it. I came down to find Carol had located the cache in a hole I checked at the start. There is a saying in caching always check where someone else has checked you never know. This was the case again.

cache

This was a special cache in the respect it was placed some 6 weeks back and no one appeared to have found it yet. Carol opened the cache and opened the logbook to find in fact it had been found about 1 week prior. This would make us the second to find. Oh well.

From here we  headed along the trail to Ordnance Point . Shortly after leaving the cache we rounded the corner to find a critter on the trail. Low and behold it was a Penguin. I can honestly say I wasn't expecting to see this. I was expecting to see them but not like this.

Magellanic penguin on the trail
Magellanic Penguin

We looked down the trail and on the beach and could see many more of the little critters.

Magellanic penguin hidingMagellanic penguinMagellanic penguin

After spending over half an hour we continued down the trail for the cache at Ordnance Point. Walking up the hill towards the gun we saw many people over looking the ocean and wondering where we had come from.
From here it was down the other side to find the cache which we did with no problem.

gun

We came back up the hill and then down the trail towards the parking lot and we were now walking past Gypsy Cove. This is well known for Penguins on the Beach. Gypsy Cove did not disappoint.

Gypsy Cove

Leaving here we continued along the trail looking in the different burrows. We found one burrow with a Magellanic Penguin in it. Upon closer inspection we could see a baby in the burrow. What a treat!


Mother with young

Once we left here we followed the road for about 1.5 km before rejoining the trail to avoid a huge detour to the left via the road.

Walking back we passed a few places that I had not mentioned and one that stood out was the Lady Elizabeth shipwreck.

Lady Elizabeth

Some of the other wrecks along the way.

wrecks 

walking back

Arriving back in Stanley we walked around the town centre and stopped in a few stores. We did manage to find one store in town that sold different things including stuffed Penguins. Great stocking stuffers I thought.

The strange part of this is we didn't see a lot of people around town and arriving back at the pier there were not many people here. We still had about an hour before last tender so we had had enough so we boarded the tender back to the ship.

On the trip back we could see white stones overlooking Stanley naming the ships that were lost in the Falklands conflict.

This was one rough ride back. There was water leaking in from different locations into the tender. Upon arriving back after a long trip back there was still the docking of the tender with the Zaandam. There was a few hits and then back off then back to try again. We managed to finally get docked and then the getting off was the problem.
When getting off a tender in rough weather timing is everything. One needs to judge the rise up to the dock and step off at the top. Doing it wrong and you could loose a foot or fall.
I guessed right and stepped off the tender onto the platform and then got hit by a large wave. Yep I was very wet.

The total distance hiked was 18.5 km today. That took about 6 hours to do then another hour in Stanley.

It was up to the cabin to shower and warm up and get changed.

From here we went up to the Lido to find something warm to drink. We then found out that those that slept in and had a later breakfast could not get off the ship because tender operations were suspended mid morning and remained that way for the rest of the day. The ship was only allowing people to return to the ship. 

As we departed Stanley we were advised that we would be heading north rather than south due to high seas. We were able to see the beach's from the ship and the Penguins on the beach.

Penguins on beach

Tonight's show was Mel Mellers a Magician. We arrived late and this show wasn't worth the time. Lets say very lame. We went because tonight was also the Filipino Crew Show at 11:00 PM. I like attending these shows because the crew get to showcase something from their country and is well done and attended. We once again enjoyed this show.

December 14 2014 - At Sea

This morning we woke late and went to the Lido for breakfast. Today I went with the custom made omelet along with potato's and Bangers.

Todays plan is the third Wine Tasting at 3:00 which is described as sip and savor from different regions of South America. This included cheeses from around the world and BBQ and cold meats.

We spent a leisurely day sitting around the pool today. For lunch it was a stop at Dive In which serves signature burgers and hot dogs with their secret sauce. I found this to be a step up from the old Terrace Grill. One places their order and is given a pager that goes off when it is ready.

It was time to go to the Wine Tasting and we sat near the window.

There was even Sebastian cooking pasta poolside.
Each of the 8 glasses of wine were paired with a food. The cost was $25 and lasted about 2.5 hours.
It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Cellar Master and me
Afternoon Wine Tasting - click on thumbnail for larger photo

While at the Wine Tasting we talked to the Doctors wife about the airlift the other day and she informed us about the older gentlemen that had a broken femur and was bleeding. She said that once in hospital it was determined they could stabilize him and do a medical evacuation back to his home city in Chile for surgery and continued care. He had medical insurance and his medical insurance said they would cover the cost of $41,000. The problem was they wanted the money before they would put him on the plane.
The Doctors wife said HAL stepped up and paid the amount and will bill the insurance company. This type of thing never gets published and only bad news stories always gets published. It is good to see HAL do this.

Here is where schedules cause problems. At 3:00 was also Indonesian Tea ceremony. This in the past has been a great event, unfortunately I can't report on the current tea because we attended wine tasting.

Well we found out a few days ago that we would not be docking in Punta Arenas tomorrow as the dock was damaged by a freighter last month and would not be repaired till February. Now we learn the time has changed from 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM and tendering will start at that time.
We have a tour to see the Otway Penguin Sanctuary that we booked before we left with a local tour operator called South Excursions. We booked this in case we didn't make it to the Falkland Islands due to wind.
The problem is tomorrow we will now need to get a tender ticket so that means start planning early.

Tonight's dinner was the second Formal night and was preplanned a few days back. When we talked to Sebastian a few days back we asked about having a full vegetarian Indian meal with the exception of a Chicken dish for Carol and I.
The meal arrived about 20 minutes after sitting down and was served family style. We also had friends of our table mates join us as well. This was a incredible meal with our tablemates explaining the different dishes and how to eat them.

December 15 2014 - Punta Arenas, Chile

This morning we cruised into the bay at Punta Arenas and we were up to take in the view.

After dropping anchor we headed upstairs for breakfast.
From here we could see where the tender was docking and where we needed to go to get a geocache before the tour.

After Breakfast we headed to the Ocean Bar to get our tender tickets to find out as we arrived we would be on the next tender. Arriving on shore about 15 minutes later we headed off to grab this geocache a short distance away. This was not before going through Chilean Agriculture Inspection. They are very strict and it is amazing how many people still try even though many announcements are made on the ship.
This was a Virtual cache which in this case had to do with history of the area. A short stop in the central park of the city at a statue to get a photo and the information I needed to log this cache.
There were the locals setting up carts for the local market that would open in a few hours.

virtual cache
Virtual Cache

We left the park and walked back to the port area to locate our tour operator. We looked in the covered just outside the port warehouse but nothing so we continued to the inner waiting area.

When one arrives in the terminal you see signs offering tours by locals. I saw many people take advantage of these tours.

tours
the cost is $35 US pp for the first two and $10 pp for the last one.

It is now just before 9:00 AM when we get back inside the terminal building.
We see a couple of signs with South Excursions on them but not the names we were told would be on them. After waiting a few minutes we ask the guides if they can point us to the right guide and they look at their lists and say oh your with me.
Well our guide is dressed in a Santa hat and beard and was born in Chile and educated in the USA. This would mean no problem with English.

It was now getting on to about 9:20 AM and we were still waiting for two people that booked last minute that we didn't know booked this tour. It was about 9:40 now and tempers were starting to flair a bit as we were now 40 minutes late leaving. As this was a 5 - 5.5 hour tour it would not leave us much time back in town.
A call was made to the office as to what they should do and Stephanie told the tour guide we would have to wait for the two because they could have been delayed getting off the ship on the tender. 
This soon turned into a discussion on how there was no tender wait and if we didn't leave in the next 5 minutes we were cancelling and wanted a full refund for the tour.
Another call was made to the office and Stephanie insisted we wait and one of the tour participants asked to talk and explained this to Stephanie and we were soon off minus the 2 others.

We headed out through the city north being told about the local history and Augusto Pinochet and his dictatorship till 1990 and head of the Army till 1998. In terms today Chile is a young country compared to where it was some 20+ years ago.

statue
interesting statue

We continued north from the city on a highway for about 30 minutes before making a left turn onto a gravel road for another 30 minutes.

We then made a turn into the Otway Penguin Sanctuary where one must stop and pay a fee to travel in. We then continued another 10 minutes down the gravel road to the parking area. Upon arrival there were many large tour buses compared to our small Ford Club Van.
The area has a coffee shop that also served as a gift shop as well.
Now our guide had to go to another ticket booth to pay another entrance fee. The question is what was the last one that was paid for?

penguins
Magellanic Penguins


Bird Blind to view the Penguins at Otway

Once we left the gift shop we walked along wooden walkways and over a couple of bridges before arriving seaside where there was a bird blind for us to view the Magellanic  Penguins.




click on thumbnails to view larger photos.

There were not many Penguins here as we were warned they could be out feeding.

During our return back to the parking area we walked along the boardwalks in the field and could see many Penguin Burrows with just a few Penguins around.

boardwalk
Boardwalk

cafe
Cafe - Souvenir Shop

Shortly after arriving back at our bus we headed back to town. As we left the gravel road and back on the highway it started to rain. This was timing for the Otway part of the tour. The plan was to stop at the Park I did the geocache this morning and visit the market we watched being set-up. Upon arriving at the park the heavens were giving up large amounts of rain and all on the bus were not interested in getting soaked. It was back to the port area where there was a building across the street. The building has several fish stores as well as many small placed to eat. Many of the group decided to stay and eat.
The problem I had was we had been gone for just over 3 hours of a 5 - 5.5 hour tour. There was no way that the City Park was 2 hours.
Looking at this the cost was $85.00 per person and was a back-up to the Penguins in the Falkland Islands. Considering the cost of tours this was very reasonable.

inside

We headed back to the ship from here but not before stopping at the "I was here location".

I was here

Seabourn Quest was in port with us and I can tell you they were not happy with the dock not being available. They had several trucks of supplies to load and do it by small boat was going to make for a long day.

It was up to the cabin to drop off our jackets etc. and head upstairs to find some food.

Tonight's show was a Variety Show featuring the last few shows entertainers with what was billed "new material". I am not sure what more Gauchos can show you that you haven't seen or how much more of Harp playing or a Comedian that shouldn't have given up his day job one can take. We gave this a pass tonight.

December 16 2014 - Ushuaia Argentina

Well today we were up early because this morning we would be cruising through Glacier Alley passing OItalia, the Francia, the Alemania and the Romanchen Glaciers on our way to Ushuaia. We were due there about 1:00 PM.

On past cruises I have listened to many Captains say South America glaciers beat Alaska glaciers hands down. I have loved my Alaska cruises and this was also one of the reasons I wanted to do South America.

We headed upstairs to grab something to eat and sit out on the stern under cover and see what we could see.

We soon realized that the glaciers were on the port side of the ship and our Cabin with a balcony was also on the port side. We went and got a hot beverage and headed back to our cabin. This way we didn't have to fight many people.

Soon after arriving back downstairs it was starting to rain.

Romanche Glacier
Romanche Glacier

Romanche Glacier
close-up of Romanche Glacier

Snow?
Snow in the distance.....

Amelia Glacier
Amelia Glacier

Amelia Glacier
Amelia Glacier

Outside
A little wet....

Ushuaia Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina in the distance. Weather is clearing up.

We were docking at the end of the pier along with a mother ship and several smaller fishing vessels. They were off loading Salmon from the mother ship. There was something like 20 containers that were being loaded. There were several other smaller cruise ship vessels including one sailing vessel called the Europa from Holland.

Mother ship


Looking down the pier and inspecting the fish - click on photo

The ship was suppose to dock at 2:00 PM but we had been told at the start of the cruise that the Captain was trying to be docked for 1:15 to allow us more time in this beautiful city.

I have to say leaving the ship and walking down the centre of the dock one had to keep a look out for the trucks and buses going up and down the dock. They were delivering fuel to different ships and moving containers as well as moving people.

The plan was to walk around the town and and see what was here stopping at the famous sign at the end of the world. While walking around we would hope to find a few geocaches which would mark my farthest south I have been.
The sun was out and while the temperature was about 13 C it was windy thus having a cold feeling in the air. 

We walked along the waterfront and the one thing that is very apparent is this place is very transient with the number of hotels and ships in port coming and going.

As one walks and looks at the street signs each sign also contains the latitude and longitude of it's location. When you stop by shop storefronts you also find this to be the case.

There is some construction down the main street that looks like they are turning a road into a pedestrian walkway.

I found that walking around the city up and down the hills to be interesting.


Some photos of fellow Geocachers that I met, a Cache, the mountains and the Zaandam.

Ushuaia has a city Wi-Fi system that is free I found out. There is free Wi-Fi in the port building but because of so many other passengers it is useless. I suggest walk into town.

As one walks down the pier where there are some local shops and then there is a very interesting sign about the Falkland Islands.

Europa
Sailing vessel Europa

Zaandam
My standard cruise picture of me and the ships name.

We boarded the ship just before 6:00 PM and went and changed and then to the Crows Nest Lounge to enjoy the view and have a drink before dinner. Carol decided to stay while I went to dinner then I continued to the  Mondriaan Lounge to watch tonight's show Tango Passion. There was only one show tonight and it started at 9:30.

Dinner was quick tonight and no time to sit and talk at the end.

I arrived in the Mondriaan Lounge and took a seat in the upper balcony.

In Buenos Aries we could have gone and watched a Tango Show that would have cost us upwards of $100 per person. So seeing this on the cruise was a bonus.
Watching this show was amazing because when you watch the couple dance one has to wonder how the heck does the female not kill the guy with her leg going in and out between his legs.

I have to say I enjoyed the show very much.

December 17 2014 - Cruising Cape Horn

During the night we cruised down Beagle Channel and entered the Atlantic Ocean

This morning starting 6:00 we would start the trip around Horn Island and go from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and back. Looking out the balcony door it was windy and high seas. This was not for those with a weak stomach. The Captain later reported the seas at 17 feet and 70 mph winds. No wonder the lower decks were closed.

Thinking back in the 1500's to 1800's explorers trying to go around the Horn in sailing vessels was a real challenge, no wonder so many lost their lives.

The good news was Horn Island was on the Port side thus allowing us to view the passage from our balcony. The outside decks are closed.

We were able to see the light house of the tip and the Memorial to those seamen that have lost their lives trying to pass Horn Island.

Horn Lighthouse
Horn Lighthouse


Sailing around the Horn. click on photo

Once we circled the island and were crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean the Captain sounded the ships horn.

It is said that traditionally, a sailor who had rounded the Horn was entitled to wear a gold loop earring — in the left ear, the one which had faced the Horn in a typical eastbound passage — and to dine with one foot on the table; a sailor who had also rounded the Cape of Good Hope could place both feet on the table.
The Captain told us about this and asked we don't go to the dining room tonight and place our foot on the table.

Now it was just after 9:00 and we headed up to the Lido to find some breakfast.

The ship would head back up Beagle Channel and past Ushuaia and back down Glacier Alley today. The good news was the weather was partly cloudy but no rain. The bad news is we would have to be on the outer decks to see the Glaciers as they were now on the Starboard side of the ship..

clearing up

We sat around the indoor pool watching the world go by.

There was passport return this afternoon which revealed that every time we left or arrived in Argentina or Chile our Passports got stamped. There were 2 pages of stamps for this alone.

After this we headed out to the viewing area on deck 6 forward. Not many people know this deck exists on HAL ships or how to get to it so one pretty much has the deck to themselves. While out here we passed several ship wrecks.

One of the wrecks was the MV Lagos January 8 1988 with no loss of life.

MV lagos
MV Lagos

December 18 2014 - Scenic Cruising

Today's schedule:

Pasco Shoal - 8:30 AM
Summer Pass - 10:00
Canal Sarmiento - 12:00
Canal Pitt - 4:00 PM
Canal Conception - 6:00
Canal Trinidad 7:00

Just before 9:00 we approached one of the many other wrecks along the way. This one was the SS Santa Leonor and was wrecked on 31 March 1968 on Isabel Island, in the Smyth Channel where her partially submerged wreck can be seen.
The SS Santa Leonor started off life as the USS Riverside (APA - 102) and sold later by the US Navy and had many names prior to being named Santa Leonor.

SS Santa Leonor
SS Santa Leonor

deck 6

Carol and I headed out by the pool where we could have lunch and we could watch the Penguin Plunge which was being billed as guests join Cruise Director Christina as they plunge into the icy waters of midship pool.

There were about 20 people who took part and was a waste of an hour.

We returned to outside to do some more viewing and could see in the distance that the weather was going to change soon.

After dinner we went and listened to the Piano and Violin duo in the Explorers Lounge then went to the show lounge for the Indonesian Crew Show. Once again an excellent show.

crew show

December 19 2014 - Scenic Cruising Chilean Fjords

I had my Mariner Lunch today at 11:00 which is for repeat passengers. There is free drinks and where one gets their Holland America Tile. The interesting part of this lunch was the weather had changed quickly and it was now snowing outside and building up on the windows of the dining room.

Snow
Snow building up on the window

I have to say no matter how many times I cruise with HAL they just don't get it that all people in the same cabin should attend the same lunch. There is always some excuse that because you are a Medallion Member and thus you go to a different lunch and yet there are other types of Members there. Oh yes there was a special breakfast as well this morning for Medallion Members to present 7 new Medallions but I once again got left off the invite.
HAL does a very poor job for it's past passengers in many ways. The excuse is they have so many members that they have had to cut back. I can't even begin to tell you how Royal Caribbean or Celebrity treat their past passengers.

Zaandam has a Organ that spans three decks up in it's central Atrium and plays almost daily at noon. Today it played at noon and then there was Christmas Caroling in the 3 levels of the Atrium.
Carol was going to attend this so after my lunch I went and found her there. The singing lasted about 1 hour.

I talked about Tea time earlier in the cruise and today it was Royal Dutch Tea at 3:00. We arrived at about 2:50 to wait to enter the Rotterdam Dining Room. We were first in line and it is amazing how many come after you and have excuses as to why they need to go ahead of you. They was the pushing of a stroller then the wheelchair lady then those that want to take photos and then go in.

Once in the display was great and many choices for Tea Time. The only negative I could say was the lukewarm water being used for the tea.

Royal tea

After Tea it was back out on deck to enjoy more of the view.

The one thing very noticeable is the number of fish farms down here.

Fish Farm
Fish Farm

Tonight was the last Formal Night of the cruise.

Tonight's menu included  Seafood cocktail, Escargot and Filet Mignon and Lobster to name a few.


click on thumbnails

I am including a few more photos of Christmas on the ship. The Ginger Bread houses have seen a change with the addition of a train.

Merry Christmastrain

December 20 2014 - Puerto Monte, Chile

We had nothing planned for this port today other than go walking around and head towards the mall. It is only 4 days until Christmas so it will be interesting to see how the people of Chile prepare for Christmas.

We walked along the waterfront towards the mall. There are many people also walking the wall with kids. We walk past the Bus Depot which are interesting here in Chile. Buses appear to be a major source of transport here and a Hotel is built into the depots. One can rent a room for the day if you have night departure or for a few hours. Just beyond the bus depot is a statue of a couple embracing. It is said to have been erected because lack of public displays of affection and the falling birth rate.

couple

Arriving at the mall we found a very big box store and went inside. It is typical of back home but missing is things like Christmas wrap and tags. In other ports we noticed this is all sold by street vendors. The rolls are not large like North America but small rolls, it could take many rolls of this to wrap a present.

We walked down a street a few up from the water and it was packed with Christmas shoppers. There were many of the side streets closed and vendors set-up on those. Lots of vendors selling fresh vegetables and fruit. Can't say I have ever seen Strawberries that size before.

On the way back to the port we stopped to get a Geocache in a small park near the port that had been reported as missing. I found what was left of it and replaced it with a more durable container after signing the log.

small park
small park

Carol and I then tendered back to the ship. Walking down the pier one couldn't help but notice the colourful fishing boats across the harbour.

fishing boats

Arriving back on board we went and dropped our stuff off in the cabin and headed up to the Lido Pool area.

I have talked about Tendering a few times here are some pictures of the Zaandam  with the tenders arriving. I have also included a photo of a tender. Tenders also double as lifeboats.

Starting at 6:00 was Gaucho Asado featuring a South American BBQ. The menu included blood sausage, Lamb, Beef, with several types of salad.

We stayed and sampled a few items but still intended to go to dinner.


Bruschetta and Chilled Banana Soup

After dinner we headed outside to view the narrows we were headed through. It is amazing how light it still is.

LanMonkey? 
LanMonkey?

December 21 2014 - At Sea

Today is the day most cruisers hate. It is time to pull out the suitcases and start packing up.

There are several things on the Daily Guide to fit in while trying to pack in-between.

Holland America has classes for the Windows 8.1 OS and I have wanted to take one so today was the day. I attended a class at 10:30. I have to say I learned a lot about 8.1.

We ran into our German Friends to see how they were getting from the ship to Santiago and they were doing the same as us and catching a local bus.

Tonight's menu included Lamb Shank, Pasta along with a Cabbage Roll and soup.


Thumbnails click to see larger versions

Toto
Our Table Stewards. ToTo who is beside me has been my waiter twice before.

The show tonight was Dancing with the Stars Finale. We took a pass.

It was back to the cabin to put the luggage out the door in the hall and see it on shore tomorrow morning.

December 22 2014 - Valparaiso, Chile 

This morning we pulled into port and docked several kilometers from the Terminal. When one gets off the ship they take a bus to the terminal to get their luggage and clear customs.

View from the ship
view from the ship

We left the ship about 9:15 and was bused to the terminal. From here we caught a taxi up to the bus depot. Cost was $5.00. Then we bought tickets on Tur-Bus at a cost of $3,200 pesos each. (about $6 CDN each) Note they do not take US money. The buses are modern highway double decker buses that one would see in Europe. You are assigned a seat on the bus. You check your bag as you get on the bus and given a luggage tag. The buses leave about every 15 minutes so no worry on booking before you leave.
The trip itself is about 2 hours long and makes a couple of stops one being a bus depot near Santiago. This is not the end of the line.
When you arrive in Santiago at the bus depot you will know you have arrived. You collect your bags and then either one can walk or take a taxi to their hotel. In our case we had to take a taxi to our hotel and the cost about $6,000 Pesos. ($12.00) The total cost for the bus and taxis was about $21,000 Pesos. ($42.00)
Considering HAL was charging $85 US to the Airport and then a taxi of $40.00 into town this was a great savings. Same trip $210 from HAL vs $42.

When we checked into the hotel there was another couple who we saw at the cruise terminal who took the HAL transfer. So time wise it was about the same.

We felt safe on the bus and no problems at all. We would do it again.

We spent the night at Hotel San Francisco and that was $160 and was well worth the price. It is a good location and easy walking to many places in the city and close to the bus and subway.


The Hotel San Francisco

view from room
view from room

From here we went out to walk around the city picking up a few Geocaches along the way.

We took Victors advice and ate at the Hotel Restaurant called the Bistro. It is said to serve Chilean food. Carol and I had the same starter of Magellanic King Crab, Scallop Carpaccio, served with Mango 'pebre' salsa and green chili sorbet.

appy

Carol had the Roasted Pork Chop served with noodles and Chilean Bean Stew and marinated onions.

pork chop

I had the Chilean Sea Bass baked with bull kelp and buttery mantocoso cheese on potato dough with Razor Clams and Prawns in pil-pil sauce.

sea bass

For dessert we Mascarpone Ice Cream wrapped in mixed fruit in a hot chocolate sauce Chonchi Liquor.

dessert

We had a local beer to start with. We asked the Restaurant Manager to recommend a wine. One thing to note that only Chilean Wine is only served. His recommendation was perfect.

We then went outside for a walk and took a few photos.

December 23 2014 - Santiago, Chile

Well we fly home later tonight at 9:00 PM so this gave us the day to continue exploring the city. We left our bags with the hotel.

garden
one of the many Parks

Conclusion

This cruise was a cruise that I have wanted to do for many years. The last few years at Christmas the cruise has come down in price and I almost did it last year at $999 per person but because of the Argentine / Falklands conflict it left a whole bunch of problems. I was about to book last year when the sailing was suddenly closed. The reason was the Argentine Government would not allow a ship to dock in Argentina again if it visited the Falkland Islands.

I did not think that Glaciers in South America are better than Alaska. After hearing from two different ships Captains that you have to do South America because the glaciers are far better. I am not sure where they are but I didn't think what we saw was any better.
Having said this there is also some of the canals we travelled through I can see where larger ships such as Princess may not be able to travel these routes.

As I said at the start I saw the cruise drop in price to $599 pp plus tax. Then the upgrade to the Suite really was nice and worth the cost.

The last time I really cruised HAL was 2009 and while there are many things that HAL still do such a fresh orange juice (no charge) is nice. Fresh Flowers all through the ship. Fresh h'orderves served in the Crows Nest Lounge before dinner. Happy Hour from 4:00 to 5:00 where you buy one drink at regular price and the second for $1.00 is great. These are all nice touches that are still around.

Some of the shows were decent and others needed to be sunk. The ship was in good repair and the crew worked very hard to make you happy.

Cabin Stewards in South America are not allowed to have carts in the halls as the seas in general are rougher than other cruises and they don't want runaway carts.

The Concierge for the Vista Suite on this class of ship is totally useless. When I call and get the Front Office and they say I have to check your Mariner Status before I can answer that. It is said that a good Concierge has the key to the city (ship in this case) but this Concierge only key is the ability to answer the phone.

In all I started cruising HAL 31 years ago and not sure if I will cruise them again. Since arriving home there has been a fight to get the bonus days for staying in a Suite. The treatment as a Mariner has me wondering what is next to be cut.

I consider myself lucky in some ways this year because I went to Alaska on Carnival Miracle and saw the Northern Lights. While Carnival isn't my cup of tea I would likely try them again because they do some things very well. It would also likely be on a newer ship.

I then crossed the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney on Celebrity Century and crossing the international Date Line and the Equator then seeing some very interesting places along the way. Doing some of the very first geocaches ever placed and seeing places they were placed. Cruising with friends on this one was also special.

I then had the chance to cruise around South America on Holland America's Zaandam visiting the Falkland Islands and seeing Penguins for the first time. I remember walking around the corner and seeing the Penguin on the trail looking at us. That will stick with me for ever. Sailing around Horn Island with 17 foot seas and 70 mph winds.
Then there was the visit to Ushuaia and being on the southern Road in South America. I was at the northern most Road in Canada north of Inuvik NWT 2 years ago. I have been lucky to have been at the northern/southern roads.  

Yes I am lucky but in many ways, I look at my many friends who are pilots and flying but due to my back injury can not fly commercially anymore. How I miss flying. It is funny how one mans envy is seen differently by himself.

Phil