Cruise to Antarctica and Sydney

Montevideo, Uruguay and Stanley, Falkland Islands

Day 20 - Wednesday, January 25th - Montevideo, Uruguay:  The ship was late getting into port, as their had been a storm overnight and as a result lots of port traffic.  Our tour today was by steam train and bus.  The train system in Uruguay was built by the British, and the steam engine that pulled our train to the Colon station was built in 1910.  The passenger cars were refurbished and quite nice.  After the train ride, we saw different parts of the city by bus:  the early Colonial section, the middle class section and the expensive part of the town.  We made several stops to look at some sculptures, and also saw a memorial to the last five indigenous people of Uruguay belonging to the Charruas tribe.  They were captured and put on a ship to Europe where they were to be displayed at the Louvre.  Very sad.  We stopped at a monument on the river, where we saw surfers.  Our guide said the waves were high because of last night's storm and that you seldom saw surfers on the river.  Uruguay is the most liberal country in South America and has an illiteracy rate of 1%.  There was a lot of trash on the streets and graffiti on buildings, but we enjoyed our first visit to this country.

Day 21 - Thursday, January 26th - Sea Day:  There is a new group of lecturers on board and we heard two of them today.  Bob Hofman spoke this morning about the Antarctic Marine System and told us about the whales, seals, dolphins and penguins we may see in the coming days.  Warren Salinger, who has worked with many NGO's, founded the Greenly Foundation for Peace and Justice.  He also worked closely with Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center in creating an organization that monitors elections in South America.  His family escaped Nazi Germany on a HAL ship in 1939.  This afternoon he talked about South America's southern cone:  Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil.  Tonight was another formal night--Marilyn and Ivan have left us and we have a new table for six.  It was just Lillian and the two of us tonight as Paul is out meeting women (he has a wife at home).

Day 22 - Friday, January 27th - Sea Day:  This morning we went to a meeting about our potential landing in Antarctica.  We were told that the day before we need to bring all the outerwear we plan to wear ashore so they can decontaminate it.  They are very strict about the environmental rules. The ships have to burn a lighter diesel fuel so if there's a spill it will evaporate.  If we go ashore we are not to approach any penguins, although they can approach us.  There are about 50 people signed up for the flight and shore excursion from Punta Arenas to Antarctica.  We went to Warren Salinger's lecture about Argentina this morning.  He's a very interesting speaker.  We had a pretty lazy day--played trivia a couple of times and had a lot of laughs.  There are only four of us at dinner now and we'd choose other partners if we could, but we've decided better the devil we know than the devil we don't know.

Day 23 - Saturday, January 28th - Stanley, Falkland Islands: Ships are not always able to stop at Stanley because the seas are often rough.  We were very fortunate to have a nice day, temps probably in the mid 60s, although there were strong winds.  We did a couple loads of laundry in the morning, as no one else was doing laundry on a day in port.  We went ashore in a tender about noon and did some walking around before our double-decker bus tour in the afternoon.  We stopped at the Victory Bar and thought we would have a bite to eat, but it was very crowded.  The population of Stanley is about 3,000, but there were two cruise ships here today, so the population was more than doubled.  The Anglican Christ Church Cathedral claims to be the southernmost cathedral in the world.  There are penguins on this island, but we didn't take that tour.  On the bus tour we saw the beach where the Argentine soldiers came ashore in 1982.  There are numerous shipwrecks close to shore all around Stanley.  It's a very expensive place to live, as they don't have any timber on the island and a lot of food has to be imported, too.  There aren't many choices in transportation to get away, either, and it would be a very solitary existence.  The inhabitants of the Falklands are very British, but Great Britain doesn't support them financially.  It was very interesting to hear the story of the Falklands War from both sides:  the Argentines blame the British and the British blame those awful Argentines.  There's a memorial to the war and the nearby street is called Thatcher Drive.  We stopped at a small museum before the tour ended about 4:00.  The internet has been very slow until now and will probably get worse as we're cruising around Antarctica.  We have no idea when we'll be able to publish again.

Click here for photos of Montevideo and Stanley

Buenos Aires

Day 16 - Saturday, January 21st - Sea Day:  We didn't do much today, but did go to the Queen's Lounge this afternoon for "Meet Doc Severinson and the San Miguel Five."  Theirs is an interesting story.  Tonight was another formal night and after the show (Paul Fredericks again) we played Name That Tune Trivia in the Piano Bar.  Another couple joined us and we did well--only had one point less than the winning team.

Day 17 - Sunday, January 22nd - Sea Day:  Doc and the San Miguel Five did another show tonight.  When we get home we have to look for a recording of one of their songs, "Omar's Harem," which the guitarist Gil Gutierrez composed.  It rained very hard today, and the sun didn't break through until evening.

Day 18 - Monday, January 23rd - Buenos Aires:  This is our first time in Argentina.  They predicted rain but it turned out to be a sunny, warm day.  Buenos Aires is a lot smaller than Rio and is on the Rio de la Plata.  We went on a shore excursion this morning that took us first to Eva Peron's grave, which is in a mausoleum in the Recoleta Cemetery.  Juan Peron is buried on the other side of the city.  We spent most of the tour on the bus, and drove past the Casa Rosada Government House (Pink House) where Evita and Juan made appearances on one of the balconies.  We also saw the Colon Theater Opera House and the Cathedral.  Our second stop was in La Boca, a colorful community that was founded by Italians.  We took a lot of pictures on Caminito Street in La Boca, where a woman dressed as a tango dancer put a hat on Jay and posed with him.  We came back to the ship, had a nap and went to the Lido for the Argentinian BBQ instead of going to the dining room for dinner.  Later we went into the city to see a performance of the tango, which is described as "a vertical expression of a horizontal desire."  After watching the intricate moves of this dance, we would say it's a way for old people to cause harm to themselves.

Day 19 - Tuesday, January 24th - Buenos Aires:  After breakfast we headed back into the city.  Buenos Aires, like Rio, does not allow any pedestrian traffic on the pier (too many big vehicles), so we took the shuttle to the terminal and then took a cab into the city to the shops on Florida Street.  Since Argentina is known for its leather goods, we bought a leather wallet for Jay and a glasses case for Barbara.  We also bought three bottles of wine from Patagonia (each passenger is allowed two per port), which we intend to drink in our cabin.  The ship's travel expert also recommended the caramel sauce, so we bought a small bottle.  We were back on the ship in time for lunch and caught up with our blog in the afternoon.

Click here for photos of Buenos Aires.

Rio de Janeiro

Day 14 - Thursday,  January 19th - Rio de Janeiro:  The Amsterdam sailed into port this morning and we were cleared shortly after 8:00.  We took a shore excursion that started with a ride on the tram through the jungle to the top of Corcovado Mountain.  Unlike our visit in 2007 when we could not see the statue of Christ the Redeemer from the base of the statue because of fog, today we saw it very clearly.  The mountain is about 2,300 feet tall and the soapstone statue is 130 feet tall.  In 2007 the statue was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  There was a lot of haze over the city, so the views of the bay, beaches, etc. weren't terrific.  There were a lot of people on the mountain (many posing for pictures with arms outstretched like the statue) and the trip up and down took a long time.   Thankfully it wasn't extremely hot, with the day's high expected in the upper 80s.  Our tour guide said temps over 100 are not uncommon.  Next we went to visit the San Sebastian Metropolitan Cathedral.  This is the strangest Catholic cathedral we have every seen--it is very ugly on the outside (looks like concrete) and the inside is quite stark, too, except for the stained glass.  20,000 can stand inside this large church, and there is no cooling system as the outer walls are not solid and it was designed to take advantage of breezes.  This tour did not take us to any beaches, but we saw the viewing stands for carnival and also some historic buildings, such as the beautiful Municipal Theater.  Traffic was very heavy and it will be much worse tomorrow because it's a local holiday.

Day 15 - Friday, January 20th - Rio de Janeiro:  We started the day with breakfast in the dining room, and for a second time talked to a couple from FL.  Today they went into great detail about everything they brought with them on the cruise:  their own temper-pedic mattress top, their own champagne and vodka (Ultimate vodka, but Belvidere will do in a pinch), their own olives for drinks, and their own cheese butter for the popcorn, which she can melt with her insulated cup when it's full of a hot liquid.  They said they packed around 15 bags, but they don't stand out from the rest of the crowd as being particularly well-dressed.  They are going on the full cruise for 112 days, so they don't have to deal with luggage, but we don't know how they could put all their stuff in a small cabin!  We walked around the shops in the terminal this morning looking for postcards but didn't find any.  We saw most of Rio on our last trip, so didn't go back into the city.  We heard tonight that it wasn't as busy there as was expected--maybe everyone stayed away because of fear of sitting in traffic for hours.  The ship left the port around 4:00 pm.

Click here for photos of Rio.

Lazy Days Along the Coast of Brazil

Day 7 - Thursday, January 12th - Sea Day:  It's amazing how time flies on sea days when you have "nothing" to do.  There are some excellent lecturers on board, and the Crow's Nest is always a good place to sit and read.  The weather has been sunny until today, but the clouds did eventually break up.  We are surprised to hear that almost 800 passengers are going on the entire World Cruise of 112 days. Many of them have made several world cruises.  We've met a few, like us, who are ending the cruise in Sydney. 

Day 8 - Friday, January 13th - Belèm, Brazil:  We've been to Brazil before, but never to Belèm.  It lies just south of the equator, which we crossed last night.  It was a hot and sticky day, and Jay went on the shore excursion by himself.  It involved a half hour tender ride, then an hour bus ride to get into the city.  He visited a huge market that sold many kinds of fresh fish, fruits and nuts, as well as crafts and souvenirs.  A fort originally built by the Portuguese in the 17th century was on the tour, as well as an interesting botanical garden and zoo (the lily pads are enormous!).  They also visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Nazareth, which is an elaborate copy of St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome.  

Day 9 - Saturday, January 14th - Sea Day:  We saw on CNN World that a Costa cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Italy. Sounds like the captain was incompetent.  We didn't do much today besides read and play trivia twice.  Tonight was our second formal night and the Black and Silver Ball.  They go all out in decorating the dining room and lounge.  Even some of the dining room staff were wearing long sequined jackets.  We went to the piano bar to listen to Debby Bacon sing and play--she's very good.  We also looked in on the ball, where quite a few people were dancing.   The NFL playoffs are on quite late here because of the time difference, but we turned in about 11:00 and didn't see the second half of the Patriots/Texans game.

Day 10 - Sunday, January 15th - Sea Day:   Time to do some laundry, so we did one load this morning.  The launderette is quite nice, with five sets of stacked washers and dryers.  It's only $2 to wash and dry a load, so much better than paying the ship $2 to wash each pair of socks or undies.  Tonight all six of us at our table went to the specialty Italian restaurant.  We were a little disappointed, partly because it was so warm in the room and secondly because the food wasn't as good as we'd hoped.  At dessert time, they put two plates of green cotton candy on the table--first time we've ever seen that. They also had tiramisu, gelato, and a lemoncello dessert.  We didn't go away hungry.  Watched the Packers lose to the Giants before we turned in.

Day 11 - Monday, January 16th - Recife, Brazil: We were in this port in late 2007, so we decided to stay on board and relax (we're getting very lazy).  Tonight we went to the show and heard Paul Fredericks, a singer with the British group that had the hit "Winchester Cathedral" many years ago.  He had a wonderful voice, and sang some Roy Orbison songs at the end of the show. 

Day 12 - Tuesday, January 17th - Sea Day: One of the nicest weather days so far--the humidity is down so the mid-80s don't feel so hot.  We've been going to most of the lectures of Dr. Denny Whitford, an oceanographer who's currently a professor at the University of Maryland.  Today's lecture was about extreme waves.  He's knowledgeable and personable.  We went to the show tonight, as the singers are getting off in Rio and we hadn't gone to one of their performances yet.  The three men and one woman had very nice voices and of course the dancers were beautiful.

Day 13 - Wednesday, January 18th - Sea Day:  Another beautiful day, so we walked outside along the lower promenade deck.  Today at trivia, Richard told us that he and Claire had been on the Holland America ship, the Prinsendam, which sank in the Gulf of Alaska in 1980.  He said that the HAL ship should not have sunk and that the whole affair was not handled well.  They were told there was a fire in the engine room that was under control, and not to worry, then hours later they were told to leave their cabins and go out on the decks.  Everyone was evacuated before the ship sank.  Until he told us the story we thought that the Costa disaster would not happen to a HAL ship.  Now we're not so confident!  The show tonight featured Doc Severinsen and his band, The San Miguel Five.  Doc looked wonderful in bright orange leather pants. a hot pink shirt and a sequined jacket.  The musicians playing with Doc were amazing--the violin and guitar players especially, but the bass player and drummer were excellent as well, and they all looked like they were having a great time.  Their music is described as classical Spanish with a jazz flair, and they played the best show we expect to see on this cruise.

Click here for photos from days 7 to 13.

We thought we would miss the boat!

Day 1 - Friday, January 6th:  Holland America made our travel arangements and we were a little surprised that the flight was scheduled to leave at 9:15 AM and arrive in Ft. Lauderdale at 2:00 PM - only three hours before the ship was scheduled to depart.  When we make our own arrangements, we like to travel a day early in case we run in to bad weather or problems with the flight.  Fortunately the weather was perfect and the plane left the gate 5 minutes early.  A few minutes later, the pilot pulled off the taxiway and stopped.  He told us there was a warning indicator on the hydraulic system and we had to return to the gate.  As the minutes ticked by, we got more anxious.  Barbara called Holland America to explain our situation and they started looking at options to get us to Dominica or Barbados if the ship sailed without us.  The plane finally took off at noon and we arrived at 4:15 (eastern time), met with the Holland America people and got our luggage at 4:45.  A 10 minute bus ride got us to the ship at 4:55 - 5 minutes to spare!  On the positive side, check-in was a snap.  Actually the ship didn't depart until 6:45 because of refueling problems.

 Day 2 - Saturday, January 7th - Sea Day:  We booked our shore excursions today and found our way around the ship.  We've been on the Amsterdam before so it didn't take long to find out where everything is.  We're already getting tired of some of our tablemates at dinner.  We're at a table for ten and only four were there last night and five tonight.  Lillian is on oxygen, rides a scooter, is traveling alone and talks non-stop about previous cruises.  Paul is a retired physicist and is an interesting guy.  Leona is a non-denominational minister who sat with her arms crossed and a frown on her face most of the time.  Hope things improve!  We're happy to have a quiet cabin.

Day 3 - Sunday, January 8th - Sea Day:  A very lazy day.  Tonight was the first formal night and lobster tail was on the menu.  An officer (the purser) sat at our table so we all had plenty of wine (this after the captain's champagne reception).  Good news!  Marilyn and Ivan from Melbourne have joined our table and are promising dinner companions.  Melissa Manchester entertained us tonight.  

Day 4 - Monday, January 9th - Roseau, Dominica:  This is our first time in this country, named by Columbus in 1493 (Dominica means Sunday).  Dominica is the youngest of the Caribbean islands at about 26 million years old.  We did a shore excursion and visited the Morne Trois Pitons National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Park).  We saw Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool.  Mountains on this island are more than 4,000 feet high, but there are very few beaches.

Day 5 - Tuesday, January 10th - Barbados:  Barbara had some stomach troubles today, so Jay went by himself on a shore excursion to the Barbados Wildlife Preserve.  At the monkey sanctuary, he learned that the green monkey is not aptly named.  The animals are not in cages but wandering around.  The two sisters from Hibbing that we met at breakfast yesterday were on the tour, and Jay learned a little more about them.  Another sister who remains in Edina used to date Rudy Perpich, and the family liked him.  

Day 6 - Wednesday, January 11th - Sea Day:  We both played trivia at noon and didn't do well--Jay played again at 3:00 and our team won!  It's a tough crowd, but we really like Bruce, the cruise director.  His questions are unambiguous and well thought out.  One of our team members is a French woman who doesn't speak much English, so we are always playing one person short.  She's with her traveling companion Francine, who is French-Canadian, and they are fun and speak to each other and Claire in French.  Claire and Richard, from Indianapolis, are an interesting couple--he really knows his geography and she's been coming up with some correct answers lately.  We've moved our clocks ahead twice since leaving FL, so are now three hours later than CST.

Click here for photos from days 1 to 6.

© Jay Deitch 2015