South America/Antarctica Cruise on the HAL Zaandam
1/6/18 to 1/28/18

Due to the length of the review, it is in 6 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.

Page 1 – Embarkation, Ship
Page 2 -  Dining, Entertainment, Activities, Ports of Call: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Montevideo, Uruguay; Puerto Madryn, Argentina; Stanley, Falkland Islands; Antarctica Day 1
Page 4 -  Antarctica Day 2; Antarctica Day 3; Antarctica Day 4
Page 5 - Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina; Punta Arenas, Chile; Cruise Chilean Fjords; Puerto Chacabuco, Chile
Page 6 - Ports of Call:  Castro,  Isla Chiloe, Chile; Puerto Montt, Chile; San Antonio (Santiago), Chile

 

Castro, Isla Chiloe, Chile

As we cruised into Castro, which is Chile’s third oldest city in continuous existence (founded in 1567), I was surprised at how many shellfish farms we were passing by.  At the time, I wasn’t sure that they were for shellfish, but did receive confirmation later in the day.

When we approached the town of Castro, the sun was just rising, and it had the yellow golden hour glow to it.  It was a small town with the large Church of San Francisco up on a hill in the center of it.  That was one of the places I wanted to visit while in Castro.  The Chiloe area is known for its many wooden churches, many of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.  With Castro being the capital of Chiloe, their church is the largest.

   

The other major tourist attractions are Castro’s palafittes or houses on stilts.  There are two major sections where these houses are located.  I could see the ones on the east side of the city, since they were on the water in front of the ship.  They were interesting; but the most photographed group is on the west side, which was the other place we were going to visit.

Most of the tours from Castro visited the town of Castro, plus they went out into the countryside to see other wooden churches.  Rather than taking a tour, I decided that I would rather just appreciate the town of Castro on my own and just see the largest of the wooden churches.  With the high temperature for the day forecasted to be 72, it looked like a good decision.  Castro was also a tender port and we had been able to get 9:15 AM tender tickets.  With there being a lot of walking, Carol decided to stay on the ship.  It was definitely the right choice.  There is no way she could have done what we did for that day.  As the tender left the ship, I was able to get a good photo of Zaandam’s tender dock.  It worked out very well and kept the tenders very steady at every port.

From the ship, it appeared that we would be exiting the ship on an inclined ramp.  As we approached the ramp, it was indeed inclined.  I was concerned that it might be challenging to exit the ship; but it turned out to not be an issue at all.  I worried for naught. 

   

Castro also had a relatively new terminal building and it had a sign on it that everybody was happy to see.

About the only thing in the terminal building was seats for using the free Wi-Fi and restrooms.

I had looked at the map and it appeared that if we could get to the church, we could see the other stilt houses just a few blocks from it.  I asked a person on the street how to get to the church.  They pointed at a street, and we headed that way.  When we got to the street he had pointed to, the walk up looked very steep.  I told Hans and Barbara that the map looked like we could walk along the water to get to where we could see the stilt houses and then get to the church from there.  Perhaps it wasn’t as steep from that side.  Silly me!

The walk started off interesting with various multi colored buildings.  We also saw an old type of tractor.

   

Close by was an artisan market.  There were lots of vendors and they had a great assortment of quality products.  I really wanted to get one of the beautiful rugs/wall hangings; but passed.  We just don’t have any more wall space; plus, we didn’t have enough extra poundage in our luggage to avoid penalties.  They also had wonderful woolen goods; but those are not of much use when you live in south Florida.  It was nice to look at them though.

   

Hans and Barbara had recently gotten a new puppy at home and were missing it.  So, when we came across a dog with puppies, they were thrilled.  We played with them for a bit; but realized that we were at the end of the road.

The road that I thought would get us to the stilt houses dead ended into a little used dirt road.  We had to back track a bit and found a road that looked like it went straight up the hill.  It was really steep; but there was no other alternative.  With the weather getting warmer, it took quite an effort to get to the top of the hill.  We stopped a couple times to catch our breath, since it was a lot of work.  This town would be a great place for a funicular.

When we got to the top, we could see the city’s main park with the church on one side of it.  I was surprised that the paint was so discolored.  I would think that they would take better care of one of the city’s main attractions.

   

We walked inside and were immediately impressed with the beautiful wooden architecture.   The nave and dome are so impressive with all the carved wood.

   

       

   

Along the sides are beautiful statues and woodwork.   It is certainly a most unusual and gorgeous church.

Looking at the map, it appeared that we could see the stilt houses at a point about 2-3 blocks away.  We started the short walk, passing by a lovely religious statue.

   

We soon came to the end of the street where there was a park area.  In addition to the park, there was a large viewing platform to look down at the palafittes.  The viewing area was high above the houses, which provided a great view of them.  Hans and I moved around until we got the best photo spots.  This was most enjoyable.  I was glad I had brought my new telephoto lens, since it allowed me to get close up photos of these unusual structures.

   

   

It was kind of treacherous walking around the wooden slat deck, since some of the slats were sticking up.  It would be very easy to trip on if you were paying attention to the houses rather than looking down at where you were walking.

The park also had large snake sculptures flowing through the grounds.  Rather different.

   

We walked back toward the church on our way back to the ship.  I saw some people we knew from the ship.  I asked them if they had seen the palafittes.  They weren’t aware of them, so I told them to walk down a few blocks and they would be glad they did.  When I got back to the ship, I was surprised at how many people had gone to the church; but didn’t realize that the stilt houses were just a few blocks away.  It pays to research ports before you go.

We picked a street to go down that appeared to be the one to the ship.  It didn’t appear that steep at the top; but there was a sharp drop off.  Looking back up the street to the church, showed how steep the street was.

   

When we got below the drop off, the street veered to the right.  There were also stairs going down that appeared to go toward the dock area.  So, it seemed logical to take the steps.  Wrong choice.  When we got to the bottom of the stairs, there was no path further down.   We would have to walk uphill a little bit on another street to join the one that had veered right when we were above the steps.   Once back to the correct street, it was a short downhill walk.  We were very glad to see the cruise terminal. 

   

I took the tender back to the ship to have lunch with Carol, while Hans and Barbara stayed at the terminal to check email.  During lunch, we saw people looking out the windows.  There were two dolphins swimming around the ship.  Since I only had my iPhone with me, I couldn’t get good photos of them.  They came back again before we finished lunch.  After lunch, I got my telephoto lens on and headed out to the promenade deck to see if the dolphins were still there.  I waited around for about ten minutes to see if they would show up.  With there being no dolphin action, I decided to get some more photos of the shellfish farms.  They looked different in the daytime. 

About the time I had given up hope for seeing the dolphins again, I saw them jumping up in the water.  I took a bunch of shots and took them back to the cabin to show Carol.  I was thrilled to see them again and to take photos of them.

   

I then went back to town, since the tender was so fast.  I didn’t have anything in particular to do; but since we had turned left on the first trip, I thought that I would turn right at the terminal to see what was at that end of town.  There wasn’t much of interest for a tourist.  I did see another path up to the church level; but I had no desire to do that again. 

I used the Wi-Fi for a while and then returned to the ship.  It had been an enjoyable day and it was nice to have some warm weather again.

 

Puerto Montt, Chile

After docking in Puerto Montt, I went up to deck 9 to take some photos of the area.  When we visited there in 2011, I took photos of the large cross on a hill.  At that time, I had heard that it was illuminated at night, so when I saw the illuminated cross above the top of the ship, I quickly took a photo, before the lights went out.  I am sure it is prettier when totally dark; but at least I found out how it was illuminated. 

The tender dock looked very much like the one we had used in Castro with the inclined ramp landing.  With it being very cloudy, I hoped that it would improve as the day progressed.  We were excited about the day’s excursion, since we would get to see a tour guide we knew from our previous South America cruise, Jamie from Patagonia Shore Excursions (https://patagoniashorex.com).  Jamie set up several wonderful tours for us on the last cruise at several of the ports.  Since we had been to the main tourist areas around Puerto Montt on the previous tour, Jamie was going to take us to some of the areas we had missed the first time. 

The tender ride only took 7 minutes.  Getting onto the ramp was easy; but there was a good inclined ramp to walk up to get to land level. 

As we had done at every Chilean port, our bags had to be searched for items being taken off the ship.  I was surprised at how at every port people tried to take bananas and other fruits off the ship after being told repeatedly not to.  At each port there was a large pile of fruits that had been taken from the passengers.

We quickly found Jamie.  It was good to see our friend again after seven years.  I took the below photo of Jamie with Carol at the end of the day.

While walking to the very comfortable van, we saw some huge blades for windmills ready to be moved to where they would be installed.  We couldn’t believe how huge they were.  They look much smaller from a distance than they do just a few feet away.

   

Our first stop was at Lake Llanquihue.  It is the largest lake entirely in Chile, covering 330 square miles.  I liked the sign on the water.

There is a very nice park area along the beach.  Carol chose to sit on some of the exercise equipment, while Hans, Barbara and I walked along the beach boardwalk.

   

We next went to a monument for German immigrants next to the lake. The Unsern Ahnen words on the monument means "For Our Ancestors". 

   

Chile had many German immigrants.  30,000 came to Chile between 1846 and 1914.  This was brought about by Chile’s 1845 Law of Selective Immigration, which was designed to bring people of medium and higher social status to colonize southern Chile.  This law and the 1848 Revolutions in the German states made immigrating to Chile very attractive.  As a result, German influence is very apparent in this region.  Jamie brought us here, since my father was from Germany; as was Hans.  Barbara also lived in Germany for a while with her grandmother.         

The area was quite pretty; but it would have been much nicer on a sunny day.

   

We next headed to the town of Frutillar, which was founded by German settlers in 1856.  Fruitillar means “strawberry place”.  It is a lovely town with German style structures.  

Fruitillar is a very popular vacation spot and a pricey place to stay.  The main attraction is the Theater on the Lake.   The theater was completed in 2010 after twelve years of work to construct it.  It was funded totally by private donations.  It is a very attractive building with multi colored wood.

   

There was a replica of a Bristol M1C fighter plane used in the First World War in the entrance area.

The setting on the lake makes it a great place for people to just hang out to enjoy the beauty of the area.

   

Each year the theater hosts the largest Chilean festival of classical music.  This and other events have made Fruitillar known as the City of Music.

After walking around the theater grounds and visiting their very nice restrooms, we visited a small store that had local jewelry in it.  We found out that Chile, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan are the leading producers of lapis lazuli.  We have always loved this beautiful deep blue stone.  The store had some very nice items; but Jamie said he would take us to a different store that had a larger selection.  After leaving the shop, we took a stroll around the immediate area.  We enjoyed the cute buildings; and there were flowers everywhere.

   

   

   

   

When we were in Puerto Chacabuco, we had seen the large leafed plants that I wasn’t able to get a good photo of.  We came across some that were very big.  Jamie stood in the middle of them to show how large the leaves are.

Near the theater was a tiny island.  It was really cute; but too small to build a house on.

   

Across the street was a small German bakery.  The pastries in the display case looked so delicious that I forgot to take close up photos of them.  We should have gone in and had a slice.

As we were leaving town, we passed an interesting decoration of a piano.  Someone was acting like they were playing it.  Nearby was a very attractive dock.

   

On the way to our next destination, Puerto Varas, we could see the Calbuco Volcano in the distance.  This volcano erupted in April 2015.  Since Jamie lives in Puerto Varas, he took some amazing photos of this eruption.  He gave them to me to use in this review to show what it was like.  I can’t imagine looking outside and seeing this. 

       

The area was covered in volcanic ash.  It has certainly been totally cleaned up since then.

   

When we got to Puerto Varas, the driver dropped us off close to the main square.  Jamie walked with us to a jewelry store and then left us to have some free time on our own.  Jamie had said that they would have lapis jewelry we were interested in.  They did indeed.  Carol has really enjoyed her late Christmas present! 

After shopping, we headed to the main square where there was a small festival going on.  They had coffee and food booths set up.  We were excited that we would get to have some German pastries there.  We found the booth with just what we wanted; but they only took Chilean money and didn’t take credit cards.  What a bummer! 

   

We were so disappointed.  We found a coffee shop just off the square that did take credit cards; but their pastries didn’t look as good as the other ones we had seen.  They were still good, and the cappuccino was outstanding.

We wanted to walk around town a bit after our light lunch.  It was a very busy tourist town, but enjoyable to walk around.

   

Hans had spotted a church steeple that looked like a great photo opp, so we headed that way.  The exterior was quite pretty; but none of us wanted to climb the hill to check out the interior.

There were lots of roses in town.  Flowers really make a city so much prettier.

   

As we were walking back to the van, we saw a young woman selling bread from her bicycle.  She was doing a great business.  So much so, that we had to wait a while to get a photo without customers surrounding her.  We had never seen that kind of business before.  She was a good business woman.

   

We walked down by the water, where there was a small park with a statue of Vincent Rosales, who organized the colonization by Germans and Chileans of the Llanquihue area; and Bernardo Eunon Phillipi, who was the German colonization agent who worked with Rosales to develop the German population in Chile.  It appeared that someone wanted to cut off Vincent's nose.

   

For our last stop Jamie took us up to a viewing area above Puerto Montt.  It was a great place to take photos of the city.  When we were in Puerto Montt in 2011, the population was 200,000 people.  Seven years later it has doubled to 400,000.  It was a much bigger city on this visit.  We could see the Zaandam in the background.

   

We took lots of photos of all of us to remember our visit.  It had been a most relaxing and enjoyable excursion.

   

When I got back to the Zaandam, I wanted to take some photos from the ship, since the sun was shining, and it wasn’t cloudy like it had been in the morning.   I went up to deck 9 to get the best view of the area.  When we were driving back to the ship, we passed by a large colorful statue of the back of a man and woman.  I was curious to see what it looked like from the front.  I got out my telephoto lens to see if I could find it.  It took a while; but I found it.  It was a strange looking couple.

I then wanted to get some more photo of the large cross on the mountain.

   

While doing that, I saw someone taking photos on the other side of the ship, so I walked over.  The sky had cleared up enough where we could see the very top of Mount Osorno.  The beautiful volcano we had seen last time we were in Puerto Montt.   I was glad that I had my telephoto lens with me, since the mountain was far away.

   

Below is a photo of Mount Osorno from our last visit.  It is a beautiful sight when it isn’t covered by clouds.

Further to the right of Osorno, the Calbuco Volcano was pretty much covered by clouds, other than the very top.  The weather can make such a difference in experiencing this beautiful part of the world.

After taking the photos, I came back inside to show Carol the Osorno photos I had taken.  About a half hour later I went back up to deck 9 to see if I could still see Osorno and was thrilled to see that the clouds had left Calbuco.  I couldn’t believe the sky had opened up that quickly.  I took lots of photos at differerent exposures, since I didn’t know how long the opportunity would last.  It wasn’t long before some clouds started to move in.  Timing is everything; and of course, a little bit of luck. I was glad that our photos of Calbuco didn't look like the ones that Jamie had taken three years earlier when it was errupting.

I couldn’t believe how fortunate we had been on this cruise with rain only affecting one day’s excursion in Punta Arenas.  I’m not counting the rain when we arrived at night in Ushuaia, since that early stop wasn’t planned on the itinerary and didn’t affect any daytime touring.  I wasn’t worried about our last stop, since they never have rain this time of year.

 

San Antonio (Santiago), Chile

When we originally booked the cruise, we were to disembark in Valparaiso, rather than San Antonio.  Due to dock worker strikes in Valparaiso, several lines moved their embarkation/disembarkation port to San Antonio.  The strikes caused lots of problems, especially for passengers trying to get to the Santiago airport to go home.  The cruise lines couldn’t risk having these types of problems again, so they moved.  It was a shame, since Valparaiso is a beautiful city and great place to tour after a cruise before going to the Santiago airport.  It is also a nice place to spend a few days before or after a cruise.  Since we had toured Valparaiso on our previous cruise, it didn’t matter to us; but I wish that Hans and Barbara could have seen some of it.

The ship arrived about 5:30 AM.  I was out taking photos of the mostly commercial port an hour later.  The luggage was being moved from the ship to a truck to take to the terminal.  There were a lot of workers standing around just watching.

After breakfast the sun had come up and I could see some of the city and the busses that would transfer us to the terminal to get our luggage.

   

The ramp to exit the ship was set up on deck 2.  It would have seemed more logical to do it from deck one to reduce the incline to make it easier to walk on the ramp.  It was steep.  I was glad we were going down.  I felt a bit sorry for those boarding the Zaandam in a few hours, since they would have to climb up the ramp.  I honestly don’t know how some of the older more disabled passengers would be able to make it up that ramp.

The disembarkation process was done very well.  One thing I really like about HAL, is that you can wait in your cabin until your disembarkation group ticket number is called.  It is so much easier than waiting in a large room with other people anxious to get off the ship.  When our number was called, we just walked down the hall, since our cabin was on deck 2, and left the ship.  There wasn’t a long line to wait in, which made it painless.Going through immigration was very simple.  We just handed a person our immigration form that had been given to us when we boarded the ship.  The luggage was organized where it was easy to find our large suitcases.  We walked out of the terminal to where the private tour/transfer people were waiting and holding signs with customer’s names on them.  We easily found our guy and headed to his van.   We were using Luis from Personal Tours Chile (http://personaltourschile.com).  A friend who took this same cruise last year, recommended him to us.  She just raved about him, so I had to book him.  He turned out to be a great choice.  He was such a pleasure to spend the day with and he showed us so much of the area.  He was very knowledgeable about the places we would visit, and he just did everything he could to make sure we had a great time.

He had a very nice large van with a driver, Robert.  It was a good thing he did, since we had a lot of luggage and Carol’s TravelScoot.  We did have to fold the scooter up, but it wasn’t a big deal, since Carol didn’t need it for what we were touring that day.  We had gotten off of the ship around 9:00 AM, and our flight was not until 11:20 PM that night.

As we left the port, we were passing by some gorgeous rocky beaches.  I wanted to stop to be able to take some photos, but there was no place to pull over on the road.  Luis assured me that we would see more of them later.  He was right.  Our first stop was at the home of poet Pablo Neruda in Isla Negra.  We were not familiar with Nerda; but he was a 1971 Nobel prize winner in literature.  He is loved by the Chilean people and many were there to see his house and visit his burial spot.  When we first walked up to the house, I wasn’t sure why we were visiting it, since we didn’t even know who Neruda was.  The house looked kind of plain from what we were seeing, but lots of people were clamoring to go inside.

We walked through the entryway and then through a courtyard where there was a metal fish statue.   I also got my first partial view of why we were there.

We walked further toward the ocean and saw the gorgeous view of the rocky beach and crashing waves.  What a gorgeous place for a home.  It was so beautiful there.

   

Luis told us that there is a charge to go to Neruda’s burial site; but that since we weren’t going to see it, we could avoid the long line going there and go directly to a different viewing area.  I was glad we could avoid the line, since there were a lot of people waiting to get in.  When we went around to the other side, where the real house entrance was, we could see that this was a very nice place.  There were a few people there waiting to go into the grave site.  They had already waited in the long line to get this far.  I loved the big windows that we could look through all the way through to the beach.

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On the side of the house there was an old locomotive in the garden.  A very nice antique.  There were all sorts of interesting knickknacks around the house and in the windows.  I could understand why it would be interesting to actually tour the house; but we didn’t have enough time for that.

   

We headed down to closer to the water.  What an amazing piece of property, so gorgeous.  I just loved this place.

   

   

Neruda liked anchors, so he had them on all of his properties.   I guess it represented that this was a place he was going to stay put.

After leaving the beach, we walked through a small forest next to the house.  The smell from the pine trees was so refreshing.  Neruda picked a great spot, where he could have a beach house next to a forest.  After leaving the house, we headed about ten minutes up the road to our next stop.  Once again, we were seeing the beautiful Chilean coastline.

   

We walked up to a gate where we entered a property that Neruda developed. The place was originally conceived as a writer's colony were writers could go searching for inspiration and spend their days. The metallic sculpture represents a sea shell, because sea shells were the largest collection that Pablo Neruda had.  In one of his poems he wrote that the inside of a shell looked like a "minimal cathedral", that's why the sculpture is called that. Neruda's project started in 1969, but he died in 1973, and never saw this project completed. 

Also, on the property was an anchor and another nautical piece.  There wasn’t much on the property except for the gorgeous views.  Which was why we were there.  Luis knew we wanted to see the beautiful rocky coastline and he was showing it to us.

 We were fascinated with a plant that had green balls on it.  They were covered with little spines; but they weren’t sharp.  There were other pretty wild flowers around the property.

As we were leaving, we came across an unusual looking sculpture of what looked like a baby’s head.  Since I couldn’t find anything online about this memorial park, I don’t know what it is supposed to represent.

While heading to our next destination, we passed by a large beach resort town.  It looked beautiful; but I don’t know how good it would be for swimming, since the water temperature is normally around 50 degrees.  I took a photo out of the van’s front window of a mosaic design on a bench.  I wish I could have gotten a better shot; but I wanted to show it anyway.

   

Further down the road, we pulled up to a large condominium project, San Alfonso del Mar Resort in the town of Algarrobo.  I mean very large, beautiful and expensive.  Luis told us that the condos share the largest swimming pool in the world.  We couldn’t wait to see it.  We had to walk along the beach to get to a pool viewing point.  The beach looked very nice; but people were looking at the water rather than swimming in it.  With January being the middle of the summer for Chile, I guess swimming in the ocean isn’t a popular activity due to the cold-water temperature.

   

Looking down the beach, there was an interesting looking condo complex.  We got a better view of it from the van when we left the area.

With the pool being above sea level, we had to walk down a way before we found a ramp leading up to the pool.  Since the pool is private property only to be used by the owners or renter, we were not allowed on the property.  We were however able to go to the edge of the fence and get photos of the beautiful condos and massive salt water pool.  The pool is 3,324 feet long (.62 miles) with a total area of almost 20 acres.  It holds 66 million gallons and is 11.5 feet at its deepest.  In the center of the pool is a restaurant under the pyramid.

   

   

Below is a marketing photo I found of the pool online that shows the full thing from above. Quite an amazing swimming pool.

After we finished looking at the pool, it was time for lunch; we started the trek to Santiago.  Rather than going on the highway, Luis had Robert drive us along a country road so that we could see the beautiful valleys in that part of Chile.  It was much more enjoyable than speeding along a highway.

When we got back onto the highway, we passed many vineyards and wineries.

   

We eventually did have to get on the highway, since that was where the restaurant was.  We went to Los Hornitos in the city of Curacavi.  It was definitely an authentic Chilean experience.   The straw roof and sand floor were a hint.  I was surprised at how comfortable the restaurant was with the outside temperature at 86 degrees; but the humidity was only 23%. 

   

With the menu only being in Spanish, we let Luis tell us what was being offered and what he recommended.  On the drive to the restaurant, he had recommended a few Chilean items that we might want to try, especially the corn pie, which contained chicken and many other items.  I was sold.  We placed our orders and two of us got a beef dish, one ordered an interesting sandwich and I ordered the corn pie.  After we placed our orders, the waiter came back and said that they didn’t have any corn pies due to an issue with the oven.  I was so disappointed.  I selected another item that Luis recommended that was a popular vegetable soup dish.  Luis and Robert had planned on eating by themselves; but we insisted that they eat with us.  It made the meal more enjoyable.

   

When the meals came, everyone enjoyed their meals.  They were very good.  Luis had chosen a great restaurant for us to experience traditional Chilean food.

After lunch we continued down the highway to Santiago.  We passed by more vineyards and farms, plus many very dry mountains.  Summer is the dry season and the barren mountains showed it.

   

As we got closer to Santiago, the smog got worse.  Even with the smog, we could see the snow-covered Andes in the distance. 

As we got into Santiago, we began to see lots of statues and pretty buildings. 

   

Our first stop was at the back side of the Presidential Palace.  The huge Chilean flag blowing in the wind was quite a sight.

   

We passed by an organ grinder selling his wares.  The music filled the van.  It is a nice sound that I haven’t heard in years.

We passed by the front side of the Presidential Palace, which was nicer than the back side we had previously seen.

We continued the drive passing by beautiful buildings and statues.

   

   

We stopped at the Plaza de Armas.  The first thing we noticed was an unusual statue at one corner of the square.

The most beautiful building on the square was the Central Post Office building.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is also an impressive building.  We didn’t have time to see the interior; but we had seen it the last time.  With it being a Sunday, I am not sure we could have even gone inside due to services in progress.

Luis pointed out a beautiful reflection of the cathedral on a glass building next to it.

There was a metal plaque on the ground showing the original layout of the city of Santiago.

After leaving the square, we could see the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the top of San Cristobal Hill.  We had visited the hill the last time we were here.  The traffic to get there was terrible.  Luis said that cars/vans aren’t allowed to drive to the top anymore.  Instead of going there, we would go to Santa Lucia Hill.  It was once the site of two forts.  Now it is a popular park.  There were interesting things to look at there.

       

   

   

From the park, we could get photos of the statue of the virgin on the hill across town.  We also had a nice view of the new 984-foot-tall glass skyscraper.  Behind the tower were the snow-covered Andes.

   

After leaving the hill, it was time to go to the airport.  The tour was supposed to be 8-9 hours long and we had used up 8.5 hours.  Luis told Robert to pull over to the side of the road.  Luis jumped out of the van and ran into a building.  He came back and asked me if I still wanted to try some corn pie.  I told him that it was too much trouble and I wasn’t hungry.  He didn’t think that he could get it to go; so, I told him to forget it.  Robert said that he thought they did have it to go, so I decided to go with Luis to get a corn pie.  We ordered it and then realized that they didn’t have any plastic utensils.  Luis said that there were some shops down the street that might have them.  We went to several restaurants and none of them had any.  We were running all around trying to find something, when Luis went into a small shop.  The woman at the shop said she had some and gave them to Luis.  She didn’t charge him for them and he gave her a big kiss on the cheek.  It was very sweet.  We hustled back to the van so that we could get to the airport.  We weren’t in any rush, since our flight was at 11:20 PM; but I felt bad using up more of Luis and Roberts personal time.  I opened the container with the corn pie and it looked just like Luis had described.  I tried it and loved it. 

Carol tried it but wasn’t crazy about it.  Hans and Barbara didn’t want to try it.  I ate a few bites; but wasn’t that hungry, since we ate late.  I was just thrilled to be able to try the food I couldn’t get at the restaurant.   I really appreciated that Luis was so concerned that I was able to try it.  Since I didn’t want to hassle with a food item at the airport, I gave it to Luis to take home.

We then took the short drive to the airport where Luis went out to get us some luggage carts before sharing our farewells.  Luis had been a gem.  We were so glad that we had him as a guide for the last day of our vacation.  He showed us an authentic side of Chile and true friendship. 

When we got into the airport, we were surprised at how crowded it was.  Since we needed to get wheelchairs for Carol and Hans and get special handling for Carol’s scooter we were able to go through the shorter handicapped/special needs ticket line.  When we finally got to the counter, the agent did not know what to do with the scooter.  Adding to her confusion, she couldn’t speak any English.  She was able to use a translation app on her phone; but it was quite challenging.  We were quite surprised that a ticket agent for special needs couldn’t speak any English, since they are dealing with people that have unusual situations.  We have never experienced this at any foreign airport.  Fortunately, she was very nice and didn’t get too frustrated.  She did finally find someone to help her.  We were really glad that we arrived at the airport five hours early, since we did burn a lot of time at the ticket counter.

For the flight home, we were upgraded to the normally extra cost bulkhead seats.  We were right next to Hans and Barbara, who had booked their seats months ahead.  I was surprised we got those seats, since the plane was full.  The red-eye flight home was uneventful and we all slept most of the flight.  

 

Recap

This was an awesome cruise experience.  I still can’t believe that we were able to visit Antarctica, a place that so few people ever visit.  The beauty of this continent has to be seen in person to appreciate its grandeur.  Even though we had been to many of the ports on this cruise previously, we had totally different and amazing new experiences.  Being blessed with such lovely weather most of the time made the ports even more enjoyable.  I am so glad that we were able to share this cruise with our friends Hans and Barbara.  It made the cruise even better. 

I hope that readers of this review are encouraged to visit Antarctica at some point in their lives.  You will be very glad that you did.

 

I have included many full size high resolution photos from some of the ports in a SmugMug photo gallery.  Here is a LINK to it if you want to see them after reading the review.

        

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