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arzz

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  1. We are docking in Buenos Aires right now. If there is more to post I will do so later or in a couple of days.
  2. February 2, 2019. Punta del Este, Uruguay Ground Hog Day - do they have ground hogs in South America? If they do, do they predict how much more summer the Southern Hemisphere will receive? If they do, the ground hog sure saw its shadow today! What wonderful weather. Sunny and in the upper seventies or low eighties. The ship was anchored off the coast of what looks like a beautiful resort community - the coastline is lined with sandy beaches, a large marina full of pleasure craft including lots of sail boats, lots of trees and lots of high rises (yeah, that tends to happen in resort communities). We had plans to get off the ship, we intended to get off the ship, but being the not so intrepid travelers that we are - we thought about the polar vortex (which we do understand has all but left the Midwest) and then we went out on our balcony to test the weather - and it seems we stuck there. It was so beautiful with bits of sun and a hefty breeze that the morning just melted away. We need to remember this on Monday morning when we land at O’Hare. Too bad we can’t take any of this weather away with us. This afternoon the ship held another great food extravaganza outside on the pool deck - we didn’t even stop by to see it as frankly, with all of the wonderful food we have eaten this trip, I really couldn’t see having any more as we still have dining room dinner tonight!
  3. February 1, 2019 - At Sea For our first day and a half at sea as we head up the coast of Argentina there was some ship movement - nothing really notable except in the directness of our walk and for those occasional bumps at night that tend to wake me up. This morning when I awoke we were gliding on flat seas in bright sunshine. Right now the temperature is in the sixties and I am typing this outside on our balcony. Small pangs of guilt of short duration occasionally flow thru my being in sympathy with those at home who have had to deal with temperatures of twenty below zero F this week. But they quickly pass. Nothing special today - just a sea day - and disembarkation tags and info day - no more briefings but still the lectures and conversations on board continue. Tonight there will be a farewell event, and the dress is formal. At the farewell event they played the video prepared by our onboard photographers - and after dinner we each received a small metal box with a thumb drive in it - the video and other information about this cruise, crew and our expedition team is on the thumb drive. Very Nice! Tomorrow we will be in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
  4. Cherylgrrl - we did not kayak. Several of the excursions actually went, several were cancelled due to wind and seas. I suspect the cancellation policy for kayaking is the same as for other shore excursions but do not know for sure. If your excursion is cancelled you get you get your money back - I spoke with many who over booked themselves just in case but they did not mention the terms for cancellation. Sorry. Someone else might know.
  5. January 30-31, 2019. Falkland Islands and headed back north So yesterday, the 30th of January, we anchored just outside of the Stanley harbor - there we were in the United Kingdom and according to the navigational information on the TV we were anchored in all of 7 meters of water which explains why the ships never enter the harbor at Stanley - probably way too shallow. It was windy (30 knots or more) and grey - but the sky changed just about every 20 minutes. We had booked the Bluff Cove tour and were promised penguins. The tender ride to town was a bit longer than usual because of where we were anchored. The landscape around Stanley looked much like the landscapes we saw at New Island - yellow and green grasses, rocky areas, low hills and sandy beaches. We were ushered into a minivan and driven through the very small, very British looking town and then out across the island. We also drove past fields piled with large stones (quartzite) that occur naturally. Their origin is unclear. Our driver used his time to share information about the area. At some point, a little over 20 minutes from port the road ended - and we were transferred to 4 wheel drive Land Rovers that took off directly over the soft, bumpy ground. I found it was best not to look at what we were driving on as the view was much scarier (large bumps, significant holes) than the experience which was bumpy but not extreme. We were driven on another 20 minutes or so until we arrived at a sandy beach under very grey skies and strong winds. On the beach there was a crowd of penguins. There was a path marked so that we would not invade penguin territory and we were free to wander and watch. Most of the birds were gentoo penguins but in the center of the group there was a small contingent of tall King penguins with bright yellow feathers at the chest, still standing on their eggs. To the side and some distance away were a few local cows owned by the farmers who own Bluff Cove. The local cows are quite distinctive as they look like they might be wearing rugby shirts - the front third and the back third of each cows is pure black - the center of the cow has a wide white stripe that wraps around its body. So ... we were out in the middle of the open fields enjoying the penguins, on the beach, under grey skies with high winds when it decided to rain - a good moderate rain storm that quickly turned from rain to sleet - the pieces of hard water were blown at us with enough speed to sting the face and skin. About 200 yards away was a small coffee shop and museum/gift shop (thankfully for our faces - downwind) that promised us homemade baked goods and hot beverages when we were done with the penguins. So, for us, after only a very short visit we took advantage of the facilities. The baked goods were definitely home made and delicious, the hot beverages welcome to folks who were now very cold and wet. I should mention that the gifts available in the shop were unique and very nice - not the usual tourist stuff - so it was a good place to spend some money for some of those things that we needed to bring home. Just sorry conditions were not such that we could enjoy more penguin time. The sky, of course, changed again, on about 20 minute cycles so not every group yesterday was inconvenienced like ours. Should have worn that waterproof Seabourn jacket as we were too wet to enjoy a walk around Stanley after our tour ended. On our ride there and back, our local Land Rover driver shared stories with us about the history of the Bluff Cove Farm and about the 1982 war with Argentina. He shared how the locals sabotaged their heavy farm equipment so that it was of no use to the Argentinians but could be back in service within an hour of the signing of the truce. He also shared that the fields of land mines that were installed by the Argentinians in their less than 60 day occupation are now almost completely removed and by the end of next year they are expected to be totally gone. Today on board was Seabourn’s special event the Galley Market Lunch. The colonnade was closed at lunch time as everyone was needed to serve during the special event that was complete with live piano music and a singer. We, however, did not go - a large buffet meal is not what we were in the mood for so we created our own Seabourn moment. We went up to the outdoor patio where it was cold and raining with apparent winds of about 40 knots. We had hot dogs and hamburgers - a feel good lunch for us even though we were huddled below the heat lamps wrapped in deck blankets, and thankfully sheltered from the worst of the wind. As our day goes on the skies are somewhat better and the outside temperature has risen a little bit. Tomorrow is our last day at sea then it is on to Punta del Este, Urauay, and, sadly, Buenos Aires the end of the line.
  6. January 29, 2019. New Island, Falklands This morning we again were greeted with sunny skies. By the time we arrived at New Island the temperatures were in the upper 50’s, and the sun was hot. This is only the second time that Seabourn has landed here yet is is one of the Captain’s favorite anchorages. New Island is in the extreme West of the Falklands archipelago and has been owned and run by the New Island Conservation Trust since 1996. Like the other islands in this area the land flows in gentle slopes and forms naked hills - that is hills without trees - yet covered with short green and longer yellow grasses. The long grasses have a special name and make tufted mounds on some of the islands in the area that have not been previously used for whaling or farming. Though the temperatures were warm and the sun hot, the winds were over 20-25 knots which provided a little bouncy adventure in the kayaks and some interesting challenges when walking up the slopes towards the bird colonies. Not unlike ships people can also be affected by strong winds which unfortunately were head winds when walking uphill and tail winds when walking downhill. Sure wish it had been the other way around. There is a serenity here to be enjoyed while walking up the marked path. The reward at the top are lots and lots of birds - including rockhopper penguins complete with tufts of feathers on their head and black-browed albatrosses. The end of the path had us standing at the top of what were actually cliffs with the birds occupying every available space on the steep, rocky slopes. This included adult birds as well as fuzzy chicks perched on their rocky nests above the foamy turquoise waters. Back down at the base of the path was the sandy beach that we landed at and a small local museum that sold souvenirs. A nice day.
  7. January 28, 2019. At Sea - or more specifically at Drake Passage I should mention that last night, instead of chocolates, our cabin stewardess left us two large iced butter cookies in the shape of penguins. A nice touch as we say good bye to Antarctica. Once again this trip we have been quite fortunate that the swells in the Drake Passage have not been bad. Last night DH and I were awakened a few times by the motion but in relative terms (compared to the 45 foot seas and more that we had in 2007) it was a piece of cake. At lunch time there was no delineation between the sky and the water because the fog and mists were so dense - and the bridge utilized the fog horn for a while. As we ate, however, the mists lifted until we were able to see a distinct boundary between the sky and the sea. We even had some sun. It was a good day to relax and enjoy the pleasures of a Seabourn ship. This evening we had our last recap/briefing as we prepare for tomorrow’s landing at New Island in the Falklands. Not on the original calendar - just another bit of Seabourn caviar. We are expected to be there around noon tomorrow. The temperature is forecast to be about 50 degrees! In contrast, at home in the Chicago area they have just had some major snow and expect temperatures of about -15 degrees F by Wednesday - they should come to Antarctica to warm up.
  8. January 27, 2019 - Enterprise Island Today was our last day in Antarctica. It started grey, misty and snowy at our anchorage off of Enterprise Island. Our surrounding waters, however, were still full of whale and we amused ourselves at breakfast by watching for whale tail. Blue Group, our group, was the last scheduled to go out on the zodiacs. The kayak groups all got out, and the zodiac groups moved along on time. Feeling now much healthier than I did during my first venture out I once again suited up, layered like a fine pastry, and when called by Jan we arrived at the boot lockers all “zipped and clipped”. There was little wind, the temperature was just above freezing, the skies were overcast but it wasn’t dark and off we went on our sightseeing sojourn. Our first stop was to get up close and personal with some whales. When we tired of watching them surface and blow bubbles (the only sounds that we could hear) we went on to a ship wreck. The wreck was a rusted out hull of a whaling “factory” or “processing” ship - that is a ship that received the harpooned whales and processed them. At some point in 1915 the ship caught fire and no attempt by the crew proved successful in trying to save it - we suspect that the ship was full of rendered whale oils which fed the flames like a large floating candle. The whaling industry in this area was over sometime between 1930 and 1940 due to overfishing the whales - they had used them all up. But, over time, the whales have returned and we certainly saw several. The ship ran aground in a small protected cove and is halfway submerged and halfway above the water. What belies common sense, or so it seems, is that this ghost figure of a ship attracts modern day sailors - and I mean sailors in several 40-50 foot sail boats (including one catamaran) that were moored in the cove around the wreck. Our zodiac captain said that this morning he saw folks from one of the sail boats scuba diving. Taking a polar plunge in the cruise ship pool in Antarctica is one thing, but scuba diving in the ocean here is certainly another. By the end of our sightseeing cruise the skies around us had totally grayed with mist and it was snowing huge, complicated, Antarctic snow flakes in this quiet wonderland. What a way to end our visit here! The Captain tells us that we will be in Antarctic waters until late this afternoon or early evening. We will enter the Drake Passage around 8 pm (hmmm ... dinner time). Expected seas are about ten feet. Here is knocking on wood that he is right.
  9. Jan 26, 2019 - Waterboat Point Waterboat Point is in Paradise Bay near Chile’s Gonzalez Videla base. Today offered the promise to set foot on the Antarctic Peninsula itself rather than on one of the islands. We awoke to skies that were so sunny it hurt the eyes to look at the swirls and peaks of the very white snow that covered the rocky mainland. One problem. We are Blue Group - and Blue Group was assigned 8:00 am. There are limits in my universe. To be fed, and dressed in full landing gear at 8:00 am ... well that just crosses my limits. As much as I regret not setting foot on the Chilean Base, wandering among copious quantities of gentoo penguins and their guano, seeing the small museum and shopping in the small souvenir shop where you can send yourself a postcard cancelled in Antarctica ... yes this I regret - but I am a better person today for having slept in. Possibly I am not as committed to this Antarctica stuff as I should be - but I did not miss the dressing routine or the penguin guano odor. From our balcony on the ship there were gentoo penguins popping up everywhere. Penguins to the right of us, penguins to the left - all you had to do was to look at the water, anywhere, for a few seconds and there they were with their little pointed black heads surfacing and jumping through the water as they fed. They were seldom alone, sometimes in small groups and often in huge groups. The penguins were even riding the bergie bits. Yeah, if I had gone in, they would have walked next to me and crossed my path, and I could have watched them waddle self proudly with their pink stained white chests all puffed out. Yes, did you catch that? Though the penguin feathers on the chest are white, one of Antarcticas dirty little secrets is that most of these critters either drizzle a lot of their food while feeding or else (more likely) they slide on their bellies over guano covered ice (and yes, their poop is pink). So their chests are littered with pink stain. One would think that swimming might remove some of this stain, and I am sure if they stay in the water long enough it will - however, today, I witnessed pink bellied penguins jumping in the water. This afternoon, conveniently just at shower time, the Expedition Team announced from the bridge that we would have more scenic sightseeing in twenty minutes as the ship was to be going through another channel. Another heart stopping scenic experience. Through the small channel (whose name escapes me at the moment) we glided between tall rocky walls covered with snow and ice and some white misty clouds near the top. It was still quite bright and sunny as we appeared to slide rather close while passed a large ice berg in the middle of the channel. SIGH ... But that was not all that today brought. Every day at 6:30 pm there is a mandatory briefing in the Grand Salon to recap the day’s events, announce tomorrow’s events, and sneak in three 5 minute talks from our expedition team lecturers to educate us about related topics. Our cabin is on deck 6, same as the Grand Salon, and the corridors are usually extremely quiet - we seldom see our shipmates in the hall. Except at about 6:20 pm - it is like the March of the Penguins (or the lemmings?) out there - the halls are filled with folks marching to the Grand Salon. It can be so crowded that it is difficult to cut in and join the throng. Today we found out three things. First, I am not crazy, there WERE supposed to be two sea days on the way down here and thanks to Poseidon we made it in one and started our Antarctic Experience immediately the next day. Second, at the moment, the weather prediction for the Drake Passage is decent for our approach to the Falkland Islands (though, of course, it is understood that weather down here can change at the drop of a hat) - and third - with the good weather prediction we should not require two days to get to the Falklands - so if all works out we will make a stop at New Island in the Falklands after one day at sea in the Drake. Every cloud has a silver lining - No, that is not what I meant to say - try again - every silver lining has a cloud - to make this work we have to get an early start to our Drake Passage crossing ... so ... drum roll ... tomorrow’s landings will begin with the first one at 6:00 am (yes, that is what I said ... definitely outside MY limits) - but we are blue, and blue will be the last landing group at noon - a perfectly civilized time to sightsee. We will not actually be landing but will have another scenic zodiac cruise. And, the cherry on the top of today was after dinner. We traveled to a bay very close to tomorrow’s landing site that was reported to be full of humpback whales - and full of whales it was. The ship went in, stopped and we waited. The whales came to us - coming as close as to be virtually next to the bow. They were out there individually, and in small groups of three or four. We saw lots of “whale tail”, and fins - we could hear them blow - and we saw some breaches including one whale who breached four times in rapid succession. Thank you Captain Golubev and the Expedition Team. Another great day at sea.
  10. We are currently on board the Quest in Antarctica Captain Golubev is at the helm. He has done a superior job delivering what we came for and more - check out my blog on this page. The Climate control is fairly good. A shawl with a sleeveless dress in the dining room should work. When it is really cold and windy out standing near the windows in our suite we can feel it - it gets warmer with the drapes closed but we are quite comfortable. I don’t have a clue on tipping. Maybe others do.
  11. Try looking up “goodwill guides”
  12. January 25, 2019. Torgersen Island Torgersen Island is off the south west coast of Anvers Island in the Palmer Archipelego. We anchored here last night and awoke to extremely sunny skies and a bit of a wind. The kayaks never successfully got underway due to the windy and choppy conditions but all the zodiac groups had nice rides around (no landings) while the folks from Palmer Station came aboard, had lunch, and left with fresh produce. DH did the ride around and saw penguins and fur seals as well as stunning scenery. Due to the winds and the chop I decided to opt for the views from the ship. This evening after all the zodiacs were tucked in for the night the Captain sailed us back to the Lemaire Channel to see if we could get in. We arrived around 9:15pm. We cruised into the channel just a bit - but still, the ice blocked our way from proceeding all the way through. There we were with the tall, black rocky cliffs covered with white snow and blue ice in the still Antarctic waters and we shared our space with a group of whales and several seals who were comfortably stretched out atop some of the bergie bits. As the bright sun, now low in the sky, dipped behind the cliffs the Captain slowly rotated the ship 360 degrees so everyone could catch the view. The water now shone flat and shiny, along with the skies in sky-blue-pink. A color that as children my sister and I thought only existed in our story books. Wow! This is Antarctica and this is why we came back. The comforts of our Seabourn ship are wonderful but they pale in comparison to all that Mother Nature offers us.
  13. January 24, 2019 - In Antarctica but no place in particular This morning Antarctic weather caught up with us. I was briefly awake around 6 am and noticed that the balcony dividers were doing their high wind vibratory dance. Around 7 am the loudspeakers in the cabins shared the bad news - that the winds were gusting up to 50 knots and there would be no landings today. There were large flakes of snow coming down on the balcony. So ... we turned over and slept in. The Daily Herald was reprinted and we headed out towards some scenic cruising - the Gerlache Strait, the Newmeier Channel (not sure how to spell that one) and then the Lemaire Channel. The first two worked out fine and we were treated to the exquisite scenery that Antarctica is - black hilly islands covered in white show and thick ice. In our case add some snowy mists and overcast skies to the mix. When we reached the Lemaire Channel we tried to turn in but there was too much ice - sort of looked like someone was preparing to do a jigsaw puzzle made of ice and had scattered the pieces before beginning. So we had to turn back. Funny thing, last time we were here in 2007 the Lemaire Channel looked the same way. I understand we will make another pass there tomorrow night and maybe the ice will have cleared by then. The comments that I heard in the lounges and on decks had no hint of disappointment due to lack of actual landing since the scenery was so breathtaking. Even though we have been here before, once again, we were impressed. The afternoon allowed time for various domestic chores. DH and I hand washed some delicates and the ship cruised out past the 12 mile limit to dump some grey water. We both ended up better for completing our chores. Tomorrow is another day and promises better weather.
  14. January 23, 2019. Half Moon Island This morning we were greeted by more sun and more Antarctic scenery. Half Moon Island - craggy black rocks and snow and the promise of chin strap penguins. All right outside of our suite windows. The Blue group was going ashore today at 9:30 am so it was room service breakfast followed by the Antarctic dressing routine - a long and revered ritual covering all body parts with multiple layers of clothing and culminating in a person who looks more like an orange stuffed pepper than a human being. Anything left exposed (which is not much since even the hands had two layers of gloves) was slathered with sun screen. Now, abundantly warm (possibly over roasted) and almost unable to move we heeded Jan’s call to report to the boot lockers all “zipped and clipped”. We had been told that there would be snow on the ground today and that it would be colder than yesterday - so we, and I think many others on board, resorted to a layered overkill, so even when waiting outside on deck 5 for our turn to go down to the tender platform and the zodiacs I was too warm. To get into the zodiac we went three steps down the tender platform stairs and then one step more to the zodiac and then there was a stool in the zodiac to make the step inside much easier. The whole time I was transferring to the zodiac crew members had a firm grip on my arms. The ride over was short and sweet - then we had to swing our legs over the side of the zodiac and down into the shallow water on the beach. Again, we were held tight. There were two surfaces to walk on today: the rocky beach and path, and an area with some mud and snow. As we walked up the path (we were walking up an incline) it soon became clear that most of the “crags” in the craggy rocky hill were in fact not rocks but chinstrap penguins. There were penguins to the right of us and penguins to the left of us, and there were penguins who insisted on crossing our path. In the group to our right there were several chicks (or basket ball sized balls of brown feathered fluff) and there were parents feeding the chicks by regurgitating fish into their begging beaks. A scene of domestic penguin bliss. It was easy to stand and watch for considerable time. We also saw black and white cormorants and one elephant seal. There was a very old wrecked wooden boat, and a pile of blue whale bones also to see. Before boarding the zodiacs we had to treat our boots to the “guanomatics” - a set of brushes set up in very shallow water in which one rubs their boots and rinses the penguin poop off. Speaking of penguin poop - the smell reminded me of spoiled pickled herring. We cruised back to the ship on zodiacs next to swimming cormorants and penguins. And I was well over cooked when I arrived back. I had been wearing my life vest (which is heavy) the whole time. Next time I go out, fewer layers. The afternoon on board was an anticlimax to our morning. The winds were high enough today that only one group of kayaks was able to get out - the last group. The rule for the kayaks is that you go with your assigned group only. If your group is cancelled you do not go. However, when you receive your kayak ticket you receive a second ticket that you can use to go ashore on the zodiacs with whichever group is convenient so you never miss going ashore because of your kayak schedule. We have not scheduled any kayak trips. The delights of a cruise to Antarctica just never end. Last night at dinner we cruised past the huge iceberg A 57A - tonight it was Deception Island at 9:30 so we were able to finish our meal first and then head up to 10 Forward. Deception Island is a volcanic caldera not unlike Santorini in Greece. The volcano has erupted as recently as 1970 when it destroyed a Chilean base that used to be there. Historically this island was used in the whaling industry. The whaling industry here ended in 1938 when they ran out of whales .... Our evening appeared as twilight with mists and bits of snow falling. In 10 forward there was lively music, drinks, hot cocoa, and trays of sweets. For those folks brave enough to be out on the cold, damp deck 10 the head chef was passing out treats himself. The ship passed “Neptune’s Window” where the rocky hills have been chewed away by years of volcanic eruptions and you can see inside the caldera. Just past the “window” is “Neptune’s Bellows” a narrow passage that allowed the Quest to enter the Caldera. With the black rocky hills and cliffs covered with wispy snow and grey clouds that hid the peaks at the top this event was quite the visual treat. Can’t wait to see where we are when we awaken tomorrow.
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