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arzz

On Quest Jan 13 - Feb 3, 2019

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To The Ship

 

DH and I have been to Antarctica before - we traveled there on the Holland America Prinsendam in 2007.  The trip was spectacular and was our first cruise of over 10 days duration.  This cruise led to many Grand adventures at sea for us, and after ten plus years we examined where we would like to return - and Antarctica was at the top of our list.  Though we first booked the Prinsendam’s Grand voyage for 2019, we later decided to “get our feet on the ground” rather than just sail by - thus we are currently on the Quest, sailing south from San Antonio, Chile.

 

Getting here involved two flights (and a lot of luggage to cover two climates and zodiac landings) from Chicago with a long layover in Miami which we scheduled purposely due to the unpredictability of Chicago weather in January.  For us, from doorstep to hotel was just over twenty hours - so we had booked three nights in Santiago pre-cruise.  A good thing as all I did for the first 30 hours or so was sleep (or so it seemed).  On Friday we did some walking in Santiago and on Saturday we toured the Santa Rita vineyards.


Sunday morning arrived - we actually had to get up and eat breakfast at 7:30!  Incredibly early hour - no time for humans .  We gathered our belongings and trundled our Vanderbilt like cadre of suitcases down to the lobby to meet our transfer.  Of course, by now, there were many folks staying at our hotel who were going to meet the Seabourn Quest.  I have to hand it to Seabourn for organizing and managing the transfer of so many people, each party in a private car and with their own luggage, to the port so professionally.  Like when we arrived at the airport in Santiago, all aspects of the transfer were handled very smoothly.  Seabourn gets kudos from us for the painless way they handle their transfers.

 

We were assigned to leave the hotel in the first group out.  When we arrived at the port we could not see the Quest anywhere.  We know it is a smaller ship in today’s market, but it was either much smaller than we imagined or it was hiding.

 

At the port they were not quite ready yet to check folks in.  However, after a very short wait of only about 10 minutes we were at check in, cleared security, and on a bus to find the ship.  This is amazing especially considering that the rep who checked us in forgot to take our photos - when she realized that she ran after us and caught us just as we cleared security.  Back for photos and then the nice folks at the port let us through without having to do security again.  DH was relieved that he did not have to take his belt off a second time.  

 

Turns out the ship was not quite “toy size” but hiding as our bus driver quickly found it.  It was actually in port lurking behind a large Chinese container ship with a name reminiscent of a Chinese dumpling.

 

Once on board it was up to the Colonnade for a buffet lunch, then down to Seabourn Square to pass the time until the cabins were ready.  

We arrived at our cabin after our voluminous luggage and a welcome aboard bottle of Champaign from the Captain and the crew.  Since this was our first time on this ship Ed and I had to go through the “apportionment of storage space” ritual before unpacking.  To our amazement, though, everything ended up with a place to go, and our suitcases all fit under the bed with ease.

 

On the couch in our suite we found the two parkas promised by Seabourn plus two Seabourn stocking caps, two Seabourn back packs and a waterproof pouch that is just on loan as it is used and numbered.  The boots and poles that we ordered will arrive in Ushuaia.

 

While we unpacked a blown glass decorative fresh fruit bowl (one each of apple, pear, nectarine, plum) arrived for our suite, as did our stewardess along with smoked salmon canapés, more Champaign, and a selection of scented soaps.  All our settling in was finished before the emergency drill -  on this ship muster stations are in the dining room.

 

When we took our one previous Seabourn cruise about seven years ago we had requested a bottle of Bailey’s for our suite.  When we arrived the bottle was so large that we never opened it - choosing to imbibe in the bars instead.  Before this cruise when I filled out our preference sheet there was that request for Bailey’s on our list.  I removed it, or so I thought.  Yet, in the stateroom minibar, when we arrived yesterday - there it was another enormous bottle of Bailey’s in addition to our current preferences.  Seabourn, I guess, is like an elephant that never forgets.  All part of the charm of cruising this line.

 

We went to dinner but we skipped the intros from the cruise director, et al in the grand salon so it was quite a surprise when on Monday morning, at the small gathering of folks from our cruise critic roll call, that we discovered the “Jan” who is our current cruise director is the same “Jan” who was our cruise director on the Pride several years ago on our only other Seabourn cruise.  Small world Seabourn is.

 

The Cruise Critic member who organized our Meet and Greet this morning had requested snacks be available at the gathering.  What arrived were mimosas, bloody Mary’s, and canapés (caviar, chicken liver mousse, shrimp and lamb) - what a lovely spread for a small group!  Nick the Guest Relations manager stopped by as well as Jan our cruise director.  Seabourn really put on a fine show for us.

 

In addition to the Meet and Greet Monday brought us the first couple of lectures and the intros to the on board expedition team members.  We had time to acquaint ourselves with this ship and we had a lovely dinner in the restaurant.

 

This morning, Tuesday, started with room service breakfast - a delightful ritual on board where they do it right by setting the table with a tablecloth and setting up the ordered meal. While we ate and prepped for our tour in Puerto Montt, Cruise Director Jan held a jacket exchange in the Grand Salon for folks who ordered what turned out to be the wrong size parkas.  

 

Tender service opened shortly after the jacket exchange ended and in partly sunny skies and slightly chill breezes (temperature today was in the fifties to sixties) we tendered out and took off for our tour.  In 2007, in Puerto Montt, we did an incredible excursion and hike into the Alerce forest - so this time we did not want to do things we did last time.  Our TA gifted us with a private tour here.  We were taken first to the market and later to Puerto Varas.

 

At the market here were lines of shops full of local artisan crafts ranging from small gifts to large pieces of furniture hand crafted from local wood.  Past the craft market was the fish market which was one of the most interesting fish markets we have toured.  In addition to the Puerto Montt salmon sold as fresh and smoked, we saw many local fish, shell fish, and eels for sale.  Quite colorful.  

 

In addition there were some large shells for sale that contain living animals (like the conch who live in and are sold in their shells).  These shells did not look like conch shells, most had several holes, and like Max’s “Wild Things” in Maurice Sendak’s book, a brief peek at each open hole in the shell brought a view of a writhing neck attached to a toothy mouthed critter that was opening and closing its jaws, or appendages with long grasping claws reaching outward.  Definitely things that go bump in the night but enjoyed, as tasty, by many of the local residents.  

 

From the market place we drove into the suburbs, to a town called Puerto Varas (I think I have the name right) where we past the pretty city square filled with people and musicians to the lake front where we had a tremendous view of the the lake and two active volcanoes with their snow capped peaks across the water.  Our guide shared all sorts of information and history of Chile with us.  It was a nice morning.

Back to the ship we enjoyed lunch, a rest, the captains welcome, dinner and the show.  It is becoming increasingly clear to me that being on this ship we are going to be kept busy.

 

If anyone is interested according to the Captain we have 405 passengers and 389 crew on board.  And we are well taken care of.

 

 

Edited by arzz

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Castro Chiloe, Chile

 

Yesterday we were in Castro Chile - an archipelago that has been settled for over 400 years.  The area is noted to tourists for the wooden churches that were built over the years by the folks who settled here.

 

Our five and a half hour tour today was well done but really needed to be an hour shorter.  We started the day with a couple of wooden church visits that were in and around Castro.  Because of the lack of stone workers these churches were built by wooden boat builders who essentially built upside down boats to mimic the cathedral style of the churches of Europe, except in wood.  The pillars of the church were balanced on large rocks with flattened tops and a hole was drilled into the stone to create the foundation necessary to support the structures.  In one of the churches one of the pillars was arranged so that we could see the pillar and the stone it balanced on.

 

We then drove through the incredibly beautiful country side - rolling landscapes, neat farms, cows, sheep, horses, thick green trees, bushes and grasses studded with small yellow and white flowers.  The homes in the country were decorated with colorful flowered plants and covered with intricately carved wooden shingles.  They appear to be more prosperous than those that we witnessed in the city of Castro so they frame a picture of a lovely, bucolic country life.

 

We arrived at a ferry dock and our bus rode the ferry across to a neighboring island.  There we continued the drive, stopped at another church and then we had a refreshment stop.  We were served an empanada, salmon ceviche, a local potato pancake, a fried donut-like pastry and a pisco sour to wash it all down.  While we munched we were entertained by the local residents who performed folk dances accompanied by their traditional instruments.  Of special note was the percussion instrument made from a horse’s skull - when tapped the teeth shook and  produced a rattling sound.

 

At that point we were ready to go back to the ship - but there was one more church to see in Castro.  We ferried back to the main island and made one last stop in town before heading to the tenders.  This stop was the church of San Francisco just a few blocks from the ship’s tender port.  We can see why it was saved for last as the inside of the church mimicks the classic gothic style stone of the European churches in every way, except in wood.  It is definitely a beautiful, precious relic and we can really understand why the churches of Castro are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

Back on the ship we had missed the regular lunches and instead ate at the outdoor patio grill at a table that was next to where the pisco sour station that was being set up for our early sail away.  The set up provided lunchtime entertainment.

 

Dinner, as usual, was a treat.  I really like the dining room on this ship as it catches the bright light outside and does not feel confining in any way.

 

Today (Thursday, the 17th of January) we are at sea which gives me a chance to catch up with myself and regroup for what is to come next.  

 

Our seas are relatively calm with swells from 6 to 8 feet, the temperature is in the 50’s, there is a cloud cover.  From our port side suite we can see the rugged, mountainous coast of Chile through the balcony doors.  If we feel hardy we could sit outside as there is not much wind and the fresh air is nice.  We will have to see what today brings.  

 

Edited by arzz

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Arzz, thank you so much for sharing your adventures with us as you head to Antactica.DH and I have been on the fence about this area for years due to the strain getting there, time, frequent poor weather, and most importantly, my worry that getting in and out of zodiaks would be too hard for me ( I can usually walk level 3 SB excursions, look healthy, but proximal and thigh muscles are weak from my medical issues,  so big steps up and down worry me, depending on type of zodiak and if sea is rough. 

 

Once you start doing zodiaks,  if you have time, I would appreciate either a picture of the layout of getting in and out, or a description of how high you have to step up or down and how much real help there is.

 

Have a wonderful time!

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 Catlover54 - love your screen name and your picture - reminds me of my kitty that we left at home.

 

I will definitely let you know about the zodiac experience as I am a bit concerned about that also.

 

As for the seas - it can be the Drake Lake or it can be treacherous or anywhere in between - no way to predict or guarantee what will happen there, but I will share our experience this trip.

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7 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

Arzz, thank you so much for sharing your adventures with us as you head to Antactica.DH and I have been on the fence about this area for years due to the strain getting there, time, frequent poor weather, and most importantly, my worry that getting in and out of zodiaks would be too hard for me ( I can usually walk level 3 SB excursions, look healthy, but proximal and thigh muscles are weak from my medical issues,  so big steps up and down worry me, depending on type of zodiak and if sea is rough. 

 

Once you start doing zodiaks,  if you have time, I would appreciate either a picture of the layout of getting in and out, or a description of how high you have to step up or down and how much real help there is.

 

Have a wonderful time!

Catlover54, there really is not a lot of stepping either into or out of the Zodiacs, rather you are lifted by a crew member on each side of you, then you slide into position.

Getting out on the shore you slide along to the bow, swivel your legs around and slide over the side. 

 (It’s hard to explain, but the crew are so helpful)

We had a man in his 80”s in our colour group who walked everywhere with the aid of two sticks, he made every landing with us.

My wife was in her mid-sixties and waiting on double knee replacement surgery when we went to Antarctica on Quest in December 2014, she had no trouble managing the Zodiacs ( I wasn’t allowed to help her, the crew did it all )

Also they don’t do landings if the sea is rough

As to the strain of getting there, you’re only coming from California, in a similar time zone, think about us Aussies with 24 to 36 hours of traveling and a 14 hour time zone difference (plus we either lose or gain a day when we cross the IDL)

 

Here’s a couple of photos of my wife landing from the bigger, 16 person Zodiacs.

In the third photo you can see the steps they use (circled)

They also use a smaller 12 person Zodiac that has smaller diameter tubes (second photo) 9step circled)

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Edited by SKP946
Photo order altered when posted

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Arzz:  You are in for an incredible adventure.  We were on the Quest just a few weeks ago and found the whole Antarctica experience to be surreal.  Way exceeded our expectations.  Say hi to the penguins and whales for us!

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Jan 18; 2019. Chilean Fjords

 

The last two nights have been spent in and near the Chilean Fjords.  As such we have been asked to keep our suite curtains tightly closed after dark to prevent bird strikes.  Apparently some of the birds in the fjords, if they do strike the ship, may not be able to take off from the ship even if they are unhurt.  If we were to find a bird on our veranda in the morning we are to call and someone will come to retrieve it.

 

Yesterday (Jan 17), brought us little more than a couple of lectures and a lovely quiet day at sea.  We were able to catch up with our laundry, our sleep, and enjoy some of the goodies of a Seabourn cruise.

 

Dinner last night was in the main dining room - I ordered quail and a salad and was advised by our waitress that I might not have enough food from only those two courses so I added the salmon appetizer to my order.  The salmon appetizer was advertised as “citrus cured salmon, avocado purée, shaved red radish and malossal caviar” - it was amazingly tasty - but it consisted of 5 cubes of raw salmon each about 3/8 inch on a side and each topped with a small pile of caviar scattered on a plate that was dotted with four small dots of avocado purée, two thin slices of radish, and two small bits of lemon.  My three pea salad was also very tasty as was the quail - but true to form for quail, a rather tiny bird, there were only a few small shreds of bird available for eating - so the waitress was quite right that my original order was not enough food, but the appetizer that I ordered hardly made up for that.  We laughed very hard.  Dessert filled in the blank spaces.  And as usual I found the food to be quite excellent - this is not meant as any criticism of the food, or complaint about portion size.  In general I would prefer small portions to leaving the table over stuffed.

 

This morning we were awakened in our night dark suite (remember we were sealed tight for fear of bird strikes) at about 8:15 by the expedition team announcing over the in suite PA that we were about 5 miles from the El Brujo Glacier.  We really appreciate the in cabin wake up.  We pulled the heavy curtains to find that our port side deck 6 cabin was facing the side of a stunning fjord with snow capped mountains behind (or was it snow capped Glacier behind).  We had time to put on clothes, jackets and hats and go out on our balcony in the 55 degree weather to witness the glacier.  The Captain pulled in quite close to the ice as we slowly moved through water filled with “bergie bits” (or large ice cubes) and edged up to the main event.  The view from our veranda was spectacular - a wall of craggy blue ice climbing the side of the fjord and touching the water.  The Captain then turned the ship for the starboard side view.  If we had been on deck we could have enjoyed hot chocolate with the glacier - but we didn’t care.

 

Following the glacier we travelled through some of the Chilean Fjords - with steep stone cliffs, some covered with sparse green vegetation, and snow capped mountains guarding our way.  The view from the bow is of layers of slightly misty dark hills and mountains, each successive layer covered by a bit more mist.  The view take your breath away and we aren’t in Antarctica yet.

 

It is mid afternoon and we continue cruising the Fjords.  Outside temperature today is in the mid fifties.  Probably not much else will happen today. If it does I’ll cover it later. Tomorrow is Punta Arenas. 

 

We are happy.

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Punta Arenas, Chile

 

For the record, about five pm yesterday afternoon the Captain came over the intercom to tell us that in five minutes time we would be passing a beautiful ship wreck on the port side.  In my current position, in a cruise ship, on the water, on our way to the Drake Passage ... not sure that a ship wreck was really what I wanted to see - but I am a dutiful passenger and I watched out the port side until we passed the ship wreck - it was a rather impressive rusting hull laying on its side and still very recognizable in every way - and, I did take a picture or two as we passed.  And also for the record the Captain said that all on board the wrecked ship were saved.

 

At 5:30 we had caviar and Champaign or Vodka on deck 8 around the pool.  The caviar was tasty, the lines were long, but the event was very nice.  I went alone as DH was busy at that moment playing with hot stones in the spa.

 

I write this next tidbit to cement this lesson in my head that even on the 6th day of our cruise I have not yet learned.  The closet in our suite is large enough to walk into - what I have to remember is that on sea days when there is movement from the sea - that the door can swing shut and then it is very dark inside the closet.  No more on this topic.

 

Every night with our turndown service we are left two squares of Seabourn Chocolate. Each night so far we have received a different flavor of chocolate - for the record the flavors received so far are:  milk chocolate, chili and smoke milk chocolate, sea salt dark chocolate, cherry milk chocolate, blood orange milk chocolate and hazelnut milk chocolate.  I am sure no one cares about this, but at least I now have a record.

 

While I am adding odd tidbits to this post I will mention that we were given a pair of Bushnell binoculars (7 x 35) to use during this cruise - a pair that we are expected to leave with Seabourn or pay $175.  

 

Last evening we were given a book titled “Antarctic Peninsula” published by the National History Museum in London, and a laminated, accordion folding brochure published in special edition for Seabourn with color photos and the names of the birds and various aquatic life that we are likely to encounter this trip.

 

There was no note with these last two items so I assume they are ours to keep whereas the binoculars are on loan.

 

Today we docked in Punta Arenas, our last port in Chile.  In 2007 Punta Arenas was extremely windy with cloud covered skies and very chilly temperatures.  Today there was still some wind but the temperature was much more mild (fifties) and we flirted with some sunshine all day.

 

Our tour took us out to an Estancia (ranch) about an hour and a half outside of town.  The ride there was somewhat scenic - flat or rolling land, some hills, short green vegetation on the Atlantic side and some trees when we reached the Pacific side.  

 

On the way in addition to sheep we spotted some very large, grey birds with long legs and long thin necks that in many ways resemble the ostrich.  In 2007 we were told that they were ostrich, and our bus driver proudly passed around a large yellow orb that was about 10 inches in its longest dimension (an egg) for us all to see.  Today we found out that these birds are related to the emu and are called by a local name which I did not remember.  Looking them up on the internet (since they are not in our newly acquired Antarctic Wildlife guides) they are called Darwin’s Rhea - they are flightless and about 39 inches tall.  

 

In addition to the rhea we also spotted groups of guanacos which are animals that are very similar to llamas - they also have long warm fur and early men who settled this region used to wear the skins of these creatures to keep warm.

 

At the ranch we were treated to a demonstration of sheep herding by a dog.  Biblical mental pictures of shepherds with long curve-topped sticks came to mind but modern sheep herding is, apparently, at least in Chile, done by dogs.  Dogs who have been carefully bred for the instinct to do this type of work, and carefully trained by the local sheep herder.  The dog that we witnessed seemed happiest (if watching the movements of her tail tells us anything) when she was herding a group of about 15 sheep from a pen on one end of a large field across to the other.  This trip was taken by the sheep (and dog) for no better reason than to amuse us.  And amuse us it did.

 

Next we were taken into a large barn for a sheep shearing demonstration and we watched while one “volunteer” sheep was sheared.  The process was interesting (they used electric shears) and carefully went about the sheep with the shears in a well practiced, predetermined manner.  The first batch of wool came from under the chin and the chest and was immediately separated from the rest as it sells for a premium.  The rest of the sheep (who was somehow quite calm during what must be, for him/her an embarrassing episode) was sheared in a nonstop process which produced a pelt of fur that appeared to be in one piece (because the hairs are so tangled with each other) and they laid it out flat on a large table for us to examine - and for them to explain the next steps in the process of marketing the wool.  Our “volunteer”, now a bit colder and a lot less bulky was led back to a pen to lick its ego - yet we are sure that we heard faint murmurs from the other sheep behind the pen’s walls of “cool man”.

 

Last stop before lunch was a horse barn where they keep their “hobbies” - award winning Chilean horses.  They are related to Spanish horses but are not particularly tall.  The horses that they showed us were beautiful animals.

 

Lunch was ... guess it ... barbecue lamb, cooked outside on large spits over a wood fire.  Chunks of very tasty lamb were consumed with boiled potatoes, salad vegetables, rolls and fresh salsa.  The meal began with an empanada and a pisco sour - and the main event was accompanied by a Chilean Red Cabernet, water or cola.

 

We were uncertain about doing this tour due to its 6 and a half hour length - turns out we really enjoyed it.

 

Back on the ship we are trying to “air” our jackets.  For the meal we were seated downwind of the wood fire and we returned to the Quest well smoked.

 

The outside temperatures are still almost warm, the sun is out, the wind is picking up and we will leave port in about 30 minutes.  The sun will not set here tonight until after 11 pm and it will rise again by 3 or 3:30.  We are very far south here in Patagonia.  Tomorrow Ushuaia.

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arzz thank you for taking the time to write this post, most enjoyable and brings back fond memories. I love the way you write😁

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SKP946:

Thank you so much for describing and showing on pictures the arrangement for getting in and out of zodiaks.  I did not know that they offer little stairs, ( at least part of the time), or that they “lift” you into it.

In my current state of health, I absolutely could do this! So I better hurry up and book before that changes!

 

Arzz:  I am following your blog with great interest, love it!

I had similar thoughts to yours about the sheep when we watched sheep-sheering demonstrations in New Zealand  on an SS cruise, and then ate lamb.

 

I can relate to the closet problem😮

 

A few non-scenery ambience questions, if you get time ( and internet).

 

1. On SB non-expedition ships one can order caviar whenever one wants ( I had done this on two occasions on the Odyssey recently when a craving for salty fish eggs struck me for some reason) and have it not just on SB designated special days when people line up. Though I would not be going to Antarctica to eat caviar, or for cuisine, I am curious if you can also do that on this expedition in case the need comes on.

 

2. As for your statement that no one cares about what kind of chocolate is on the pillows, many pax such as sweetoholic DH absolutely do!  It sounds like the same flavors we had recently on the Odyssey.  He inspected the flavors nightly. We took most of them home to munch on in stages.

 

3. Is there any music in the evening? I realize there are no shows, just wonder if anyone plays piano a little, or sings,  or if there is no time for anyone to listen, as you are so busy listening to lectures and preparing for the next day’s excursion.

 

4. What is your best guestimate of pax ages?  

 

5. Does anyone have intrusive selfie sticks with them that block views of other pax, or are most fellow pax more civil,  and rotate their choice view spots?

 

6. Is anyone actually swimming or using the pool?

 

I hope you have wonderful weather, and look forward to more posts.

 

 

 

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Catlover54, I believe they now have a small portable “dock” with a handrail that they put on the waters edge.

As to your other questions, (which I am sure arzz  will answer in due course)  Antarctica has all the extra “goodies” of all the Seabourn cruises that we’ve been on (19 at last count) including shows, pianist, a band and singers; also Caviar at any time (on request) plus they come around the decks with trays of hot drinks and little pots of Coq au vin, hot soup, waffles and other delights.

 

I swam every day in the main pool on Deck 8 that was  kept at a rather warm 26c (80f) and the Spa’s were heated to the usual 38c (100f). Some mornings when the decks were thick with ice the poolside showers were frozen up.

 

We also had the “Officers on Deck” in the snow.

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12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

SKP946:

Thank you so much for describing and showing on pictures the arrangement for getting in and out of zodiaks.  I did not know that they offer little stairs, ( at least part of the time), or that they “lift” you into it.

In my current state of health, I absolutely could do this! So I better hurry up and book before that changes!

 

Arzz:  I am following your blog with great interest, love it!

I had similar thoughts to yours about the sheep when we watched sheep-sheering demonstrations in New Zealand  on an SS cruise, and then ate lamb.

 

I can relate to the closet problem😮

 

A few non-scenery ambience questions, if you get time ( and internet).

 

1. On SB non-expedition ships one can order caviar whenever one wants ( I had done this on two occasions on the Odyssey recently when a craving for salty fish eggs struck me for some reason) and have it not just on SB designated special days when people line up. Though I would not be going to Antarctica to eat caviar, or for cuisine, I am curious if you can also do that on this expedition in case the need comes on.

It is my understanding that you can do this. I do not love caviar enough to try.

12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

 

2. As for your statement that no one cares about what kind of chocolate is on the pillows, many pax such as sweetoholic DH absolutely do!  It sounds like the same flavors we had recently on the Odyssey.  He inspected the flavors nightly. We took most of them home to munch on in stages.

Last night was a formal night and instead of the wrapped chocolates they delivered hand dipped chocolates. 

12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

 

3. Is there any music in the evening? I realize there are no shows, just wonder if anyone plays piano a little, or sings,  or if there is no time for anyone to listen, as you are so busy listening to lectures and preparing for the next day’s excursion.

Yes there is music.  Most nights there are after dinner “grooves” with the trio in the Club and at 11 pm Sophie sings with the band in the Club. There is also pre-dinner piano with Deborah in the observation bar, and pre-dinner music with the trio in the Club. 

12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

4. What is your best guestimate of pax ages?  

Hard to say - median around 60 to 65 (only guessing here) with many above and below this limit. This is definitely not a “rollator” cruise.

12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

5. Does anyone have intrusive selfie sticks with them that block views of other pax, or are most fellow pax more civil,  and rotate their choice view spots?

Not seen that yet - everyone we have met is very nice and polite.  The views just from our port side cabin have been spectacular. 

12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

6. Is anyone actually swimming or using the pool?

There always seems to be a crowd around the pool - cannot say if anyone is using it

12 hours ago, Catlover54 said:

 

I hope you have wonderful weather, and look forward to more posts.

 

 

 

 

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January 20,2019. Ushuaia, Argentina

 

When we left port yesterday evening the Captain warned us that between about 2:30 am and 4:30 am we would duck out of Chilean Fjords and cruise in the open ocean.  At that time the winds were very high - producing not only white caps in the water across the Fjords but actual bursts of ocean spray.  As such the Captain warned us to secure small items before retiring for the night.  We were dutiful passengers and tucked away whatever made sense - then, we hardly noticed any ocean swells.  At one point I awoke briefly and was aware that the swells that were encountering were the longer, slower type of swell that we get in open water but they were not large at all.  Thus, the unpredictability of life in and near the Antarctic.

 

Last night was a bit of a puzzler for me.  We were in port until 6 pm but the ship powers that be scheduled the Seabourn repeaters cocktail reception at 6:15 followed by a formal dinner.  Certainly Castro, a port we left at 3 pm might have been more appropriate if not a sea day - but I am not privy to all that goes into making these decisions - I only live with them.

 

After our 6.5 hour excursion we decided to skip the cocktail reception and dine at the Colonnade - after all it was French dinner up there and we didn’t have to dress.  Up at the Colonnade we were at first confused to find many diners wearing their formal gear - but formal was not a requirement.  I guess they just preferred the French night menu to the dining room selections.

 

After dinner we returned to our suite to find our Antarctica arm bands and we now know that our group color is “blue”.  The armbands are to be worn when we go ashore in Antarctica and they have a plastic colorless windowed compartment into which we are to insert our key cards so that we can be scanned on and off the ship while retaining the use of both hands.

 

This morning, beginning at about 8 am we have had some incredible wall paper outside our windows.  It started with “Glacier Alley”, which at first was clouded over and mist filled (rain) so that there was not much to see.  Soon it cleared and we passed the blue ice faces of some incredible craggy glaciers that stretched from mountain peak down towards or into the ocean.  Since then the sun came out for a couple of hours as we passed sharply defined black peaks with snowy tops, stone faced mountains and green hills.  When they are in the distance and black with snow on top it is difficult to know if we are passing glaciers or mountains.  Does it matter?  It is all so stunning and we are so close to the real majesty of nature.

 

Of course, this morning, Seabourn scheduled attendance required meetings for those wishing to go ashore in Antarctica.  First meeting at 9:30 am, second meeting around 11 am.  Of course the blue group was with the first meeting, while we were still passing the blue ice glaciers ... sadly we went to the meeting anyway.  We were given a lot of information which I may share during our sea day tomorrow along with a description of all the paraphernalia we need for this cruise.

 

We will be in Ushuaia in mid afternoon - and since it stays light until quite late, our shore excursion doesn’t leave until 3:45.  

 

Back from the shore excursion and dinner - we have left Ushuaia and are headed for the Drake Passage.  The Captain expects 10 foot seas.  More tomorrow.

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January 21, 2019 Ushuaia and the Drake Lake

In describing our trip to the ranch in Punta Arenas I forgot to include two tidbits that I will add now so that I will not forget them.

 

While the dog was herding the sheep across the field, at the far end of the field a very large hare ran across the grass.  To me it appeared to be large enough to be Jimmy Stewart’s pukka, Harvey, from the old movie but DH says I am exaggerating.

 

Last, while finishing our barbecue lunch we saw condors fly across the sky.

Yesterday, actually, was my third time in Ushuaia.  The first two were on our 2007 Antarctic trip.  If you would like to know why we went twice in 2007 I refer you to my 2007 blog:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/454117-live-from-prinsendam-grand-sa/

 

The Quest docked early at the Ushuaia pier. The skies were sunny, the town of Ushuaia looked colorful and charming from our view on deck. Today's tour was the train to the end of the world or the Estacion Fin del Mundo.  Before we went to the train we were deposited at the Prison Museum, an only vaguely interesting stop that personally, we could have done without.  

 

The old prison has several wings filled with tiny concrete cells that have been decorated with various museum exhibits.  One tier is an art gallery.  We had close to an hour there.

 

On to the train station where we were fed empanadas, pastries, hot chocolate, and coffee.  Then it was time to board the narrow gauge train that was built by the prisoners that used to occupy the halls and cubbies of what is now the museum.  The prisoners built the train line so that they could train into the forest (now the Tierra del Fuego National Park) and log the trees for use as fuel for the prison and Ushuaia’s electric power plant.  

 

In its day the prison was an ugly place and the last lifetime stop for many of its inmates.  They were treated so poorly that many preferred to be assigned logging duty where they spent long days chopping down and chopping up trees in the cold and often snowy forest to staying in their cells at the prison.

 

The forest along the track is interesting as it has many trees, but between the trees are the jagged grey stumps of hundreds of trees felled by the prison inmates.  The train itself is a very narrow gauge and it is pulled by a small steam engine locomotive that gets its power to produce steam from liquid fuel.

 

As we passed through the forest we traveled next to the Pipo River and saw wild horses in addition to lichen or moss covered trees.  The day was sunny and the trip was bucolic.  Off the train we reboarded the buses for a scenic stop at a beach and then back to the Quest.

 

Today we are at sea in the “Drake Lake”.  I will post again later with details of today’s obligations.  Going ashore in Antarctica is neither simple or straightforward.

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Antarctic Obligations

As I said in my last post, going to Antarctica is neither simple or straightforward.

 

First, there is a lot of new vocabulary - sometimes it is a new definition for an old term such as:

 

Bi-polar:  Someone down here who is bipolar studies both the Arctic and the Antarctic

 

Then there is the requisite clothing, or shall I say the hidden financial investment in an Antarctic cruise.  In order to leave the ship in Antarctic waters and go forth on the zodiacs you need to be dressed properly - this includes wearing:

 

Base layer - that which is worn next to the skin and sings in very low tones

 

Mid-Layer - that which is worn over the base layer and under the outer layer - sort of like the filling in an Oreo

 

Outer Layer - on this cruise we were gifted with Parkas for our outer layer.  Even the Parkas aren’t simple - they consist of an inner outer layer of a puffy jacket that is the insulated liner to the outer outer layer of the Parka - an orange plastic coat that is waterproof and designed to distinguish a Seabourn cruise passenger from a penguin at great distances.  How you could distinguish one of our waiters from a penguin at a great distance is unknown.

 

Waterproof pants and boots - are worn over the base and mid layers on the bottom half of your body - the pants wrap around your waterproof boots and are intended to keep you waterproof when stepping out of the zodiacs and into the Antarctic waters

 

Boots - usually rented through the cruise line - that are insulated and tall enough to keep you dry when you land on the zodiac in shallow water.  It is suggested that you rent the boots as you may not wish to take yours home with you after they have encountered penguin poop - the odor lingers - note to self:  don’t fall in penguin poop

 

On top of all this you need to also wear a life jacket.  These are a somewhat heavy horse-shoe shaped apparatus that you wear over all your layers and around your neck.  They contain CO2 cylinders that will automatically deploy if you become wet.

 

And, don’t forget hats, waterproof gloves, glove liners, balaclavas, and neck gaiters

 

We understand, from a waiter on board who knows, that you will not be completely waterproof if in fact you slip off the zodiac and into the water during a landing.  You will then be very cold.

 

Now - on to accessories:

 

Back packs - Seabourn has thoughtfully provided each of us with a light weight back pack in which we can store whatever we want to have ashore with us, like cameras, binoculars, our formal clothing or surf board wax.

 

Walking sticks - which can be rented (like the boots) for keeping upright while navigating ice and snow covered trails or for keeping your husband or amorous penguins at a safe distance.

 

You also might want a sealable waterproof bag, hand and foot warmers, sun glasses and don’t forget to coat your exposed parts with sun screen

 

When all this is assembled you will feel like a kindergartener on their way out to the first snowfall of the year.

 

OK - Now on to the Rules

 

Delivered as sort of an “information storm” to our suites in folders, there are no less than ten pages, each printed on both sides of rules and guidelines for Antarctic behavior.  In case we had not properly read the information we attended a required meeting yesterday (yes, they took attendance) where they went through all of the do’s and don’t’s for landing in the Antarctic.

 

Now, this morning, we have had to report for a Bio Security Check - the name alone brings up all sorts of images of ... well, do I need to be specific?  Turns out all they need to do is to check any outer clothing, boots, walking sticks, etc that have been used anywhere else in the world for seeds or other items that would contaminate the Antarctic biosphere - if necessary these items might need to be disinfected.  Attendance was taken.

 

This afternoon we have a “boot exchange” scheduled in case the rented boots do not fit right, and then we will store them in the boot lockers.

 

This evening we have another briefing from the Antarctic team where they will outline where we are going and what we will be doing.

 

And we thought that this might be a restful sea day.  We are definitely kept busy this cruise.

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Arzz, I laughed out loud reading post 17, especially the “bipolar”, walking stick and Biosecurity sections!

 

Six years ago DH and I were in Ushuia on a South America cruise, and I did the prison train you did while he did an off road bumpy ride in the rain to a squatters’ colony and ate steak prepared by the local entrepreneurs.  He definitely got the better part of the deal, as I had the same impression you did about the train excursion.

 

Keep it coming, and watch out for the penguin poop.

 

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Arzz, thank you again. When I went to Antarctica with Silver Explorer I allowed myself 45 minutes to put on all the gear!

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Jan 22,2019. Yankee Harbor, Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands

We awoke this morning to Antarctica.  The ship was off the coast of Yankee Harbor, the sky was sunny, the sea was calm.  Absolutely perfect.

 

It should be noted that our cruise yesterday through the Drake Passage was not, according to the Captain, strictly speaking Drake Lake as we did have some swells and some motion - but it was very slight and every time I checked the “date and time channel” our speed was posted as something just under 19 knots.

 

Our view from the port side was of a black beach and a glacier like pile of ice (or snow?) rising up from the beach several feet high.  We were assigned blue group which was to leave about 11 am.  Turns out for the early groups there were quite a few chunks of ice in the water so the passage on the zodiacs to and from the island took a little longer than ideal, and by the end of the day the last group was called about 45 minutes after their scheduled time.  Jan, however, kept everyone well informed on the intercom so that folks were not all suited up and roasting for an extra 45 minutes.

 

Unfortunately I have developed a sinus infection these past couple of days and was not quite up to landing, but DH suited up in all his layers and like an astronaut in a space suit designed for extravehicular space walk, he was able to amble down to the boot lockers on deck 5 and then into the zodiacs.

 

DH said the process was very easy, lots of help and small steps for getting in and out.  The center bottom of the zodiac is lined with wood so that moving around feels more stable.  He said the ride out to the Yankee Harbor landing site was about 5 to10 minutes.  We were told today that there would be no snow or ice on our path - and there wasn’t any.  It was, however, a rocky path and some care needed to be taken not to turn an ankle.  But there were sure a whole lot of gentoo penguins.  In addition there were some seals - the number of seals that were viewed varied according to time of day and the person reporting.

 

Later in the afternoon we decided to enjoy one of our favorite cruise ship pass times, afternoon tea.  So we proceeded up to deck ten forward (Star Trek reference intended - others call this space the Observation Lounge).  Surrounded by windows out to Antarctica (which was showing rather misty at 4 pm), Deborah on the piano, we sipped hot tea, munched on finger sandwiches and scones with jam and cream.  We also enjoyed animated conversation with our ship mates.

 

At 6:30 there was the daily briefing and recap of events, discussion of plans for tomorrow, and a few short informative lectures by members of our Antarctic team.  Today we learned about try pots (otherwise known as large cauldrons which are 200 years old that were used to render down the fat from elephant seals captured and killed during a thriving period of elephant seal hunting), icebergs and fur seals.  

 

At about 9 pm tonight we passed by iceberg A 57A that is about 26 km (approx 16 miles) long and about 50 feet of it sticks out above the water. We were both impressed and humbled as the Captain appeared to bring the ship quite close - though considering the size of the beast I am sure it appeared closer to us than it actually was. 

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Thank you arzz, you are very descriptive with your writing.

Take care with your sinus infection, I am prone to them now (as I age) saline spray helps and there is a product called Fess Frequent Flyer that is brilliant. It might be best to see the Doc ASAP and get some antibiotics to be rid of it quickly.

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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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arzz - I am very much enjoying your highly descriptive writing.  Seems like everything is in your favour at the moment - calm seas, sunshine, the best you can wish for down there.  I'm off into Ecuadorian Amazonia today and will catch up on your trip in a week's time. Keep up the good work!

 

PS - we too saw penguins yesterday, in Peru.

 

 

Edited by Fletcher

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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.

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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.

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