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Stow Away with Bill & Mary Ann for 181 days on Amsterdam's So. Pacific & 2020 WC

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Report # 76   Day at Sea   January 21, 2020   Tuesday   Partly sunny & 78 degrees  Part # 1 of 1


Our typical day at sea always begins with a fun breakfast in the dining room.  The best part of the meal has to be the numerous cups of  coffee we manage to consume.  Secretly, we think our waiters are counting how many cups we can drink in an hour and a half.  And we get chastised if we accept coffee from the roaming waiters serving it.  If we have too many grounds in the bottom of the cups, Gan swears it is our fault for “cheating” on him.  Between Gan and Danu, they make sure our food is just right.  Yes, sometimes the portions are double, but he blames the chefs on that.  Just kidding, of course.  Anyway, we always start the day with a smile.  The greeter, Josephine, never fails to welcome us, and says have a good day when we leave.  How good is that?


Even better, once we went out the door to the promenade deck, we noticed a change in the temperature and the humidity, or the lack of it.  Traveling further south down the east coast of South America, we are entering a more tolerable zone.  Perfect weather for the back pool, which was where we headed after our walk.


It is really nice not to feel the need to rush back there in order to get a space at the back of the deck.  Practically no one was there today.  Perhaps the lecture on Sir Francis Drake, delivered by Charles McClelland, had the folks entertained at 10am or the demo with guest chef Leticia enticed some to attend her lecture at 11am.  The 2pm lecture took in the ports of Punta del Este, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo.  Always good info there.  But we can catch it on TV later.  And HAL Chorale met today in the Piano Bar, much to the appreciation of the singers among us.


We kept lunch light, because we had an invitation to a special event, Tapas Wine ‘n Talks Party held in the Explorer’s Lounge from 6:30 to 7:30pm, exclusively for the President’s Club members.  The receiving line found Captain Jonathon, Henk, and Hamish welcoming every one of us.  New inductees, Linda and Dave, made it into President’s Club today, and they were welcomed into the party.   We have a favorite gathering place, which happens to be a stand up table near the bar set-up.  Barb was already there, saving our places.  Then Susie, Sue, Don, and Karleen came.  A bit later, Karen walked in and stopped with us, while Shiv strolled by, as did Henk and Bruce.   Bruce works behind the scenes now, so we do not see him during the day.  But it is great to chat with him at these small affairs. And he did inform us that we can find a copy of the crossword puzzle at the front desk every day.  Eventually Captain Jonathon had to come and see what we were all talking about, which was a little bit of everything.  The food was pretty nice with spoon-size servings of lobster with caviar, parma ham wrapped on a bread stick, a frittata canopy, an empanada filled with corn and artichoke hearts, and grilled shrimp.  But the best had to be the grilled slices of chorizo sausage.  Together with the drinks of our choice, we could have made this dinner.


But of course, there was fish and chips on the menu tonight, so we could not miss that.  In fact five of us ordered the fish, while the fellows ordered the chicken pot pie.  Turned out these were the top two entrees served this evening.  Philip calls it comfort food, or something close to it, like good old fashioned cuisine.  Worked for us.


Greg and Heo set off for the show, which featured Andrea Amat, a virtuoso de Valencia, or a touch of Spain with audio-visual effects.  What that all means, we sure don’t know, but the guys will tell us tomorrow.


Sure hope tomorrow is like today, as it was almost perfect.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Sounds like you had a wonderful sea day.  Glad you lost the humidity so that you could enjoy the aft pool.  The appetizers sound yummy at your party.


Loved the Rio pictures -- brings back memories.

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Report # 77   Day at Sea   January 22, 2020   Wednesday   Partly sunny & 78 degrees   Part # 1 of 1


Another lovely day at sea greeted us this morning.  Smooth seas, following breeze, and plenty of sun….what more can you ask for?  As we continue on our south-westerly journey, we know that cooler temps await us, especially when we reach Antarctica.  So we have to take advantage of the warmth of the sun for as long as we can.   


The next three ports coming up were covered in yesterday’s talk, so we tried to catch up on those during the afternoon on TV.  Every time we turned on the station, it was on the wrong lecture.  We always ended up at the end of the Montevideo lecture.  The port that is new to us is Punta del Este, Uruguay.  Reading the port guide gave us an insight into what is there, and it sure sounded nice.  We would learn more from first hand experiences of Greg and Heo, who had visited there not too long ago on another trip.   It will be a tender port with a 1 ½ mile long ride to shore.  But according to Captain Jonathon, we will have three of our tenders in the water, as well as three from shore.  Good thing, since the time we have there will be rather short with the last tender leaving town at 2:30pm. 


A couple of other lectures today dealt with nature, in particular plants that spread naturally and public gardens that grow more native plants.  Wish these were repeated on TV as well, but we have not located them as of yet.


Culture lectures dealt with consequences of Columbus’ voyage in 1492 and the saga of Earnest Shackleton.  This is perfect timing to prepare us for the incredible journey to the bottom of the earth so to speak.


It has been a week or so since we spent time listening to the Ocean Quartet, so we took our seats and waited for them to begin.  Except no one was there at 6:30pm.  Strangely enough, their time slot has been adjusted to 7pm.  The dance floor filled immediately with guests that knew every dance step the band played.  Sure fun to watch.


We went to the beginning of the show to listen to Lindsay Hamilton, a British singer who sounded so much like Shirley Bassi, we had to look twice.  We had heard many positive comments on her performance, so we had to check her out.


Dinner was fun as usual.  Not all of the entrees were hits, however.  The beef stroganoff was not exactly to Barb and Heo’s liking, and the parmesan-crusted chicken was different from what was served last year. The rainbow trout entrée was a hit.  But we also shared an appetizer sized portion of the lasagna, finding it much improved.  And the fun for the evening was a question from Susie, who asked dining room manager, Presty, if salmon and trout were in the same family.   None of us knew (except Susie) , so Presty called Philip, who must have googled it.  Within 10 minutes, Presty came back to our table with a printed page saying Susie was right in saying the fish were in the same family.  Who knew?  Susie did.  And now all of us know this fact.


Looking forward to the new port tomorrow.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report #78   Punta del Este, Uruguay   January 23, 2020   Thursday   Sunny & 84 degrees     Part #1 Of 4   80  Pictures


The more we studied the ship’s map of Punta del Este, Uruguay, we began remembering some of the highlights there.  That’s when we realized we had visited here back in 2003, when we circumnavigated South America with Radisson Cruise Line, now Regent.  It was the iconic monument of the concrete fingers emerging from the sands on one of the beaches that jogged our memories.  At that time, our stop was brief, and we had taken a site-seeing bus tour.  So today, we will see everything up close and personal while we hike the town.


The Amsterdam dropped her anchors nice and early, around 7am, at which time tender tickets were handed out in the Ocean Bar.  Although we knew that most shops and restaurants did not open up until 10am, we decided to skip breakfast, and get on the first tender boat.  Today, both platforms on the port side were being used, and we would have three of our boats, and also two of the local tender boats.  Not three as stated yesterday.  Loading from the aft platform, we had the luck to get on the first local boat, which was very easy to access.  They were designed for other uses, as we had bench seats with some tables.  In the forward section, there was a mini-bar, refrigerator, and even a microwave.  Above our heads, were a few fishing poles.  So the amount of passengers they could transport for the 20 minute ride was limited, although they were able to accommodate several walkers and even scooters.


Coming into the seaport of the town, we saw a most beautiful yacht harbor, filled with some pretty nice boats of many sizes.  As we neared the end of this marina, we could see the fish market and at least one of the sea lions swimming around the boats.  There is one famous resident sea lion by the name of Ronaldo, who hangs around this market for free handouts.  In fact, there is an island called Isla de Lobos, 6 miles off of the coast, where the largest non-migratory sea lions reside.  It was said that it is the largest colony in the Americas.


Here is a bit of info on this city in Uruguay.  It is an area full of sparkling white sandy beaches with exclusive shopping and culinary delights.  The population is 14,000 residents, but during the summer season, that number increases to 140,000.  Vacationers called holiday-makers, families, and beautiful people come from neighboring countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.  The coastline is full of modern towers of condos and apartments and upscale resorts.  And there are more being constructed.  Of course, along with that, comes the restaurants, casinos, bars, and nightclubs.  As for the beaches, there are many on the Atlantic side, but also miles of beach lines the Rio de la Plata River on the opposite side.  Every water sport you can imagine is available here too.


And it is not cheap here.  It is reported that Punta del Este is one of the most expensive cities in South America.  The rate of exchange was 37 Uruguayan pesos to $1 USD.  And once again, the ship did not sell the money, stating that many places would accept US dollars and credit cards naturally.


So once we got off of the tender boat, we discovered that the information center folks were not there to hand out local maps.  The ship’s port guide was quite limited, and not exactly correct.  So we headed right, as did many other walkers we know, to walk around the perimeter of the peninsula to the Atlantic Ocean side.  It was a long hike, but the scenery was beautiful.  The skies were blue, with few traces of clouds, and the breeze was strong, keeping us cool for a while.  Many locals were walking their dogs, or biking, and jogging on this pedestrian walkway.  We noticed it was clean as a whistle……no garbage anywhere.  And the bonus was numerous sightings of sea birds.


Spotting the lighthouse close to the port, we decided to hike up there on the way back.  Passing two monuments of an anchor, and a sculpture of a shrine of Senora de la Candelaria, we finally came upon the Paseo de las Americas and the giant hand sculpture called La Mano, created in 1982.  Truthfully, all you can see are the fingers coming out of the sand.  It is dedicated to those who had drowned in these waters on this Atlantic beach over the years.  We read that there are similar pieces of art like this in Madrid, Venice, and of all places, the Atacama Desert in Chile.  Bus after bus of tourists arrived as we were taking photos.  Lucky for us, Ron and his daughter came over to talk to us, and they had an extra map that had been handed to them at the pier.  They offered to give us one, and we kindly thanked them, as now, we will know what path to follow to see all of the icons.


Did we mention there was another ship that sailed in right after we dropped anchor?  It was another MSC ship by the name of Fantasia.  She is a big one, or at least much larger than us, with 133,500 gross tons.   It debuted in 2008 and holds about 3274 passengers, with a crew of 1600.  A sister ship came out in 2009 and is named Splendida.  We believe we have seen that ship last year while in Europe.  They were tendering to another pier, about a mile up the beach.


Crossing the street, we followed the map to another sculpture called Tribute to the 100 years of Punta del Este.  A totem pole was also erected nearby, which was different for this area.  More interesting was a small museum with sculptures created with metal parts and pieces, such as nuts and bolts.  The large pieces outside were a horse, a “terminator” and a motorcycle skeleton.  Modern art we think.


Even though it was only 10:30am, we went in search of an early lunch in the nearby main avenue with shopping, restaurants, banks, casinos, bars and galleries.  Dozens of suitable cafes advertised pizza and beer, as well as burgers and steaks.  Most would not open until noontime, but we did find one opened by the name of Il Mondo delle Pizza.  The nicest waiter, who spoke mainly Spanish, welcomed us, and handed us menus.  There were over 20 types of pizza made here, and we settled on a medium Napolitano with parma ham, cheese, and garlic.  The Spanish word for garlic was not one we had seen before, and trying to ask what it meant was rather funny.  Since out waiter spoke no English, he motioned that it was something “hot”, pointing to his tongue.  Not wanting to chance something odd, we said no to the hot stuff.  He left the table, and came back with the word “garlic”.  And we said yes to that.   And we said yes to two Corona beers.  Beer at 10:30am?  You bet, and since we missed breakfast, we were both hungry and thirsty.  And it was soooo good.  They really know how to make pizza here.  Being that we missed our fruit and yogurt for breakfast, we substituted a banana split to share…..pretty close to the same ingredients, right?  Our waiter was happy to see we were taking photos of each course, and even shook our hands before we left.  See, we don’t need a common language to communicate do we?   


Needless to say, it was hard to leave this nice spot, but the last tender was 2:30pm, and we did not want to be stuck in a long line.  On the way back across this peninsula, we checked out the Plaza General Artigas, an artisan market with handmade crafts and souvenirs.  But we only found two vendors in there, since it really is a weekend event.  Many folks were doing some shopping in the department stores and boutiques, but we saw nothing we really needed.  Much of the merchandise was geared to beach things, as this is their big activity here.


Walking the waterfront on the river side, we made our way back towards the pier.  But before we went back, we wanted to visit the Lighthouse, which was erected in 1860 with the parts brought from France, and assembled here.  On the way uphill, we ran into Greg and Heo, who were also going there.  It is 45 meters high, works on electricity, and has guided navigation in the Atlantic Ocean and The River Plate for many years. 


Situated near the lighthouse was the parish church by the name of lglesia de la Candelara, a pretty Catholic Church built in 1911.  Many locals as well as several busloads of ship guests were busy snapping photos of this picturesque sight. 


Back down to the busy port and marina area, we boarded a waiting local tender for the ride back to the Amsterdam.  Last to board, we were invited to sit on the bow of the boat, which we loved.  The driver was careful not to get us splashed with water as he carefully navigated the long ride back.  Probably would have felt good.


Off-loading was taking longer, and holding up the process were the large number of walkers and scooters that were on the back of the tender.  These local boats were much better suited for the handicapped guests.  There must have been one dozen of these contraptions, which took longer for all to disembark.  The good news was that there was minimal swell, and the transfer was easy.


The sail away festivities were on time at 2:30pm, however, due to late tours, we did not leave the area until an hour or more later.  A powerful wind was blowing by then, as the Captain and pilot took the ship 20 miles out from shore to maneuver it into the deeper channel of the river.  While we were at anchor, the depth of the water was a mere 6 to 7 feet, made apparent when the azipods kicked up the mud on the bottom. 


We will be heading up the River Plate during the evening all the way to Buenos Aires, our next port, a most famous one for sure. 


Our tablemates had been busy while in Punta del Este.  Barb and Susie had a lunch date with Ellen, while Woody held down the fort onboard.  Greg and Heo had explored the town like we did, and for sure, everyone was worn out, except Woody.  Our entrees were one barramundi, a fresh water fish, commonly served in Australia.  Very, very good.  But the thinly sliced lamb chops were OK, but barely there.  Best to save this popular dish for the Pinnacle Grill.


Looking forward to Buenos Aires tomorrow.  It has been eight years since we were here last, but always a challenge to explore.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 79   Buenos Aires, Argentina   January 24, 2020   Friday   Mostly sunny & 89 degrees   Part # 1 of 4   80 Pictures


Buenos Aires dates back to 1526 when Spanish explorers landed here when navigating the River Plata from the South Atlantic Ocean.  By 1776, this city became the capital of the new Viceroyalty of the River Plata.  Today the sprawling city is full of modern day skyscrapers mixed with impressive colonial buildings from the past.  Outside the city limits, you will find prairies and fertile valleys still run by gauchos, or the Argentinian cowboys that ride in the pampas.   


Since these ports have come so close together, we have not had the time to catch up on the port talks to pass on the current statistics on the city.  All we can add is that this is a massive city, and as in all cities of this size, there will be crowds and traffic.  Extremely difficult to be able to see even a fraction of the sites in one day.  Usually we have two days here, but we guess it did not work into the planning. 


Most of the tours we took over the years are still being done.  The ship’s excursions included site-seeing in the heart of the city, visits to museums, theaters, and a famous cemetery.  One special tour took folks to see a private tango show with or without lunch.  We did a dinner show the last time we visited here, and is was thrilling.  A few out of town excursions took the folks to see the gauchos with lunch, or go horseback riding with a lunch.  Wonder if anyone did that last one?


Our day began with a load of well-wishing cards from wonderful friends onboard for the one of us that happens to have a birthday today.  The card from the Captain even contained a chocolate candy bar.  Then at breakfast, a package awaited with a most special card from Susie and Woody.  Susie is an artist, and paints with water colors.  The card she created was a colorful zebra, which took hours to paint for sure.  Knowing that I love the silky tunics, they gifted me one from Brazil.  How sweet.  And a wonderful way to start the day.  All of the waiters we know and Asep came over to wish the birthday girl a special day.   


So, we have never had the chance to go off on our own to explore.  Making it easier, but mandatory, everyone had to take a transfer shuttle to the port gate.  From there, we boarded very nice buses took the passengers to Florida Street and Plaza San Martin.  Calle Florida is an elegant pedestrian shopping street.  The bus dropped us off near the Plaza, then we walked down to the beginning of the pedestrian-only avenue, which was lined with all types of shops….expensive and affordable.  Right in the middle of this avenue was the fairly new Galerias Pacifico, a three level indoor mall with high end boutiques and shops.  And nice restrooms.  Besides walking past the shops, we did use the restrooms.


Not really shopping for anything, we did come across a mini-mall, and for no good reason, walked down one side.  There were a series of tiny shops selling souvenir-type items like we saw being sold in the cruise terminal.  One shop by the name of Oriana & Madison Co. was selling very nice clothing that included suede cloth.  The poncho-style jackets were designed with famous paintings on the front such as Rembrandt, Dali, Monet, and even a young American lady.  The prices ranged from 2500 to 4000 Argentinian pesos.  But when converted to the US dollars, which they did accept, the vendor used 70 to the 1 US dollar.  Our port card had listed the exchange at 59 to the dollar.  So this was even better, with the one we chose by the American artist costing about $32.  Good deal and a perfect birthday gift.  The next shop was selling leather purses of all sizes and colors, so we did buy two of the smaller ones that will match recent purchases, including this one. 


The time was zooming by too fast and we knew if we wanted to find a place for lunch, we needed to move on.  The shuttle buses were running every half hour from the port to the mall and back again.  So by the time we got there, we missed the bus by 2 minutes.  Which was good, because that gave us a chance to stroll Plaza San Martin right across the street.  In the center of this spacious elevated square is the statue of Argentina’s national hero and liberator, General San Martin on horseback.  This forested knoll was once used as a bullring, but is surrounded by giant architectural buildings today.  The shade created by the massive old growth trees provides much needed shade in this jungle of concrete.


Back to the coach, we went back to the cruise terminal, arriving about 1:40pm.  Earlier, we had been handed two vouchers for free beers at one of our favorite restaurants, the Hard Rock Café.  We were surprised to see a kiosk set up in the terminal selling their t-shirts and souvenirs.    There was one located in the Recoleta district, and also a newer one a bit closer in the Puerto Madero area.  The vendor indicated that the walk to the Puerto Madero area was 10 minutes.  So we chose to walk there.  He was off by 30 minutes, as it took more like 40 minutes to find it. 


We never felt it was dangerous to walk in this area, since we were passing a well- guarded port area, as well as a military complex.  Thank goodness for a detailed map, we found the right streets that took us to this really nice area of the river channels.  Now all we had to do was locate this café among the dozens that lined the estuary.  We had already crossed over the bridge that led to the opposite side of the water, before we realized we needed to go back.  But suddenly bells began ringing, and we noticed that the side street was blocked like on a railroad crossing.  The bridge was in the process of swinging in order to let a fishing boat go out to the river.  Fun to watch, but we did lose 15 minutes waiting for the bridge to go back. 


OK, we were on the right track, but could not spot the Hard Rock signage on the series of restaurants.  Walking down the street, one of us spotted a young lady carrying a bag from the Hard Rock, so we asked her where it was.  She laughed and indicated it was 1/2 block up the street.  We thanked her and found it… good thing, we did need to re-hydrate soon, since it was plenty hot outside today.   Those beers were sounding better by the  minute.


Seated immediately, we ordered a bacon cheeseburger to share, and two local draft beers.  Both really good, and not very expensive.  They were happy to take credit cards or cash, which included the US dollars.  Using the credit card will more than likely get us the best rate, and it worked.  Then we paid a visit to  their Rock Shop, choosing two t-shirts.  But the same card would not clear.  They tried it twice, but no luck.   Guess we attempted the purchase too close together, and the company takes the precaution of a temporary block.  The vendor said this was happening all day in the restaurant and store.  Not wanting to wait, we paid in US dollars.  And pricing on their city t’s had to be the least we have paid compared to ones we bought in Oslo or Copenhagen, for instance. 


All aboard was 5:30pm, and now it was after 4pm.  Thinking the last bus back to the pier was 4pm, we walked back to the dock.  Why is it that the distance seemed half as long when we hiked back?  The only bothersome element with this walk was the heat.  Once we cleared the metal fencing along the road, the breeze helped to cool us off. 


Back at the cruise terminal, people were shopping big time now.  By the way, today is the end and beginning of another segment, so many guests knew from experience, that they could purchase one bottle of wine to bring onboard without paying the corkage fee.  While checking the extensive stock, we could not help but hear one lady asking fellow guests if they would carry one bottle onboard for her.  Must have been the $10 price for each bottle quite tempting to break the rules.  Don’t know if she was successful.  Of course, we checked out the leather purses, to find they were much more expensive here.


The shuttle back through the dock area was jammed full of guests, who were happy to be back onboard, as were we.  There was no organized sail away today, mostly because it would have interfered with dinner time in both the dining room and the Lido.  After 6pm, many people still came outside to watch us back up, flip around, and head out into the murky river.  Sure reminded us of being on the Amazon River.   We will go back down this river to Montevideo, Uruguay, our port for tomorrow.


Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, our first visit there on this cruise.  Most of the wait staff was still there from the Tales of the South Pacific, with the exception of the manager and wine steward.  Tina is back, replacing Arlin, and Oliver came back as the wine steward.  The waiters remembered exactly what we had ordered on the previous trip, and brought us the same this time.  The wedge salads have been reduced in size, but served on a much smaller plate.  This s a good thing, because this particular salad can double as an entrée.  We always add the clothesline bacon, served right on our salad plates.  So tasty, but filling.  Our entrees were one 7 ounce filet, and one serving of the halibut.  This time the fish was cooked perfectly, moist and tasty.  The steak was as tender as always, but a bit overdone.  Better than too rare.  Desserts of key lime pie, smooth as silk, and one scoop of Cherry Garcia ice cream finished our excellent meal. 


We worked on photos and reports until late.  Also, we had asked for a better TV, since our old one was really getting bad.  It seems that there has been a problem with the signal, and everyone’s sets were flipping.  According to Henk, some parts should be delivered tomorrow to fix the problem.  Better news, is that all of the TV’s will be replaced during the upcoming dry dock in May.  That will be most welcomed.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 80   Montevideo, Uruguay   January 25, 2020   Saturday   Partly cloudy & 76 degrees   Part # 1 of 4   80 Pictures


Well, here we are once again in the country of Uruguay, but in a different city.  Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America with a total population of 3 million residents.  Considered the most European of the South America countries, it is a place where many folks came from Spain, Portugal, and Italy. 


Montevideo was our port of call today.  It is the capital of Uruguay with a population of 1.5 million people.  The city is built on the tip of the country that borders the South Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata.  It is here that you will find miles of beaches, but in the interior of the country, there are rolling hills and grasslands similar to the pampas of Argentina.  The highlands are suitable for growing grapes for some pretty fine wines.  And from the looks of the produce deliveries that were on the pier this morning, their farms are quite fertile.  It is also suitable for raising cattle, antelope, and sheep as Montevideo is a mecca for leather goods such as jackets, pants, coats, belts, wallets and purses. 


The ship arrived very early to the harbor, and was cleared before 8am.  We had breakfast first, then went off around 10am.  Yesterday, we all had been warned that in order to keep the ship’s water system maintained, they were turning it off ship wide at 9am.  It would come back on by noon.  So this inconvenience along with yet another crew drill, it was a good time to leave.  We also knew that we would need to run the water in the sink and the tub, because there would be some rusty discoloration.


Once out of the port gate, we started to remember our previous visits here.  Twice we did tours, and once, we strolled the colonial area nearby the port.  So today, we were handed a nice map of this area, which we used to find every icon in this district.  This area is known as the Cuidad Vieja, or the Old City.  It is situated on a large peninsula, surrounded by the river and the ocean.   Narrow streets, large cobbled plazas, and very old colonial buildings can be found here.  On the other side of the city, is Cuidad Nueva, or the New City.  It is home to the prosperous residents, modern high rises, and extensive shopping districts such as Avenida 18 de Julio.


The first place we encountered was the Sea Port Market, which consisted of a collection of various restaurants under one large roof.  The heat of the wood-fired ovens greeted us as we walked inside.  There were shops intertwined with the cafes, which flowed to the outside as well.  Not so busy at 10am, but we knew the place would fill up by noon.  There used to be a produce market outside, but we did not find it today.


The Carnival Museum  was just opposite the port too.  They house a display of typical Carnival night costumes and parties in the local stages.  You can learn all about the history of Carnival and how it has progressed over the years.  There was a walking tour there with shore excursions.  Following the map we continued uphill to the pedestrian shopping street.  This led to the first plaza, Zabala Square, where we ran into Howard and Gyl.  We always cross paths with them, because we are usually “on the same page”. They just returned from an independent overland tour to Iguazu Falls and 2 days in Buenos Aires.  They had a fabulous time, and were able to find good buys on dancing shoes.   Howard commented that he noticed we were not at our table last night, and someone let it slip it was one of our birthdays and we were in the Pinnacle.  With that, they both broke out into the birthday song right there in the middle of the square.  Slightly embarrassing, it was touching and appreciated.


We continued on, passing several old museums, some of which were not opened yet.  In fact, many of the shops were closed this time of day.  Finding the main pedestrian shopping mall, we made our way to Constitution Square, where a Saturday flea market was in progress.  These are always interesting with some different items for sale.  Among the ceramics, coins, and knick-knacks, we did see two very pretty necklace and earring sets.  Both were one of a kind and quite inexpensive.  So much for not buying anything.  Truthfully, one of the sets will match the new suede jacket we bought yesterday.  Funny how that happens.  Later on, we added one tan lamb skin purse with three zippers…. the kind that goes around your waist.  Also affordable.  Best to leave this square, since there were many other tempting treasures here.


Further up the street was the gate of the original citadel of Montevideo.  Dated back to 1741, we realized that many people were taking pictures of it.  That led to the largest square, Independence Square with the mounted statue of General Atrigas, considered to be the father of Uruguay.  More museums faced this plaza, and a nearby side street had the Solis Theater, dating back to 1842 and 1869.  Considered a neoclassic design,  it is the place for entertainment.  Across the street from the theater was the Bacacay Café, where the actors, artists, and intellectual people gathered after the shows. 


Time to head back, we stopped once again at Constitution Square to pay a visit to the most beautiful church here, the Metropolitan Cathedral, built in 1790.   It’s design is Spanish neoclassic, and kept with the traditional Catholic churches we have seen in South America.  You can tell the type of people that lived here, that they put their skills and hearts into the construction of churches such as this one.  As soon as you entered through the massive doors, the impression was one of wonder.  This has to be the nicest church we have seen so far.  A mass was in progress at one of the side altars, so we did not stay too long.


On the way back, we came across many people we knew just starting the self-guided tour.  One of them was Leta, who stopped and chatted for a while.  She and Bill had stayed in this city for two weeks many years ago, and she said not much had changed since then.  We were looking for a restaurant like the one we found in Punta del Este, but there were none like it here.  They did have Starbucks and McDonalds though, mixed with the tiny cafes along the pedestrian mall.  That’s when we saw a sign for a Hard Rock Café in Montevideo.  The street name was not on the map we had, so the only way to locate it was going back to the ship and searching online for it. 


That’s when we ran into Christel, who was waiting to go on her bike ride with Henk.  Knowing that they would more than likely ride the rambling seaside path for miles, we asked if they might keep an eye out for it.  She said they would give it their best.  Lunch for us was going to be in the Lido today, which was fine.


All aboard was 4:15pm, and we all had to attend a mandatory muster drill.  About 13 new guests had arrived yesterday, and we needed to repeat the drill.  It was short and sweet, then we headed for the sail away at the Seaview Pool.  We did get a better view of the city as we sailed around the other side.  It really is a big city.  The wind had come up, and we almost blew overboard.  And since today was Chinese New Year, the Lido was hosting the special dinner in there.  All of the decorations we usually have in the dining room, were up here instead.   It did look festive, and attracted a large crowd.  We searched for fortune cookies, but found none. 


Henk found us at the back railing, and reported that they did indeed find the Hard Rock Café, but it was about 12 kilometers from the port.  It was located across from the beach in a nice location.  But it would have been a taxi ride to get there and back.  Had we factored the time to do it, it would have worked out fine.  Maybe next time…


Dinner for us was good with one fish entrée of cobia, and one dish of a type of Chinese chicken.  So the dining room was appropriate for Chinese New Year without the hanging lanterns.  And our tablemates had planned a birthday celebration with the presentation of a carrot cake and singing by the crew near our table.  Always fun, and the cake was delicious of course.  We donated the remaining half to our waiters who gladly accepted.  Our assistant waiter, Angga, ended his contract yesterday, and went home to his family.  He will now have three months to spend getting to know his new baby girl, who he has not seen in person yet.  Our new waiter arrived tonight, but we have not formally met him, as Wira kept him most busy during dinner.


David Copperfield was the entertainer this evening.  But not the one you might expect, as he was listed as an unusualist, not the illusionist.  Since our celebration lasted a bit longer, we missed this show.


Now we have two sweet days at sea as we sail towards the Falkland Islands.  Now the question is…..will we get to tender ashore there, or not???


Bill & Mary Ann

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Love your reports. Happy belated Birthday! It sounds like you had a wonderful day.

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Report # 81   Day at Sea   January 26, 2020   Sunday   Sunny, then cloudy & 83 degrees, then later 63 degrees    Part #1 of 1


The saying, “things can turn on a dime”, sure applied to the conditions here today.  The very first thing we noticed when going out on the lower promenade deck was the sharp drop in temperature.  We doubt the thermometer ever reached the predicted 83 degrees, since there was a noticeable chill in the breeze.  So much so, that we had to go back to the room for sweatshirts.  Some of the diehard walkers like us still had on their shorts, but there were few of them.  Not one lounge was being used.  We did expect the change in the weather, but not quite so soon. 


Two lectures took place today dealing with the upcoming stop at Port Stanley, Falklands.  One was about port essentials, while the second talk was about the wildlife and people who live on this remote archipelago.   A new guest speaker, Dr. Peter Carey, has joined us for this segment.  Should be interesting.


While we were working online, we noticed a pod of dolphins jumping right outside our window.  There must have been 100 of them, but there was no chance of getting a photo.  Our windows were clouded with salty water.  Sometimes you just have to enjoy it while the moment lasts.  At the speed the ship was going (20 knots), we outdistanced them in no time.


The big event later in the morning was another Sunday Brunch Sampler in the dining room at 11am.  Checking the menu, we saw many fancy items that we probably would not normally eat.  But at least 300 guests did attend, and raved about it later.  Since the grand buffets are a thing of the past, this event seems to satisfy many of the old timers that remember the fabulous presentation of elegant food. 


By the time we went for lunch after 2:30pm, the sea conditions had changed drastically.  More winds and more swells made the ship rock and roll.  The skies became totally overcast for a while, and the spray from the waves went all the way up to deck five.  One side of the promenade deck was soaked from the mist.  Sure did not see this coming, as we don’t recall hearing this in the Captain’s report this afternoon.


One of us was warding off a siege of seasickness, but it did help taking a meclizine.  It does make one sleepy, but better than the alternative.  Believe it or not, eating an apple really does help settle the stomach.  Crackers with ginger are a second remedy.   


Tonight was a gala night with the theme of Black & White.  We always have fun watching the crowd for the early seating out and  about before dinnertime.  And of course, with the photo screen behind us, we relaxed in our chairs across from the Ocean Bar.  The band began  playing at 7pm, and there was a floor full of dancers, despite the rolling of the ship.  These people are pros.  The show in the Mainstage was supposed to begin at 7:30pm, but when we saw a stream of people leaving the lounge, we knew something was up.  Scheduled for tonight were the singers and dancers with the theme of Dance.  With these seas, there was no way that was going to happen.  So it was cancelled.  Sometimes another act is substituted, but not this evening. 


We had company tonight, as on most formal evenings, we usually have a guest.  Joining us was Roland, the food and beverage manager, and a most delightful  young fellow from the Netherlands.  We met on the Tales of the South Pacific, and also enjoyed his company at another special dinner then.  Our tablemates were pleased to get to know him as well, and appreciated the wine he provided of course.


The menu was excellent tonight, with many good choices for entrees.  Beef Wellington and the rack of veal were cooked to perfection.  But the best part of the meal had to be the cappuccino bomb, a favorite dessert from past cruises.  It certainly helped to take our minds off of the increasing rocking and rolling motion of the ship by now.  When we saw all of the glasses, vases, and plate ware being put on the floor, we knew things could get worse.  Despite it all, we had such a nice evening, that we were the last to leave the dining room.


Very nice gifts awaited us when we got home.  There were two sets of fleece hats, warm scarves, and gloves for the upcoming freezing weather.  But the best gifts were two Antarctica cruising guides that will be most useful for the next week of sailing to an unbelievable part of the world.


Now we pray the seas calm down by tomorrow or sooner.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 82   Day at Sea   January 27, 2020   Monday   Sunny & 66 degrees   Part # 1 of 1


The swells and choppy seas continued through the night as we headed further south towards our next port.  After breakfast, we attempted to go for our walk, only to find that most of the outside doors on the lower promenade had been roped off with signs on the windows warning of high winds.  There were several crew members working outside doing paint touch-up and deck scrubbing.  As long as we stayed clear of them, we still were able to get in some walking.  All of the teak lounges had been stacked and tied down to the railings, and all of the beach towels were put away.  Waves hitting the sides of the ship were quite impressive at times.  Keeping in the sun and out of the wind, it really wasn’t all that bad.  Of course, we did have to get out the heavier vests and jackets, which will be put to good use in the following week or more.  And those soft fleece scarves and gloves we got last night will come in handy too.  Barb likes the fleece cap, and will be wearing it a lot.


And just in case some of the guests did not bring enough warm clothing, an Antarctica marketplace was presented in the Lido Poolside today.  Although we did not see it, Heo said they were selling hoodies, t-shirts, and lots of cold weather gear.  If it all has the HAL logo printed on it, then we would get an additional 15% off of the price.  Will have to check it out sometime tomorrow.


Another new speaker, Gabriela Roldan, gave a lecture on the Falklands today.  She must be Argentinian since she refers to the islands as the Malvinas.  To this day, there is still resentment with Britain over the ownership of these far away islands.  Dr. Peter Carey gave more insight into the wildlife restoration on the islands.  And we discovered this morning with a closer look at the books we were gifted, that Dr. Carey happens to be one of the authors of the book.  That should make it even more interesting knowing it was written by someone who actually has lived in this area.


At his 12:30pm talk, Captain Jonathon said we were 768 miles from Montevideo and 300 miles closer to the Falklands.  We had been experiencing near gale winds clocked at 33 mph, a force 7 on the Beaufort Scale.  He expected the winds to subside somewhat, bringing it down to 22 mph, but the swells would continue.  The sea temperature was 61 degrees, and we can expect rain tomorrow.  With this all said, now we really wonder if it will be possible to tender us ashore?  We have been here twice, but did miss tendering once.  Some people we know have never made it due to the high winds.  And to complicate matters even more, another ship will be at anchor tomorrow.  The Celebrity Eclipse (launched in 2010) will be here as well.  She is a big one at 122,000 gross tons, with 2852 passengers, and a crew of 1271.  Unless the majority of the guests will be on tours, we expect the cafes, pubs, and restaurants to be over-flowing.


For the second time in a few days, we got a reminder to “cover your cough” message in or mail slots.  Stop the spread of germs that make you and others sick.  Now we are curious as to how many people are already sick?  We have brought 2 quarts of liquid disinfectant hand soap, which we use religiously.  Now that this has been brought to our attention, we are hearing and seeing people that are coughing, sneezing, and blowing their noses.  In this age of “super bugs” we sure hope they are not spreading among the population of the Amsterdam. 


Dinner was slow in arriving tonight, maybe since cordon-bleu was the most popular entrée ordered.  At times when that occurs, we have been informed that they ran out of it.  Six of us ordered it, so when it finally arrived, it looked as if it was just cooked.  Hot and tasty, we think it was hastily put together.  One of us had the raspberry layer cake with vanilla ice cream, and the other enjoyed a plate of the new watermelon.  It was a toss-up as to which one was better.


Around 9:45pm every evening, the bright light strips on the waiter’s serving stations go on with a timer.  They can be blinding, and we think it is their way of hurrying us along, so they can close the dining room down.  In the old days, something we find we are saying often, we would never be done eating until 10pm.  Now that the shows begin at 9:30pm, the staff hopes everyone will exit the room, and attend the show.  Greg and Heo do leave every night, but the rest of us stay and chat.  Once again, we discovered we were the last to leave the dining room.  By the way, the entertainer this evening was a unique illusionist and visual artist, Ruben Vilagrand.  Not familiar with the name, we will rely on Greg’s impression of his talents.


Every night, we have a pillow message, some of which are corny, but some are good.  This one was one of the good ones:  Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.  – Will Rogers -  He has a good point!


Bill & Mary Ann  

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Report #83   Port Stanley, Falkland Islands   January 28, 2020    Windy (50kts) and rain & 46 degrees   Part #1 Of 3    80  Pictures


The Amsterdam sailed into the waters of the Falkland Islands early this morning to very windy conditions.  Actually, we were a bit surprised to see the crew drop some tender boats in the water right away.  And we were not alone in this bay, as the Celebrity Eclipse had already dropped her anchors 1 ½ hours ahead of us.  In fact, they had brought about 200 of their guests ashore already. That was a good sign that we would be able to get ashore.


So we skipped breakfast, and went to the exit on deck one to wait in line for the first tender.  Sue and her golfing buddies were there, having got their tender tickets at 4:30 and 5:30am.  No way were they going to miss their long-awaited golf day….rain or shine.  So we went down to deck A and waited for the go ahead from Henk.  However, instead of yes, you can go, it was no, it has been cancelled.  As we all sighed and went back up the stairs, the Captain came on saying it was the decision of the Harbor Master, who deemed the shore side tender landing dock unsafe under these conditions.  Actually, it was under water. If we heard correctly, the Captain said the Eclipse was in the process of gathering her passengers to get them back onboard, and when they did, we would follow them out.


So with that, we went to breakfast in the dining room.  For no good reason, it seemed to take forever to get bacon and eggs.  Normally, it would not matter, especially on a regular sea day, but this morning we did want to grab the good camera to get shots on the way out.  Suddenly, we were moving around the Eclipse and leaving first.  Gobbling up our food, we dashed outside on deck three just in time to get some really good photos of the wildlife as we sailed out.  With the exception of the few fellows that had binoculars, and some camera buffs, no one saw the penguins and shags that lined the sandy beaches and covered the rugged rocks along the shore line. 


The rain began to blow on the outside decks and the winds were getting incredible, so the crew came outside and gathered us all up and sent us inside.  They had picked up the chair pads, and folded the lounges, tying them up along the railings.  At one point, the ship began listing, and we realized things could become dangerous at any moment.


We have no idea when the Eclipse left, but they hold a lot more guests than us….2852 passengers.  If those who were tendered ashore had already started their tours, they may have been stuck there a bit longer than us.  Some of the comments we heard at breakfast were disappointment in missing this port.  One man sadly said he had waited his whole life to come here, and it was the only reason he took this cruise.  You have to read the fine print in the contract to know that any port can be cancelled at any time.  As for us, this was the second time we missed it, but we have made it here three times.  Not bad odds.  We expect the same situation will occur when we reach Easter Island.  Last year, when the tendering had to be stopped midday there, we thought there was going to be a riot.  At the very least, if you had booked an HAL tour, you will get that money refunded.  As for independent tours that doesn’t happen, well, we are not sure how that works.  It’s a chance you take, we guess.


Even though we did not get ashore, here is a bit of info on Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.  These remote islands, over 750 of them, have had four European countries  attempt to colonize them.  It wasn’t until the 1800’s that Britain sent a military group to farm 10 acre parcels and raise sheep.  Stanley also became a stopping spot for the ships to be serviced.  This lasted for 150 years. 


Argentina also had occupied some of the outer islands, naming them the Malvinas.  Then the Battlefield of the 1982 Falklands Conflict changed the scene.  The Argentinians invaded and occupied the islands, causing England to launch a naval taskforce to re-take the islands.  This war lasted 74 days, and resulted in the deaths of 900 people.  The British came out with the victory, and even to this day,  Argentina still think the Falklands belong to them.  On our first visit here, we found many areas that had been roped off, because there was the danger of hidden land mines buried in the sand.  If you take a tour to the battlefields, you will still be able to see bunkers, foxholes, discarded munitions and clothing littering the fields.


The interior of the main island houses moorlands, sheep ranches, and peat bogs.  In town, you will find numerous pubs, cafes, restaurants, a few hotels, red phone booths and plenty of English tea.  But the high light for us has to be the birds.  That includes the several species of penguins, Falkland Island shags, upland geese, steamer ducks that are flightless, and rock cormorants.  The sea birds include southern giant petrels, sooty shearwaters, and the magnificent albatross.  Fur seals and elephant seals can be seen on different parts of the island.  Do you know what they call elephant seals here?  Blubber slugs…..very funny, but if the name fits, well OK.  Killer whales can be seen around the smaller islands where the seals live.  If you are lucky, a different type of dolphin like to play in the wake of the ships at times.


When Captain Jonathon came on for his 12:30pm talk, he sounded a bit disturbed.  Apparently, some folks did not understand why the Celebrity guests got to shore , while we did not.  He explained, although he was not required to explain, that they were being taken to a different dock, which happened not to be submerged or as dangerous.  Their visit was cancelled as well.  By the time we were 30 miles away from Stanley, the winds were down to 25 knots, a force 6 on the Beaufort.  And the temperature was 48 degrees, a sharp decrease from leaving Montevideo two days ago.  As we continue sailing south, we can expect 12 to 15 foot swells.  Oh boy, that should be fun.


A new When & Where was printed, and many activities were added for the sea day.  The best talk was delivered by Dr. Carey on seabirds of the Southern Ocean.  While one of us was dealing with this morning photos, the other one was deep in reading the new Antarctica book full of pertinent info while in this region.  His description of the birds were falling into place since we had just seen some of them this morning.  After a quick lunch around 3pm, we wandered outside on deck three, staying in the bow area only.  It was really cold and windy, but we were at the right place at the right time.  Right on the port side forward, we spotted a massive wandering albatross with the greatest wingspan of any species.  They can measure 8 to 11 feet and give the bird the skill of dynamic soaring.  They are capable of covering up to 300 miles a day with little effort.  Adults can live to 30 years dining on squid, fish, and even food refuse from passing ships.  Albatrosses are also considered good luck….just ask any captain.


It seemed odd to be going to dinner in the bright daylight.  Here it was 8pm, and the sun was still not set.  It would go down closer to 9pm tonight.  That was just about the time we got our entrees of swordfish and beef ribs in the form of pot roast.  Both really good.  And to enhance our meal, Captain Jonathon, Henk, our hotel director, and all of the crew extended the offer of sparkling wine or a soft drink during dessert tonight.  We requested sodas to go, and our wine steward said that would be fine.  We could not recall if we had this same offer while on the Tales of the South Pacific when we missed Niue, so perhaps this is a “grand” voyage perk only.


 We did see the beginning of the entertainment tonight at 7:30pm, but we only stayed for 5 minutes.  The group, Runaround Kids, were supposed to be singing rock and roll, but for the first 5 minutes or more, all we heard was jokes with punchlines we could not hear.  Maybe Greg and Heo will have better luck.


Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 84   Day at Sea   January 29, 2020   Wednesday   Partly sunny & 49 degrees   Part # 1 of 1   30  Pictures


As the Amsterdam approaches the Antarctic Peninsula, we have been inundated with reading material dealing with any aspects of our visit there.  Most useful was a map of the specific islands we will be scenic touring.  We also brought the extensive map we received while on the Prinsendam’s Antarctic sailing in 2010.  It is much more detailed, along with the wildlife photos we will need to ID the birds.  A detailed guideline for visitors to the Antarctic was informative, but the majority of it was aimed at folks that would be going ashore.  We will not be doing that.


Two flyers did apply to all of us.  One was a reminder to understand reducing waste…specifically disposable items we may have brought with us.  The biggest culprit here is plastic.  We were not aware that cigarette butts, chewing gum, eye contact lenses, paper cups, tea bags, and wet wipes all contain some form of plastic.  We have been requested to keep these out of nature.  The bottom line is reduce, reuse, and recycle.  We certainly hear enough about this while at home too.


Now something we have seen on previous visits here are seabirds that land on ships.  Many times birds have landed on the outside decks, drawn by the ship’s lights at night.  They will hide behind deck chairs or in the corners.  And many times, we have seen people attempt to return them to the sea, even if they were injured.  Now we are obliged to report these birds, and the assigned crew member will deal with it. 


Finally, today we got another notice not to litter on deck or into the sea.  Yes, we have seen this happen daily, most times by accident, but sometimes on purpose.  We are asked to secure our belongings so they do not blow away with a sudden wind.  Baseball caps are the number one items that sail overboard.  Keeping noise at a minimum was a request.  Turn off the cell phone, keep your voice down, and watch those camera sounds.  Really?  And outdoor smoking is permitted only on the Lido deck starboard and under the overhang.  No problem for us, as we do not smoke.


At his PM talk, Captain Jonathon mentioned that we were 200 miles south of Elephant Island, and heading towards King George Island with 230 nautical miles to go.  We expect to make landfall, or the sighting of land, by 4am.  Although the winds have slowed to 14 knots, the seas were described as “confused”, with three distinct swells, some measuring up to 13 feet.  The temperatures remained around 45 degrees, thanks to the sun shining.  


Today was a good one for bird-spotting, mostly from the back of deck three.  Bundled up and protected from the winds, we watched for the sightings of the seabirds that are commonly seen in this part of the Drake Passage.  The wandering albatross with an 11 foot wingspan was still with us.  Joining him were two types of smaller albatross, the black-browed and the light-mantled one, both with wingspans from 84 to 88 inches.  Some smaller ones were also in the mix, and by blowing up the photos, we identified the southern giant petrel with a 77 inch wingspan, some white-chinned petrels with 33 inch spans, and several pintado petrels with 33 inch wingspans.


The biggest surprise was seeing dozens of sei whales, which are a bit larger than the humpbacks, weighing in at 45 tons.  Most of them were quite a distance away, but occasionally, a few blew their spouts closer to the ship.  After 5pm, Captain Jonathon announced the sighting for all to see.  Hoping to get some better photos, we had gone and gotten the good camera and sure glad we did.  Not sure we had really seen these whales breach the surface, it wasn’t until the photos were enlarged that we saw some skimming the surface.


Tonight’s dinner was a most creative one, beginning with a very different type of menu.  Titled, The Heroic Age of Exploration Commemorative Dinner, one side of the large menu had photos and explanations of the early Antarctic explorers of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The choices for dinner were created with elements that were available to the people at that time.  Of course, the food items used here were of the utmost best quality, but made to imitate what meals would have been like back then.  One of the first meals served was a Belgium pea soup with dried peas, bacon slab, ham hocks, sausage, beef broth and vegetables.  It is one of our most favorite of soups, as it sticks to the ribs, so to speak.  A pineapple and orange salad sprinkled with coconut, probably did not include lettuce back then, but it made a pleasant appetizer salad.  We chose the Norwegian cod dish with mushy peas, fingerling potatoes, and bacon bits.  Woody’s slices of maple glazed ham sure looked good as well.  Dessert was one pavlova with mango and kiwi, while the Angels on Gliders, a chocolate square with rum-soaked raisins was a second choice. 


Tomorrow should be very exciting with our first scenic cruising beginning early in the morning.  The predicted temperature is 34 degrees, so the arctic jackets with come in handy.


Bill & Mary Ann


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We love watching the wildlife from a ship -- you learn about so many new birds and animals.


That dinner sounded very different.


Keep warm. 

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Report # 85   Antarctic Experience   Day # 1   January 30, 2020   Thursday   Mostly cloudy & 38 degrees   Part # 1 of 4   80 Pictures


In anticipation of the landfall of King George Island in the South Shetland Islands, one of us was up with the sunrise, which happened to be around 4:30am.  Even though the scenic narration did not begin until 8am, we could see the island already around 6am.  So one of us bundled up, and headed for the bow, which was opened via deck three forward.  Looking at the island, all we could see were glaciers, tall ice-covered volcanic peaks, and windswept valleys of blinding white ice and snow.  Did you know that Antarctica holds 90% of the world’s ice, and 70% of its fresh water?  But Antarctica is also the driest of all continents and the largest desert in the world.  The center of this continent gets on the average of 6 inches of rain a year.  However, where we are located today, these islands can get up to 27 inches of rain as well as 23 feet of snow annually.  And while we were snapping photos from the bow, it did start to rain lightly.  But enough to drive us down to deck three.  We were dressed for the wet weather, but the camera does not like it.


Antarctica has a surface area equal to  that of the United States and Mexico combined.  There are no native or permanent residents, except for the scientists that will number 4000 in the summer, and 1000 in the winter.  In June or winter, there is 24 hours of darkness, and in December or summer, there is 24 hours of daylight.  In addition, there is no official language, a capital, or currency.  The coldest temperatures on earth have been recorded here…minus 89 degrees C. , or minus 128 degrees F.  Unbelievable.


The archipelago of South Shetland Islands is 330 miles in length.  The most northerly island is King George, which is 43 miles long and 16 miles at the widest point.  We sailed past the tip in the Bransfield Strait, where we entered Admiralty Bay.  Out of the 40 scientific stations that are in Antarctica, 10 of them are here.  The research stations represent Chile, Russia, China, South Korea, Poland, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and the newest, Brazil, which is 10 years old.


Soon, we began to see all types of ice besides just glaciers.  There was brash ice, which are little pieces that crack.  A bit larger chunks are growlers, which are less than 3 feet, and earn that name since they growl when coming in contact with ships for instance.  Bergy bits are 3 to 8 feet above the water line, while an actual iceberg is 16½ feet above the waterline.  We understand that these icebergs can be double that size under the water.


We overheard someone ask why the ice is blue.  In reality, all ice is blue, even the ice cubes in our drinks.  Except with ice that small, we do not see it.  Now the ice in an iceberg, we do see the darkest blue shades near the waterline.  The reason for the deep color is that this ice is the oldest and most compressed.  The white color in ice is really air bubbles trapped in it.  Black or dirty ice has rocks and gravel mixed in it.  


At this point, we began to see some imperial shags, south polar skua with 50 inch wingspans, and three varieties of penguins….adelie, gentoos, and chinstraps.  The latter are so small when viewed from the upper decks, and also fast.  Easy to miss them as they pop up and dive quickly, unless you have binoculars or a very quick camera.


Back in the 1800’s, whalers and sealers made their fortunes here.  The fur seals were almost made extinct with over-hunting.  Today, the scientists have worked to keep this area pristine, and the tourists have been rewarded with travel here.  While we were enjoying the narration with the sightings of the stations and the bird life, pastries, coffee, and juice was offered on all outside decks.  Later at 10:30am, New England clam chowder was served to the chilled guests outside.  We went to the dining room around 9am for our breakfast, which sure tasted good with ample cups of hot coffee. 


At noon, the Antarctic Expedition Team had a Q & E session in the Crow’s Nest, then Dr. Carey gave a lecture on penguins, a fitting subject for this part of the world.  When bouillon was served outside, we went to  lunch in the Lido, then got ready to go back outside for the visit to Deception Island at 4pm.  Last time we were here, this part of the scenic cruising had been cancelled due to bad weather and extra heavy fog.  We could see fog as we approached the horseshoe-shaped island , but it was high.  The narration began shortly after 4pm, and the closer we got, the more penguins we began to see.  These were mainly the chinstrap variety, weighing in at 9 pounds and are 18 to 24 inches long.  Spending the whole time on the bow, we were still chilled to the bone after an hour, but it was worth getting so many shots of the chinstrap penguins, Southern giant petrels, Antarctic terns, fur seals, Weddell seals, and also the plants that only grow here.  These are mosses, liverworts, and lichens.  


On one slope, we witnessed a colony of chinstrap penguins numbering 100,000.  They were nesting, most sitting on 2 eggs each.  As small as they are, the chinstraps are the most aggressive of all Antarctic penguins.  Deception Island is considered a most incredible island on earth.  It is an actively volcanic island which was discovered in 1820.  Horseshoe-shaped, the rim of this island was blown off, leaving a flooded caldera in the center.  The entrance is called Neptunes Bellow, and is 1800 feet wide.  However, it is not accessible for large ships, as shallow rocks make the entrance extremely hazardous.  


Inside this caldera is the remains of old whaling stations from 1912 to 1931 built by the Norwegians.  The relics include huge boilers and oil tanks used for processing whales.  In addition, there is a geothermal lagoon, the only one in Antarctica.  Local scientists will swim in these despite the sulfurous odor.  Where the vents are located, the krill becomes boiled and washes up on the beach and float in the waters. 


A Chilean station burned down from a volcanic episode in the late 60’s, and the remains have been left for the tourists to see.  As we cannot get inside this opening, we will not see any of this.  However, Captain Jonathon did circle back, and took us back to see the opening at Neptunes Bellow.  It was here that we got the first whiff of the penguin guano from the 50,000 pairs that were nesting here.  About knocked us over, and the few folks that ventured out with us on the bow.  By the time most of the folks ran back inside, we saw the most groups of chinstraps swimming and jumping near the ship as they raced back to the shoreline.  The fur seals appeared, popping up to watch us watching them.  These characters can weigh up to 374 pounds for a male, and 88 pounds for a female.  These seals can dive to depths of almost 600 feet, and stay down for  10 minutes.


It was time to go back inside and defrost,  and deal with the hundreds of photos that were snapped today.  Also time to clean up for dinner.  Did we mention that we all got another notice regarding water conservation in Antarctica?   On the ship’s part, they will be ceasing the cleaning of the outside decks,  as well as limiting the laundry service.  We did happen to turn in a bagful this morning, before the notice.  Expecting a delay on it, we were happy to see the batch returned to us before dinnertime, still warm from the dryer.  The service with the laundry has been wonderful so far on this trip.  The final request was for all of us to minimize our use of potable water, specifically taking showers and flushing the toilets.  Considering the constant reminders to wash our hands, this might not be the wisest thing to suggest.


Dinner for us was another visit to the Pinnacle Grill.  Both of us ordered the wedge salad with a slice of clothesline bacon on the side.  So good, as were the savory lamb chops cooked just right.  Even though lamb has been served in the dining room, the chops will never come close to what is served in here.  Dessert was a small slice of key lime pie, if such a thing is possible.


The entertainer this evening was a singer by the name of Peter Cutler.  We had listened to his singing earlier, and would have gone after dinner, but internet work was waiting for us in our room.  That was another thing that was spotty today….the internet and TV reception.  The intermittent connection to both was spotty, and expected.  So some of the future reports might be delayed.  Not being able to watch all of the stations on TV might be doing us a favor.


Around midnight, another small cruise ship passed by the port side of the Amsterdam.  Guess we are not alone out here.


Tomorrow will be another exciting day of exploring this most fabulous end of the world.


Bill & Mary Ann

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Another wonderful report.


I agree about the lamb chops being better in the Pinnacle Grill than in the dining room.


Off to look at some pictures.

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