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John and Diane's Latest Adventures - 2020

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Antarctic Experience Day #1

 

As much as I love a beach, a palm tree and a good mai tai, sailing through Antarctica is an experience that I’d recommend for everyone.  We’ve done this twice before, but it isn’t any less amazing the third time.  It’s almost otherworldly the way blue ice floes bob through the water and glaciers make their way down to the shore, calving (breaking apart) at the bottom.  From 8:00 this morning until about 10:30, we’ve had scenic narration of Admiralty Bay, from whence we’ve just exited.  The narrators pointed out birds, whales (at a distance), a few penguins, and all the natural wonders we could see.

 

This is summer, if we can believe it at 34 degrees, which results in major scientific work taking place. The fact that sunrise is at 4:28AM and sunset is at 9:45 makes it even easier for the scientists to be about their work.   In Admiralty Bay, there are stations representing twelve different countries, from Brazil (in a station just 12 days old) to Poland to Peru.  This area, since it’s a peninsula and therefore more temperate, is a very popular place.  The total number of stations throughout Antarctica is 77.  

 

We’ll now be traveling through mostly open water for awhile, and our ice pilot will guide us through and around icebergs, making sure that our name remains The Amsterdam and not The Titanic.  We’ll also be taking on a group of young scientists from Palmer Station who will arrive by Zodiac, stay for a couple of days and then depart the same way they arrived, equipped with boxes and boxes of fresh produce, a commodity more valuable than gold down here.  

 

At about 4:00 this afternoon we’ll enter an area of yet more glaciers, icebergs and, we are promised, chinstrap penguins.  Since the Crow’s Nest will be jammed with people watching for all these interesting sights, we’ll instead be going to Rich and Ginni’s suite, for cocktail hour, since their verandah is twice as large as ours.  

 

We just been delivered a card headed “Save Water in Antarctica.”  It points out that we have limited potable water in this area and must minimize creating waste water which is not permitted nor may be disposed of in this region.  Specifically, we are told that laundry won’t be returned until we leave the area (and I just sent some out this morning!), there will be no cleaning of outside decks, and that we are to minimize our use of water in sinks, showers, and toilets, skipping a shower or a flush whenever possible.  We’ll do our best to help.  

 

Even though this is a sightseeing day rather than a regular sea day, we still have sea day activities, so we’d better head up to Trivia, where there are bound to be a few questions about glaciers and penguins.  

 

 

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Remarkable!!  Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing this incredible journey.

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Great pics Diane!  Loving your posts.

We were in Antarctic in the same area about 10 years ago and it is shocking to see less ice and snow in your pictures compared to when we were there.  The warmer temps of the earth must be taking it's toll in this area.  Have you noticed a difference from the trips you have made previously?

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Thanks for the very interesting post and the beautiful pictures.  Really found your report about the water situation on board informative.  

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Friday, January 31, 2020

The Antarctic Experience - Day #2

 

I heard another passenger say to his wife, “I thought this would be just like our Alaska cruise, but it’s like Alaska on steroids!”  And that it is.  As I write, we are surrounded by an amazing array of mountains, glaciers, and icebergs.  In fact, right next to us (about 300 feet away) is an iceberg the size of a small apartment building - really!  As we ate breakfast this morning, we saw a small ship disembark passengers onto one of the glaciers, but I’m just not interested.  I love watching the stark natural beauty around us, but up close and personal is a bit more than I’m ready (or dressed) for.

 

Our scenic narration began at 7:00 this morning, just about the time we headed to the gym.  Actually one of the best views on the ship is from the treadmills in the gym, and the best thing about it is that it’s warm, and the more time I spend on the treadmill, the warmer it gets.  After our workout, we headed out to the forward viewing platform on Deck 6 and, not surprisingly, we were the only ones out there in shorts.  Fortunately we retained enough body heat to make us comfortable while we shot some photos, and I hope that my panoramic photo can be uploaded successfully.  

 

Speaking of photos, I mentioned that last night’s sunset was at about 9:30, but as I was readying myself for bed at about 10:45, I looked out the windows and noticed two things:  the solid fog bank we’d had all evening had lifted, and it was light enough to see mountains and glaciers in the distance.  I took a photo just so that I’d believe it in the morning, so if I include a photo which is quite mediocre, just realize that it was taken just before 11:00 at night.  

 

Last night’s show was pretty darned entertaining.  Peter Cutler is a singer who would like to be Frank Sinatra (or at least a member of the Rat Pack, for those of you who remember), and he has a voice to match.  He also tap dances well and has an easy way with the audience.  I had to leave five minutes early since I’d promised our granddaughter that we’d call (at 5:15 Pacific time).  When I returned to the cabin, I found out that the internet was down, not a surprise considering where we are.  I know that our means of communication, What’s App, needs internet to work, so we weren’t going to get through.  Maybe tonight we’ll have better luck.

 

Night before last we had a wonderful dinner, celebrating “The Heroic Age of Exploration”  and all those who explored Antarctica long before anyone knew much about it.  Some were successful and some did not survive the experience, but the bravery it took to go somewhere they knew nothing about and plunge into the extreme weather conditions is phenomenal.  The interesting thing about the dinner was that every item on the menu, from starters to mains to dessert had a short description explaining how it was related to the explorations.  For example, there was a main course called “White Eagle Hoosh and Biscuits Beef Stew.”  The description says that “Hoosh was a main staple on many Antarctic expeditions.”  It was a wonderful way to honor those who “risked life and limb and suffered now unimaginable hardships during the era that has become known as ‘The Heroic Age of Exploration’.” 

 

We’re now in Paradise Bay, with pairs of humpback whales swimming alongside and icebergs small and large on all sides.  One of the most interesting parts to me is that the sunlight (what there is of it) makes the underwater portion of the icebergs a visible turquoise, and it’s easy to see what is meant when we’re told that icebergs have much more mass under the water than the part which is visible.  Since we have an ice pilot, he knows how to navigate through these ‘bergs, large and small.  Some are small enough that it looks like someone threw ice cubes overboard after a cocktail party, but then there are those which are absolutely enormous, bigger than automobiles or even buildings.  

 

John is really using his IPhone 11’s camera to its max, since it takes wonderful photos.  However, I find that photos really never do justice to places like this, so I’ll try to include those photos which do a better job of it.  Now, back to the verandah to appreciate Mother Nature and the beginning of some snow.  

 

P. S.  I've got some excellent photos, but today the system has give me an "Upload Failed" on all seven of them.  I'll try to upload them later.  

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Really enjoying your reports and pictures.  Wonderful way to "cruise" along with you and John.  Hope his healing is complete.

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I could only get two of the seven to upload.  The internet in Antarctica is really not cooperating.  In the second photo, John is facing our verandah windows and taking a photo in the reflection.  Kind of clever, I thought.

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Just playing catch up with your posts, great pictures.

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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Antarctic Experience Day #3

 

We continue along the Antarctic Peninsula today, coming up against the Antarctic mainland during much of the day.  The scenery continues to be amazing, and with the temperature at 0, we’re bundling up every time we go out.  I know that many of you think that zero is not so bad, but you have to remember that 40 degree days where we live are considered pretty darned cold!

 

We reached the southernmost point in our explorations and have now turned around to head north.  Today we’re going through Lemaire Channel, Errera Channel, and right now we’re entering Charlotte Bay.  The wildlife is amazing.  Right now there is a mama and baby humpback whale on the other side of the ship, but on our side we have a group of three who are busy spouting and diving.  We’ve also had some Minke whales, but the humpbacks are the great majority.  In addition, we’ve seen leopard seals, chinstrap and gentoo penguins, and today we saw a snow petrel, a bird that only lives in Antarctica.  Our lecturer said that we would be the envy of all our bird-watching friends for having seen that one.  

 

On our daily “When and Where,” we have a notice regarding internet connection in Antarctica, warning us that we have “intermittent connection from our satellite system.”  Boy, is that the truth.  The internet was down all morning, and then suddenly it reappeared for an hour before disappearing again.  I’m pretty sure that has something to do with my inability to upload all my photos, but hopefully by the day after tomorrow when we head back to South America, it will be back to normal.  

 

This evening we have an embarrassment of riches as far as social events are concerned.  At 6:30, Cruise and Travel Experts are hosting a cocktail party in the Explorers’ Lounge, but also at 6:30 is our Antarctic Scenic Sailing Dinner in the Canaletto. We plan to stop by the cocktail party for about 15 minutes and then head to the restaurant.   In common with Jacques, our Cellar Master, we love good Champagne, and this evening’s dinner is a combined effort between Jacques and Canaletto, which is providing a wonderful (we’ve seen the menu) four-course menu ending with Baked Antarctica (since we’re so far from Alaska, of course).  Canaletto is the perfect place for a scenic dinner, since it has half-length windows so we can watch the scenery and wildlife outside.  Will it be a problem getting dark?  I don’t think so, since sunset tonight is at 10:35 PM and it continues to look like dusk all night, with sunrise at 4:30 tomorrow. 

 

Captain Jonathan came over the PA system this morning and told us he had some bad news.  He said that because of the Corona Virus, the scientists at Palmer Station will not be able to go aboard any ships and no one will be able to visit the Station.  With a ship such as ours which has been at sea for a month, exposure would not be a problem.  Many of the small ships/boats are only at sea for a week to ten days, however, and they cannot guarantee lack of exposure.  Since they can’t let some in and not others, the Station has simply been quarantined.  We’re very disappointed, but understand completely that such a virus would wreak havoc on a scientific station.   

 

I’m sure the scientists are even more disappointed than we are, since our friend Rene, the Spa manager, told us that when they come aboard they take full advantage of spa treatments, including haircuts, massages, and similar services.  They also leave the ship with boxes of fresh food, the lack of which will be a disappointment for them.  

 

The icebergs continue to be all sizes, from ice cube to skyscraper buildings, but our talented ice captain has managed to take us around them.  Right now we’re surrounded by building size ‘bergs and we’re having a wonderful time watching them as the whales go by.  

 

P. S.. Any photos which look blurry are because of editing those taken at a distance.  I'm just thrilled that they actually uploaded!

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OMG...this is amazing.  Thank you so much for the reports.  Can't wait to hear about the dinner.  What an experience.  Thank you for including us, Cherie

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Sunday, February 2, 2020 - Happy Groundhog Day

The Antarctic Experience Day #4 (Sort Of)

 

Although we were to continue seeing Antarctic wonders today including three new bays, it was just not to be.  When I woke up and looked out the window, I could barely see the balcony, let alone the water beyond.  As I was getting ready for church, Captain Jonathan came on the horn and announced that, sadly, the heavy fog would prevent any more scenic cruising, so we are now just headed north.  We’re proceeding slowly because of the weather, but we’re certainly done with sightseeing.  

 

We really are only a little disappointed, however, since we’ve had such wonderful experiences for the last three days.  We saw mountains, glaciers, icebergs, whales, sea birds, penguins, and all sorts of amazing sights characteristic of this area.  We know how lucky we are to see it all, so three days out of four is enough of a treat.  In addition, we had the joyful experience of snow yesterday afternoon, and many of the crew members, who hail from tropical countries, had a wonderful time playing in it.  High, one of the new Thai crew members, had never seen snow (since there’s not much in Bangkok), so she has just been amazed by the scenic wonders of Antarctica, crowned by actual snow falling from the sky on her.  

 

Last evening we enjoyed the Antarctic Scenic Sailing Dinner in the Canaletto.  It was a Champagne dinner, and we were treated to unlimited Veuve Cliquot, one of my favorites.  There were four courses:  Malossol caviar, an antipasti spread, dover sole and scallops, and Baked Antarctica.  I don’t really like caviar, but Ginni suggested that we mix it with the other goodies that accompanied it (sour cream, onion, parsley and chopped egg) before spreading it on the toast points (AKA crostini), and it was really quite delicious.

 

Our second course was provided by some of the wonderful staff members who circulated with large platters of everything that belongs in antipasto.  There was coppa, prosciutto, salami, grilled asparagus, marinated tomatoes, parmigiana cheese, and olives.  We simply indicated what we wanted and what quantity, and our plates were filled.  

 

Next came the main course, a rolled filet of Dover sole accompanied by two scallops.  It was served atop “pomme puree” (pureed potatoes), peas, zucchini and carrots.  The presentation was beautiful and all of it was pretty tasty.

 

Dessert was almost as large as some of the icebergs we saw, and almost no one was able to finish it (good job, Greg).  Inside was a slab of neapolitan gelato, with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors atop a slice of cake, and it was covered by incredibly fluffy meringue.  I did my best and managed to finish the gelato, but had to give up on the cake and the meringue.  

 

It really was a wonderful meal, and the views through the Canaletto’s large windows was amazing.  I’m a real Champagne fan, and although I think life is too short to drink bad Champagne, last night’s passed the test - and then some.  

 

At 8:30 this evening is the Super Bowl, as long as we can get transmission.  We never get the commercials (more’s the pity), but as long as we get the game and the 49ers win, I’ll be a happy camper.  I’m originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’ve always been a fan of Bay Area teams.  This morning’s men’s final of the Australian Open had good coverage until the last set, but then it cut out, making us worried about transmission of the Super Bowl.  

 

Now we have the rest of today and two more  sea days until we arrive at Ushuaia at 7:00 PM a few days from now.  We know we’ll need our woolies there, because in addition to really cold weather, the wind blows right through.  It’s a fascinating city, though, and I’m looking forward to it.  

 

P. S.  The purple in the photos was from the lighting in Canaletto.  

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Monday, February 3, 2020

At Sea en route to Ushuaia, Argentina

    via The Drake Passage

 

Oh no!  How could the 49ers lead for three quarters and then blow it in the fourth?  Especially when the winning touchdown was just the running back holding the football so that it “broke the plane.”  I guess I’ll just have to live with it.  

 

The celebration of Super Bowl is always a big deal on the ship, with an opportunity to pay $55.00 to sit in a “premier location,” have unlimited drinks, and instead of going to the food table, there are servers ready to bring you food.  We took a pass on that one; there’s no way I can drink $55.00 worth of liquor and still know up from down.  Actually, I limited myself to one Diet Coke and a couple glasses of water.  

 

The food was pretty good this year.  They had small lobster rolls to celebrate San Francisco (where lobster rolls are never seen - it should have been crab cakes), cute little deep fry baskets filled with either potato chips or corn chips, accompanied by salsa and guacamole, and my favorite:  little cream puff balls filled with custard and dipped in dark chocolate.  So good.  Since the kickoff was at 8:30, they began at 10:00 to circulate with such additional treats as wings (what’s a football game without them?), mini burritos, and pulled pork sliders.  By that time, however, I was soooo full that I ate none of them.  I guess that trip to the Lido for a light dinner earlier might have been a mistake.

 

The Mainstage (oh, how I dislike the change from The Queen’s Lounge) was decorated with all kinds of football-oriented paraphernalia, including blow-up goal posts, noisemakers, and tablecloths in green with 10-yard lines on them.  Before the game there was a trivia quiz and then a “can you toss a hula hoop around a bucket of beer” contest.  The challenge was that, even though you had three chances, you had to get two of them over the beer.  After about a half hour of people trying, a petite lady flipped her hula hoops right over that beer and won herself a bucket of beer.  It was fun to watch.  

 

Because of our wonderful Champagne dinner in Canaletto on Saturday night and knowing what the food situation would be for the Super Bowl, we just decided to skip the Sunday brunch, since we know that even though the three courses are made up of “small bites,” it’s still a lot of food.  Considering how much I ate Sunday night, I think that was a smart decision.  

 

We’ve now officially left Antarctica, but we did it with a bang.  About 5:00 yesterday afternoon we passed the largest iceberg we’d ever seen.  Even the captain called it a “monster.”  It was about a mile away, but because of its size, it looked even closer.  Our Antarctica expert told us it was about a half mile in length and a quarter mile wide, or the size of a city block.  Apparently it had just cracked and “calved” off one of the nearby glaciers, and we were suitably impressed.  And now, as we now head north, the temperature is becoming warmer, if you can consider going from 32 degrees to 39 a great improvement.  If I can get the photo of steam rising off the aft pool to upload, you’ll get an idea of the weather.  

 

We’re now crossing The Drake Passage between Antarctica and South America.  It’s famous for difficult crossings, and a couple of years ago it was so rough that I had to hold on to the nightstand to avoid falling out of bed.  Earlier that year, the Prinsendam came upon a rogue wave (remember The Poseidon Adventure?) during dinner, and everything went flying, including dishes, glassware, and several servers.  Fortunately it wasn’t as extreme as the one in the movie, but it was quite damaging to the ship, with broken windows and a few broken bones.  Fortunately, however, Captain Jonathan said that he’s never seen it be so calm.  Lucky us!

 

Tomorrow we have an almost normal sea day, but the difference is that we’ll do scenic cruising of Cape Horn before we arrive in Ushuaia at 7:00 in the evening.  Of course many passengers will want to get their feet onto dry land after ten days at sea and perhaps find a restaurant or pub for dinner.  The town has a thoroughly Argentinian restaurant which cooks beef on a vertical grill in the middle of the room, and across the street is quite a nice little pub where we’ve had the occasional lunch and a pint.  Even though I love them, I think even I’ve had enough sea days!

 

 

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That iceberg! We need a new term to describe one that size.
 

And I get warming to 39 from 32 - I do not have to cover my Meyer lemon tree when our low temp is 39.

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Wow!  Great picture of the iceberg.  Must have been awesome to see it "in person"!  And I noticed in the pool picture that you had blue skies.  That must have been nice. 

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