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The Grouch on Seabourn Quest January 12, 2020 San Antonio to Buenos Aires via Antarctica


whogo
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January 30, 2020. At sea en route to Montevideo (not going to waste my time typing the country, how many Montevideos are there?)

 

A friend summed up my time in Antarctica thusly:

Amundsen

Shackleton

Whogo

 

Errata: What I called South America seals in the New Island report were South America sea lions.

 

I was misinformed about albatross feeding (January 17), they are surface feeders, do not snatch things out of the water while flying.

 

I looked for whales as we left the Falklands, did not see any. We did sail through a mass of sooty shearwaters, they nest on nearby Kidney Island, a rat free nature preserve. Guess how Kidney Island got its name.

 

I had the dining room to myself for a half hour this morning, just me, a hostess and five waiters. The senior waiter was going over proper flatware alignment with a trainee, do it right the first time. You could not line up the table settings any better with a laser. Ate my first grilled kippered herring, tasty, hope I was supposed to eat the bones, did not see any way not to. If you hear nothing more from me, it was the herring bones wot did me in.

 

I forgot my couth and ate one strip of bacon with my fingers. All five waiters, even the ones with their back to me, gasped and flinched. They could tell I was not the right type of people. Why do they bother lining up the silverware for the likes of me? Two more guests came in at 8:30, the waitstaff coped with the sudden 200% increase in breakfasters.

 

Spent some time looking for birds this morning, the experts had not seen many species. Will Wagstaff pointed out the soft plumaged petrels that flew by one at a time at infrequent intervals and one white chinned petrel. I will never identify those birds on my own.

 

It is kind of creepy how the staff know who I am. I have only dined in the Colonnade a few times, never gave my name there. I jokingly asked the hostess if my wife was there, she said she'd seen Mrs. Whogo, looked around for her. A waitress said that Mrs. Whogo had just left. Kind of creepy.

 

Answers to noon trivia questions that were not asked:

  1. Frostbite

  2. Shipwreck

  3. Gangrene

  4. Lawrence Oates

  5. Pilot error

  6. Slowly crushed by pack ice

  7. Hypothermia

  8. San Telmo

  9. Rogue wave

  10. Exposure

  11. 644 officers, soldiers, and seamen lost on board

  12. "I am just going outside and may be some time".

 

We both ate red snapper with stir fry vegetables (mostly noodles) in the dining room for lunch, the stir fry was surprisingly picante.

 

The captain opened the bridge for tours this afternoon, I went in armed with my little Swiss Army Knife, the blade is almost 1 1/4” long and 1/4” wide, couldn't take the lethal weapon into a ballpark, Seabourn is taking a big risk, I might have cut some string with it. Enjoyed the view from the bridge wings.

 

I picked up our passports afterwards, we have new stamps from our arrival in Chile and from the Falkland Islands. Attended Will Wagstaff's excellent Feather Perfect lecture. These talks are called Seabourn conversations, but they are lectures, no conversation, although the speakers usually stick around for individual questions.

 

Attended our final Cruise Critic meet and greet in The Club, beautifully organized by carolroad. Seabourn delivered nicely printed invitations on heavy card stock, just as they do for hosted dinners, nice touch. Good conversation and plans were made to exchange photos after the cruise. I have been outed as the guy writing this blog, expect to be punched in the nose by someone I have offended.

 

The party broke up for the Epicurean On Deck With Classical Concert, which was moved off the deck and indoors to the grand salon. The chef said the food offerings were like before dinner dessert. Mrs. Whogo fired up for the cured salmon, her favorite, I had a small Italian sausage. The singers performed songs from musicals and operas, best I could tell.

 

Chatted with one of our regular table mates before and after the performance. She was annoyed at the chatters who did not shut up for the performance. The standing ovation is officially meaningless, everyone deserves one, it is now like a participation medal. I couldn't say if he is the right kind of people, but the guy who whistles loudly and shrilly for every performance is definitely not my kind of people.

 

Dined in the restaurant at a table for two on snails and surf and turf; monkfish with chicken gravy. The chicken gravy was listed on the menu as sauce hermandine. Maybe it was not chicken gravy.

 

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Friday, January 31, 2020. At sea enroute to Montevideo, Uruguay.

 

Rogerio Tutti performed a song made famous by the most famous pianists, Tom and Jerry, Listz' Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. Great piece, I prefer the rendition by Daffy Duck and Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I am not a Tom and Jerry fan. Impressive piano playing by Tutti.

 

Seas were calmer this morning, the captain reported them at 4 meters yesterday, do not know how he tells, I can not judge distance, size, or heights at sea.

 

Mrs. Whogo joined me for breakfast in the dining room, today's futile search by staff was for rosebud tea. I have run out of obscure things to request from the menu. This news would cause a panic on Holland America: The Quest is out of prunes. Everyone is taking the news in stride, perhaps the cruisers that need prunes have hoarded them.

 

Spent most of the morning on deck. Wildlife was scarce and distant. Saw my first Atlantic petrels. The fins I saw were apparently attached to ocean sunfish, I will have to take the experts' word on that and for the southern right whale, all I saw was a blow and a dark shape. Look up some photos of ocean sunfish, weird fish, although Will Wagstaff said they qualify as plankton, since they just drift on the current. Bird watching is a relaxing way to spend a morning.

 

Colonnade lunch with Mrs. Whogo featured Greek food. I had lamb skewers, calamari and Greek salad.

 

Incredibly relaxing wildlife viewing this afternoon, there was no wildlife, I saw one southern giant petrel. At six we watched the Seabourn video of our cruise. We will receive a copy of the video plus 50 photos and a log of the cruise on a thumb drive. We dined as guests of cruise director Jan Stearman. Good conversation and good food, each of the six of us ordered a different dinner. Mrs. Whogo had lobster, I had rack of lamb. I started packing, just two more nights onboard.

 

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dianewaller, your blog is great, will have to read it when I have enough internet speed to load the photos.

 

Thanks to all who have posted on this thread. I have been spending just a couple of minutes online each day to post here and to download email, regret that I did not take the time to individually thank those who commented.

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2 hours ago, whogo said:

dianewaller, your blog is great, will have to read it when I have enough internet speed to load the photos.

 

Thanks to all who have posted on this thread. I have been spending just a couple of minutes online each day to post here and to download email, regret that I did not take the time to individually thank those who commented.

It has been a delightful read.  Thank you very much.  

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15 hours ago, whogo said:

Bird watching is a relaxing way to spend a morning.

 

Mr. Whogo, or Grouch, you're obviously a birder.  What resources have you been using to help you identify the birds that are mostly unique to South America?  (I say that as someone who is a casual birder but always has trouble when going to other continents, since all my bird books, apps and knowledge are about North America.)

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5 hours ago, Chairsin said:

The big question for you Whogo is now that you are “that kind of person” did you put down an open booking deposit for your next Seabourn cruise?

 

I would also like to thank Whogo for bringing back fond memories from our first cruise on Seabourn which was also to Antarctica, 2014, also thinking are we are also "that kind of people"?  It is still the bested cruise we have ever done. We did put down a future cruise deposit on that cruise which was the first time we have done that on any other cruise lines we have been on  and have enjoyed many days with Seabourn since

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Wendy The Wanderer, I am a casual birder, too, although I spent a lot of time looking for birds and sea life. I relied on the expeditions team to ID the animals, I had no resources. Will Wagstaff, Brent Houston, and Luciano were particularly helpful. I did not mention that the team worked regularly scheduled hours, I spent the time with them on deck 7 aft, behind Seabourn Square. 

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February 1, 2020. Montevideo

 

Earliest dinner time in the Colonnade and dining room is 7:00 PM. Holland America cruisers, accustomed to the early bird dinner specials at home at 4:00, can manage to wait outside the HAL dining room until the doors open at 5:15, but I don't know if they can make it until 7:00 on Seabourn. HAL cruisers, you have been warned.

 

I was up early and climbed to the Observation Bar for a look see. We were sailing west up the Plata. The morning sun reflected off the buildings of Montevideo, just visible on the horizon. We were following a much larger ship, too distant to tell if it is a container ship or a mega cruise ship. I did not spend much time looking for birds.

 

The sun was glaring onto deck 7 aft, was not going to stay there, I can not deal with hot sun after weeks without it.

 

Where did all those people come from? That was my private dining room, people flooded in for breakfast, there must have been a dozen of them. It was a nightmare.

 

The expedition team was supposed to be available from 10 to noon and from 2 to 4 or 5 on deck, but I am guessing they saw few cruisers as we docked at 9:30, an hour early, nose to nose at a 90 degree angle to the Celebrity Eclipse.

 

Mrs. Whogo and I headed out for a pedestrian tour of Montevideo at 10:00. We were camouflaged by 2850 Celebrity cruisers who are, by definition, not the right kind of people. We fit right in with them. We walked all the way across Montevideo north to south. The short way. Across a peninsula, might be a mile, might have taken 30 minutes as we glanced at some shops and kiosks selling tourist tat and took the requisite photo of a cat for Mrs. Whogo. It was hot, 84°F, humid. I sweat. Once a walled city, this was the old town and many of the buildings looked it.

 

We headed back the way we came and took a right, east, to the city squares. Tree shaded Plaza Zabala was a welcome respite, little kids were active in the playground. Further east, adult sized metal park exercise machines were installed near the fence. Only one was being used, this one by a man who was standing and leaning his elbows on it, might have been in training for when the bars opened.

 

We continued to Plaza Constitutión, more trees, and ran the gauntlet of stalls selling stuff that held no interest for one of us. We toured the cathedral, massive, yet we almost missed it on the square, it takes up only part of the block. I hoped it would be nice and cool inside. I was disappointed.

 

Back across Plaza Constitutión and to Plaza Independencia, largest of the three squares. The facade of the old city gate is preserved at the west end. The unshaded plaza was uninteresting in and of itself, however the former national government office and the Teatro Solis, which we toured on our last visit to Montevideo, are here. An incredibly ugly building also towers over the square.

 

Time to head back to the ship for Suzanne's 12:50 tour, we walked past a few photo worthy buildings. Took a spin through the Mercado del Puerto. As I remembered it from 2011, the mercado had meat stacked near a dozen wood fire grills with a few shops and restaurants around. Today I counted just three grills. Had it changed that much or is my memory to blame? Last visit I regretted that I did not have a big steak or mixed grill. I planned to indulge this trip, but with the heat a big meal did not appeal at all. Mrs. Whogo and I had light lunches in the Colonnade. She noticed that I had no meat.

 

I probably should have taken the hop on/hop off bus tour, our neighbors thought it worthwhile, showed them the beaches and other things I never got near. Mrs. Whogo saw some of the same on her tour “Montevideo Highlights & Tango at the Alchemist's House”.

 

Heard the blast of a ship's horn and watched the Eclipse (Celebrity Cruises®) sail away. The lines were in, a tug was on standby, thrusters moved her off the pier. Not the right kind of cruisers covered the Eclipse's bow and open decks. She slowly spun toward the narrow opening in the breakwater. Her captain gave three long blasts of the horn, I timed the last one at ten seconds and the Eclipse headed safely to sea without help of the tug.

 

The local performers' show had started, I walked blindly into the pitch black Grand Salon and watched a bit of the tango act. As my eyes grew accustomed I made my way to a seat and no more than sat down than the man behind me coughed. I left immediately, that was the end of the performance for me. Good thing I am not a tango fan.

 

Good food and service for us again at the Grill, no attitude from staff, the music was not as loud as the murmur of the diners. We both ordered beef tenderloin rare, excellent. Our waiter surprised us with the lobster artichoke dip with toast to share, might have thought we were not getting enough to eat. Noisy woman #1 from our zodiac in Cierva Cove was far enough away that we barely knew she was there. We narrowly avoided sharing a 4x4 with her to Volunteer Point (thanks again, Pat). I have not seen noisy woman #2 since Cierva Cove. If she got what was coming to her and anyone needs me to testify that it was justifiable homicide, post here.

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Thecat123, 

Yes, we too were not sure we were “the right kind of people” for Seabourn when we boarded the Spirit for our first cruise in 2001- 19 years later and we have yet to be unmasked. Please don’t out us!

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1 hour ago, Chairsin said:

Thecat123, 

Yes, we too were not sure we were “the right kind of people” for Seabourn when we boarded the Spirit for our first cruise in 2001- 19 years later and we have yet to be unmasked. Please don’t out us!

 

Thought they might throw us in the brig by picking up the wrong knife or fork in the MD 😀

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OMG - did not realize they still had a brig. 😳Still that is better than being made to walk the plank. In any event Mr and Mrs Whogo (and all others to whom this applies) there are many of us who have enjoyed the pleasures Seabourn affords whilst flying below the radar. Please do consider booking another as those of us who have not had the pleasure of enjoying your company look forward doing so on a future voyage. 
 

And we feel our Holiday 2016-17 Antárctica/South Georgia Island Cruise is still the one to beat even with many other wonderful Seabourn cruises under our belt. We are very intrigued by the Venture itineraries but as Fletcher and others have noted the price is a bit dear. The advantage is cutting out a lot of the other ports and doing a straight up Antárctica Cruise. Hopefully we can apply 14 “complimentary” days to this cruise.

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11 hours ago, Chairsin said:

And we feel our Holiday 2016-17 Antárctica/South Georgia Island Cruise is still the one to beat even with many other wonderful Seabourn cruises under our belt. We are very intrigued by the Venture itineraries but as Fletcher and others have noted the price is a bit dear. The advantage is cutting out a lot of the other ports and doing a straight up Antárctica Cruise. Hopefully we can apply 14 “complimentary” days to this cruise.

 

A couple of thoughts.  If you are doing the Quest trip to Antarctica via the Falklands or South Georgia from Buenos Aires you will not be able to take advantage of any bonus time such as Whogo did by visiting New Island in the Falklands.  By leaving from BA the ship will want to keep to schedule and juggle places much later on.  By going from Santiago you not only leave the best to last, you can also benefit from any time in hand.

 

About the Venture.  I guess the main attraction for Seabourn people are the Svalbard itineraries.  That's the only really new thing for Seabourn though Silversea and others have been going there for years.  And from what I read, Svalbard's great days for polar bear sightings are long gone.  The Venture's Antarctica programme is basically the same as the Quest 's except the cruises begin and end in Ushuaia, obliging Seabourn guests to endure the cramped charter flight from BA.  If Seabourn were a little more daring and imaginative they could drop one really adventurous cruise into the mix, such as going on from South Georgia to cover the South Sandwich Islands and the South Orkneys.  They seem to be playing safe while assuming Seabourn  guests will pay a hefty premium for a brand-new vessel.  

 

Check out this stunning itinerary from Aurora Expeditions -

https://www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/expedition/south-georgia-antarctic-odyssey-south-sandwich-islands/

 

 

 

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Sunday, 02/2/20. Happy Groundhog Day. Happy Palindrome Day. Buenos Aires.

 

Finished packing last night and let Mrs. Whogo set the bags in the hall, she had a bathrobe.

 

I was up early, watched a bit of the sail in to Buenos Aires. I presented myself at 7:00 opening time at the dining room and there were already two people seated. Thought I would get back to normality and have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, but ordered eggs and bacon. I received three strips, if anyone else is keeping track. There were a number of all black cormorants with maybe some lightness on their cheeks and there was no expert to tell me the species.

 

Seabourn waiters take and submit orders on ipads, the system works. The added benefit is that I received a printout of my calorie intake on the cruise. It overstates the calories. Remember, I did not eat all the fish and chips.

 

We booked A “Day with the Gauchos with Airport Transfer”, an eight hour excursion that would fill most of the time before our 9:15 PM flight home. We spent three hours on the bus and about five on the pampas at Estancia Susana. The gauchos showed how the different groups of horses had been trained to follow mares with distinctive bells, never heard of such a thing, kind of cool to see the brown horses following one, the grey horses another, etc. The horses kicked up a lot of dust, much of which did not blow onto us. There were a lot of horses.

 

The gauchos also galloped down to snag a ring with a little stick, they presented them to the ladies for a kiss. Mrs. Whogo kissed a gaucho, she is still wearing the ring.

 

We did not take advantage of horse or horse and wagon rides.

 

We toured the old house and a small museum of domestic items. I saw a hummingbird, our guide ID'd it as a glittering-bellied emerald hummingbird. Also saw lots of native parakeets, their population exploded to nuisance levels with the introduction of trees to the pampas.

 

Lunch was massive, beat cruise line food for size. Red wine, beer, mineral water were available in unlimited quantities. Started the meal with coleslaw, potato salad with beets, a green pepper salad, and a tossed salad. The gaucho waiters then offered meat grilled over wood coals, a pork(?) sausage, then black pudding, then beef, then chicken, then more beef. It was ridiculous. And tasty.

 

Post-lunch entertainment of music and dancing kept us entertained with tango, flamenco, bolos and singing. Our Seabourn group had been the only one at the horse performance, but we were joined for lunch by many others from all over the world, China, South Africa, Switzerland (met my first Romansch speaker), Panama, Venezuela, Columbia, Canada, Australia, and more. We left as other groups joined in ballroom dancing. The coach ride to the airport was quiet nap time. Should be home Monday before noon.

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52 minutes ago, whogo said:

Sunday, 02/2/20. Happy Groundhog Day. Happy Palindrome Day. Buenos Aires.

 

Finished packing last night and let Mrs. Whogo set the bags in the hall, she had a bathrobe.

This is an example of your humor which has made me laugh.  I truly hope that we meet up with you someday on a Seabourn cruise.  Good travels home.  

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February 3, 2020. Atlanta.

 

Thanks to all who have read this blog, especially those who posted here and thanks for the kind words.

 

We really are not the right kind of people. Our dress never reached the “casual elegance” level, except on formal night, when it reached the casual elegance level. The Quest was head and shoulders above any other ship we have sailed. I doubt we will sail Seabourn again, the value is not there for us. The included alcohol, smaller ship, better food, better service and better overall cruise experience are not worth the thousands of dollars extra. If we sail the Norwegian fjords, Alaska, or Asia, we will probably sail a mainstream line. There is a chance that a unique itinerary would bring us back to Seabourn.

 

The Quest was the best value for Antarctica landings for us. The smaller expedition ships cost as much, were only ten or twelve days round trip from Ushuaia, and the ships were less stable. The Quest was about four times the lowest price I saw for the Zaandam's 22 day Antarctica sail by and about one third more than a Neptune Suite thereon. We could not be happier than we were with the Quest.

 

I noted these differences between our Holland America cruises and our Seabourn cruise:

The toilet flushed the first time every time.

There were no buckets set around to catch drips. Yes it rained.

There were plenty of waiters, bartenders, and other staff. I could not attend a lecture or show without being offered a drink.

Seabourn had canapés instead of hors d'oeuvre and offered them regularly.

Dining room tables were set with a full array of high quality flatware.

Sailors, waiters, and stewards did not all come from the Philippines or Indonesia.

Tea was served in china teapots. Afternoon tea was loose leaf.

The room stewards were women.

We had a floral arrangement in our lowest category balcony cabin.

The table cloth was crumbed before dessert.

Sick sacks were set on waste baskets near elevators instead of being presented in racks when seas were rough.

There was live music suitable for dancing before and after dinner.

There was a piano bar in the Observation Bar every evening.

Dinner plates were frequently presented and cleared by two servers in unison.

We never had so many crew members know our names.

Hosted tables were more available, even for those of us in the cheap cabins.

Dining tables were more spread out.

The smaller Quest did not seem to handle rough seas as well as bigger ships we have sailed. It was not just our bow cabin to blame.

Colonnade (buffet) waiters brought our drinks and special requests.

Staff had a better grasp of English. Some of the waiters were from England.

There was no dining room doorman, the hostess was in charge of the candied ginger.

There was no Grolsch Beer.

Waiters dropped more dishes than I remember hearing on a cruise before.

Guest services (the front desk) provided accurate information.

Pancakes and waffles were heavier and tougher.

I saw no mention of a priest or Roman Catholic Mass.

I saw no mention of a Christian service. (The Herald listed a guest hosted sabbath service.)

There was no wrap around promenade deck.

Bar waiters stood in the Grand Salon during performances, trays level, waiting for someone to want another drink.

Specialty coffee, soda, and alcoholic drinks were included in the cruise fare.

Service was more polished. Staff was deferential without being unctuous.

Cabin light switches were sensibly arranged, the switch nearest the door was for the lights nearest the door, the switch farthest from the door was for the lights farthest from the door.

Cabin hall doors and bathroom doors stayed where they were put, did not automatically close. A door left ajar stayed ajar in calm seas.

Seabourn provided free access to a number of newspapers via the PressReader app.

Seabourn Square had larger format newspapers with more content, WSJ, NY Times, Financial Times, USA Today.

Caesar salads were prepared table side in The Grill, as were sundaes.

Real candles were lighted on The Grill tables.

There were more lectures than I have ever seen.

There was a bridge lecturer/hostess/whatever you'd call her onboard this 21 day cruise.

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