Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

I am proud to be certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) as an Elite Cruise Counselor. The Cruise Counselor Certification Program is CLIA's most comprehensive training which requires agents to successfully complete a number of compulsory training courses and exams, attend cruise conferences, and conduct ship inspections. Anita Thompson, Attheta Travel, dba Cruise Holidays.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

South America via the Sun Princess

Cruise Journal by Helen Maxey

Sunday, 2/20/11 We left Seattle for Dallas around 7:00 am, changed planes and waited in the Miami airport for our LAN flight to Santiago which was four hours late. It was a 7 and a half hour flight, so thanks to Wayne’s frequent flyer miles we had sleeper seats. That’s the only way to go if you can do it. We arrived just after 12-noon the next day reasonably rested.

Monday, 2/21/11 We were met in the Santiago airport by a Princess Cruises rep who provided great assistance for retrieving our luggage, going through Customs, and catching the bus to the Intercontinental Hotel where we stayed. It was costly to enter Chile -- $140 each (a tax for both entering and exiting Chile), but everything went smoothly in the airport. We were warned not to bring in any food – the penalty for doing so was $10,000 – they had dogs that sniffed out food, and other dogs that sniffed out drugs.

We didn’t do much the rest of the day except rest, and walk a few blocks from the hotel to check out the restaurants and shops.

Tuesday, 2/22/11 Today we took a City Tour and discovered that Santiago is a very nice city – clean, well maintained, with many modern buildings (many due to rebuilding after Chile’s frequent earthquakes). They have earthquakes daily, stronger earthquakes weekly, and in 1960 they had one registering 10 on the Richter Scale which was the largest quake ever in the world. They also have many lovely parks and open spaces for public enjoyment -- all this with a backdrop of the Andes mountains towering over the city. The mountains are very close to the city.

Wednesday, 2/23/11 The bus trip to Valparaiso took about two hours. This is where we boarded the Star Princess. This town is interesting as it sits at the foot of the Andes and all the houses are built into very steep cliffs—the town has been heralded by UNESCO for it’s unique building techniques. We had lunch on the ship with a very interesting 86 year old lady. She was a widow, traveling alone from Argentina, but had lived in Washington, DC for 10 years. She was very sharp and feisty, telling us about an incident with Immigration or Security people. She loved fruit, bought some outside the ship and attempted to take it aboard to her room. Of course she was told she could not do that but she proceeded to do it anyway telling the authorities that they would have to “shoot” her to stop her. The next day she was visited by the ship’s management to tell her story. They later presented her with a large bowl of fruit.

Thursday, 2/24/11 This was a sea day so we attended a seminar about the technical aspects of photography and using Nikon cameras. I used the gym, and because the seas were a little rough and the gym is in the bow of the ship, the ship was pretty rocky and I had a little trouble standing up, but I still managed to work out for about 45 min. We had lunch with interesting people -- a doctor from California and retired couple from Arizona. This was our first formal evening, and after dinner we saw a production show done by the Princess Dancers. It was good.

Friday, 2/25/11 This was another sea day so I visited the gym again (the seas were a little calmer today), and we attended Part II of the photography seminar. It was excellent and we learned a lot. The evening entertainment was quite good – it was a one-man show from a man who lived in Uruguay and played a small unusual harp he bought in Ireland. It allowed him to play many songs that he could not have played on a regular harp.

Saturday, 2/26/11 Because this was another sea day, I took some time to catch up on this log, do my work out in the gym, and do some sightseeing (we cruised quite close to shore through the Chilean fjords). It is similar to cruising through the Inland Passage going to Alaska – very beautiful.

In the afternoon we attended a presentation produced and narrated by the ship’s photography personnel. It was a collection of videos and still pictures taken over six passages through Antarctica. Last year was the last year any cruise ships could navigate through Antarctica because of EPA regulations over environmental concerns. Some of the icebergs were two or three stories higher than the ship which was 18 stories high. It was very beautiful and the wildlife was abundant. Now the only way to see Antarctica is to fly over it which costs about $3000 or to cruise in a smaller ship that uses something like diesel rather than the bunker oil used by cruise ships.

The evening entertainment had a South American Gaucho theme. The female performed a freeform dance routine that was graceful and beautiful. The male performed a roping and dance routine with luminescent ropes with bobbles that when they hit the floor and combined with the noise from his spurs provided a unique entertaining performance.

Sunday, 2/27/11 The day started very early as we had a shore excursion to Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve that left at 7:30 am. It was not easy to get there as we had to take a tender from the ship to shore (from the town of Punta Arenas, Chile) where we boarded a bus for the ferry that took us to the Island. The island is in the middle of the Magellan Straight. The ferry trip took about an hour. It was a beautiful day with flat seas and sunshine. I was worried about the trip as the weather is often bad with rough seas and heavy winds, but that did not happen. The island was baron except for a lighthouse and a couple of sheds. There were thousands of penguins there. They were black and white and about 2 ½ feet tall. They dig holes in the dirt where they nest, and return year after year to the same nest. In about a month and when the babies have all their feathers, they make the trek from Magdalena Island to the waters off Brazil. Then they return to Magdalena Island in December to mate and nest. It was a great day and we took lots of pictures.

Monday, 2/28/11 Today we are in Ushuaia, Argentina (an Yahgan Indian word pronounced oo shoo-AYE-ah and meaning “a bay penetrating westward”) where we took a tour of the Andes mountains and city. It was a nice drive. We saw many very high mountains. , and stopped for snacks and a Tango show which was quite good.

Tuesday, March 1/11 The day began early to take pictures as we rounded Cape Horn back in Chile. It is a baron island with only a flag, church, a few buildings, and a monument in the form of an Albatros to commemorate all the seamen lost while sailing around the Horn. There have been hundreds of ships wrecked rounding the horn and thousands of lives lost. There was an expert on the area aboard the Star Princess who had rounded the Cape Horn 133 times prior to this trip. On all of his prior trips he had seen lots of rough weather, buthad never seen such calm, beautiful weather with sun as we had on this trip. Many times in the past it was so windy and rainy that the ship could not cruise close enough to the island to see it. We were very lucky.

We spent a good part of the day exercising to work off some of the extra calories we have been eating. Wayne likes to walk the decks. I like to use the gym. Then after dinner we listened to a singer impressionist performer.

Wednesday, March 2nd We took a tender from the ship to Stanley in the Falkland Islands which is a British colony. There was not much to see there but we read that a “must see” was the museum that featured history of the area and relics from the conflict between Argentina and the British in 1982. It was a 45 min. walk to the museum, and thankfully we got a shuttle ride back to the ship. The museum was pretty interesting.

Our entertainment for the evening was a Princess Dancers production show. These shows are always excellent.

Thursday March 3rd and Friday March 4th These were sea days and we spent our time in the gym or walking the deck. I took Yoga and stretching classes and another class on South American Zumba exercise/dance. This is an incredibly fun way to get exercise. We also went to hear talks on upcoming ports.

Saturday, March 5th Today we visited Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is a large beautiful city, but unfortunately we had a terrible tour and did not see many of the best parts. The only two stops that the bus made were 1) to the Recoleta (a famous cemetery consisting of large marble crypts), and 2) a handicrafts store. This was not a large store, yet all the buses stopped there and we had to stay there waiting for the bus to return for 70 minutes. There was standing room only and it was a miserable ordeal. We suspect that the tour operator got some kind of kickback from the crafts store for bringing passengers to the store.

The tour did include lunch and a tango show. Both were excellent but very long.

The evening ended well as we attended a performance by award winning Canadian singer, actress Lovena B. Fox. She was by far the best performer we have had on this cruise so far.

Sunday, March 6th Montevideo, Uruguay was our port of call today. In the morning we walked into the older part of the town and found it to be an old, rundown part of the city with lots of garbage on the streets. We could tell by the architecture that this was once a beautiful place. This was probably during the mid 1700’s after the Spanish founded the city. We walked to a large estuary where we saw people fishing and walking along the seaside promenade.

In the afternoon we had a great city tour to a newer part of the city. Unlike yesterday’s tour the bus made many stops for picture taking. We saw many old mansions and lovely homes, many outdoor sculptures, parks and beaches. Our guide spoke perfect English. Uruguay has a democracy but has nearly free socialized medicine and education through college level. There are problems that come with this though. While only 1% of the people are considered illiterate, the current ruling party handed out money to poor people which caused a huge deficit and the implementation of their first income tax. The average person makes only about $500/mo., but rents start at about $400/mo. so most young people live with their parents. The high education level of the population makes competition for good jobs high and drives down wages.

The weather for the past three days has warmed up considerably as we proceed North toward the equator. It has been in the low 80’s.

To be continued…