Punta Arenas – beginning of the end.


Our next stop was Punta Arenas, located at southern tip of Patagonia, on the strait of Magellan, and with a population of 124,169 in 2017.

The scene below was more or less typical of how empty the streets were of traffic.

The other thing we noticed were how many buildings in the down town were boarded up. It seemed that most of them were financial institutions.

We wondered for a little while, but finding nothing of interest, we decided to take a taxi to the ski hill. Once there, we grabbed an ancient chair lift to the top of the mountain, with the plan to walk down one of the trails. We were in the clouds at this point, so no pictures. Once pointed in the right direction, we did come across some interesting foliage.

Part way down we came to a clearing and no clouds.

Our next  scheduled stop was to be Ushuaia, Argentina via the Cockburn and Beagle channels and Glacier Alley. We never got there. That was on March 14/2020.

I feel the best way to document the rest of our cruise, and keep it short and concise, is to do it in point form.

– On the morning of the 14th the captain announced the termination of the cruise in San Antonio, Chile. All passengers to disembark, as Holland America made the decision to pause global operations. We would then fly back home from there, not Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We never got to San Antonio.  

– On the same date, Argentina closed all ports to cruise ships. Our stop in Ushuaia was cancelled.

– Plan was to cruise the channels for the next 4 days with a stop in Puerto Montt, Chile, on March 20,2020 with San Antonio the next day. That did not happen.

– On March 14th, we were advised by the Chilean Port Authority that effective 8:00 am of the 15th, all cruise ships will be banned from entering Chile. Captain decided to head back to Punta Arenas and dock at 2:30 am. Chile closed all ports at 12:00 midnight. We were left adrift. 

– Chile closes all transportation by air, land and sea, on March 16th. Holland America pressures Chilean authorities to allow us to disembark within the next two days. Chile says that would work only if we remain outside the city for 14 days. The captain makes the decision to sail to San Antonio to pick up fuel and supplies. This was done while at anchor just off the harbour in Valparaiso.

Fuel tanker at Valparaiso  

– It took several days for all supplies to be loaded. Once done, we headed north, final destination undetermined. There were a number of destinations open to the captain were we could secure a port. They ranged from Panama City, Puerto Vallarta, Seattle and Fort Lauderdale. Holland America finally got the green light for Fort Lauderdale.

– Between March 20th and until April 2nd, the balance of our cruise, we were confined to our state room. A number of the serving staff had come down with the bug, so consequently, all restaurants and bars were off limits. Our meals were left at the door which we slid into the room. Fortunately, we had upgraded to a balcony, so we had the option of fresh air.

– One part of our trip that I was originally looking forward to was our passage through the Panama Canal. That turned out to be a non event. By this time we had been transferred to the Rotterdam, (it met us at sea bringing extra medical supplies and personnel). We were instructed to pull our curtains, turn off our lights. Essentially, stay invisible. We travelled the canal around midnight, and with no stops we were through in about 45 minutes. We did sneak some pictures.

On April 2nd, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale; our arrival was expected.

Going fishing?

– We did not have to stay in Fort Lauderdale long. We had a charter flight arranged by Holland America for all healthy Canadians, with leaving on April 3rd. We boarded busses at the ferry terminal and got a motorcycle police escort to the airport. We had already been cleared by customs and immigration so the busses pulled up right beside the plane.

– We arrived in Toronto around 4:00pm, but being delayed by a health check of all 245 passengers, we missed our 6:00pm flight to Vancouver, B.C. We were able to re-book on a flight leaving at 7:50, arriving in Vancouver around 10:00pm. Being too late to get a flight to Vancouver Island, we stayed over night at the Fairmont Hotel at the airport, compliments of Holland America. The next day April 4th, we arrived home at 5:00pm, and never so glad to be there. For me, it is going to take a long time before I book another cruise, which is unfortunate, because I love cruising.

– Being confined to our room for that period of time, (two weeks), was the final blow to our being able to enjoy?? the cruise back. As I mentioned earlier, a number of the serving staff had come down with the bug, including a good number of kitchen staff. The quality and variety of the food went down hill. On top of that, because of my recently being diagnosed with atrial fibulation, (now back to normal rhythm), my taste buds nearly shut down to the point of not being interested in eating. I became a rather picky eater. As well as that, because of the afore mentioned a-fib, I came down with edema, (now gone), and my energy level went a way down.

– On the plus side, we had a daily liquor selection card to fill out, all provided gratis by Holland America. The weather on our way to Fort Lauderdale was great. I am sure that these small positives helped us endure those last two weeks.

I am sure that somewhere down this road, I will muster up enough enthusiasm to cruise again. In the mean time, we are going to embark on another kind of water adventure – kayaking. Cheers.

 

Falkland Islands, Volunteer Point.


Gentoo Penguin

That furry guy (girl?) above is the main drawing card for the stop at Falkland Islands. That, and the off road foray to get there more than made up for the dull day.

Must not forget this fellow, suiting up to welcome travelers to their adventure.

The vehicles we used to get to Volunteer Point, are all 4 wheel drive with high clearance and mud tires. The drive starts out on a paved road from town, drops down to gravel, and then the fun begins. The balance of the trip is off road, and over very rough (jostled so much that I wacked my head several times while in the back seat) and boggy terrain. The trip takes just over an hour, and our convoy is made up of about 6 vehicles, all driven by local villagers.

The 3 resident penguins at Volunteer Point are the Magellanic, the Gentoo and the King.

The King, although the most vocal, only comprise about 1500 breeding pair.

There was a few young king penguins, but very hard to get a clear shot of one, except this little one near the edge.

The King’s seem to congregate the most as you will notice in the picture below.

What a varied and interesting day. Two firsts. The off roading, and getting to mingle with the penguins. They must be very used to having people about. If a half dozen or so wandered towards your direction, they would just waddle by, relatively close, and pay no attention to your presence. What a rewarding experience. Speaking of people, it was a pleasure to be able to observe and share some time with the birds without having to navigate a crowd.

Our next stop was Punta Arenas, Chile, where our 31 day pleasure cruise died very quickly. Stay tuned.

Montevideo, Uruguay


The first stop on our voyage was Montevideo. Established in 1724, it is the capital of Uruguay with a population in 2017 of 1.381 million.

The first sight to greet us when walking out on our balcony, was this ship grave yard. Most unusual sight.

If I may go back to the harbour in Buenos Aries, this was a much more pleasant surprise that stayed with us on the balcony for several days. It is a moth called the Gaudy Sphinx. Did not move from this spot until we were ready to set sail.

As we quite often do, we just walked around the city on our own taking lots of pictures. One of the structures that did impress was the Theatre Teatro Solis. Opened in 1856, and capable of seating 1500, it was Europe’s answer to La Scala. Sadly it was not open that day for tours.

Another eye catcher was the Salvo Palace, a very unique structure.

The rest of the pictures were taken in and around the city, including the waterfront.

Our next stop was the Falkland Islands, which I consider the most fun and highlight of the cruise.