Thursday, January 21, 2010

Florida to South America Trip (Part 2)

Fortunately, we arrived in time to get on the ship, just barely!

We were scheduled for a holiday cruise from Valparaiso Chile, down the Pacific coast of South America to the Antarctic Pennisula, and back up the Atlantic coast to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  We had to fly down to Santiago, Chile in order to arrive there in time to catch a bus to the port of Valparaiso, where our ship, the ms Veendam, was due to sail at 5:00 pm local time.

Our flight was supposed to leave Miami by 11:45 pm on December 20 to arrive at Santiago at 10:10 am.  We knew we might be in trouble after sitting in the plane for more than three hours while the airport maintenance crews were summoned and then waited for the security boys to come and investigate a hole in one of the plane's luggage compartments.  Eventually, they decided to switch planes.  It took another hour to transfer all us passengers and our luggage to another plane.  After an eight and a half hour flight, we finally arrived in Santiago over four hours late!

By this time, most of the approximately 1,400 cruise passengers were probably already on board the Veendam.  While rushing through customs and through a line to pay the reciprocity fee, and a line at the immigrations check, and collecting our bags in the luggage room chaos, and summiting to the fruit-sniffing dogs at security (God help you if you try and smuggle an apple, some  nuts, or raisins into the guy had some granola in his luggage and ended up in front of a magistrate where he was required to pay a two hundred dollar fine!), Karen and I got separated from Art and Pinky.  Thinking they were ahead of us, we frantically headed over to catch the bus that would take us on the one-and one-half hour bus ride to Valparaiso.

So we get all of our luggage loaded on the bus, and guess what?  No Art and Pinky!  Were they ahead of us on another bus?  Behind us with their luggage?  As we sat in the bus pondering what to do, we saw them arrive with their luggage.  Yes!  But then they were herded onto another bus.  Well, that's okay, we'll all be leaving together at the same time, right?  Nope, our bus pulls out while the other one stays behind.  And then our tour guide on the bus tells us not to worry, our driver is REALLY fast and will break the speed limit to get us to the dock before the ship sails.  "We will be the last bus to make it!", she says.  Crap, that was not good news...we certainly weren't planning on starting our twenty day cruise with half our party left behind on a Valparaiso dock.

When we arrive at the dock, a Holland America dock representative pushed everyone to grab their luggage and run to the ship, as it is ready to set sail.  Karen talked to him and insisted that we were not leaving without her dad and Pinky.  He was very understanding and helpful.  After using his radio to find out that the next bus was only about ten minutes behind us, he radio'd the ship and got them to agree to wait until the bus arrived.  He allowed us to wait there on the dock for Art and Pink while the other passengers rushed on board.  The next bus soon arrived, then a frantic cab with another passenger (the guy who spent time in front of the magistrate and paid the $200 fine, missed the bus and had to pay for his own cab) and we all rushed to board the ship.  Needless to say, they were pulling up the gangway behind us as we were the last people to board the ship! 

The ship left with almost 100 passengers not on board.  At least 86 passengers were delayed in Europe due to bad weather across the continent.  Many people from the east coast of the US were also held up by bad weather there.  Up to 50 finally boarded the ship by Ushuaia (six days later), many without some or all of their luggage. On the good side?  Our late arrival caused us to miss the cattle call (long pre-boarding lines at the dock) and the life boat drill on board the ship.

The next day, Tuesday December 22, was a sunny, beautiful day at sea.  Time to eat, relax, eat, stroll the decks, eat, get some sun, eat, join in some fun shipboard activities, eat, enjoy the evening entertainment, have some ice cream and extra dessert, and finally let the ship rock us to sleep. On Wednesday,  we arrived and dropped anchor at  Puerto Montt, Chile, where we all had signed up for an excursion to Petrohue Cascades and Puerto Varas on Lago Llanquihue.  Art who was scheduled to go with us, was advised not attempt the tender-transfer off the ship due to the high  winds and seas. Pinky kindly offered to stay on board with him while Karen and I headed ashore.  We tendered over to Puerto Montt and boarded a bus to the Petrohue (pronounced "petro-way") Cascades.  Boy, did we get wet!  The wind was howling, the rain was coming down sideways, and it was impossible to stay dry.  No you can see from the pictures, the scenery was fantastic and we had a wonderful time.

On the way back to the ship, the bus stopped in the small town of Puerto Varas, also known as the City of Roses.  It is located on the shore of Lago Llanquihue ( pronounced yan KEE way), the second largest lake in Chile next to Carrera Lake.  We were given an hour to explore and shop.  Happy, but very wet and cold, we got directions to a nearby market that had restrooms.  One US dollar got both of us a small wad of toilet paper and entry to the toilets.  Hey, when you really gotta go, a buck sounds cheap!  After taking care of business, we wandered through the market and then strolled on down to a small cafe for some warmth, coffee, and pastries...mmmm!  Then it was back to the bus, over to the tenders, and back on board the Veendam to resume our southward journey.  Oh, the next day we received an "invitation" to meet for our own little "late arrivals lifeboat drill" on Thursday!

On the bus from Santiago to Valparaiso.                                                   

Chilean country side, lots of beautiful vineyards.

At the dock, these people rushing to get on board while Karen and I wait for Art and Pink's bus to arrive.

Aahh, a nice relaxing, colorful sunset our first night on the ship.

Warm sunny day at sea on the way to Puerto Montt.

Karen sharing the sunshine with me.


Art and Pink all dressed up for first of our five formal nights onboard.

Karen and I getting ready to enjoy one of many great dinners in the Rotterdam (formal) dining room.  We had signed up for the early dining option, 5:45 PM.

Posing next to the Christmas decorations at the center stairway/atrium.

Looking Great at Eighty Eight!  Art days before turning eighty-eight posing with Pink, who also had a birthday on board.

Hot looking babe coming on to me!

Towel creature(seal?))...we had one waiting on our bed every night along with a couple of chocolates.

One of the Veendam's tenders taking passengers ashore at Puerto Montt.

A view of our tender just after Karen and I got ashore.

Karen posing with our Petrohue Cascades bus tour guide.

Our ship, Holland America's Veendam.

Walking through the forest towards the cascades after our bus ride.

Yeah, that one scary, long drop.  Or as my son Jason would say, "What a great place to cliff-dive!".

Mad, rushing white water everywhere.

More rocky shutes filled with white water.  Osorno Volcano, is invisible in the background on this cloudy, rainy, windy day.

Stunning scenery.  This photo taken by Karen with her pocket Canon Elph.

Another one of Karens photos of the cascades.

Wet and wild...loving every minute!

Back at the trailhead.

Descriptive kiosk at the trailhead.

A wet and chilly Karen warming up at a cafe in Puerto Varas, where we had an hour to explore.  We had a bit of trouble trying to get them to accept our ten dollar bill in payment for the coffee and pastries.  They weren't familiar with the new-style US ten dollar bill and thought it looked like funny money.  After some inter-language haggling (they didn't speak English, we had very little Spanish) they took the bill.

Back on ship, watching the tenders get loaded up and secured on board.

Leaving Puerto Montt.   The weather was clearing up, but still blocked any view of the famous Osorno Volcano.

Two stock photo's (above and below) off the internet of what we didn't get to see...Osorno Volcano.

Tonight's towel creature is a lobster.

No comments: