Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Monday, January 31, 2011


The night turned to pea soup and we slept to the sound of the fog horn all night as the ship moved around some. It is not getting light until almost 8AM so we sleep in. Thank goodness we can eat breakfast in the dinning room today. Dick doesn’t like eating in the room.

We go our separate ways after breakfast. Dick goes back to the room to work on the pictures and the blog. Carolyn goes to the lecture on the glaciers coming up. She is heading back to the room and gets waylaid by a new jigsaw puzzle set up outside of the coffee bar. She and several Dutch ladies work for an hour or more getting the border picked out.

It is now almost 1PM so Carolyn checks with Dick about lunch, but he passes. She goes to the dinning room and has some of a seafood platter then retires to a now favorite corner in the Mariner Lounge to watch the sea and read. The seas are very high today and the ship is really moving about.

About 5PM the Captain announces we are running against a 1 knot current, head winds and high seas and are losing time. We will be three hours late to Puerto Montt in the morning. The good news though is that the port authorities have found the Mariner a place on their small dock so we won’t have to tender as planned. He says this will enable the tour department to run the tours as planned with only minor time changes. All this is good news as far as we are concerned. We have elected for a short afternoon tour to the lake district. We can’t face another all day affair on the poor quality of buses in this area.

Tired of going to dinner so early, we mess around and plan on going to dinner about 7:30PM. The Compass Rose menu looks good is one of the better one we have had. However, by the time Carolyn starts to get dressed, the idea of sitting though the meal downstairs doesn’t appeal. Dick goes on and Carolyn gets her night gown on and orders fettuccine Alfredo, a salad, hot tea and cookies from room service. Ahhh...the pleasure of cruising!

SUNDAY, JANUARY 30 - Valparaiso for Santiago, Chile

We are docking in Valparaiso when Dick open the drapes at 6:30AM. It is a grey, foggy morning and the hillside across from us looks much like the hillside in Coquimbo.
We have a 7:50AM departure for our all day trip into Santiago. The terminal where we are to actually board the appropriate bus is a mile or so from our pier and they are running shuttle buses. The female Gestapo agent from the ship is trying to match tour bus numbers with the shuttles instead of letting it all sort out in the terminal when you board your final bus for the day’s trip. To complicate matters, Chile is requiring a filled out customs form from each passenger as they pass through the customs check point, complete with an x-ray machine. This involves much standing around and officious two-way radio use on her part but she finally determines that everyone has their official and signed form that was placed in our cabins last night (with complete instructions!) and we finally get to the terminal and board our bus.

Fortunately, the buses are again the sleeper type with A/C and we are not packed in like sardines so those of us who want to spread out can do so.

We are given a windshield tour of Valparaiso and Vine Del Mar the resort area next to the city,
before climbing the hillside up and out of the town where we pick up an interstate quality, four-lane, divided highway heading to Santiago. We cross three valleys on our trip and tunnel under two mountain ridges. The first valley is full of vineyards and reminds us very much of Napa or Sonoma.
The second produces fruits and vegetables mainly for Santiago’s use.

With one brief potty stop, it takes about two hours to make the drive into Santiago along the modern highway. Once in Santiago, we are greeted with a clean city of wonderful colonial and modern architecture.
We get a windshield tour with a stop at the old Presidential Palace to see the end of the changing of the guard ceremony. This one is much more impressive than the one in Lima with those Disney costumes for uniforms. The men and women in Santiago look like spit and polish military and move with precision (no scratching and dropping of bayonets like we saw in Lima).
From here we continue our tour through various parts of the city with another stop at the main Cathedral for a short walking tour of the Cathedral
and the colonial area around it.
We were suppose to stop at a modern shopping and restaurant area for a hour for lunch and time on our on, but wind up skipping that stop for some reason and head to our stop at Los Dominicos Handicraft Town for an hour of shopping and are told we can also get some lunch here if we want.
This is a very interesting area and we could have easily spent two hours here including getting some lunch.
Carolyn finds a very nice Lapis Lazuli and silver rope/chain to wear as a necklace. She also picks up some enameled copper bracelets. Most of us spend our time shopping per the plan for the tour as there really isn’t any place to get just a quick bite. The guide asked if we ate and we say no, so he says we will stop some where for a snack.

By now it is 1:30PM and we head up to San Cristobal Hill Park to see an overlook of the city
and we then begin our trip back to Valparaiso. One stretch of the interstate highway through the city runs for three plus miles under a river bed still flowing with a large flow of water coming down out of the Andes Mountains. They elected to do this rather than put it above ground and spoil the scenery in the area. What a great idea.

Since most people did not eat at the handicraft market and are complaining about being hungry, we waste an hour at a locally popular road side food operation about half way back to Valparaiso. It is now after 3PM and Dick does not want to eat this late. Carolyn settles for a bottle of coke as they are not interested in serving us what with the large local crowd on hand this Sunday afternoon. On the way back to the ship we pass the local Sunday street market that covers about four city blocks.
We finally arrive back at the ship and walk into our room right at 5PM. It has been a nine hour tour. Carolyn stops to pick up another complaint form because it was not done as described and the lunch stop was a joke! The head of the tour department gives her the form and wants to know what the problem was....My report upsets her and and she heads off the ship to talk to the tour operator. Regent really needs to get control of the tour operations in these last ports or not offer these complimentary tours, they are not what one would expect from Regent or any other cruise line, luxury or not.

Sail away is at 6PM
and we head for dinner about 7PM where we share a table with a lady who had been on our tour and her traveling companion. They are both from Sacramento, CA. We all agree that Santiago was really a pretty city and we enjoyed the visit, but the tour needed some work.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29 - Coquimbo, Chile

One’s first impression of Coquimbo is of a gritty, hillside above a commercial port covered with small houses; not shanties but small individual houses. These houses are finished and painted which helps the over all appearance of the city...better than the cities in Peru. On top of the hill is a huge, stylized, concrete cross erected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the declaration of Chilean independence.
 We are to take a bus tour up into the Elqui (L-key) valley to see the vineyards, visit a commercial pisco distillery, Capel, and to visit the towns of Vicuna and La Serena. The valley is greener that the area in Pisco, but still on the arid side. We are on bus number 10 and our guide for the day is Allan. He is the son of English immigrants and was born in Chile. He is in his mid-40s and says his parents have been dead for many years. It is obvious that he is losing his English because he uses words that don’t fit the situation and his syntax is awful. Actually, he is the hardest to understand guide we have had the whole time.

Our bus is not air-conditioned and this part of Chile, just south of the driest desert on earth, is in a six year drought and very dusty. The vineyards are irrigated from a river and they have built a large dam to create a lake to store water but even it is way down from its highest level. When they built the dam, about 10 years ago, they flooded out many existing vineyards and now they rise, ghostly, from the bottom of the lake as the water level drops.
We arrive in Vicuna around 9:30AM. We are dropped at a pretty, little town square where a Saturday market is just beginning to set up and only a couple of the small stores around the square are open. We are only given 15 minutes (program said 30) and since it is so early, there is really nothing to do or see without the market.
We determine later that we should have gone directly to the Capel Distillery and then come back to the market. The tours we have taken all seem to be by the seat of the guide’s pants with no firm plan and we frequently do not get some or any of the itinerary described when we registered for it. This is becoming a real sore subject!

The tour of Capel Distillery is interesting but no great shakes and Carolyn lets Dick take it for both of us as there are lots of stairs to negotiate within this large, commercial operation.
Upon leaving the distillery, we return to Vicuna for a snack lunch consisting of two empanadas, one filled with meat and one with cheese, a small slice of cake, a bowl with a canned mango and your choice of a small pisco sour or a glass of wine. Big whoopee!
As we leave the area we again drive around the square and wish we could stop as the artesian shops are open and the market is hopping!
We now head back down the Elqui Valley toward La Serena and Coquimbo. It is around 50 miles from Vicuna down to La Serena where we stop for a visit to La Recova Market. We are only given 20 minutes (program said 45) to see this bustling square block market area and the main square. There is everything for sale on this Saturday afternoon from fish to Chinese made souvenirs. All we can do is wander through part of it and then head for the bus for our return to the ship.
We are not happy campers and Carolyn heads straight to "Destination Services" to complain but does not get a lot of satisfaction. They give her a complaint form to fill out which she does.

We get cleaned up and have a drink to improve our attitude. We have our second reservation in Signatures tonight. The first night was very good so we are looking forward to the meal. When we get seated and look at the menu it has changed...according to the hostess it changed yesterday. There is nothing on the menu that really appeals to us. Carolyn orders the quiche camembert and the lamb chops with dried fruits and nuts. Dick gets sole and pawn risotto and the scallops with smoked bacon. We both agree the risotto is OK and the quiche is not eatable. We both have a chicken cream soup that tastes like warm flour paste so we pass on that also. Dick skips desert. Carolyn orders the chocolate ravioli which is awful. We ask the hostess about how often the menu changes and she tells us it will change 2 more times on this leg. We have two more reservations on this leg so we will check and if it hasn’t changed or hasn’t improved we will cancel one or both.

All in all this has not been a good day...there is always tomorrow.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


We were told when we met our stewardess the first day she would keep the clock in our room on the correct ship’s time and leave a note in the room each night that the time is changed. OK. According to last night’s ships log the sun doesn’t rise until well after 8 this morning. OK.

Fast forward to this monring....Dick wakes up at some point rested and ready to go after sleeping almost all day yesterday. It is beginning to get light so he gets up and checks the TV clock which happens to still be on yesterdays time. He changes the room clock back and goes to the coffee lounge......Carolyn wakes up and looks at the room clock and it is just 7! So she rolls over and goes back to sleep waking again about an hour later. Dick hasn’t come back yet but she goes ahead and gets ready for breakfast. Dick comes back at his usual 8:30AM and we head to the dinning is closed! It is a quarter to 10 not 9! Very put out....Carolyn at Dick for changing the room clock that the stewardess had correctly set like she always does and Dick at the ship’s TV clock for being wrong...later the ship took the whole channel down because it had a problem! We get off to a rather rocky start especially since the upstairs buffet closes just after we get there...not the best breakfast!

Carolyn goes to the rest of Terry’s talk on Chile. It started at 9:45AM! Dick goes back to the room and writes the blog and down loads the most recent pictures. Carolyn comes back from the talk and sorts the pictures and gets the blog and pictures up to date.

She goes to lunch hoping for some fruit soup, but no luck today so she orders a hamburger then finds a soft spot to read and people watch. By now the sun has come out and it is a beautiful cool day. We seem to have finally gotten out of the dusty haze we have been sailing through for some time.

After several turns around deck 12 and watching the pool tsunami

Carolyn goes down for some balcony time. Dick goes up to play in the pool and is having a hard time deciding whether to stay in the pool and play or go to Trivia. An officer comes out and makes that decision for Dick when he closes the pool because it is getting to dangerous.

Tonight is a block party again. We attend. Almost everyone on our deck is new. The average age has gone up also. In fact the mood of the ship has changed too. It is much quieter this segment and older. You could fire a canon on the pool deck and not hit anyone it is so empty! Funny how things can change so much!

We have our "real Prime 7" reservations tonight and share a table with a couple from San Francisco. The food is good and we enjoy the company. Afterwards we go to the Mariner Lounge and visit with another couple for awhile then head to bed. The ship is rolling around tonight...we are riding those long roller waves again.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Both of us are still fighting our colds and asthma. Thanks heaven for two seas days in which to recover; hopefully.By late morning, Dick gives in and goes to bed where he spends most of the rest of the day sleeping. Carolyn spends the morning getting the extra charge tours we bought before getting on the ship credited back to the credit card and then charged against the OBC. She also buys a nice sounding all day tour in Buenos Aires that includes everything we had talked about doing including a river cruise, we had oringinaly booked separately, and lunch. She also checks with the tour desk about a couple of other tours we have planned. They have made some changes in the tours that were offered on line. We may cancel a few and go on our own, but she will wait until they do the tour talks to make a final decision.
It is a pleasant afternoon out side so Carolyn spends the time reading and napping on the balcony. By dinner time Dick is feeling some better and we prepare to go to dinner at the specialty steakhouse, Prime 7. Dick is afraid it is going to be a waste of this special treat as he is not hungry. Someone is watching over us as we have our reservation dates mixed up and our reservation is not until tomorrow evening. They offer to seat us but we pass and go to the main dining room.

Back in the room, we find that the clocks are to be set forward an hour which doen’t seem to make much sense as we think we are on the time of all of the southern half of South America already. Oh, well ours not to reason why, etc. This will bit us in the butt in the morning though!


Today we are venturing into Ica, Peru to tour two Pisco producers. One is a boutique producer, El Catador and the other is a commercial quantity producer, Vista Alegre.
 As we leave the ship, we circle around the upper end of a large bay and connect with the Pan American Highway again.
We were on the Pan American Highway in Salaverry. This is the highway that runs from Northern Alaska to Southern Argentina. We passed under the bridge going through the Canal several days ago. We have actually driven sections of it in Canada and looks like a super highway up there compared to what we are traveling today. We are still in the, dry, monochromatic landscape of Peru. Despite how bad this may look to us, it gets worse, we are told, as one heads south into the driest desert in the world, the Altacama Desert, across the border in northern Chile.
We drive for over an hour to get to the town/city of Inca. This appears to be an agricultural area, using the water from one or more rivers coming down out of the Andes to irrigate the fields.
 Ica is a depressing conglomeration of shanties, unfinished two story buildings, trash and traffic congestion.
At one point we cross a channelized river into which we see people dumping refuse. Its water is used to irrigate the fields and otherwise support the population of the area, When the occasional rain does come all this filth will be washed into the sea! The guide tells us they have about 2 inches of rain a year! I guess when you are living hand to mouth, there is no time and no resources to devote to environmental concerns; even ones so simple as collecting the trash!
After driving through Ica, we arrive at El Catador and are given a tour of the production facilities and see a corner of their vineyard. Several workers greet us with a smile and the hoist of a glass of raw Pisco.
 That must improve their productive efficiency! This family owned and run facility has been in business since the 1850s and our host, Enrique is the 6th generation.
This is a truly small batch producer. They use open air, concrete vats to crush the grapes and, we are told, the grapes are stomped by foot and by a massive, primitive, screw-drive, press, of which the center post is a 150 year old tree trunck.
We can only hope they wash the tanks out before their annual use in March and April. The Pisco is produced in a massive, 1,500 liter, buried pot still. The grape juice, which has been fermenting in clay jars, some of which are over 100 years old, is poured in, one 35 liter, clay jar at a time, and then a fire is lit. The pot still is sealed with corn husks and clay and the steam is funneled through a copper condensing coil, submerged in water, to collect the distilled Pisco.
Enrique worked in Southern California and got the idea for infusing his Pisco with the essence of lemons. When they do this, they suspend a 250lb. basket of uncut lemons in the pot still above the fermented grapes. The heat extracts and adds the lemon essence to the steam and when condensed you have Pisco Citrone. This brew is 90 proof and, when mixed with a little honey, makes a marvelous cough syrup. They also produce Pisco Creme. While we are not given a detailed description of its production technique, it has a very pleasant taste and would go wonderfully in coffee. Think about a variation on Bailey’s Irish Cream and you will have the idea.
We leave El Catador and drive a short distance to Vista Alegre, owned by an Italian family that settled in the area and started the vineyard in the 1850's. It takes some horn blowing and vigorous discussion to get the guard to open the gates for us and he holds onto the driver’s ID while we are inside the walls of the estate. Everyone is very security conscious. This must date back to the terrorist problems of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Vista Alegre is an unimpressive, commercial operations and not nearly as interesting as El Catador or even the commercial wineries we saw in Mendoza, Argentina in 2008.
 Finished here, we begin our slow, hour plus drive back to the ship where we arrive about 1:30PM. The bus has a speed governor on it, but the driver regularly ignores this annoying beep. He also drives for long streches on the wrong side of the road trying to pass slower moving traffic such as a fuel truck! A time or two we think we are going to be mated with the on coming truck or bus all  to the music of blaring horns!!
The dust in the air and on everything is suffocating. Carolyn has a full blown asthma attack in progress by the time we get back.
We are really exhausted! Cleaned up, we head to dinner as soon as the dinning room opens. A little wine and a good meal improves our attitude and we go back to the room and are in bed by 8:30.