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Sail Date: January 2006
SOUTH AMERICA 2006 By Bruno and Kathy Jan 18 Leaving SACRAMENTO. We changed our reservation to leave from Sacramento because after we booked the trip, we found out that Alana expected a baby on Jan 14! Unfortunately, Pallas Athena either ... Read More
SOUTH AMERICA 2006 By Bruno and Kathy Jan 18 Leaving SACRAMENTO. We changed our reservation to leave from Sacramento because after we booked the trip, we found out that Alana expected a baby on Jan 14! Unfortunately, Pallas Athena either was late or was waiting for a specific astrological sign so as they say, timing is everything. The flight from Sac to Dallas was 2.5 hours and another redeye 10.5 hour flight direct to Buenos Aires. Jan 19 Arriving in Buenos Aires. The first thing that was affirmed was that Buenos Aires is an inexpensive place to visit. The 20 minute taxi ride to the hotel was only $17.00. Cabs are cheap and the black and yellow cabs patrol thru the city like a swarm of bees. You never have to wait more than 20 seconds for an empty cab to come by. The exchange rate is 3.0 pesos to the dollar. From our hotel, the typical fare to tourist places was 6 pesos or 2 dollars. Credit cards are not readily accepted so we made our first of trips to an ATM machine at the airport. We went to the chic Recoletta section with the famous cemetery where Eva Peron is buried and found The Comer buffet on Guido which included a station for made to order steaks, another for fish, salad bar, fruit bar, antipasto bar, hot bar and deserts for 13 pesos plus 1 for cover charge. An excellent bottle of Malbec wine was 14 pesos so lunch for 2 was 42 pesos $14.00!! The desert bar included an assortment of Gelatos and deserts including a meringue with caramel syrup that melted in your mouth. We strolled thru the famous cemetery then we walked along Florida Street and that night we managed to get into Cafe Tandrino for a Tango show and a wonderful singer or regional music and a light meal. (A well known singer of that genre is Julia Elena Davolos) After the show we took a cab to Puerto Madera for an evening stroll, a tour of a 100 year old naval 3 masted training ship, and of course a gelato. We felt comfortably safe walking in the areas we visited. Jan 20 La Boca. After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we took a cab to the La Boca section. La Boca means mouth, and it is at the mouth of the river that meets the bay, and thus the old port. Buenos Aires was built by immigrants, notably Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s, along with Spanish German, etc. Thus the dialect of Portenos (Port people) as Buenos Airens are called, is a motley mix of Spanish with a sprinkling of Italian and Portuguese and much of the rhythm and intonation of Italians. They leave s and other letters off many words, pronounce ll as j and the common greeting and goodbye is ciao La Boca is the home of the Tango, a dance of passionate expression that seems very much a mix of Spanish male dominance and Italian emotional expressiveness. Kathy verified the ancestry of a couple of male dancers after guessing according to which aspect predominated in their dancing. The tango was originally a men only dance, we found out. The La Boca section has a lot of character with dancing acts at a lot of the restaurants, a diagonal block that is an outdoor museum with sculptures, bas reliefs and murals. We had a great time there, had a lunch at a street cafe that had Tango dancers then went back to the hotel. Our friends showed up and we went a restaurant 2 blocks from the hotel. The show included a band and a talented belly dancer. Jan 21 Iguazu. We took an early cab to the Aeroparque for a 90 minute flight to Iquazu Falls. At the IGR airport we arranged for the days events. We elected to find our own way to the falls and booked flights for $204.00 per person on Expedia instead of the $750. PER PERSON PRECRUISE EXCURSION. Admission to the park is 30 pesos and the great adventure tour is 90 pesos. At the park, we got onto a tram to the central station then transferred to another tram. From the terminus, we walked about 1 km on a steel walkway above the water to an overlook at the top of the falls. The falls surround you and they are quite spectacular. They form almost a 300 degree horseshoe as 2 great rivers come together and spill into a great basin. We reversed our trek back to the central station then took a MB military vehicle on an 8 km ride to the bottom of the river. We boarded a boat and took off for the base of the falls for our shower. It was a great site being in the center of all those water falls then the boat inched its way under the falls!! After getting thoroughly drenched a few times, we headed to shore and took a hike back up the hill to the Sheraton, where we had a light snack and waited for a ride back to the airport. The plane was delayed 1 hour and we were treated to a heavy rain and numerous power failures at the airport, which we were informed happen around 15 times a day  a challenge if you happen to be in the bathroom with no daylight to help you find your way out. We returned to the hotel and then went with our friends to La Cabana de Las Lilas for dinner. The setting was nice, but order the Lomos which is there term for Tenderloin for 48 pesos. Their rib steak came with a 15 bone, but it was not tender so we sent it back. The restaurant takes VISA but not Master Charge. Go figure. We agreed the restaurant did not merit its high reputation. Jan 22 The Fair and embarkation. In the morning Kathy went to a gorgeous basilica La Nuestra de Piedad, with more colors of marble than she knew existed, 2 blocks from the hotel while Bruno finished packing. Bruno checked the internet just before we left for the day and there was no word from Julie or Alana. We took a cab to the San Telmo section for the Sunday art/antiques fair. We wandered around there for a few hours then took a cab back to the Buffet for a late lunch. We went back to the cemetery to find the tomb of Eva Peron then strolled thru another art fair between the cemetery and the fine art museum. The museum was free and did have fine art in it including Monet and Rodin. We returned to the Hotel about 5 PM to get our bags and head for the Ship. Bruno checked the email one last time at the hotel And Alana had Pallas Athena about 90 minutes before! Julie was able to take a couple of quick shots and Emailed them to us. At least we could board the ship knowing all was well. Details to follow, News at 11! The Millennium is a sister ship of the Infinity which we took through the Panama Canal 3 years before, so we were anxious to see how they compared. The Infinity was the standard by which compared the other ships we cruised on. Jan 23 Montevideo, Uruguay is known for leather so there was an abundance of leather crafts. We decided to make the day relatively simple since our entry into the port was delayed 1 hour. We caught a free transfer into town from the dock and then walked to the central district. At first it looked third world, but the commercial street was quite nice. For the first time in my life I saw a perfect rainbow ring around the sun. That alone was worth the price of admission. The city is big on collectibles so in the plaza in front of the cathedral there was a flea market, as well as over 50 small museums in this small capital city. I also found out by necessity that the only public restroom was in the second floor of the McDonalds. The Cathedral was very pretty and we went on to see the coin museum. The curator said the museum was sponsored by a bank and it had the largest collection of Central American coins. The exchange rate was 25 pesos to the US dollar. The entertainment that night was an Italian Australian Guitarist who could make his voice mimic many famous singers and his guitar mimic many instruments. He got most of the audience caught up in singing with him. Kathy was happy to find daily Mass on board, said by a priest from Spain who lives in Miami. He said Masses in Spanish and English on weekends, and a bilingual daily Mass. Jan 24 Sea Day This was the first formal night with Cherries Jubilee. There were some interesting lectures. The usual port shopping guide directions to tourist shops were happily replaced with both a naturalist who gave lectures on birds, a separate lecture on the 17 varieties of Penguins, Whales, Machu Picchu and Alaska, as well as Port sites lecturer who was a former US military attachE in Buenos Aires for 20 years, who speaks seven languages and is an expert on pre Columbian south American art. Kathy took in all the lectures and Bruno went to Cruise Critic Connections meeting and played the first of many games of trivia on board, at which he won many t shirts by linking up with the right partners who knew music and other trivia. We found that if you own stock in RCCL, you get some free onboard credits. We are definitely looking in to that. The show was a Broadway review and was quite well done. Jan 25 Puerto Madryn. This is the place where we planned on renting a car and driving 100 miles to Punta Tombo to see the millions of penguins that nest there. The previous cruise missed this port because of high winds and seas. Karl and Jennie from our table decided to go with us so we got on an early shuttle into town and walked the four blocks to the AVIS office. We ended up getting a VW wagon so it was spacious enough for the four of us. The ship excursion would have been $460 for 4 people. Total cost for with the car and 4 admissions was $119. Of course we had to forgo 4 box lunches. The drive was 90 Km of paved roads and 106 Km of gravel roads. Everyone ignored the speed limits I guess partially because gas was cheap, about $1.40 a gallon for Regular and $1.60 for super. You Had to speed or the trip would be uncomfortably tight. The gravel roads were well maintained but dusty. We arrived there at 12:45, paid the 20 Peso apiece admission and were immediately amazed at the Magellanic penguins all over the area including the road and parking lot. They were on the beach, in the burrows, and in the shade of shrubs, bridges and cars. You could definitely smell the odor of fish in the air. We found a slightly shorter route back and used the internet at a local internet cafe for 16 cents for 15 minutes- a tad better than 75 cents per minute on the ship. We found out that Alana and Pallas were both doing well and that Pallas weighed 7 pounds 15 and was 19 long. That evening there was an entertaining British violinist and later a crepe desert buffet to make up for the lunch we missed. Jan 26 Sea Day. This was just another day with great food, great times and great fun. Kathy attended some lectures on Penguins and the Falklands, and Bruno entered 4 trivia contests. He discovered that 80s music was not his long suit. One Item of note was that Bruno finally got a sharp knife! Im not sure whether the wait staff was hoping that he would use it on his wrists, but it make cutting the meat easier and more pleasurable. Most cruise lines do not have sharp cutlery for the guests for some reason that I will never understand. I had mentioned to the head Chef that providing the proper utensils enhances the dining experience. Maybe that worked. The days winning in various trivia contests included 3 BINGO cards and a pen. Jan 27 Port Stanley. The Falklands war memorial was interesting, but I think I counted 4 trees and they were all at the Governors house. The weather was cool with persistent drizzles like Seattle but without the trees. Some passengers went on a rugged 8 hour jeep trip over bogs to see king penguins which can be 35 pounds, second in size only to the emperor penguins in Antarctica  of Penguin March fame. The king penguins may be the most beautiful, with yellow orange collars above their white chests. After 45 minutes of walking around in the cold wet wind, I heard the passengers huddled in the SUVs until the trip back. Kathy took a $10.00 bus ride to a Coe where there were beautiful cliffs with matted greenery that reminded her of Montana de Oro Park, along with views of nesting cormorants but few penguins. The currency is the Falklands pound which is par with the British pound. Dollars were taken all over the island. Trinkets were very expensive. The shows have all been very good, but the cruise director, Australian former Olympic discus thrower Simon Wier, did a hilarious slapstick skit with 5 passengers in the Monty Python vein. It was an Australian version of Old MacDonalds Farm, with kangaroos etc, and some of the participants didnt speak English. Unusual on this cruise, almost 30 % of the passengers did not speak English, so announcements were also given in Spanish, German and French. Departure from Port Stanley was delayed because the ship needed to be refueled. Refueling began about 6 pm from a small oil tanker and it was finally completed about 2:30 AM. There was plenty of time to make up for the lost time so it was of no consequence. Jan 28 Sea day 3. This was another relaxing and informative day at sea. Kathy attended 2 more lectures by Colonel James Reid on history and culture and naturalist Dirk Yonkerman on animals, and birds. There was a reception for previous Celebrity cruisers before the formal night and the pianist recital in the theater . The days winnings included 2 Celebrity T shirts and a Celebrity pen. Jan 29 Around the Horn. Today represents the mid point in our cruise in many ways: We have visited 3 of 6 ports of call. We have spent 7 of 14 days on the ship. And we rounded the Horn which is the southern most tip of South America. Throughout the morning, one could feel the sea getting more turbulent (currents from the various oceans begin to collide as you approach antarctica, but overall it was not as bad as I expected. The waves were about 8 feet and the wind about 30 knots. While waiting for arrival a the Horn, Bruno won a Celebrity pillow at the Family Feud Contest. He was part of the trouble team which included Big Trouble, Lotta Trouble, Lotsa Trouble, No Trouble and Not Any Trouble. The ship spun around below Cape Horn a few times to give everyone a view while Col Reid gave a narration of the events and described the landmarks including the bronze albatross commemorating the many seamen lost in rough seas around the cape, on the cliff next to the lighthouse and research station. This is probably as far south as I will ever travel so it was quite a milestone for me. The Millennium circled the island a few times then doubled back and entered the Beagle channel, named after the famous Darwin expedition in 1832, and headed north towards Ushuaia our next port. The performance was another spectacular called Fantasea which was followed by a Name that Tune Contest and a Sock Hop. We won 2 Celebrity T shirts in the contest and 2 more for a dance contest. Jan 30 Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia is a hilly town with snow capped Andes immediately behind it. This is our last port in Argentina so it gave us a chance to use all of our remaining Argentine pesos. This is the beginning of the tour of Patagonian Glaciers and fiords. We got off the ship and immediately negotiated with a cab driver in a new taxi for 3 hours of touring for $75.00. We headed out to the lush green National park and paid the 20 Peso each admission, There were bunny rabbits everywhere, and evidence of beaver damage to trees  some clever person introduced beavers to try to control a rat problem, but the beavers became a bigger problem  there are no wolves here, and no predator to keep the beavers in check. There are also no bears in the southern hemisphere. We saw the terminus of the Pan American Highway, 3068 km from Buenos Aires and 17,000 km from Alaska. Most of the trees were 3 types of beech, 2 deciduous but in full bloom for summer, and 1 evergreen. We saw lots of dead trees in areas where beavers had dammed rivers and caused flooding. We have to say that the scenery was spectacular. Then we headed across town and went to the glacier. We took the ski lift to the top for spectacular views of the town below, the Beagle Channel and the surrounding snow capped Andes, but the base of the glacier had receded up the mountain so we took a few pictures and took the lift back to the cab. We did some shopping around the scenic town and visited the Argentine Alcatraz, a prison closed now for 40 years, which was a dumping ground for many political prisoners who had done nothing other than be on the opposing side of a military coup. From its start, South American history was very different from North American. North America was colonized mainly by people who wanted to start a new life in a new place: hardy, self reliant people who banned together for mutual protection and learned to govern themselves under the inspiration of enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Locke, Montesquieu, and the British tradition of the rights of man. South American was colonized by Spanish and Portuguese who were mainly interested in exploiting the land and the people, getting the Indians to mine as much gold and other precious metals as possible to send back to monarchs and aristocratic families. Thus the military was always in charge, with or without the legitimacy of a viceroy of the monarch. There is a tradition of de facto rule by the strongman, the caudillo uniformed man or horseback who has various locally famous names but whose motif can be seen in every city, as distinct from the tradition of de jure (by law) rule in North America. South American independence was achieved through the leadership of caudillo military men such as Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin, and Bernard OHiggins in Chile. (Thus Chile maintains a close friendship with the British Isles) Even where European descendents are 90 plus percent of the population, such as in Chile and Argentina, the achieving of democracy has been a slow painful process, with military coups whenever the generals thought the civilians were not doing a good job or there was chaos. However the war in the Falklands may have turned the tide on that. In 1983 General Galtieri, head of the Argentine military who took power from the popularly elected Peron, decided to challenge England for the Falkland Islands  for penguins? For principle? People living in the Falklands consider themselves very much British subjects, but this war did not make sense to the populace in either country. Argentina very nearly pulled off its bold move, and if they had waited a few months to receive from the French the rest of the missiles they had b ought and paid for, (but who refused to send the rest of the missiles once the war started) they would have been able to sink British aircraft carriers as well as the 7 frigates and supply ship they did sink. But the Argentines sent draftees on the ground, with poor boots  19 year olds who got frostbite in the snow and were overcome by professional British soldiers, and the population in Argentina developed deep disenchantment with military rule. The military wound up bringing back an aged Peron, who died and was succeeded in office by his second wife Isabella (Eva Peron had died of leukemia 20 years earlier, when she was only 33) and Argentina has had elected government since then. Bruno caught up on the internet at the competitive rate of $1.00 an hour. After dinner we viewed 5 magnificent glaciers along the Beagle channel, which formed an array of glacial possibilities. They were named after European countries who funded a scientific expedition to explore them in the 1880s (Model ships on display at the maritime museum in Ushuaia showed little substantial difference between the 1830s Beagle expedition and the 1880s Remanche expedition. Luckily the weather cooperated and the fog lifted enough for us to see the ice. First was the Italia glacier, clean, somewhat receded back from the sea. Next came the Francia, which was a circle glacier (cirque) and a hanging lip glacier (ice had melted out from under the top of the glacier, creating a shelf, and the scooping was curved deeper in the center than on the sides, creating a bowl effect. Next came the Hollandia and then the Allemania, which was a tidewater glacier, coming down to the sea. Finally there was the Romanche, which had a large waterfall on the left side of it, a beautiful effect of water pouring over and out of the glacier. Bruno and Ed each won a T-shirt in the Name that tune contest. Jan 31 Punta Arenas. Our first port in Chile. We also ended up staying in town. It took 4 tries to find an ATM that worked, but it was worth the effort because they only took Chilean currency at the pay toilets. The exchange rate was about 520 Chilean pesos to the US. $ We found some bargain Alpaca sweaters in the town square and watched some performance art there, by the statue of Magellan and the Indians of Patagonia. (The Yanaga Indians were called Patagonians by the Spanish explorers because they appeared to have such large feet = pata gonia) US $s were accepted by the vendors. Feb 1 Sea Day and Skua Glacier more lectures, Spanish class (a series of 4 elementary Spanish classes were offered on board), more trivia games, along with pool time and walking the deck to battle the excesses of the great food of the French chefs. In the afternoon we were blessed with clear weather to drift for over an hour at the huge skua glacier, which is a split glacier coming down on both sides around a mountain outcrop. Light green and then brown water in front of us did not represent water depth (which was actually quite deep  these are steep fjords), but rather glacial milk and fine silt dirt carried by the glacial water. The site was so magnificent, with snow capped Andes rising steeply behind the glacier, that Kathy heartily wished her brother Jeff and Susan could be here to marvel with her. Later that afternoon, gazing at the cliffs from her balcony, Kathy noticed a bird flying at the top of the cliffs, then soaring along them a bit higher just under the clouds. She watched with good binoculars for about 4 minutes and never once did the bird flap its wing. It had a white head and black body, and Dirk the naturalist later confirmed she had the rare fortune to have seen a condor, the mystical bird of the Andes. Feb 2 Formal Sea Day Feb 3 Puerto Montt. The end is getting near and today was the last port. We had made arrangements to rent an Avis Car so we wanted to get off the ship early. Scheduled tendering for non booked excursions was 10:30, but we wanted to get off earlier. We decided to merge with a group that was tendering at about 9 am and we overheard a couple given permission to join early so we asked them what their plans were. They had none so we naturally asked if they wanted to join us in our car. They gratefully accepted so we took a $5.00 cab to Avis and we were on our way to beautiful Petrohue Falls. We took the toll road out of town then got off at Puerto Varras on Lake Llanquihue. The Puerto Montt and Chilean Lake area received sizable German immigration from 1850 onward. We checked out the interesting old German Black Forest style Catholic church, then we took the 60 km road to the falls. The falls were in their national Park and the admission was $2.00 each. It was more like multiple cascades thru black lava rock. It was quite impressive and worth the trip. Then we went back thru the town and headed north to Frutillar which was an historic German town built along a lake shore. It was quaint and scenic and had excellent pastries. Ask us how we know. One cute feature was a chess board with 36 high pieces on a grid of 24 squares, and of course you walked around to study your moves. It was definitely for the serious chess player. There is still a German club in Frutillar, and a sculpture in the lake of a director with his baton and music is a reminder of their annual music festival. We missed a coffee cake cookoff by one day. Bruno got his internet fix for 200 Pesos ($.38) then we all go back on the ship. Feb 4 A sea day with more prize winning for Bruno. Kathy was fortunate to see whale spouting and its dark undulating body  from the place of greatest serenity in the ship the large porthole in the womens sauna, and spent much of the day adding her contributions to this journal! I will certainly be watching more for news of South American politics in the future. South America has four cultural regions: Portuguese and African in Brazil, European immigrants in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, mostly Indian population in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay, and Mestizo populations in Columbia and Venezuela. Bolivia just elected a full blood Indian, Peru has a newly elected woman executive, Chile may elect a woman later this year, Panama has a woman president. South America tilts toward the left politically, trying to figure out how to set up a successful social and economic system. Besides the strong man tradition, the areas that were once Incan (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Northern Chile) have a distant cultural memory of successful government. The Incan government was not democratic but everyone was taken into account in a very organized system. When a young man came of age and passed his initiation rituals, he was assigned a small plot of land that might be at a sharp angle on a mountainside. He was assigned some help in terracing it, then expected to farm it. One third of his produce went to feed his family and other portions went to the government, the priests, a fund for the elderly, widows and orphans, and stores set aside for times of famine. The women were valued as creators of beautiful textiles. It was a very orderly society. A common dream in western Latin America is how to bring that back. In negative reaction to Bushs policies in Iraq Latin American countries are leaning further left, under the influence of Venezuelas Chavez who claims American might invade anywhere. (But we did not sense animosity anywhere  South Americans seem quite used to the idea that people are different from their national leaders policies.) NAFTA is not popular  South Americans feel it favors the US. Argentineans resent the policies of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) that they feel helped crash their economy in 2000. Chavez has wooed Argentina by using oil money to buy half of Argentinas debt to the IMF. Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay have already founded a common market among themselves. Peru and Bolivia are in the process of joining it, Chile is leaning towards joining, and Columbia and Venezuela are considering joining. Meanwhile the Chinese have poured millions of dollars of investments into South America. It will be interesting to see what develops. Feb 5 Valparaiso. It was difficult getting off the ship because the Chilean government is very strict about their agriculture regulations (like California, you CANNOT bring in any fruits, vegetables or flowers. They do not take anyones word for it  they machine and dog search all luggage, which makes the disembarkation process lengthy, but agriculture is one of their main exports, along with copper from the mines in the north. The delay gave us time to reflect on the great good fortune we had on this cruise. Despite predictions of bad weather, we were blessed with good weather in all these places. The cruise right before ours missed two ports due to high seas, the Skua glacier because it was covered by clouds and raining too much to go out on deck, with the same conditions around Cape Horn. Our good luck continued. It was predicted to be 94 degrees in Valparaiso, but was only in the mid 70s and mid 80s in Santiago. Valparaiso is a city of contrasts. There were many beautifully painted belle epoch houses and gaily painted bohemian houses, impressive public buildings along the waterfront, and shacks on the hills above. There are 17 ascensores  gondola elevators  that ply their way up the hills. The Chilean legislature meets in Valparaiso, while the executive and judiciary are in Santiago  an attempt to split power to discourage any future coups. Santiago is about 65 miles from Valparaiso, and it is less than 40 miles further to the Argentine border (though there is no direct road east across the Andes). Between Valparaiso and Santiago we passed through the Casablanca Valley, the premier Chilean wine growing district. The countryside looked very much like parts of California  especially Nipomo and the central coast, and high desert areas. Santiago is approximately the same latitude south as Los Angeles is north. Our traveling companions were especially unhappy with accommodations in the hotel-apartment we had booked. Our friends are 64 and 74, and traveling with her mother who is 83. Their apartment for 3 adults consisted of a bed and sofa cushions on the floor. While we were searching for a restaurant (there are not a lot of restaurants even in the downtown area, and they are almost all closed on Sundays  I guess people just eat at home) we came across a 3 star hotel with a marble entrance  good sign  and checked. Sure enough, they had 3 rooms left  one with 3 actual beds, one that was smoky, and one that had 2 beds and no smoke, very pretty with beautiful tile and wood, with breakfast  it definitely helped change our perspective on Santiago. A great bonus was a terrace and pool on the 17th floor of the apartment building next door, which hotel guests are allowed to use. The Great 360 views of Santiago, and great night air were a bonus. Santiago has many beautiful buildings of various eras and styles, from colonial baroque through modern, and probably beautiful scenery in the winter and spring, when the mountains all around it are covered with snow. In the summer they are plain looking, like mountains in the desert. There are beautiful parks in the city. Unfortunately there was a major graffiti problem everywhere, even on churches, and our taxi driver seemed to feel that was normal. There was also quite a bit of trash in public places. The food was, well, a lot better in Buenos Aires and a WHOLE lot better on board ship. Coffee everywhere except in a few cafes by the fine arts museum/ hangout areas consists of powdered Nescafe  similar quality pertains to the rest of the food. Bruno was served bread (?) so dry you thought it was a one inch thick cracker, but so tough you could hardly break it. No need to worry about catching crumbs in the 3x4 inch napkin. Along the banks of the Maichu River we saw the worlds biggest garage sale  a half mile of mostly student age folks selling used clothing and miscellany, laid out on towels. Feb 6 Santiago Day 2. After the continental breakfast served at the hotel, Linda and I went to the off ice of the Apart Hotel that we bailed out of the night before. Linda was able to sweet talk them into giving us a refund, so that got us off to a good start. The city seemed to come alive today. All of the Gallarias filled with small shops opened on Monday, but alas, the Museums were closed. Kathy wanted to see the pre-Columbian exhibit and a few others, so there was some disappointment. Ed found out that the Post Office building was 300 years old and that the river was rerouted from the center of town 150 years ago. Whereas the day before we hard pressed to find an open restaurant, they were all over waiting to serve. We noticed that the shopping areas and Gallarias were themed. There was one for shoe repair, one for lamps, another for lingerie, etc. If you wanted celibacy panties with a padlock, you knew just where to find them. At the end of the afternoon we walked thru the Mercado Central and we did find some non food clothing items there at bargain prices. We are all suffering from withdrawals from the fabulous food on the Millennium, but we knew that wed better cut back on our caloric intake. We had a late lunch at a local Basque restaurant recommended by the hotel and just a small snack for dinner. Feb 7 Heading home. We wanted to see the 21,000 ft peak in the Andes but the tour did not have enough customers so Bruno had the idea of renting an Avis car in town, driving to the mountains, then going directly to the airport for our 1140 PM flight. We said goodbye to the Cohens and Mama at breakfast then went on our way. The Avis Chevy arrived promptly at 830 so we headed due north on Rt5 then took 71 to 57 to Rt 60. This route winds up the Andes through an International tunnel then east to Mendoza and BA. The Autopista was well built and smooth with 2 tolls along the way. The next 2 roads were nice 2 lane roads, then, we saw the trucks on 60. It was the main East-West cargo route so the road was heavily beaten up in spots. We kept climbing thee we saw up ahead a road with 28 switchbacks on the side of a mountain! Parts of them were protected by concrete snow sheds. We finally got to the checkpoint at the entrance to the International Tunnel and were told that we did not have written authorization to cross into Argentina to see the 6800 meter mountain. (21,000) Disappointed but not willing to waste the afternoon, we headed to Vina del Mar on the coast down the same road we climbed. The biggest problems were the tiny KIA vans and pickups. I doubt that they could do over 45 mph so they were definite traffic hazards as the long semis attempted to pass them in frustration. We got to the coast at Concon, a cute coastal village with restaurants and beaches. It claimed it was the gastronomical capital of Chile so we wanted to find out. On the outskirts of Concon, we found a cute restaurant perched on rocks splashed by the surf. We enjoyed an early dinner then went off to the next town Renatta. This city was really busy with tens of thousands of beachgoers. Condos clung to the hillside 15 stories high. It was quite clean and impressive. Finally we entered Vina del Mar---at rush hour. You can get horse drawn buggy rides around the central park and enjoy the beach. The roads were very confusing and we circled the town in despair. We finally parked, explored a few places then headed for the airport.. When we got there we realized that we were not given drop off instructions when there were no Avis signs at the rental return area. We circled the lots 4 times and asked 4 people where the drop off point was. It turns out that we had to park the car in the international lot then take the keys to the Avis desk. The attendants assured us that the signage would be corrected next week. It was now 90 minutes until boarding. Kathy got a well deserved Pisto Sour which is the national drink, then boarded the 767 for home. Feb 8 Seeing Pallas. After a change of planes in Dallas, we arrived in Sacramento at 11, picked up the Pontiac and headed out to see Pallas Athena. She was as beautiful as expected and we spent the next 2 days around the grandkids before heading home. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
This two week cruise was our first return to the Celebrity line in a few years, and we were pleased to see both some changes, and some familiar things. The SHIP: The cabin is nice and large, but not quite clean, with some residual things ... Read More
This two week cruise was our first return to the Celebrity line in a few years, and we were pleased to see both some changes, and some familiar things. The SHIP: The cabin is nice and large, but not quite clean, with some residual things from the last passengers in cupboards, but that is quickly fixed. In my opinion the Concierge Class is worth the additional cost, with excellent service, and extras that just make it a bit more special. The public rooms onboard are very nice, providing a feeling of intimacy without being cramped. We like the Cova Cafe and the Acupuncture clinic as unusual areas. The layout is also done well, easy to find and access each area in both good weather and bad. The spa/gym is especially well designed, and the thermal pool a treat on this cruise when so many days are not really fit for outdoor pools. The ITINERARY: The itinerary is well planned and diverse, with a mixture of nature and culture and some spectacular experiences, rounding Cape Horn and viewing glaciers that go along with being at the "end of the world". The lectures that are given on the destinations and the naturalist on board really enhance the destinations by providing information and suggested places of interest to visit. We did not use any of the offered organized tours, and were able to hire a cab in each location to take us to any of the tour destinations we wanted to see, without the crowds and at about a fifth of the price. We were very fortunate with weather, and even the days at sea were fine weather keeping with this part of the world at this time of year. The FOOD: We don't expect cruise food to be top level, but this was the only disappointment of the cruise. It is probably difficult to keep fresh food supplied at these locations, but there is too much use of frozen and canned fruit and vegetables, resulting in an overall feeling that you are eating at a college cafeteria, especially at the self serve buffets for breakfast and lunch. There were times when the crowds made it difficult to find seating, and people wandered in circles with trays, not my idea of fine dining. At breakfast, the frozen berries are still frozen when served, and in the dining room, the side dish on the "special" evening when lobster and prime rib are the entrees was canned mushrooms. The sushi bar at night was an unexpected bonus, and we used it and the pasta bar to avoid the dining room dinner a few times. Even the staff rolled their eyes at what they were serving in the dining room, when we asked if this was the standard. The chef for the Olympic restaurant and the spa dining area is far superior, and I recommend paying the surcharge to eat in the Olympic, for dinner and having lunch in the spa dining area or the dining room, to avoid the buffets. The SERVICE: There is no doubt the service in every department was top notch, without exception. The officers of the ship, the room attendants, the cafe and dining staff, the office service and the activity staff were amazing at all times, and made for a very enjoyable experience. The ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment ranged from excellent to silly. The staff entertainers are talented and energetic, and every show they did was quite good. The additional musical entertainment also are good, with a nice variety of styles, offering something for everyone. The jugglers/acrobats seemed to get a universal yawn from the crowd. OVERALL: This was a great cruise, with enough adventure and sites to appeal to a range of ages. I would recommend it for families with teens and even school aged kids. Read Less
Celebrity Millennium Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.5 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.5 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 3.5 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.5 3.6
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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