Ventus Australis Cruise Review by barefootbeach
- Sail Date: January 2018
- Destination: South America
6pm was the magic hour to finally board the ship. The boarding area had a number of craft booths so you could grab that last souvenir from Chile. You had to wait for a bus to drive you out to the ship, which took about 4 buses to load. Upon boarding, we were shown immediately to our lovely cabin.
After ensuring our luggage was there, we all went to the 5th floor deck Darwin Lounge for a safety briefing. You didn’t need to wear your life jackets. English speakers were in this lounge and Spanish speakers met on the 4th floor lounge. Welcome Pisco Sours, or whatever you wanted, were handed out. By the time we got there, all the tables were taken and we saw that there were appetizer plates on each. When asked about how to get one from the bartender, he was shrugged off and said they were only on the tables. We only wanted something to nibble on, chips or nuts, and saw they next night that they did have these.
The ship departed at 8pm and dinner was at 8:15 in the 1st Deck Dining Room where again, they assigned you to a table based on language. We were sat at a table for 6 and met our table mates, an interesting couple from Australia. The other two never showed up. I really didn’t like this arrangement because we sat with the same couple for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 4 nights. While we enjoyed talking with them, we do like meeting a variety of people and this wasn’t conducive to that. The food and wine for every meal was good. The dress code was decidedly casual…the first night especially, most people wore what they’d had on all day.
There are two daily shore excursions which are again divided into two groups based on Challenging or Moderate Difficulty and again by language. We always picked the easiest option. After a good buffet breakfast, we don our lifejackets and carefully board the rolling Zodiacs. Perched on the seat, clinging to a rope for dear life with one hand and husband's leg with the other, wearing waterproof hiking boots, pants, jacket, gloves and hat, we set off. You have to either tuck your camera behind your life vest, or better yet, stuff it in a ziplock bag because you do occasionally get sprayed with ocean. Morning's are often cloudy, drizzly and cool, and we’re let off with a dry landing. With our guide, we set off on a coastal walk along the edge of a stream, a peat bog and a beaver’s habitat to a waterfall and moss cover rock face tucked deep inside a sub-polar forest. Our guide discusses flora and fauna, (how the introduced beavers and mink hurt the ecosystem) and it is lovely even with the monochromatic vista of sea, sky and mountains.
Back for lunch at 1pm and the second excursion, to Tucker’s Islets to see the Magellanic penguins, is divided into 3 times from 3:15 to 5:30. The first group was lucky because the sun actually came out. When we went, it had turned blustery and rainy which made viewing them not that pleasant and quick. Our zodiac had run aground off the penguin’s beach, but was pulled out by a fellow zodiac’s rope. There also were a lot of king cormorants to observe. The gift shop on the ship sells a large, detailed map of the area filled with other information for $20...highly recommend reading this early on the cruise.
A documentary film was shown after dinner for entertainment. It was rough sleeping in the middle of the night as we sailed around the western end of Tierra del Fuego into the open Pacific ocean before entering the Ballenero (Whaleboat) Channel.
Next day found us cruising up the NW arm of the Beagle Channel until early afternoon. We had a lecture on Tierra del Fuego and the Bridge was open to tour. After lunch, entered Pia Fjord and boarded Zodiacs for the Pia Glacier to hike to a panoramic view. Again, we opted for the moderate hike, but as I struggled to scramble up the slippery, wet volcanic rock, aided in part by occasional ropes to hold onto, I realized I didn’t have the balance for this trek. Besides my husband, a crew member was very solicitous in helping me back down. I didn’t mind much as it wasn’t very pretty under the gloomy skies.
Today the wind was blowing so hard you couldn’t go out on deck. I had wished this ship had some jacuzzi’s on the top deck, but I can see from a safety standpoint that wouldn’t work. At one point the rain pelted the ship so hard you couldn’t see out of the windows.
Luckily, the weather improved as we cruised through Glacier Alley, where a number of impressive glaciers named after European countries flowed down from the Darwin Mountain Range on the northern shore. Staff served appetizers or drinks representative of each country as we passed by.
Day 3 took us to Cape Horn, part of the archipelago that makes up Cape Horn National Park, Cabo de Hornos is a sheer 1394 ft. high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent Drake Passage. The 7am departure to Cape Horn had everyone dressed and ready to go. We’d been warned during the presentation yesterday that if the winds or swells were too high for a safe Zodiac landing, the excursion would be cancelled. And, it was, to the disappointment of many. I had already decided climbing all those steps straight up in the usual windy conditions would not be fun so stayed in bed through the wake up announcement. But, I did scurry out to the deck to get photos of the Isla Hornos Monument, the negative space forming an albatross, to commemorate all the lost seamen.
To make up for this, the Captain decided to sail round the Cape, which resulted in a rollicking, wild ride. The rest of the morning was spent viewing a documentary on Shackleton and hearing about the aboriginal people before our excursion to Wulaia Bay.
In late afternoon we go ashore at Wulaia Bay, a scenic spot that had been the site of one of the largest Yamana aboriginal settlements. The sun was a welcome sight as we took an easy hike through a Magellanic forest for a panoramic viewpoint of the bay. Afterwards, you could explore a small, ethnographic museum that also housed the Barrel Post Office, where you can pick up a postcard from your country and mail it when you return like the old sailors used to do. You can also drop off a postcard and hope someone will do the same.
All in all, this cruise was a unique way to explore the beautiful landscape in comfort and safety. The crew did a great job, the lectures were interesting and the food was good.
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