As lovely as our hotel room was, what we didn’t realise that we were one floor below the restaurant…and they had a function on last night…which went until about 1am. So, first up this morning we headed down to Reception and requested a room change. They were so nice and agreed to move us to another room while we were out today.

After leaving Reception we went into the dining room for our buffet breakfast, the most delicious scrambled eggs I have ever had. Then at 8.35am we were picked up for our day trip to Vina Del Mare and Valparaiso. Along the way we stopped at an out of the way coffee house where we got to sample Chicha, the national drink of Latin America made from fermented corn. It’s quite delicious with it 3% alcohol content…until it hits the stomach where it ferments…WHOA!

Our first stop was Vina Del Mare (“Vineyard of the Sea”) a lovely holiday resort, where we stopped to see the Moai, the Easter Island head statue outside the front entrance to the Fonck Museum.

We were then taken to visit the floral clock…minus hands (due to the unrest in Chile they had been removed in case someone moved them!).

Just a short drive away from the floral clock was the fish market, a little smelly but absolutely brilliant because it was ‘feeding time’ for all the birds and sea lions. A huge wheelbarrow full of fish guts, heads etc was wheeled out onto the pier and tossed onto the beach below. It was mayhem!…

Valparaiso was an absolute delight. We walked up to and around the Old Town with its many colourful buildings and street art…

and then travelled by funicular back to the town below in time for lunch at a great restaurant.

On the way back to Santiago we visited the Veramonte winery in Casablanca, where John fell in love with their Carmenere wine

We were back in Santiago by 6pm and into our lovely quiet new room

A quick visit to the Supermarket over the road and we had a feast for dinner…freshly baked bread rolls, cheese and ham plus a couple of bottles of Carmenere wine to take on our cruise tomorrow.

Thursday 9th January, 2020

Cruise day! We enjoyed a bit of a sleep-in courtesy of our very nice hotel room, followed by another delicious breakfast. At 9.30am we were picked up by our driver Santiago and transferred down to the port of San Antonio – quite a pleasant couple of hours drive.

And that’s when the benefits of being a 4* Mariner kicked in. Our bags were whisked away and tagged ‘priority’, we were checked in straight away

and jumped the queue with priority boarding. Before we knew it we were in our lovely suite (#6162), unpacked and sitting out on our balcony. But it wasn’t long before we needed a coffee and a bite to eat so we headed up to the Lido in plenty of time before being summoned for the mandatory lifeboat drill.

Tonight we enjoyed the first of many delicious dinners in the Vista Lounge.

Friday 10th January, 2020

So today was supposed to be a sea day, however due to a bunkering issue the “Zaandam” was delayed in San Antonio until 2pm this afternoon. We were fine and dandy and had a most enjoyable day. First up was a sleep-in, followed by breakfast in the Vista Lounge (and yes, John had bagel lox and declared that his cruise had indeed commenced) and then several laps around the deck.

At 10am we attended the Meet and Greet for all those Cruise Critic friends. About 70 people turned up and this is where we met our new firm friends, Bob and Linda from America. We just clicked and over the course of the cruise we enjoyed several get-togethers with them…and will continue to remain in contact well after the cruise ends.

Finally soon after 2pm we set sail

and shortly thereafter we headed for the shops…our $1,000 shipboard credit burning holes in our pockets.

Back to the Vista Lounge for dinner followed by a show – tonight a brilliant illusionist.

And the final highlight for the day, something which I thought I would never say, we got our laundry back. As 4* Mariners we were now entitled to free laundry, and over the course of our cruise we took FULL advantage of it. Oh the joy of answering the knock on your door, opening it to see a well dressed ‘bell boy’ with your beautifully pressed clothes and the folding presented in a wicker basket and wrapped in tissue paper with a gold seal on the top.

Saturday 11th January, 2020

This morning we awoke to sunny skies and calm seas…and another day at sea. Firstly we headed off to breakfast, followed by several laps of the deck.

At 2pm these 4* Mariners were invited to a complimentary ‘Sommelier Suite Wine Tasting’ with some delicious wines paired with some very interesting foods. Who knew that a glass of chardonnay would taste delightful after sucking on a lemon?

Tonight we were invited to ‘break bread’ with our new friends Bob and Linda. We enjoyed a delicious meal and very delightful company.

Sunday 12th January, 2020

Up at 6am to prepare for our arrival in Puerto Montt

and the first of our shore excursions “Petrohue Falls, Lake Cruise and Coyhaique City”. The weather started out a bit grey and foggy but by the time we got to our first photo stop, Lake Llanquihue and Osorno Volcano it was quite beautiful

At mid morning we arrived at Lake Todos los Santos for our 45 minute boat trip on the Lake

Following our lake cruise we were transported to Petrohue Falls for a nature walk, with views of the waterfalls and rapids.

All of this action happened in the morning so by lunchtime we were in need of sustenance. Part of our excursion included lunch in the Radisson Hotel in Puerto Varas. We started with a Pesco Sour (a delicious drink, typical of cuisines in Chile and Peru, made of Peruvian pisco and lime juice). The rest of our feast included a tomato soup, a salmon dish and apple pie for dessert.

Fortunately we had some free time after lunch to go for a walk around Puerto Varas, known as “City of the Roses”

We arrived back to the ship around 4.30pm and enjoyed the sail away from 5.30pm. Because of the generous lunch we enjoyed today we opted for a light snack for dinner and a quiet evening in our cabin.

Monday 13th January, 2020

The sail into Puerto Chaccabuco was absolutely stunning. Cloud shrouded, rainforested mountains with snow covered peaks. This place is the main port of call for the region and one of only a few towns along the Chilean fjords

We tendered at Puerto Chaccabuco around 9.30am and at 11am we left on our shore excursion “Northern Patagonia and Coihaique City”. The scenery was stunning and reminded us a lot of Switzerland. Our first stop was Coihaique city’s Market Square

before travelling to a restaurant in the mountains for a drink (yes, another Pesco Sour) and a snack

Today’s weather was unseasonably warm and there were a lot of stops on the road due to roadworks which did mar our day a little as it was very hot on the bus. The air conditioning wasn’t working but the scenery was still gorgeous.

We also had a stop at Rio Simpson National Park before returning to the ship

Once back to the ship it was well after 6pm so we headed straight to the Lido for dinner before returning to our cabin for a welcome shower and a sit on the balcony for the sail away…gorgeous but very cold!

Tuesday 14th January, 2020

We woke up early this morning and looked out on to a glorious sunrise

As we had a sea day today we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Vista Lounge before going for a good walk around the deck

Shopping! You’ve gotta love a deck sale…cheap watches, bags etc. And, thanks to our cruise credit, we got it all for free.

The rest of our day was filled with a South American cooking demo, lunch in the Dive In Bar and sitting out on our balcony for a few hours marvelling at the shear beauty as we sailed down the Chilean Fjords to the Tempanos Glacier

Tonight was a gala night and we enjoyed dinner with a delightful couple from Mudgee and a couple from Virginia. Lots of fun and laughs and gorgeous scenery outside – couldn’t pick a better way to spend a dinner.

After dinner we returned to our cabin, donned our jeans and jackets and went for a few laps around the deck…at 10pm…in the daylight!

Wednesday 15th January, 2020

After a very rough night we woke to calm seas as the Zaandam had ducked back into the fjords. We went down for breakfast followed by a few laps of the deck, but then it was back to the balcony to enjoy the scenery

This afternoon we attended a presentation by one of the three onboard Expedition Team member about Ernest Shackleton, which was extremely interesting and very inspiring.

After all that inspiration I was in need of a coffee and it just happened to be High Tea time in the Vista Lounge – coffee, dainty little sandwiches, freshly baked scones and macaroons! So much for dinner.

Back at home it is our gorgeous little grandson Max’s 3rd birthday. The reception for FaceTime wasn’t particularly great but at least we got to see his gorgeous little face and to hear that he is taking care of our little dog Izzy. He also told us that he got a ‘big boy bike’ for his birthday. We miss him

A relatively small dinner for us tonight, given our afternoon tea indulgence. And of course we enjoyed what has become our customary walk around the deck at the end of the day.

Thursday 16th January, 2020

Welcome to Punta Arenas! We had no shore excursion booked for today so we had plenty of time to just ease into the day. We rode the free shuttle bus from the ship into the centre of the town and just spent the next few hours wandering around this friendly town

Then it was back to the ship in time for dinner and…a walk around the deck.

Friday 17th January, 2020

This morning we had breakfast delivered to our cabin because we didn’t want to miss a minute of our sail into Beagle Channel and Glacier Alley. It was spectacular – perfect weather, glaciers, snow capped mountains…and cold!

Around 11.30am we arrived in Ushuaia and were amazed at what a large place it was. From our balcony we had a view of the airport and the city itself

We had booked ourselves on a shore excursion “The Train to the End of the World”. We both enjoy a good steam train ride and this was great

After our train ride we were taken to the Post Office at the end of the world…along with a whole mess of other buses. We had no hope of getting into the post office, but we were happy to just take in our surroundings

At the end of our excursion we asked if we could be dropped back into town as we weren’t ready to go back on to the ship. We had a lot more exploring to do and for the next couple of hours we wandered all over the town (although I think that John’s eagerness to explore the shopping area was more about finding a bottle shop, which he did)

We sailed away at 8pm bound for Cape Horn (with fingers and toes crossed for reasonably calm seas).

Saturday 18th January, 2020

Around 6.30 this morning we began our sail around Cape Horn – very rough seas and extraordinarily strong winds (so much for the crossed fingers and toes).

When the ship passed by Cape Horn it sounded it’s horn. Apparently in years past, if a sailor successfully crossed Cape Horn they were entitled to wear a gold earing in their left ear and to put their feet on the table…there you go, that will make for some interesting Women’s Group meetings!

So as to beat a severe weather system moving across the Atlantic the Captain advised that he was cranking up the acceleration and heading rapidly to Antarctica. All day long it was rough, but thanks to a magic seasickness pill called Zofran (my dear friend Bronwyn’s recommendation) I happily survived the journey.

After lunch we went to another talk given by one of our Expedition Team, Dr Craig Cormack on Douglas Mawson. Dr Cormack always starts every commentary with a penguin joke. Today’s joke “what type of penguin do you find in the desert?”…”a lost one” haha.

This afternoon though we didn’t want to miss a minute of the incredible sight outside…

We enjoyed dinner tonight with a lovely American couple, and we were enjoying chatting so much that we missed the show…again.

Tomorrow afternoon we reach Antarctica!

Sunday 19th January, 2020

This morning when we were enjoying breakfast in the Vista lounge, we saw our first albatross and the day just got better from there. A short time later we saw land – the South Shetland Islands

After rugging up we headed out to the deck to get a 360 degree view of our surroundings. The sun had emerged from the clouds and there were so many birds, and we saw our first whales.

Around 1pm we reached Deception Island

and we were surrounded by penguins, whales, sea lions and giant petrels – amazing! And with each and every passing hour we were getting closer and closer to our ultimate destination, Antarctica.

Monday 20th January

ANTARCTICA!!!! There are no words to describe the sheer beauty of this place. One of our onboard expedition team made the comment that in all the years that he has been coming down here, he had never seen better weather than we enjoyed today. Photos can do the speaking where words just cannot…

At the end of the day we went down on Deck 3 to watch the crew from American Palmer Research Station return by Zodiac to their station. They had spent the day on the ship giving lectures and enjoying being spoilt

Tuesday 21st January

Antarctica Day 2. We sailed into Nuemayer Channel this morning, surrounded by mountains and huge plains of snow. The thing that grabbed my senses the most was the absolute and utter silence…mystical, magical silence

Wednesday 22nd January

Antarctica Day 3 and what a ‘whale of a day’ we had. We lost count of the number that we saw from the very first moment we stepped out on our balcony this morning

All around Wilhelmina Bay we could hear them puffing and blowing for hours

We also saw lots of penguins

as well as random seals chilling out on random icebergs. This one looked up as we passed as if to say “what?!” and promptly rolled over in disgust and went back to snoozing.

This afternoon we entered Charlotte Bay…a bay of icebergs, and whales of course

Thursday 23rd January

Antarctica Day 4. We woke up this morning, looked out from our cabin and there were icebergs floating passed, some with penguins on them…nothing ceases to amaze in this incredible place.

At breakfast time we sailed into Hope Bay but we weren’t here very long before the Captain made the announcement that a weather system was approaching rapidly and we needed to get out. It was fascinating to watch it move in

And, to the sound of the ship’s fog horn blasting, we said an abrupt farewell to Antarctica. It was like Antarctica had opened its arms to welcome us in, and when it was time for to leave the fog and mist closed those doors and sent us on our way. We weren’t ready to leave…it had been the most incredible few days of our lives and something we will never forget.

For the rest of our day we enjoyed a lecture by the Expedition Team as well as a Gala Night to ease the pain of leaving Antarctica.

Friday 24th January

A day at sea and how lucky we were as we sailed the Drake Passage to have calm seas. Apart from meals, a walk around the deck and an “Argentinian Comfort Food” cooking demo we pretty much chilled out in our cabin for the whole day.

John modelling his new TShirt

We received a text from Sally tonight saying “Max told me this morning that he had a dream last night that he rode a racing car to Nanna and Grandpa’s house. So he must be missing you lots”. We miss you too Maxie Moo.

Saturday 25th January

Happily today we were greeted by calm seas and clear skies for our arrival at the Falkland Islands. It was such a relief that we were able to actually get in as this was one place that John was really looking forward to visiting, and many cruise ships aren’t able to make it in.

Priority tendering meant that we were hopping off the tender at Port Stanley around 8am, following a fairly long tender ride from the ship to the shore (around 40 minutes)

This gave us a few hours to explore this very ‘English’ place before two other cruise ships hit town

including a “great coffee and cake moment” in the Anglican Church’s pop-up shop

Around 1pm we went on a “Falkland Islands Battlefield Tour” (of course we did). It was very interesting to see how barren this place really is after leaving Port Stanley and John was in his element, seeing all of the many books he has read about this place ‘come to life’

Around 4pm it had turned cold and windy so we were happy to return to the ship. Sail away was at 5.30pm

Tonight we received a text from David. He had seen a few photos of John sitting out on our balcony all rugged up

“I respect Dad’s resolve to use that balcony no matter how f$&*ing cold it looks!” We cacked ourselves!

Sunday 26th January

A day at sea – blue skies, slightly choppy seas and lots of beautiful sea birds gliding around

There was lots to keep us busy – a Mariners Lunch reception (always nice to be recognised), a lecture by Dr Craig Cormick on “Weird Antarctica”, an Adagio concert and dinner in the Vista Restaurant. After dinner we returned to our cabin and watch the sunset with all the magnificent sea birds flying around

Monday 27th January

We were up bright and early this morning for our day in Puerto Madryn and our shore excursion to see the penguins. But as we got closer and closer to the shore, the strong winds and choppy waters made it impossible for the Captain to berth the ship. So alas, we were so near and yet so far

As the Zaandam sailed away we could see the Argentinian flag flying at the end of the dock and all of the tour buses lined up ready for a profitable day in port. We were just grateful that this didn’t happen yesterday at the Falklands. We figured we could survive without seeing more penguins!

So we ended up with an unexpected day at sea which started with a nice walk around the deck, followed by coffee in the Lido and then a sit out on the deck in the lovely warm sunshine as giant petrels glided around the ship.

We also went to a special Expedition Team session where the three team members shared their stories from working in the frozen continent. Tonight we went to an Adagio concert, followed by dinner in the Vista Restaurant and then a show. Not a bad substitute for a missed day in port.

Tuesday 28th January

Another sea day today, the highlight of which was a Mariners Lunch and a very enjoyable dinner tonight in the Vista Restaurant with Bob and Linda, our last ‘breaking of bread’ before our cruise ends.

Wednesday 29th January

We woke up this morning and we were in Montevideo, a far cry from Antarctica with its high rise buildings, cars and industry

This morning we had a few hours to wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town while it was nice and quiet

By 10.30am we were back at the wharf in time for our “Classic Highlights of Montevideo” shore excursion – a mini bus with four other people. It was a great tour and we saw so much of this wonderful city. Our bus drove along the waterfront of the River Plate, passed many beaches with high rise buildings

a stop at the Montevideo sign

and some exclusive suburbs, parks etc

At the end of our tour we were dropped back into the Old Town with the main purpose of visiting a leather factory where I bought a gorgeous black leather jacket. Our aim being achieved, we walked back to the ship and embarked around 3.30pm

And at 6pm the Zaandam farewelled this exciting city.

Thursday 30th January

Around 7am we sailed into Buenos Aires

and after breakfast we hopped on to a shuttle bus which took us to the port terminal. From here we left on an absolutely marvellous day tour to the Tigre Delta. We started with a drive through this vibrant city

and then we went for a boat ride on the River Plate,

then along the Tigre Delta

to Tigre, where we enjoyed lunch (Empanadas of course…YUM!) in the town and a bus tour to Puerto de Frutos

the San Isidro Cathedral

and the Recoleta Cemetary that has the crypt of Eva Peron

After we returned to the ship we had to pack because in the morning we were due to disembark.

Friday 31st January

We were up at 6am ready to disembark. Farewell cabin #6162 – it’s been amazing. Because our flight wasn’t due to depart until nearly midnight we had booked ourselves on a HAL shore excursion to show us the highlights of Buenos Aires

followed by lunch and a Tango show. We were dropped at the airport around 4pm and we were prepared for the long wait. Fortunately we bagged a nice comfy sofa in Starbucks, bought a coffee each so that we could justify our being there, and sat for around 4 hours just using the free wifi and reading. When the checkin finally opened we were ushered through quite quickly because we were travelling Premium Economy. After we had checked in our luggage and went through Customs, we did a fair bit of walking through the terminal, enjoyed a light meal and sat and waited…and waited…and waited until our flight was called. Ah the joys of a comfortable seat! I was able to fall asleep pretty easily (apparently John did too but I was blissfully unaware) and actually slept for nearly 8 hours! Never never again will I go back to Economy.

Saturday 1st February

A lost day in transit.

Sunday 2nd February

After a few hours stopover in Auckland we were back home in Brisbane by 9am and home by 10am. Because pretty much all of our laundry had been done on the ship (for free) I had very little washing. And because we had slept so well on the plane, we were feeling doubly good. Not a bad way to return home after what was an unforgettable holiday.