A commentary on my cruise to Chile and Argentina

Reply Sun 1 Dec, 2002 11:19 pm
Where to begin! Last December (2001), I was able to fly to Mt Everest, the highest point on earth. In March of this year, I was able to visit the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. This cruise took me to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

Actually, the whole trip took fifteen days, because of travel time to and from South America. I flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles, then from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile, then took a bus for two hours from Santiago to Valparaiso to catch our ship. Celebrity Cruise Line charged us $50 for this ‘service.’

Before embarking on our ship, the Zenith, we were transferred to a waiting area at the Valparaiso race track for over four hours. They offered us soft drinks, coffee or tea, and some snacks while we waited. I met two couples and a black woman, Linda, from Virginia. The six of us sat at the same table while we waited for our transfer to the ship. Linda works for the federal government. Bob and Jan live in Boise, Idaho, and Lloyd and Doris live in St Louis, MO. Bob has a PhD, and Jan has a MS, and works as a Placement Administrator for the Idaho Youth Ranch. I don’t know what profession Bob is in. Lloyd worked as a butcher most of his life, but now works part time in a pawn shop. I spent many hours with Lloyd and Doris during the cruise, and we went on an independent tour of Puerto Montt, our first port stop, where we hired our own cab, and saw most of what the ship‘s excursions included, but at a fraction of the cost. We also had a few drinks together during the cruise. We were supposed to get together for other independent tours on subsequent port stops, but for one reason or another, we didn’t.

As you probably are aware, cruise line excursions are a rip off. They charge two or three times their actual cost. Somebody explained that that’s how they make up for the competitive prices for the cruise, and make up their loss with high cost for everything else. The cruise line excursion for Ushuaia’s (End of the World) train ride was $84, and I paid $39 for a taxi, entrance into the national park, and the train fare. I also didn’t have to battle 45 other passengers in a bus. I paid the $79 for the Whale Watching excursion from the ship in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, because I didn’t want to gamble on missing the whales (my first and last time). I also paid the $68 for the six hour Buenos Aires Highlight’s tour that included our transfer to the airport after the tour. Otherwise, I would have gambled on getting mugged by some strangers on the way to the airport (a warning reported on the internet). It was supposed to be a six hour tour, but it was actually less than three hours, because we started out late, and we spent over two-and-a-half hours for lunch. I heard some grumbles from other passengers, and one guy at our lunch table was so pissed off, he threw his fork on his unfinished steak lunch, and walked out when he learned we were being dropped off at the airport at 4 PM (which meant our tour was less than three hours). Most of us had to wait five hours or more at the airport for our flight home. It seemed longer, because the airport shops didn’t offer much. Lloyd and I had a beer at one of the restaurants while we waited.

Otherwise, the sights and experiences were fantastic. ** I bet you didn’t think there would be anything positive on this trip! Ha, ha, ha….

The most interesting point about Chile is the great number of Germans that have immigrated to this country. During the cruise, I sat with a couple from Germany, and asked if they had relatives in Chile. He told me that he was a sea captain for over seven years, and traveled around the world, and saw everything, but never went around Cape Horn. He wanted to do go around the cape before his demise. The reason for so many German passengers on this cruise is that Celebrity Cruise Line advertises on the internet and most travel companies in Germany.

Our first port stop was Puerto Montt, Chile. Lloyd, Doris, and I took a taxi to the waterfalls, the lake district (Puerto Varas), view some llamas and a puma, see the volcanic mountain that resembles Mount Fuji in Japan, and see some beautiful landscapes of Chile. For the same excursion, the ship charged $109 per person. We paid the cab driver $40 per person plus $2 for entry into the falls.

Our second port stop was Punta Arenas, Chile. I hired a taxi on my own to visit the penguin caves, and see the sights of Punta Arenas and its environs. The ship charged $92, and I paid $25. The only difference? My cab driver didn’t speak English. For a $67 savings, I’m was more than happy to forego the tour guide’s commentary which is usually forgotten by the time we get back on the ship.

Our third port stop was Ushuaia, the southern-most city of the world. The highlight of the port stop is the “Train Ride at the End of the World.” The ship charged $84, and I paid $39. The train ride was actually only about three or four miles long, but it took about 30 minutes one way, because it moved about seven mph, and we had one stop where they had a kiosk for soft drinks and snacks. Definitely not worth $84. After the train ride, I had the taxi driver drop me off in the middle of town where I walked down the main shopping street. I walked back to the ship for lunch, but the Windsurf Café (where they serve buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner) was closed, so I walked back into town to have a late lunch. I walked into a restaurant and ordered a pizza and beer. The cost? $6, and it was a large pizza.

We cruised around the Cape Horn on November 19.

Our forth stop was Puerto Madryn, Argentina. The interesting history of Puerto Madryn is that it was founded by the Welsh in 1865. Although we can view whales off the California coast, I have never seen whales, so I made it a point to take this excursion from the ship. It was worth the whole $78.

On our last day at sea, we had the Captain’s cocktail party and our formal dinner. I had two lobsters for dinner.

We arrived in Buenos Aires on November 23, at early noon. I took the free shuttle to downtown Buenos Aires, and walked Florida Street, the main pedestrian shopping street. I stopped for a shoe shine (about $1), walked through some shopping malls, and stopped at a outside café for a large bottle of local beer and a small dish of snacks. It cost less than US$2.

I returned to the ship for dinner, and only Wendell, Carol, Bob, Karen (both couples from Chicago) and I were at our dinner table to share one last meal. The restaurant was 75 percent empty. Marjan, our waiter from Bosnia, was very attentive as usual, and even showed us a balancing trick with toothpicks, forks, and a glass. He also told us about how he met a restaurant owner in Alaska that knows his father. The mathematical odds of such a meeting must be in the billions. In the first place, how many Bosnians are on a cruise ship to Alaska? Marjan would like to move his family to Canada or the US eventually, but feels it will be difficult to get a green card.
Buenos Aires was founded in 1535, and today’s population is estimated at eleven million. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with European style architecture, and some unique to Buenos Aires, such as the multi-colored buildings of La Boca, the Italian settlement of the city. We also visited the Pink Palace where Eva Paron became famous. Madonna made her movie at this sight. We also visited the cemetery where Eva Paron is entombed. The city is divided into sections, and those close to the sea have the most places of interest for tourists. We visited five sections on our tour. La Boca and the pink palace square were the most interesting.

Some interesting stats on the ship Zenith:
Made its maiden voyage in April of 1992.
Weighs about 47,255 tons.
Guest capacity is 1598
Crew size is 670, representing 54 countries
Store supplies for a 12 day cruise:
38,000 pounds of beef
5,040 pounds of lamb
3,360 pounds of pork
2,520 pounds of veal
1,680 pounds of sausage
4,200 pounds of turkey
14,000 pounds of chicken
58,000 pounds of vegetables
50,000 pounds of fresh fruits
900 gallons of ice cream
10, 000 frozen eggs
2,700 bottles of wines
8,000 bottles/cans of beer
250 bottles of liqueurs
600 bottles of other booze

After all is said and done, I was glad to have seen South America, traveled to Ushuaia, the whale watch, the beautiful landscapes of Chile and Argentina, going around Cape Horn, a short visit to Buenos Aires, and meeting some very interesting people.

I’m already looking forward to my trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands next April 30 for 17 days.

I think I’m going to skip trying to visit the northernmost city in the world.

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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 02:03 pm
trippin' south
Cicerone imposter,
Sounds like you had a good time, enjoyed
what you were able to experience AND
rather than gripe about what was wrong
about the experience, you were able to
see all the positive & plus points in it. Glad
to see that you had such a great time, By
the way, do you have any pictures? Maybe
you could upload them to a web page or
something. I intend to visit Chile, although
I think that is the furthest south that I
wish to go. My daughter is married to a
man whose family is from Chile. When
I told him I wanted to visit Chile, he said
"What for, there isn't anything there?"
Silly boy, just because it is common to
him, doesn't mean that I wouldn't find
it quite fascinating.
*Last year you went to the lowest point
and the highest point. This year to the
southernmost city. It look as though
you have some more exciting travels
on the burner for 2003? Did you know
April is my birthday, hint hint Laughing Laughing Laughing
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cicerone imposter
Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 03:58 pm
Babs, You'll definitely enjoy Chile. It is a fascinating country, because of the beautiful landscapes, mountains, lakes, the people, the llamas, and waterfall, penguins, and whatever personal experience you come home with. I have loads of pictures, but they're still not organized. Will let you know when my photo album is ready on the web. c.i.
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 09:06 pm
Waaay Cool! Are you going to be posting pictures anywhere? MF or your other site?
0 Replies
cicerone imposter
Reply Wed 4 Dec, 2002 11:27 am
Husker, Haven't decided which photo sharing site I'll be using, but you can rest assured, I'll post it on this forum. Laughing c.i.
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cicerone imposter
Reply Wed 4 Dec, 2002 11:31 am
Husker, I had a US Air Force buddy that lived in Omaha many, many, years ago, and when I visited on one occasion, he invited me to a "Husker" game in Lincoln. It's an experience I'll never forget! The stadium was filled with red. c.i.
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cicerone imposter
Reply Mon 23 Dec, 2002 12:44 am
I've posted some of my South America vacation photos at www.photoisland.com, i.d. is "imposter222," and the password is "tanzania." c.i.
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Reply Mon 23 Dec, 2002 12:58 am
Once again, great story on one of your many trips c.i.

Anon is taking a cruise which will stop in Guam next March if I remember correctly. I'm trying to set up something for him. Try to make it out here one day, I would be pleased to meet you in person.
0 Replies
cicerone imposter
Reply Mon 23 Dec, 2002 11:38 am
pueo, Same here. You know that you have a standing invitation when you visit Northern California for a treat to a nice restaurant - and we many many. c.i.
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Reply Mon 23 Dec, 2002 09:46 pm
Mahalo c.i.,

Got to get to California one day soon. I hope.
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Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 09:56 pm
I enjoyed your story and appreciate your supplying the prices you were charged. You overlooked the two lobsters though. I like lobster, what did that run you? Those are some countries I hope to see in the next few years.

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cicerone imposter
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 10:44 pm
The two lobsters were included in the price of the cruise. We only paid for bottled water and wine. Bottled water was $3.50, and the wine was between $29 to $32 per bottle plus 10 percent automatically added. c.i.
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 06:58 pm
cicerone, If you have never read it, I highly recommend the book
"In Patagonia" by Bruce Chatwin. He spent two years walking, yes walking throughout the southern tip of Argentina and Chile. He met enclaves of Scottish sheep raisers who still had tea time and subscribed to Scottish periodicals. This by second and third generations.

In 1965, I drove from the midwest to Panama. Flew from there to Bogota and then hopped a flight on a Columbian military plane to Leticia, Columbia on the Amazon. Across the river from Brazil. Leticia is two thousand miles up the Amazon and the river is seven miles wide at that point. Full sized ocean freighters go another 500 miles up river to Iquitos, Ecuador. We flew one thousand miles in a WWII PBY amphibious plane from Leticia to Manaus, Brazil. Manaus is the city that had a bonanza from rubber plantations at the turn of the century. They built an opera house that Erico Caruso sang in.

We landed on the river several times, cast anchor and swung downstream while canoes came from shore with mail and passengers. The last thousand miles were on a boat with meals and cabins but not for the feint-hearted.

The Amazon pushes fresh water a hundred miles into the Atlantic. The river is fed by waters of nearly all of the countries of South America. I forget the ones that don't feed it.
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Reply Fri 2 May, 2003 07:44 am
Sounds like a spectacular trip!
Reply Sun 23 Aug, 2009 06:35 pm
Hello. I have only read the traveler and the first respondent. I am an expat, and I'm shocked to have read that that "boy" stated that there is nothing there. If you like country, sea, sostificated night life....all is there! U have it all. From desert to Stgo a very cosmopolitan city to South Chile where is similar to Switzertland in landscape. There are wonderful places to visit If you like to explore nature. But people...you have to know where to go. Talk to the travel agencies in Stgo and they will give you so many choices. You may not have enough time to see all the beauty. And I say this not because I was born and raised there...but because I have travel the world.
If you want to see the nightlife...go the the Orient part of Stgo. Las Condes, Providencia, etc etc. There is a subway that takes you all the way up to Providence, however, does not get to Las Condes, La DEhesa, etc. You may want to rent a car or simply take taxis. If you want to save money, my advise is fly there. Watch however, for your pockets, wallets, in the downtown Stgo.
Be safe by visiting Only the Oriente side of the city. I don't know how honest or not are the taxi drivers, but you may want to get advise with the visitors office, and travel agencies what to expect in terms of what you would need to pay for taxis. Perhaps they may assist you in having the taxis picking you up from their offices. In that way, they will know that you're not alone.

And BTW, how do you get your "article" in google? That is how I found this researching something else.
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