As we were already in Argentina we figured it was time to tick off one of the items on the ‘wish list’. This was the ‘go to the Falkland Islands and around Cape Horn’ dream that I had had for years.
We booked on Holland America’s Zaandam leaving Buenos Aires March 21st 2019. Check in was smooth and our ocean view cabin was roomy and spacious. Great or so we thought, wrong. It was directly underneath the galley and therefore noisy all night long. We did eventually get moved to another cabin but it was not an auspicious start.
First port of call was Montevideo, Uruguay which like many port towns was a little scuzzy around the dock area. Nevertheless we walked into town to do a little exploring. The town does have some funky buildings and cute plazas but we preferred Colonia.
Our new cabin was on a lower level which we preferred, especially as we could see dolphins cavorting alongside as we got under that way that evening.
March 24th was the first of two days at sea and rough seas too, with swells of up to 3 and 3.5 meters. It was also the first ‘Gala’ night on board. For many these ‘dress up’ nights are the highlight of a cruise, for us not so much not living out of a suitcase as we do. We opted to go casual and visited the buffet instead and glad we did as we saw a few folks having trouble from the ships motion.
Dawn bought much calmer seas. Did lots of walking on deck and took in some of the lectures about the area and the wildlife, which were excellent.
March 26th we arrived at Port Stanley the Falkland Islands. Yay we made it. I had heard that this is often the port of call that gets cancelled due to adverse weather, so was very happy to have made it. Was not so happy at the long wait to get off in a tender though, we did not get ashore till 12.30 pm.
Note: If we had booked one of the ship excursions we would have had priority. However we had decided to do our own thing.
Our own thing turned out to be a $20 shuttle to and from Gypsy Cove, where we could stroll along the path and spot the Magellan Penguins enjoying the sunshine at the entrances to their burrows or waddling down to the sea. After that we headed back into Port Stanley to explore the town and to check out the museum dedicated to the Falkland War and how it affected the islanders. Entrance is free with ship ID and the video of the islanders talking about what they experienced was fascinating.
We had another day at sea and then visited Punta Arenas. Here we had decided to visit Club Andino to do the chair lift up and to walk down through the forest. We ended up hooking up with a pair of Brits and took a taxi up there together and found ourselves some new friends. By doing this trip under our own steam it cost only $50 for the two of us, as opposed to doing it through the ship at $100 each.
We had dinner with our new pals Rachel & Colin and then found out that we would not be going to Ushaia or Cape Horn due to adverse weather conditions. The Captain would explain why at 10 am the next morning.
The theatre was packed, with not a single seat available as the Captain filled us in on current and forecast weather conditions and what they would mean to us. Gale force winds and high seas meant that he had to adjust our route and we would not be visiting the Strait of Magellan, Glacier Alley, and the Beagle and Cockburn Channels all of which were highlights of the trip.
The Captain of course made the right decision, put we were so disappointed we had both been looking forward to the stupendous scenery in this part of the world. Our alternate route would take us to Brujo Glacier and Castro on Chiloe Island, Chile.
We arrived at Brujo Glacier at 8.30 am the next day. We did get fairly close to it and you could see all the different shades of blue and gray in the ice and the small floes that had been generated as the glacier calved. The highlight was the multiple whale sightings, throughout the day.
May 31st we traversed the Darwin Channel. It has a very narrow entrance, so a bit tricky for a vessel of this size to get in but it was very scenic and again many whale sightings. Both getting tired of being at sea though, as the change of plan had added a few more sea days.
April 1st was Castro which is known for its colorful houses on stilts. These are mostly found in just two areas and they rise on spindly stilts over the water’s edge. They have all been painted in a variety of bright colors but sadly a lot of them were looking very worn and tired. The gray dull day didn’t help either but we enjoyed getting off the boat and being able to take our time and check out some of the odd architecture. Could not help but compare it with Ushaia which is where we should have been today, it came up very short.
It was another Gala night and we did go this time, but got a nice cozy table to ourselves and enjoyed the surf, turf and wine.
April 2nd bought us back to our original schedule which was Puerto Montt. Once we got ashore we took a minivan tour to Petrohue Falls, Lake Hainguihue with the Osorno Volcano in the background and onto Puerta Varas The City of Roses. Puerta Varas is a very pretty place with a heavy German/Swiss influence in the buildings and yes there are lots of roses. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and our trip back along the lake shore, the clouds cleared and sun came out to give us a clear view of Osorno.
April 3rd was our last day at sea before arriving in Chile. We had a splendid evening with Rachel & Colin and unlike many of the people we have met on cruises in the past; we do keep in touch with them.
‘The Cape Horn cruise that wasn’t’ was indeed a disappointment and also reinforced the feeling that these big cruise liners aren’t really our thing. We would both still like to visit Cape Horn and Ushaia and we will someday, we may even combine it with a trip to Antarctica. Now wouldn’t that be fun?