SANTIAGO AND VALPARAISO, CHILE--Saturday and Sunday, November 29-30, 2013

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November 30th 2013
Published: December 20th 2013
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Saturday, November 30th Santiago, Chile the start of our South American Cruise

Before we left home, since we arrived in Santiago at 7:30 am and didn’t have to be on board the ship until 5:00 pm, we connected with two other couples taking this same Holland American cruise on the MS Zaandam from Valparaiso, Chile and booked a tour that went from the airport to the dock. We had to get there some way and this was actually cheaper than the Holland American airport to ship “transfer” cost.

Our tour guide was right there when we exited the airport terminal and the other 4 people were waiting in the van. We quickly settled in the van and our guide drove toward Valparaiso which is about 90 km away. I was surprised to find the landscape to be dry and desert-like around the airport.

Driving along a toll way, we soon arrived at a valley where there were vineyards and fruit orchards. Our guide was quite proud of and extolled the wines of Chile from this area. We continued to drive ever lower in elevation until we reached the good size, seaside city of Valparaiso.

We were surprised that nothing had a Spanish look to it—only the central plaza and the fact that the population speaks Spanish are indicative of that heritage. We drove around the streets looking at old mansions, new apartment complexes, and modern office buildings.

We then stopped and got out to walk in a park that surrounds the Quinta Vergara outdoor amphitheater and arts venue. The park was very interesting and looked to be the garden of someone’s home before being a public place. It had huge trunked palms and other unusual trees as well as a variety of flowers found in our own garden such as hydrangeas, geraniums, and impatiens. It had some nice animal topiaries as well. We saw three different birds hanging around. One was a Rufous-collared Sparrow that had a pointed cap, another a large wine-colored Chilean Pigeon, and the other was a very robin like, in looks and manner, Austral (southern) Thrush. Toward the street entrance, were some monuments to several Chilean poets who were Nobel Laureates.

We got back in the van and the driver drove us through the older part of the city and the lovely homes and gardens along tree-lined streets. He then drove us along the seaside to a large rock outcropping that was not very far from land and had a colony of sea lions at its base and a number of bird species on the top. We identified Peruvian Boobies, 5’ tall Peruvian Pelicans, and Red-legged Cormorants. All along the walkway that ran along the coastline were set up brightly painted places with various exercise equipment and many people were using them.

We drove back into the commercial area and stopped at the main train station and its mall to have some lunch. We ate a couple of hamburger sandwiches after Valerie changed some money at an ATM. Valerie was able to purchase some diet cokes at the grocery store there.

Here was also a main square with a large memorial statue in the center and the Naval Command headquarters on one side. It looked like this area was within walking distance of our cruise ship, but we later found out that passengers weren’t allowed to walk in the area once they had boarded.

We all got back into the van and he then drove to an area of town where the immigrants had settled up on the steep hills. These poorer immigrants were mostly non-Catholic and several churches were also built in this area clinging to the hillsides.

Several places you could see where people had built homes in the canyons using stilts on one end of the house in order to have a “level” spot on which to build. This was a really interesting neighborhood of narrow streets where the house fronts were painted with bright colored murals of all different designs. Even the stairs between building and street levels were painted with one color for each step. Many of the apartment houses and streets had funiculars along the side to assist with getting goods up the hillside.

The ship boarding was kind of strange. We were let off at the terminal by the tour guide, but you then had to board a bus to take you to the ship boarding point. Being concerned about our open suitcase, we didn’t want to hand our luggage over to the cruise people to then deliver it to our stateroom, which is the normal process. So, when we got to the actual boarding gangway, the porters lugged all our suitcases up with us. And I do mean UP, as the gangway was at a very steep incline, due to a very low tide.

Unpacked a bit and then went to dinner. We settled in for the night and soon experienced rough, rough rolling seas worse than those we had in the Atlantic. Starting at 4:30 am a door kept banging continuously with the wind catching it. Obviously, between rocking bed and banging door we didn’t get much sleep.

Sunday, December 1, 2013 At Sea--Still a bit rough, but better, partly cloudy, temp about 59 degrees.

Got up and went to breakfast on deck 8. Hard to get used to this ship layout as food on the other ship was on deck 9 and our room was on the starboard side and on this ship we are in the front on the port side.

We unpacked and put away clothes in the drawers and closets in this very large room. We were somewhat unhappy to realize that although the room is larger than the first room we had booked, when we said yes to an upgrade, they said nothing about the window being partially blocked by an outside stairway. We also didn’t realize we were directly over the lounge and could hear the “music noise” every night. Otherwise, this is the biggest room we have had on a cruise.

We spent the whole day reading and sleeping. We even had lunch delivered to the room we were so tired. Digital workshops, afternoon tea, movie theater playing the “Mission,” Tango classes, body sculpting, karaoke, and the wine auction all had to do without our presence. We finally got up for dinner at about 7:00 pm and then enjoyed a very good song and dance program called “Love Broadway” at 8:00. Back to bed early as we have to meet for our tour at 8:15 in the morning.

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