Embarkation - keeping up with the Joneses!!!


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South America » Chile » Valparaíso Region » Valparaíso
February 13th 2013
Published: June 26th 2017
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12/02/13


Check out of our hotel was at 12 noon so there was no hurry to rush. The couple of things I wanted to see and had planned to do this morning AND we didn't see on yesterday's walking tour, we saw on the walk back to the hotel; namely the clock tower and the funicular that services Cero Conception. As I said, nothing to do this morning except relax, take our time. Due to the size of the Cruise Terminal in Valparaiso, everyone is given a check in slot. Ours was 14:30 – like I said, no hurry.

Other patrons of this establishment must have also had the same idea. At breakfast we met Bob and Lyn from Charlestown, South Carolina and a Japanese Gentleman who seemed to be carrying around a large 6-foot piece of bamboo everywhere he went! Both were on our walking tour but while the Japanese man was off to Santiago, Bob and Lynn together with another British couple we met at breakfast were joining us in heading for the cruse terminal.

Breakfast at the 'da Vinci' was fantastic. I assumed it was self-service as after we chose our table I automatically said to Roisin, ‘You go first'.

As I turned round there was nothing there!! It turns out that breakfast; unusual in this type of establishment, was waitress service. The feast started with a plate of fresh fruit salad, then yoghurt, then a selection of rolls with jam followed by ham and cheese toasties. The final course was a plate of scrambled egg (optional!!) t goes without saying that the tea or coffee was limitless.

Back in our room, Roisin noticed that we had preferential check-in. This means that you don't need to keep to the allotted time. There is a special check-in counter for priority passengers. We decided to order the taxi for 1pm.

On asking how much it should cost (approximately) Ricardo became very defensive and apologetic. He explained that today is ‘cruise day' and all taxi drivers charge over price; anything between $20-25 for a journey that should only cost $11. However, he has found a very good taxi company that only charge 7000 pesos (£9.20/$15). Still overprice, but the cheapest he could find.

That's OK', I said. 'I just won't give them a tip!'

Yes, that you can do', said the hotel manager, ‘but next time they just increase the price!' This was said as if my previous solution was a crap idea!!!

When our taxi arrived, by the time Roisin and entered the street, the driver and Ricardo were already deep in discussion. Ricardo explained that he asked the driver not to rip us off because his business suffers. The driver says he is very honest and will have the meter running.

This was welcome news. Unfortunately due to the size of our luggage and the size of the car trunk, my case had to ride shotgun thus very cleverly hiding the meter from show.

The journey took just over 15 minutes, as the cruise terminal is several miles from where the cruise ships actually dock. As I got out of the taxi, I quickly scuttled to the passenger side to rescue my suitcase (at the same time having a crafty sneak at the meter). It said 5,450 peso. This was par for the journey so once again, worthy of a tip. Wow, that's two taxi drivers in a row. Either I‘m going soft in my old age or Chilean taxi drivers are restoring my faith in…well…taxi drivers!!!

Our luggage was immediately whisked away by porters and we were ushered in to the Terminal building. We checked in, filled out our health declaration. (No I've not suffered from small pox in the last 5 years!!) Bought a couple of $8 bottles of Chilean wine, got customary embarkation photo taken and after a few ‘hello, how are yous' later we were opening the door to our cabin. All after only 30 minutes from leaving the hotel!! It was far from organised chaos. It was just organised!!

We dropped our stuff off and headed to Horizon Court for lunch where we bumped in to Bob and Lyn. They had also been surprised by Princess embarkation efficiency. We were equally surprised to learn that this was only their 2nd Princess cruise so they are the first Americans we have ever met who have not yet reached ‘Elite' status!!

We headed back to our cabin to check if our luggage had arrived. (Wouldn't it be ironic if after having had no good reason to panic about the airline losing our luggage, that after all this journey, was now put on the wrong ship!! Don't worry, that statement was not a precursor. Our luggage arrived safely and was reunited with owners!!!)

On route, Roisin spotted a pair of familiar faces sitting down at a table near the midships swimming pool. Ronda and Alan, work colleagues and friends had purely by coincidence, not only booked the same passage but happened to book the exact same dates. Its good to already know somebody on board because then you haven't got the formality of introducing yourselves, being asked where you're from, ‘Is this your first time with Princess??' ‘What do you do for a living?'

Doing away with the formality of ‘How was your trip', Alan and I got down to the conversation that really mattered:

‘Have you heard the score?' Alan asked

‘Oh, yes. We got beat 2-0 by West Brom. Disgraceful!!' I replied.

Yeh, Gerard missed a pen. Reckon it was the turning point'.

Roisin redressed the balance by asking about their journey. Alan and Ronda had arrived in to Santiago this morning and bussed straight to the ship. They had flown via Paris on an Air France plane direct to Chile. This was one of the alternative routes Roisin had considered, the other being via Madrid on an Iberian airbus. She weighed up the pros and cons and eventually decided on the longer route with British Airways.

The customary Muster Station training was 1 hour before sailing. It lasted about 20 minutes with an announcer reading out a list of dos (as in the plural of do and not the Spanish word for two!!) and don'ts. Such as don't throw cigarettes over the side of the ship. DO use the receptacles provided at designated areas around the ship.

Despite being told not to put your lifejacket on until after the demonstration, there were still those who struggled to don these during the demonstration. I reckon that, if there was an emergency (God forbid), these people should be identified and made to wait until everyone else were safely in the life boats. In fact I'd go further to say that they weren't along in the Lifeboats. They should be made to use the life rafts!!

Shortly after the muster, Captain Todd McBain (who sounds more like a character from the Simpsons rather than the Master of a 90,000 tonne cruise ship!!), made his opening address. He made it clear from the start that this should not be looked upon as a cruise but more an expedition. He went on to say that the weather could change without warning. We should expect some rolling of the ship along with some volatile weather. At this point my thoughts were that he wasn't selling this very well!!

He continued by saying that we ought to be prepared for a drop in temperature and strong winds. If we pull through this (WHAT DOES HE MEAN IF??) you will realise you've had the trip of a lifetime. For the next 30 hours we will feel the movement of the ship as we sail down the Pacific Ocean paralleling the Chilean coastline until we reach the Chacao channel that is our mark for entering the Chilean Fjords.

We weighed anchor at 18:15. After watching the Port of Valparaiso diminish in the late afternoon sun, and had an official ‘sail away' photo taken, we headed back to our cabin where we were greeted by Paula, our Cabin Steward from Brazil. She asked if everything was OK and if our luggage had arrived.

‘I was about to say that if they hadn't arrived what were you going to do? Swim back ashore and retrieve them for us!! I sensed there was something else to come so I just politely said ‘Yes, why do you ask?'

Because a man down this corridor he no received his luggage and is not very ‘appy!'

I failed to enquire after this person's nationality or with which airline he'd flown but we were both ‘very ‘appy' that we'd chosen BA!!!

At 8:15pm it was time for the first Trivia – famous faces. To make it a bit more challenging, the faces were partly obstructed. We came away with a credible 22/30 but we couldn't beat 30/30. They even got Rachel McAdams. This voyage was going to be a tough challenge. We could both sense it!!

Only 2 ½ hours in to the ‘expedition' and the sea state had already increased to moderate. The wind was up to force 7. The ship was reeling somewhat.

It is 650 miles from Valparaiso to our first port of call Puerto Montt so tomorrow is a day at sea.

13/02/2013
On leaving our cabin to go for breakfast, congratulatory balloons had been stuck to our door together with an A4 ‘Happy Birthday' poster. If you have a celebration such as birthday or anniversary within 30 days of the cruise, Princess will celebrate with you (if you specify the day)

We had our first breakfast on the aft deck. We should really make the most of it while it lasts. Checking out the Princess Patter, the daily activity newsletter, many of the seminars and activities seemed to tie in nicely with the timings, which is a first.

10:45 soon came around and it was time for our 1st ‘real' trivia session.

We didn't get off to a good start. The 1st question:

‘Which Japanese Prime Minister approved the attack on Pearl harbour?

With all due respect this question was unfairly weighted to the Americans (or Japanese, I guess!) players. It would be like asking the Brits or Germans: ‘Which German Chancellor approved the invasion of Poland?!!'

Question 2 (don't worry, I'm not going to list every question. I am just trying to convey what we are up against!!)

‘How many stereotypes are depicted in the Village People?'

Simple enough question you would think. (Although we got it wrong putting 5 instead of 6). There was a short pause and someone showed out: ‘what do you mean by stereotypes?'

Question 3:'Where is Wilkes Land?

(Pause) Same team shouted out: ‘Is that all one word!?

Does that really matter? Oh I see. They don't want to confuse Wilkes Land with Wilkesland!!! We have to be clear on that (the answer is Antarctica. We got that one right – and it is 2 words!)

We finished up with 14/20 with the winning team amassing 18 points. We are off to a slow start this time but there is still plenty of time to turn this around. Cor! Listen to me! I'm starting to sound like Brendan Rogers!!!

At 11:30 we strolled along to the ‘meet and greet' where we were met by the organisers Jan and Chris from the UK. This is organised through a web site known as ‘Cruise Critic' where people can sign up and get to know fellow travellers at this informal gathering.

Jan had managed to entice the Captain to attend, say a few words and answer any questions. From our experience this is another first. It's usually either the 3rd or 4th officer at best and a grease monkey or vending machine technician at worse who gets the short straw!!

One of the questions the Captain received was: ‘Are there any problems with visiting the Falklands?' Quite a civil question?

The Captain was quick top retort ‘Define problem?!' (slight ripple of laughter!)

He then elaborated by explaining there have been no political problems. There have been some small protests at Buenos Aires port such as handing out leaflets but nothing serious. The weather, however, has been our nemesis. In the last 2 visits there have been gusts of 80mph and landing has been unsafe. Stanley is a tender port that takes about ½ hour to reach the quayside and if there is any doubt, the Captain will not take the risk.

After a quick bite it was off to our first ‘Scholarship @ Sea' lecture on Basic photography. I felt sorry for the speaker as with English not being his first language he had difficulty in explaining things. The intro didn't go too well. Although the lecture was titled ‘Basic Photography at sea', the presentation was based around those who had a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DLSR) camera. With that, half the audience got up and walked out!!

The power point presentation explained all the dials on the camera but not really how to make best use of them.

At the same time as the ‘Basic Photography' seminar, Ronda wasn't having much more luck with the Art history @ Sea seminar. Advertised as ‘500 years of art comes to life from Botticelli and Van Gogh to Picasso and Warhol.' The lecturer was reliant on notes and power point but ended up just reading what was on the screen. It was obviously something she was probably forced to do. Perhaps because she was the most qualified of the crew attaining the dizzy heights of a GCSE grade D!!

Tonight was the first of 2 formal nights where the tuxedo once more comes out of mothballs and everyone comments on how nice everyone looks!!! We arranged to meet the Joneses (Ronda and Alan) for dinner at 8pm.

We pushed our way through the hoards of formally attired passengers who had gathered around the atrium on 3 levels awaiting the captain to make an appearance and introduce his officers. Finally arriving at Porto Fino restaurant, we spotted Alan and Ronda in the queue waiting to be seated. We asked for a table for 4 and were immediately offered a table for 6 if we don't mind sharing. We stressed that we would prefer a table for 4. 2 minutes later the maitre ‘D returned and said that we can have a table for 6 but it is only set with 4 places if that is to our satisfaction.

‘Isn't that just a table for 4, then?' Alan quipped!

After our very enjoyable meal, the waiter brought Roisin a special Princess birthday cake. He also called his mates over and proceeded to sing ‘Happy Birthday' although I don't think they captured her name as when it came to singing Roisin's name, they sort of tailed off: ‘ Happy Birthday dear Hmmm hmmm…. Happy Birthday to you!!!'

A fitting ending to a marvellous night.


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14th February 2013

Great read again. Foster was excellent for the Bags and they scored 2 breakaways. You're nothing without Sturridge alongside that other youth.
14th February 2013

Preferential check in and priority passengers eh - we always have to queue with the rest of the peasants!!!!!Come on Chris and Roisin you are letting the side down with the quiz - you have not even won a lanyard yet . Hope Ronda and Alan e
njoy the cruise too!!
14th February 2013

Tey. Happy birthday roisin xxxxxx
14th February 2013

Happy Birthday
16th February 2013

Great blogs Chris and as ever the photos are very good. Enjoy the rest of your trip and say hello to Ronda x

Tot: 2.596s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 13; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0303s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb