Humble apologies for the month’s delay. A lot happened in the last days on the ship and the days in Chile, afterward. Then there’s always re-entry and I came back to a pretty busy travel business that needed me. I’m not complaining, and here are the last days on the ship. Chilean Wine Tour next and after that, a weekend in Napa. Stay tuned.
Sunday, December 30, 2018, we were at sea, going around Cape Horn, and very lucky with the weather. Today’s desk hours were pretty quiet but my email was lovely. Pat and Mike liked Holland America so well that they bought a Panama Canal cruise for next Christmas. It’s on the Amsterdam, my favorite ship, so I asked DV to save it or me, should it become a Distinctive Voyage. Cross fingers. I gave the envelopes with the cocktail party tips to Wendy to distribute, and I know she did, because I got a thank you.
One of my people came by and took a copy of my latest newsletter, claiming none of them had received the information. Three cabins, really? That I hand delivered myself, really? I get tired of all this pitching of my hard work, and ignoring of my phone calls. My rolling office contained four postcards from the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. I thought they were odd enough in this context to get a look. I wrote, “This is silly, but so is ignoring me. I have a FREE tour for you in Puerto Montt, a gift from your travel agent. Call me at 3159 to hear about and collect it.”
It worked and now there are 68 people coming on tour, 69, if my wheelchair lady makes it. A guest I had never heard from called me wondering why her parents had never received anything. She had thrown out all she got, as had her sister. This, by the way, is a different three cabin group from the one in the previous paragraph. I explained that receiving our amenities depended on the travel agent you used. She swore that all three cabins had been booked at the same time, by the same travel agency. Since I had to turn in the count tomorrow, I decided to believe her, and had the whole six of them sign the waivers.
We tried the Spa Café for lunch and it was pretty good. They had a lot of salads, but I had a spicy udon bowl, a carrot and ginger soup, and a delicious muesli cookie.
Around 4 pm, Andrea and I went up to the Sky Lounge to have a glass of champagne at “The End of the World”. We met up with Patrick and Rosie, and it turned out to be a floating photo safari. Patrick takes some wonderful photos. I got this one of the lighthouse at the end of the world:
Another nice dinner in the dining room, another bottle of good wine, another decent show, and a great night’s sleep.
On New Year’s Eve, we docked in Ushuaia, Argentina, the last town before the end of the world. We went ashore. We were on a mission, here, to get rid of all the Argentine pesos. We had so much trouble getting them in Buenos Aires, that we had all stocked up. It wasn’t made any easier by the fact that it was New Year’s Eve. Most of the shops were open, though, and we managed to spend most of the money on clothing.
I met Jorge and Javier on their way into town, when I was going back. He owned up to the deception about the champagne and I thanked him profusely. It was a good thing, too, as that night, in the Dining Room, the sommelier wanted to tell us we were on our second bottle of our second package, when it was, indeed, our first.
The Hotel Director had given me a bottle of prosecco on boarding day, and I brought it to dinner, too, for the six of us to share. We toasted Paul and Elvon with it. We had eaten late so it wasn’t too long to midnight. I volunteered to go down to Deck 3 and save seats at the foot of the staircase. Ha! There were no seats. They had made every one of them disappear on both the third and fourth decks, to get more people in. I managed to stake a claim to two corners of a lamp pedestal, that was immovable. We took turns perching there, never letting them go. At midnight, they became little tables for the free champers. Patrick is sure it was very low alcohol, because he had three glasses of it, on top of three glasses of the real thing at dinner, and never felt a thing. That actually would have been pretty smart of the ship.
There’s some amazing soundproofing on here, too. Our cabin is the first one down the hall from the party, which went on for quite a while, after Andrea and I retired, around one am. We closed our door and never heard a thing,
New Year’s day, 2019, was an ordinary sea day and I was back at the desk. It’s no hardship to sit there, as I can always read my email, log and blog, while being available to my 80 cruisers. Distinctive Voyages had written me that we had to verify eligibility of the parents who had not been included. I duly got their booking number from Guest Relations. At that point, I finally wised up and had a look at the “Do Not Include” tab in the Excel workbook, and there they were. I wrote DV, explained, and told them I can suck up the price of their tour, and will be paying the tour company, myself.
More of the wheelchair lady’s family members stopped by the desk, to make another plea to get their mother on tour. I spoke to Wendy again and found out that the rule was that she had to go down the stairs to the tender on her own steam. She had chickened out the last time, when it was just a bit rough. I spoke to the wheelchair lady again that day, in the presence of about three family members. She will still be afraid, if it is even a bit rough on the 4th. I don’t blame her. I have been on ships where there have been tender accidents.
I worked on a newsletter to go out on the 2nd with our tour meeting place, bus assignments, etc. I have enough Spanish speaking people (27) to warrant a bilingual bus. Then I went to the gym, as I do most days, and worked on my log and blog in the Oceanview Café. If was a bad choice. I ended up eating again.
Of course, we still had the oinking big dinner in the dining room. They have been especially good lately. Tonight was lamb shank. The entertainer was Amy Lee on violin, and she was good. We are tired of screaming singers. Then Ellen, Andrea and I went up to the ABBA tribute party in the Sky Lounge. No conflict there. ABBA didn’t scream, they actually sang.
Wednesday, January 2, was listed in the Itinerary as “Straits of Magellan”. That’s just a fancy name for another sea day. The Straits can be rough, though, and we were privileged that they weren’t for us. It was overcast and the Internet was iffy, but the scenery was beautiful, even in the mist.
One of my guests came and took a picture of our detailed itinerary in Puerto Montt. He had a friend to meet in Puerto Varas. Then we delivered the newsletter about the tour.
Thursday, January 3, was billed as “Chilean Fjords”. That’s another fancy name for another sea day. I had office hours. Our shore excursion tomorrow, leaves at 8:30 am rom shore, in a tender port. Wendy, the Event Coordinator, came to tell me that we cannot get a tender of our own. I will have to show up at 7:00 am to collect 69 tender tickets. Then I will go to our meeting point and distribute them. At 7:45 we will move out of the meeting place to the designated tender boarding place. There we will probably end up on two tenders and have to re-assemble on shore to process through the terminal building to the buses. Luckily I have trusted people to help, but it will probably give me nightmares, anyway.
To minimize the trouble, I put out a clarifying broadcast. I was also in a spot of trouble for having teed up a Spanish bus. It was a unique situation, because of all the Spanish-speaking families aboard. The only non-Spanish speakers on the bus were my own clients, Patrick and Rosie, who agreed to be bus monitors in exchange for an exceptional bottle of wine. The bus will be full of bilingual people to translate for them, if the need should arise, and they are both ex-school teachers, who make the best bus monitors. Andrea Terni, my co-host, speaks passable Spanish.
I delivered one more letter, too, just to make sure everyone got the message and would be in the right place at the right time for the tour.
Finally, on Friday, it was time for our tour in Puerto Montt. The group was prompt in getting to Celebrity Central, and we were able to move out and get into the tender line, together and on time. Wendy was there, acknowledged us and did her level best to get us into the tender line in a group. It was a very slow line and people had to leave to go to the bathroom, etc. Net, we ended up on two tenders and had to wait in the terminal for the second.
Our shore excursion suppliers were there for us, and waited with us. Our people were sweet and patient, and soon it came together. This area of Chile was originally settled by Germans, but eventually became Spanish, like most of South America. It’s just joining the rest of the world, as to things like owning cars and pets. These things just happened in the last ten or twenty years. Before that, they rode horses, and the dogs stayed outside, year round. There are still a lot of street dogs, but they don’t fight and they grow long thick coats for the winter. I have a couple of pictures.
All of this, and a lot more, we learned from Carlos, our guide, as we drove through Puerto Montt, on the way to Puerto Varas. He was excellent, teaches IT, during the school year, and supports other IT teachers. The Internet is changing the people’s lives, too. They now buy a lot of goods, both from Amazon, but also from Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent. It’s just as close, and often cheaper, to have things shipped to them from China.
Puerto Varas is a nice little town, with a main square ringed by restaurants and pastry shops, and a nice handicraft market, probably the best I saw in Chile. These markets are starting to look all the same to me. There aren’t nearly as many real handicrafts, actually made in the country, as there were, even a decade ago. The fault lies with our own industry. Too much demand, not enough supply. The real stuff gets replaced with goods mass produced in China and they are all the same.
Our next stop was Frutillar, a preserved German village, where we could tour the blacksmith’s house, museum, library, more cottages, and the rich man’s house on the hill, of course. It was very pretty and peaceful. This is Andrea, from a window of the house on the hill.
There was a functioning pastry shop, that a number of people used for a mid-morning snack. It had nice things, including a jam cake that brought me back to my childhood, when my mother and my aunt Annie used to make it. I still have the recipe; one day I’ll make another. It’s more expensive to make, than to buy, but it’s wonderful.
We returned to Puerto Montt, and its handicrafts market, which was a little disappointing, but we have come to expect that, for the reasons noted above. Some people left the bus to make their own way back to the pier, as we were close.
I printed, and Andrea and I collated the farewell letter and comments cards, and delivered them. Then we met Patrick and Rosie for sail away, which was lovely, as was dinner, with them and the Morneaus. We are family now.
Saturday, January 5, was our last day aboard and a sea day, which you need before disembarkation, to pack and sort yourself out. I met a number of my people at breakfast in the buffet. They were all delighted with the tour and thanked me very much. The long wait to get off the ship had been forgotten.
I had office hours at ten. A lot of people came by to thank me and say it was a lot of fun. The people I paid for stopped by to thank me for taking them on the tour. They still do not understand why they were not included when their children were. Guess who was paying? The mother loves the program and wants to be included every time. She took a look at our brochure and wants one to help her pick her next cruise. I told her she needed to have a conversation with her travel agent about how this happened and that it should never happen again. Her agent can also order a DV brochure for her. She’s a lovely lady. I am not a bit sorry I paid for her to join the tour.
More people brought in their Comments Cards, all smiles and compliments. I left the desk around noon and went to pack. That done, I went up to the Aqua Spa Café to log and blog. I have been using this quiet place, for this purpose, all week, but today was different. It was full of Mexican families playing games like Mah Jong. Now, when the Chinese play Mah Jong, all you hear is the clacking of the tiles. When Mexican families play it, it’s a lot more interactive, and a lot louder. Oh, well, they were having fun and I decided I didn’t feel like working on the last day, either.
I checked our envelope at the Front Desk just before six, and went upstairs to the Sky Lounge to meet my people and draw for the $25 SBC. Then we went to dinner and off to bed. We had a wine tour starting in San Antonio tomorrow.