Golden Princess - Machu Picchu, Cape Horn & Strait of Magellan

Background

Cruiser: David Presley, age 58. I've been on a bunch of other cruises: the MSC Divina on the second "Cruise To The Edge" in April 2014; the Norwegian Pearl on a 14-day Panama Canal Transit in October 2013; the MSC Poesia on the inaugural "Cruise To The Edge" in March 2013; the Norwegian Epic on a 14-day Transatlantic Crossing in October 2012; the Sapphire Princess for a trip to Alaska in June 2007; Holland America's Zuiderdam on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean route in May, 2005; Premier's Seabreeze on a 7-day Western Caribbean route in February 2000; the Big Red Boat on a short jaunt over to Nassau in October 1999; the Dawn Princess on a 7-day Southern Caribbean route in November 1998; Carnival’s Jubilee on the 7-day Pacific coast swing in April 1997; Carnival’s Ecstasy on a 3-night New Year’s Bahamas cruise in December 1995; the Big Red Boat again in August 1994 (in conjunction with a Walt Disney World vacation); and a 4-night Bahamas cruise as a High School Graduation present back in May 1974.  

But this journey south began early evening on Saturday, February 7 - when I was picked-up by Prime Time Shuttle for the ride to LAX (there were only three other passengers, including a young couple from an apartment near Magnolia & Lankershim who I chatted with the entire way to the airport). Once at the Tom Bradley International Terminal it was an easy check-in - although security took about 20-25min. When clear, I went straight to Umami Burger for a Truffle Burger & Beer (as it turned-out the airline served a pretty credible dinner so it really wasn't necessary... but tasty nonetheless). Afterwards I just sat at Gate 138 (I'm guessing that's in the old terminal, as it felt like I'd gone to the basement); boarded the first bus out to the remote gate at 10:20pm; then we took-off about 15min late (11:35pm). No other seatmate left me optimistic that I'd sleep well... sadly, my optimism wasn't warranted. An uneventful climbout had me thinking sleep, til I saw food service begin: LAN Airlines offered REAL silverware & glasses, with complimentary anything to drink. And a hot dinner-style meal (I had pasta stuffed with cheese, a green salad w/Italian dressing, cheesecake - even crackers & brie... nice). Enjoyed a small glass of red wine with it - maybe that's why when I tried dozing-off I had trouble doing so? In short, I just never could get comfortable - then, after about 3-1/2 hrs of tossing & turning the crew turned-back-on the cabin lights and started their full breakfast service. Ouch.

Sunday, February 8, 2015 - Lima, Peru

So we land in Lima pretty much on time at 10:50am; easy to figure-out immigration (note to self: it's okay to cut their pre-printed form to size!); visited the Duty Free shop for the Peruvian cigars that came recommended but only found boxes of Cubans - so I took a pass & queued up for Customs. You put all of your bags onto a scanner, then you're free to go. Easy-peasy. Quickly met up with Percy from Lima Tours - once we had all 7 people from my flight loaded-aboard their bus we drove about 45min to Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores for a slow check-in (while most rooms weren't yet ready mine (402) was). Very nice... but not much time to settle in because Friday's City Tour that was purportedly cancelled was scheduled to begin at 2pm - supervised by Juan Carlos (one of the two Tour Managers) and Alicia (who conducted the tour).

The Land-Based Itinerary

Our almost full bus (though, as on the flight, I had no seat mate) drove about half an hour to the UNESCO site downtown that includes the Supreme Court, Town Square, Government Palace, and the oldest house still owned & occupied by the same family (Casa de Aliaga, which we toured); from there it was back towards Miraflores - first driving through San Ysidro (very upscale area with a lot of embassies) before stopping at Love Park by the ocean in Miraflores for about 20 min. Then it was back to the hotel - at which point I was starting to feel like I was running on fumes... but I was NOT about to go to bed at 5pm, so I went for a walk towards the park and sat down for dinner at El Parquetito (I began with the oddest fried wontons ever - but very tasty - followed by the best three chili cebiche Ive ever had... which included a rather hellishly hot red chili atop the dish). Washed everything down with 2 Cusquena lagers.

The Town Square, Lima, Peru
Casa de Aliaga, Lima, Peru
Casa de Aliaga, Lima, Peru
Casa de Aliaga, Lima, Peru
A Panorama inside Casa de Aliaga, Lima, Peru
The Town Square, Lima, Peru
The Town Square, Lima, Peru
The Town Square, Lima, Peru
The Town Square, Lima, Peru
A Panorama of The Town Square, Lima, Peru
The Lima Cathedral, Lima, Peru
The Archbishop's Palace, Lima, Peru
This doesn't look like a police cruiser back home!
The Presidential Palace, Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Love Park, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Church of Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Miraflores, Lima, Peru
El Parquetito, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Three Chili Cebiche, El Parquetito, Miraflores, Lima, Peru

I finished-up 6:30-ish, so decided to take a slow walk in the direction of Larcomar - which wwas really nice with the waning light of the day. Got back to the hotel at almost full dark (~7:20) and decided to call JP before I fell asleep standing-up (the Vonage app does work - even internationally - just as advertised!). Laid-out the next day's clothes, then took a somewhat difficult shower (tough to get & keep hot water, my only complaint with the hotel). Put out the bag that will stay behind in Lima; watched a touch of TV (SyFy on DirectTV with a LOT of channels); then went lights-out about 9:30. Given the previous night, I slept like the dead.

Monday, February 9, 2015 - Cusco, Sacsahuaman, Pisac and Urubamba

I needed the phone wakeup call at 5:15; checked out about 5:45, then had a pretty sparse buffet breakfast (the only disappointing meal of the entire trip). Then it was time to just wait: our bus departed 6:45-ish and Lima traffic was every bit as horrible as advertised (taking over an hour to get to the airport when it should've been only 15-20 min). Inside it was as busy as any place I've ever been. Overwhelmingly busy. Security, thankfully, was faster than LAX (they let yyou keep on your shoes and bring your own liter bottle of water)... I had visions of shopping duty free, but there was once again no time - went straight to the Gate 8 and immediately boarded my (ugh) center seat (24B). The flight was uneventful - took about an hour, and since we departed late that meant landing about 10:45. (One thing that told me I "wasn't in Kansas anymore"? While taxiing to the gate I opened my bottle of water to finish-it-off - only to hear a lout pop with the cap flying several feet away... high altitude indeed!)

The bags all came up pretty quickly; once identified they traveled straight to our hotel; I got on Bus #4 - our guide for the next 5 days being Alfredo, with Donato as the driver. We went straight to the Catedral de Cusco - couldn't take pix inside which was a damned shame... it was impressive! Stayed about an hour (til ~12:30) then drove a few blocks to The Sara Organic Bistro for one of the finest buffet lunches I've ever had (esp the tres leches dessert). At about 2 we drove ~20 min to Saqsaywaman - at which point it started raining pretty hard. We only spent about half an hour there - I would LOVE to go back and spend several hours fully exploring the property - but there were places to go and timetables to keep.

Cusco Airport, Peru
A View from our Tour Bus, Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Alfredo leading out group into Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Cathedral & Statue of the Inca, Cusco, Peru
Alfredo answering questions about the Cathedral, Cusco, Peru
Sara Organic Bistro, Cusco, Peru
Sara Organic Bistro, Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
A Panorama of Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru
Saqsaywaman, Peru

We then drove about 45 min for an hour long stay at Pisac Market. I was completely underwhelmed. On my shopping list was souvenir Andean salt samples - which I never found. Also wanted to get my daughter a post card - nope, couldn't find any. Just tons of tee shirts, gaudy homemade art; they did have nice silver but JP said I'm not to buy her any more jewelry. Did find a quartz crystal (50 sol) for my friend Ana and took a few nice pix of the stalls. Got back on the bus early and was eager to get to the hotel (the drive took about 45 min).

Looking back as we depart Saqsaywaman, Peru
Looking back as we depart Saqsaywaman, Peru
en route to Pisac, Peru
en route to Pisac, Peru
en route to Pisac, Peru
A Panorama of Pisac, Peru
Pisac, Peru
Pisac, Peru
Pisac, Peru
The Pisac Market, Peru
Pisac, Peru
en route to Urubamba, Peru
en route to Urubamba, Peru
en route to Urubamba, Peru
BBQing fresh Guinea Pig - seen en route to Urubamba, Peru
BBQing fresh Guinea Pig - seen en route to Urubamba, Peru
en route to Urubamba, Peru
The view from my room at the Tambo del Inka Resort, Urubamba, Peru
The Tambo del Inka Resort always kept a fresh supply of Coca Leaves (to help with altitude sickness) - in Urubamba, Peru

The Tambo Del Inka Resort may be the nicest place I've ever stayed. Crazy luxurious! Settled a bit (here for 2 nights) then went for buffet dinner at 7. Ate with Doug & Lynn Heins from CruiseCritic. Another stellar meal. And I wasn't totally exhausted like the previous night. Turns out there was free wifi in the lobby - tried calling Jordan but only got her voicemail; did a facebook check-in, read some email, had a cup of coffee, then returned to the room to look at the stars for a bit and write the entire summary up to this point. Figured I'd shower in the morning - which enabled me to turn-in just as soon as I finished typing this sentence.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - Chincheros, Moray, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo

It was seriously nice not having to pack, change hotels, unpack, repeat. Unlike yesterday I enjoyed a thoroughly credible breakfast buffet (consisting of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage link, cheeses + lunch meats, a small premade omelette, and black coffee). We also got a late-ish start - not departing the hotel until ~8:30 - when the bus took us on the 45 minute drive to Chincheros. Upon arriving at the highest location of our trip (12,375') we saw a wonderful demonstration of yarn & textile making. I did find an alpaca scarf that would've worked for my brother - except I didn't like the feminine looking fringe on the ends (so I took a pass).

en route to Chincheros, Peru
en route to Chincheros, Peru
en route to Chincheros, Peru
en route to Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru
Serving Coca Tea (I MUCH preferred it to coffee in the morning!), Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru
Concerned he might be tonight's dinner? lol - in Chincheros, Peru
Chincheros, Peru

From there we were off to Maras and then Moray - to see the famous stone rings cut into the land. I wandered downhill to the lowest vantage point to get great pix - but was well aware that the trip up would be difficult (it was - had to stop at about the halfway point to catch my breath).

Maras, Peru
en route to Moray, Peru
Moray, Peru
Moray, Peru
A Panorama of Moray, Peru
Moray, Peru

Then we drove back to Urubamba - past our hotel - to the Wayra Ranch for a traditional Pachamanca lunch (cooked in ground over stone coals). There was a variety of meats (including Guinea Pig) - all were a bit overcooked (but tasty nonetheless). Also tried my first Pisco Sour... kind of like a sweet whiskey sour - and it has me rethinking whether I even want to buy a bottle here in Peru then one in Chile (as I don't see myself ever making them at home). Afterwards there was a quick horse demonstration - then it was time to head to Ollantaytambo (which took about 30-40 min).

en route back to Urubamba, Peru
A Panorama of Urubamba, Peru
Urubamba, Peru
Urubamba, Peru
The Tambo del Inka Resort, Urubamba, Peru
en route to Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
A Panorama of Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Peru

This place is a wonderful little town (that we returned-to the next day to catch the VistaDome Train to Machu Picchu) - but, more importantly, really good quality ruins. At 9373' altitude, climbing the 300 steps was challenging - I had to stop several times to catch my breath - but it was worth it once I got to the top. Arrived back at the hotel completely beat - it was all I could do to make it to dinner then keep myself awake til 9pm local time to call Jordan. But I did (with her even commenting that I sounded exhausted). Then I crashed. Hard.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes

The big day is here - a 6am wakeup call with a 7:20 departure back to Ollantaytambo to catch the VistaDome Train to Machu Picchu. Same breakfast as yesterday - only difference with the hotel check-out was preparing an overnight bag (because our regular bags were being sent directly to the hotel in Cusco). The rail was 27 miles long and took about 90 min - it was very scenic... and very slow.

The Train Station, Ollantaytambo, Peru
The Train Station, Ollantaytambo, Peru
The Train Station, Ollantaytambo, Peru
The VistaDome Train - en route to Aguas Calientes, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientes, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientes, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientes, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientes, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientesu, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientesu, Peru
en route to Aguas Calientes, Peru

We arrived just after 10, got our admission tickets, and quickly went into the facility for the first tour of the day (focusing mainly on the Temple of the Three Windows, the Circular Towers, and the Main Square). We left the grounds at about 2 for an on-site buffet dinner that was good but no-way worth the prepaid ticket price of $40US.

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
A Panorama of Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

Back out at 3, the leisurely pace of morning gave way to a more strenuous pace up to The Citadel (for the famous photo that everybody has seen) then a 45min trek on the Inka Bridge Trail. I found the latter a little like eating guinea pig - tasty, but not worth the effort required. As we ended-up running out of time I somewhat regret not making it to the Sacred Sun Dial. They had a small group going back in the very early morning - ostensibly for a Sunrise At The Citadel - but given the weather forecast I elected to going to take a pass to make for a more relaxed day (it was the right call according to those who went).

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
A Panorama of The Citadel - Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Princess CruiseTour Bus #4 Group Photo - Machu Picchu, Peru

A 20 min bus ride took me to tonight's accommodations: the Sumaq Hotel. Nowhere near as upscale as the first two of this trip, but still a very nice place. I spent the first half hour after my 5:30 arrival trying to get dirt stains out of my linen pants (in retrospect it was dumb wearing them - but I didn't expect the quantity of mud, so whatever). Also bought a bottle of Cusquena and two bottles of water (the day had thoroughly dehydrated me). Dinner at 7 - this was a three course meal where I selected a green salad, stir-fried beef with rice, and mixed homemade ice cream for dessert. Again, wonderfully tasty - the restaurants in Peru really are marvelous!

Was able to upload a couple of pix to facebook that evening, but not long after that the wifi got spotty. They also slipped a note under everyone's door explaining that all electric would be turned-off from midnight to 3am (we assumed for repairs). Figures... the night where I have the most energy of this entire trip and I'm forced to call it somewhat early.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 - Ollantaytambo, Urubamba and Cusco

Although I woke early (just before 6) it was a spectacularly good night's sleep (even by my usually shoddy standards). I turned-on the English version of CNN (thankfully electric was back on!) and laid back down in bed. Next thing I know its' 8:20 and I suddenly need to move rather quickly! While at the time I had a slight regret about not going back to Machu Picchu - there steady, medium-strength soaking rain told me it was the right call - and, thankfully, the rain let up after breakfast when it was time to walk the two blocks to the train station (though it was still drizzling).

Aboard the VistaDome Train - en route back to Ollantaytambo, Peru
Saying goodbye as we depart Aguas Calientes, Peru
en route back to Ollantaytambo, Peru
en route back to Ollantaytambo, Peru
en route back to Ollantaytambo, Peru
en route back to Ollantaytambo, Peru
en route back to Ollantaytambo, Peru

For some reason, I really noticed the uphill climb going back to Ollantaytambo - the latter half felt like a pretty constant 4-5% grade. This train only had two cars - it was exclusively for us! We arrived pretty much on time at 12:30, with our trusty buses & drivers waiting for us about a block away (why is everything uphill in this country, even if just gently uphill? lol). We hopped-in and drove back to Urubamba for a really wonderful biffet lunch at Muse (where I got to try my first Alpaca meat- very rich, very tasty!).

Muna Restaurant, Urubamba, Peru
Muna Restaurant, Urubamba, Peru
Muna Restaurant, Urubamba, Peru
Muna Restaurant, Urubamba, Peru
Muna Restaurant, Urubamba, Peru

We were back on the road by 2:30, which found us being dropped-off at the Koricancha sacred site (upon exiting I tipped Donato 50 Sol - as I wouldn't see him again). We toured for about a half hour (at which time I tipped Alfredo 100 Sol... didn't see him again either), then walked across the street to the Liberator Hotel for another easy check in (to room 368, conveniently close to the main elevators).

en route back to Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru
A Panorama near The Koricancha - Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru
The Koricancha, Cusco, Peru

I quickly dropped my stuff, grabbed my wallet, and headed-downstairs to the in-house Kuna store (where I was able to buy a shawl for Jordan and a scarf for Robert - both gifts by request). Decided to venture out to other alpaca stores in the main square which was (ostensibly) only a three block walk away. Found it okay, stopped in another Kuna store and found a nice shawl for Mei... but still no masks to be found for Natalie. Feeling like I had a good handle on direction, I set-out on my own. BIG mistake! Proceeded to get myself seriously lost, to the point that I was perhaps 5-10 min away from hiring a cab - at which point I randomly stumbled upon the hotel (walking right up behind it). Oy.

Plaza de Armas at sunset, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas at sunset, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas at sunset, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas at sunset, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas at sunset, Cusco, Peru

Had enough time to drop my loot in the room then head-downstairs for the 7pm buffet dinner - arguably the best of the week. Even had a nice after dinner chat with Brad (a NetJet pilot), his partner (wife?) Lindsay, Melanie & Sharon, and Doug & Lynn. May have gotten myself into playing piano at some point during the cruise. Knew I should've practiced just a little!

Retired to my room and crashed about 10:30.

Friday, February 13, 2015 - en route to Santiago, Chile (via Lima, Peru)

Welcome to Transit Day - another good night's sleep saw me go until almost 7. Nice. My group didn't depart for the airport until 12:30, so I was pretty lazy for the first half of the day - wandering down for buffet breakfast about 9:30, then watching some Ahnold SciFi flick while I finished repacking - putting that bag out for pickup at 10:55, then vacating my room about 45min later, where I just sat in the lobby waiting for my boarding passes and further instruction from Juan Carlos (it was now that I tipped him 100 Sol and thanked him profusely... little did I realize he was flying to Santiago with us!) :p

A 20min bus trip to the airport, relatively easy check-in (without the baggage surcharge that I was expecting), but security gave my carry-on a thorough going-over. Then it was more hurry-up and wait, til boarding began about 2:05 for our on-time 2:35 departure. 58min flight, where we followed Juan Carlos out of the domestic arrivals area and up to the international departures - first for immigration, then customs. I was tickled that the Aldesa store was right after, and I was able to buy the Peruvian cigars that came recommended (a box of 10). Then I went into the VIP Lounge (Lima Tours had arranged admission while we waited, including free eats 'n drinks). Stayed put til about 5:10 at which point we all walked to gate 24 to queue up for an easy boarding of a full flight.

I traded seat (18A for 16A) so fellow passenger Pam could sit with her friend / travel-mate... no good deed goes unpunished. Had some damned two year old kicking the back of the seat for a majority of the flight (lovely parenting, huh - though the harried Mom was admittedly distracted caring for a newborn). In flight food service was more like US domestics... a small sandwich, chips, dessert. I gave Coke Light a go and (thankfully) the Diamox-induced taste alteration seems to be waning. At any rate we took-off abou 20 min late yet arrived a few minutes early.

Santiago has a big new airport - nicer than most I've visited in the US... but they could stand to staff-up the immigration area as the wait was more than a half hour. As it took so long I figured all of our bags would long since be waiting for us... I figured wrong. My Cusco bag arrived shortly after I did then the conveyor stopped. Yeah, a very mild panic ensued- except that at least 20 others were in the same boat (incl Juan Carlos). After about 20min they cranked-back-up the conveyor and, thankfully, my Lima-stored bag soon came 'round the corner. From there, Chilean customs was a piece of cake. We all waited a bit just outside that area, til time to board a charter Greyhound-size bus for the 20min ride to the Sheraton San Cristobal. Most of Santiago - the roads, the buildings, everything I could see at 1am local time, looked very new and quite pristine.... the economy must be good here.

Arrived at the hotel, and while the physical plant was nice these people could take lessons from their Peruvian counterparts. It was the proverbial Chinese fire drill, topped--off with my room key not working once finally got to my room. Their solution? Move me to a different room 15 floors below. Ahem. Dropped my stuff, and where I should've done this update last night forced myself to stay-up to catch-up. I can sleep tomorrow night aboard the ship.... as it is, my alarm was set for 8 - which only afforded about five hours of sleep.

Saturday, February 14, 2015 - Santiago, then en route to Valparaiso (for sailaway)

The first of two frights began this day - my phone alarm didn't sound (I'm still not sure why)... waking naturally at 8:30 didn't give me a lot of spare time. Next up: couldn't find my passport - I would normally leave it with my wallet & cell phone, but apparently not this time. Went straight to the check-in desk and they said many people had the same complaint... making me feel a bit more at ease. But come to find out that Celestino only kept them for his 4am arriving group (because of the late hour, and did't have mine). Started retracing my steps with no luck; tore apart the room with no luck; then started going through all my bags and find it with my belly wallet (suddenly remembering I'd put it there because of the oversize cruise health form they gave me on check-in). Breathing a huge sigh of relief I finished packing & tagging my luggage, putting it outside my door for immediate pickup. I then headed to the 21st floor for a quick breakfast, returning to room 273 long enough to repack my carry-on then check-out. While the hotel had a nice physical plant the AC never really cooled the room - and the shower water alternated between ice cold and scalding hot (randomly). The one upside? They comp'd my two Coke Lights :)

A Panorama from atop the Sheraton San Cristobal Hotel, Santiago, Chile

Got aboard Bus #1 led by Celestino and my new South American crush - a lovely woman named Carolina (now if only I wasn't old enough to be her very elderly father!). We drove through this immaculate city called Santiago - and I immediately think to myself "I could live here" - it's nicer, more modern, cleaner, better maintained than most American cities (I could only assume the economy has been great for some time). Our first stop was La Moneda Palace (home to Chilean Presidents) where we were just in time for the every-48 hours changing of the guard. 25 min later we were back aboard the bus headed to Plaza de Armas (the main square where the Cathedral stands).

Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile
La Moneda Palace, Santiago, Chile
Changing of the Guard, La Moneda Palace, Santiago, Chile
Changing of the Guard, La Moneda Palace, Santiago, Chile
Changing of the Guard, La Moneda Palace, Santiago, Chile
Changing of the Guard, La Moneda Palace, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Metropolitan Cathedral, Santiago, Chile
Metropolitan Cathedral, Santiago, Chile
Metropolitan Cathedral, Santiago, Chile
Metropolitan Cathedral, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Correos de Chile (the State-Run Post Office) - Santiago, Chile
Correos de Chile (the State-Run Post Office) - Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile

The Cathedral allowed photos inside - although once there I found myself wishing I'd brought the Lumix and not the Canon point-n-shoot. Gorgeous. Wish we could've had more time there (in fact, that was my general sentiment about Santiago... might've fallen in love if I'd had the time to do so). Waiting a bit longer so some folks could exchange nearby their currencies for the Chilean Peso, we were back underway 12:30-ish - getting on the freeway for the drive west to Valparaiso.

Traffic was brutal - seemingly from simply people being on vacation this time of year (though Carolina said it's not normally THAT bad on early Saturday afternoons). I noticed that except for the mountains being more like you'd see in southern Arizona, the rest of the area looked remarkably like California (esp once we got to the Valparaiso region wine country, which was strikingly like Napa). We stopped after about 90 min of traffic for an hour-long break for the potty, some eats (if desired), but most importantly wine purchases (I ended-up with five bottles).

en route to Valparaiso, Chile
en route to Valparaiso, Chile
en route to Valparaiso, Chile
en route to Valparaiso, Chile
en route to Valparaiso, Chile
en route to Valparaiso, Chile

The driver (Oscar) took his merry time once we got back underway at 2:45 - the schtick being that we couldn't be at the port until 3:30 (lol)... he was even driving the last couple of miles in second gear to be sure we arrived at 3:30-sharp! Valparaiso was underwhelming - typically seedy-feeling port town... but check-in was a breeze (a line of only a couple of minutes) - though it continued to be disconcerting that they keep your passport (this time until the final cruise day). Doubly odd was having to ride a bus for another couple of miles from the terminal to the ship itself. But, once aboard, I quickly got a pic of my face (for our cruise cards) then wandered off to cabin Aloha 204.

Golden Princess Cabin A204 - in Valparaiso, Chile
Golden Princess Cabin A204 - in Valparaiso, Chile

The Cruise Itinerary

Arriving this late, mine was ready - in fact, I met my steward (a very personable young man named Romulo) who had just brought my Cusco bag... so I spent about 20-25 min unpacking everything & settling-in. Then, almost right on cue, my Lima bag arrived (guessing that my multiple bottles of Smart Water - to conceal one having been replaced with vodka - worked like a charm). Was almost able to finish but had to stop to attend the 5:30pm Muster Drill in the Princess Theatre... which droned-on for a bit over half an hour. Returned to finish unpacking (where I was dismayed that the soles off my hiking boots disintegrated somewhere en route - so they were pitched-out with the trash) I was finally able to start touring my new home much later than I had on most prior cruises.

Sailing away-from Valparaiso, Chile
Sailing away-from Valparaiso, Chile
A Panorama of Valparaiso, Chile
Sailing away-from Valparaiso, Chile
It was Valentine's Day aboard the Golden Princess!

Once on deck I quickly noticed that the temps were dropping fast - along with the sea breeze it was quite cool. But, thankfully, the ship ran 51 min late departing... so I was easily able to watch sailaway (although from this port it wasn't anything to write-home about). Wandered inside for a bit more exploration - the ship was very easy to learn & navigate as (I think) it only holds about 3000 pax. Ended-up eating at the Horizon Court (I was wearing shorts and didn't want to attempt the dining room in such attire) with a fairly underwhelming choice of entrees (the Texas Chili wasn't bad, but the rest - while adequately prepared - was completely unimaginative). Found myself missing NCL's Indian section of their buffet... c'est la vie - this wasn't NCL. Deal with it.

They had a few things going-on this first night, but I was just so zonked from the whirlwind of the past day that I hung-out in the cabin for the rest of the night. Lindy (my VacationsToGo Cruise Agent) had gotten me a comp'd bottle of white zin (gee, like I needed more wine) - I had it delivered at about 10:15 (the request was for 9:30 and required a call-back to get it to my room) - whereupon I drank it all over about two hours while watching 'Blame It On Rio' then a couple of 'Love Boat' reruns. Slept very soundly - in part from the gentle rocking, as the Captain seemed to have the pedal to the metal during the overnight hours.

Sunday, February 15, 2015 - At Sea

Woke naturally just before 8 - inside cabins stay wonderfully dark, and being at the end of the hallway cut-down on the noise quite a bit. My first order of business was a shower with hair washing (I was a couple of days overdue); once dry, I dressed in a tee and bathing trunks to venture to the trough... only to discover it was quite windy/chilly topside (it never got above 60 for the day). Breakfast was again adequate but unremarkable - the one upside being that I wasn't tempted to overeat - but after the glorious food of the past week it just seems so blah.

Checked email (JP got her Valentine's Day gift - yeay!) then wandered a bit doing my usual first-of-the-cruise photography - after which it was time to start getting ready for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. Kind of weird to be so quickly sought-out by so many - but when you're a tour organizer I guess it goes with the territory. The quiet event ran not quite an hour - best for me was getting the name of the Office Person (Andrea) who advised me where/when to tell my group to meet for an early debarkation. Returned to the room to jot-down that info on the pre-printed forms I'd brought - then proceeded to play mailman, delivering them to everyone's cabin door. By then we were well into lunch - so I went poolside (yep, still chilly) to have a cheeseburger & fries (again, just adequate - clearly this was not going to be a "foodie" cruise). I did enjoy Princess' 50th anniversary special beer... a somewhat bitter IPA that went well with the meal (but definitely not worth $7). Afterwards I returned to the cabin to type-up this recollection of the past 36 houtrs.

This was to be the first formal night - I decided to give the Vines Bar a go while those in formalwear imbibed on free champagne & hors deourves. I first tried a South American trio (my fave being the Malbec) - with it they provide a tapas, consisting of a spicy shrimp, meatball in some kind of sauce, slice of bread with proscuitto on top, and what I think was a spicy chicken wing (or maybe very small drum - there was a bone for holding with all of the meat concentrated in a ball at the top). Liked it so much I gave a second trio a try (again, my fave being the Malbec). At this point I decided the tapas would be the night's dinner - requesting a big spicy Malbec by itself, then taking it up to the Promenade Bar to hear AJ Clarke on piano & vocals. He's good... not remarkable, but plays the type of piano music needed on a cruise (e.g. Dean Martin, Michael Buble, etc.).

Tapas, at sea, aboard the Golden Princess

Decided to call it a night when AJ took his first break - had every intent of going to sleep, but stupidly watched more Love Boat reruns til about 11:30! :p

Monday, February 16, 2015 - Puerto Montt, Chile

The first of the two tours I was leading... maybe that's why my stupid body woke me just after 4 with no chance of dozing back off. Watched a little TV, took a leisurely shower, then got breakfast just before 6. No problem being the first one to arrive at the Promenade Bar meeting spot - soon joined by Geoff & Lynne. Everyone was there early except one couple (Dave & Erika), causing us to be bumped from the first tender to the 4th or 5th. Ahem :-/

Tendering wasn't jammed to the rafters, and took only about 15 min to reach shore. Easily found Denis Purtov's two guides... but, somehow, Dave & Erika got lost again (further delaying our start). Finally arrived at their two MB Sprinters just after 8 - I got in the 18 pax van, but switched to the other at the last minute to make a more even distribution. Glad I did - our guide was a dental student named Sandy who reminded me of a young Elizabeth Pena. She was great.

We first saw a couple of in-town sights, including the local Courthouse, before heading out of town... our first stop, after driving for not quite an hour, was a brief potty & refreshments break along the highway near Ensenada (on the shores of Lake Llanquihue). We then continued onto Petrohue Falls., for some truly beautiful sights; after about 45 min we continued up the road just a bit for a couple more quick photography stops. From there we had the choice of a trip up to the Ski Lodge atop the volcano - but Sandy recommended a 30 min boat ride on Todos Los Santos (Emerald) Lake... which was really quite lovely.

The Golden Princess, anchored near Puerto Montt, Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile
Leaving Puerto Montt, Chile
A brief stop to use the potty & for refreshments - on the way to Petrohue Falls, Chile
A Panorama of Puerto Montt, Chile
A Panorama of Puerto Montt, Chile
A Panorama of Lake Llanquihue with Volcano Orsono in the distance - near Puerto Montt, Chile
near Ensenada, Chile
near Ensenada, Chile
Volcano Calbuco, Chile (the one that recently erupted)
The Entrance to Petrohue Falls (about halfway between Ensenada & Petrohue) - Chile
Volcano Orsono, as seen from Petrohue Falls, Chile
Volcano Orsono, as seen from Petrohue Falls, Chile
Volcano Orsono, as seen from Petrohue Falls, Chile
Petrohue Falls, Chile
Walking the Path down to another section of the River - Petrohue Falls, Chile
Walking the Path down to another section of the River - Petrohue Falls, Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile
A Panorama of the River near Petrohue Falls, Chile
Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Orsono, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
A Panorama of the River near Petrohue Falls, Chile
Motoring on Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Orsono, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Orsono, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Puntiagudo, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Puntiagudo, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Puntiagudo, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Volcano Puntiagudo, as seen from Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
Motoring back to Dock on Lake Todos los Santos - near Petrohue, Chile
On the Highway to Ensenada, Chile - for a quick bite of lunch

In Ensenada, we stopped for (what was supposed to be) a quick sitdown lunch of empanadas & sodas just down the road - but it took about 50 min before we were able to continue to the Green Lagoon at Vicente Perez Rosales National Park (one bit of coolness, just before exiting, was a chance to watch a local fox come out of hiding for a minute or so while scavenging for food). Afterwards, we drove a relatively short distance to Puerto Varas for a stop at the main square and crafts market (where I was able to finally buy Natalie a mask... sadly, while they had post cards, they didn't have postage so I was still batting zero sending Jordan any cards). From there it was time to head back to the ship - we were dropped-off at 3:35 and were aboard a tender by 4 for the trip back to the ship. Dropped everything in my cabin, then went topside for a burger / fries / Dos Equis late afternoon snack.

Entering Vicente Perez Rosales National Park (to see the Green Lagoon)
A Panorama of the Green Lagoon, Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, Chile
No matter where you look there's invariably a Volcano in the distance!
The aforementioned fox - seen just as we were about to reboard the bus to leave the National Park
The aforementioned fox - seen just as we were about to reboard the bus to leave the National Park
Lake Llanquihue - as seen while driving to Puerto Varas, Chile
Lake Llanquihue - as seen while driving to Puerto Varas, Chile
Lake Llanquihue - as seen while driving to Puerto Varas, Chile
Puerto Varas, Chile
Gift Shops in Puerto Varas, Chile
Lake Llanquihue, with Volcano Orsono in the distance - as seen from Puerto Varas, Chile
Lake Llanquihue, with Volcano Orsono in the distance - as seen from Puerto Varas, Chile
The Golden Princess - anchored just off Puerto Montt, Chile

A Panorama of Puerto Montt, Chile as the Golden Princess was departing

The view of Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs
The view of Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs
The view of Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs
The view of Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs
The top of Volcano Orsono says goodbye to us - as the Golden Princess departs Puerto Montt, Chile
The view of Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs
The view of Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs
Volcano Calbuco as the Golden Princess departs Puerto Montt, Chile
Volcanoes Orsono & Calbuco in the same frame - my last photo from Puerto Montt, Chile - as the Golden Princess departs

Ostensibly, the ship was to get underway at 5 - but, for whatever reason, that didn't happen til well after 6. It got quite breezy & chilly, but before heading below at about 7:15 I got some nice pix. Trimmed my beard, took a leisurely shower, and watched more Love Boat reruns (am I addicted? lol) before heading down to the Bernini Dining Room at about 9:15 for dinner (and tapping my bottle of merlot purchased just before arriving in Valparaiso). Enjoyed a Beef Satay, Mixed Green Salad w/Oil & Vinegar, then a Lamb Shank Au Just with brussel sprouts (!), fried egg plant, and two small potatoes; closed with a pretty authentic Key Lime Pie plus black coffee. Finished-up about 10:10, returning to my cabin to get the laundry ready for tomorrow am and type this recap.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - At Sea

Could this day have been any lazier? Started too early - with plans of doing laundry, I walked down the VERY long hallway only to discover they don't unlock the joint until 7. So I walked back and returned 45 min later to begin two loads. Wash cycle took about 32 min; drying took anywhere from 40-60 (with no need to feed add'l quarters - Go Princess! lol). BTW, I give this level of detail knowing somebody taking this cruise at some future time wonders about this kind of stuff... nothing like personal knowledge from those who sailed previously. Once done 830ish I wandered up to the Horizon Court for another basic breakfast - only to discover that it was quite windy outside. This also coincided with rough seas - that stayed that way til midnight. With my cabin in the bow it was particularly pronounced - so I spent much of the day napping / catching-up on sleep.

I did have plans to try their British Pub lunch from 11:30-2 in the Crown Restaurant - but both times I popped-down the line was at least three dozen deep - so I took a pass and again ate at the Horizon. Then returned for another nap (waking at 6). On the one hand I felt like the day was completely wasted; then again, I also felt pretty energized getting so much rest!

Had dinner on Deck 6 at Donatellos about 6:30 - starting off with a melon/cantelope appetizer simmered in some kind of port syrup; a Tom Gak Hi (sp?) soup; and diver scallops with risotto & veges. But the most memorable thing was the dessert: some kind of coconut flan concoction with infused dark chocolate that was one of the best I've eaten. Anywhere. And I'm definitely not a chocoholic! Also polished-off my bottle of Chilean Merlot - one down, four to go! ;)

Afterwards I went to the Princess Theatre to hear Greg Schlotthauer on piano - he was backed by a small band playing uninspired 70s classics, but has an excellent tenor voice with nice falsettos. And, like me, is a fairly recent LA transplant.

Came back to type this recap then crash - tomorrow should at least be a somewhat busier day (despite it being another sea day).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - Cruising The Amalia Glacier, Chile

The rough seas stopped just after 2am with this colossally loud (repeated) crash that made me hope the ship hadn't cracked in half... but, yeah, once we got to the inside passage things calmed down. We were scheduled to see the Glacier between 7 & 8, but after everybody was up 'n outside the Captain came on the PA to announce it had been delayed to 9:30-10 (because of yesterday's rough seas). Couldn't he have made that announcement a little earlier? (this was a common complaint voiced by many throughout the cruise... he was a man of very, VERY few words). So I came back inside to drop the cameras, grab breakfast, and wait to go back outside.

9:20-ish I headed back out (this time wearing an extra layer plus rain jacket and hat) and we finally got to The Amalia Glacier just before 10. After having been to Alaska it was pretty underwhelming - sort of tucked-away in the corner of the inlet so we couldn't get all that close to it... nevermind the light rain (with sleet at times), 25mph wind, and low overcast conditions. Got a few nice (or as nice as I could manage) pix then came back inside.

Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile
Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile
Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile
Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile
Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile
Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile
Near the Amalia Glacier, Chile

Next up was a 60 person Donatello luncheon for the Machu Picchu contingent - I met up w/Doug & Lynn and hung-out with them for the duration. Enjoyed a pretty reputable Clam Chowder followed by a strange but tasty Fish Taco (strange in that they put an entire filet atop a flour tortilla... had to eat some of it first before I could roll the thing and eat normally). Washed it down with their Seawitch Craft IPA and enjoyed a chocolate mousse for dessert.

Returned to the cabin for about 90min, then it was time to go down to the Bernini for the 3pm Maitre 'd wine tasting ($25 but really lovely wines - including a 2010 Mondavi Opus One - along with some properly prepared canapés). That lasted just over an hour - while we were tasting the ship returned to open sea with 12'-15' seas... supposed to be like that til about 7 when we return to an inside passage. Was happy to discover, upon returning to my cabin, that my waitlist for tomorrow's penguin tour turned-into an actual ticket - so I get to see Chilean penguins!

As the afternoon then evening progressed I just wasn't in the mood for another full sit-down dinner, so I killed some time listening to musicians (none are actually very good on this ship) then headed-up to the trough. Must be a LOT of Germans on this ship, as almost half the fare was German food - but I made do, listening to more music afterwards then calling it a relatively early night (9-ish). Before turning-in I set-out tomorrow's clothes, loaded-up my fanny pack, and got the wallet ready to go.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 - Punta Arenas, Chile

Well, the alarm was set for 6:15 - but the loud whir of maneuvering thrusters woke me about 25min earlier (which made for a very leisurely get-ready). Just had fruit for this breakfast - then was all present in the Princess Theatre at 7 for about a 7:20 tender departure. We loaded-aboard Greyhound-style buses for a 7-8 min trip to the ferry; because the Strait of Magellan was quite calm the planned two hour trip to Magdalena Island took only 90 min... aboard a thing that really felt quite like a freighter lol

The island is a giant pile of dirt north of the city - covered-up in Magellanic penguins & seagulls. And a lighthouse at the highest point. After walking a couple hundred feet I found myself wondering why it wouldn't occur to me that when you visit the home of penguins and don't bring gloves... my hands went numb after just a few minutes (not so much from the upper 40 temps but from the brutal wind chill that only worsened as I got nearer the lighthouse).

Departing Punta Arenas, Chile (with the Golden Princess in the distance) - to go Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island!
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile

A Panorama from the Lighthouse atop Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile

Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguin-watching on Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Departing Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Departing Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile
Departing Magdalena Island - near Punta Arenas, Chile

Shot tons of pix & vids - because we made better time than expected our planned 60 min stay was extended to 90... but it took a little longer to return than expect, so we weren't back at the docks until 1:15. At that point I set-out on my own - seeing (I think this was the order) Plaza Munoz Gamero; the Statue of Magellan; the Placio Sara Braun; the Catedral Iglesia de Magallanes; walked to the Austral Brewery, but after waiting 20 or so minutes I left as they appeared closed. Continued higher to the La Cruz Hill Viewpoint, then back down to buy Robert some dark chocolate & try to buy/mail JP a postcard. At least the first half was accomplished - bought three cards, but couldn't figure out how to mail one to the states... so they came back to the ship with me.

Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile
Palacio Sara Braun - Punta Arenas, Chile
Palacio Sara Braun - Punta Arenas, Chile
Catedral Inglesia de Magallanes - Punta Arenas, Chile
Walking around in Punta Arenas, Chile
The Austral Brewery - Punta Arenas, Chile
Walking around in Punta Arenas, Chile
Walking-up to the La Cruz Hill Viewpoint - Punta Arenas, Chile
A View of the Golden Princess from atop the La Cruz Hill Viewpoint - Punta Arenas, Chile
A Panorama from La Cruz Hill Viewpoint, Punta Arenas, Chile
A View of the Golden Princess from atop the La Cruz Hill Viewpoint - Punta Arenas, Chile
A View of the Golden Princess from atop the La Cruz Hill Viewpoint - Punta Arenas, Chile
Yes - I was in Punta Arenas, Chile!
Entering Plaza Munoz Gamero - Punta Arenas, Chile
The Bank of Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile (notice the angle, relative to the horizon, where satellite antennae aim!)
Before leaving Punta Arenas, Chile - one last shot of the Golden Princess, anchored in the distance
Anywhere else this is a seagull photo - but in Punta Arenas, Chile it's penguins!

A Panorama of Punta Arenas, Chile as seen the Golden Princess (anchored at the time)

Punta Arenas, Chile - as seen from The Golden Princess (anchored at the time)
Looking back at La Cruz Hill Viewpoint - in Punta Arenas, Chile - as the Golden Princess motors-away
The Golden Princess departing Punta Arenas, Chile
Buh-bye, Punta Arenas!

With my left heel bothering me I hobbled back to the tender port and was back aboard ship 5-ish... after dropping my stuff in the cabin I went down to Players to enjoy a Coke Light (highball-style) and a Hoyo de Monterey. Finished-up 630-ish, came back to grab the cameras, then went aft for sailaway (with a few rays of sun seeping through the mostly cloud cover). Having had a cheeseburger, dog & fries just after coming aboard I was pretty sure a sit-down dinner wasn't in the cards - as it is I called room service for aa green salad & some rather revolting "lasagna" served in a bowl. But my Pinot Noir was a nice accompaniment - as was the continuing Love Boat reruns I watched until it was time to crash. Best news about tomorrow? We don't dock til noon - sleep-in is at hand!

Friday, February 20, 2015 - Ushuaia, Argentina

"Sleep-in" lol.. not sure why I brought an alarm clock as I always wake without it (regardless of time zone... another of the "joys" of middle age!). Got an earlier than desired full breakfast (REALLY wish Princess had a little variety in their morning fare - I' was almost ready to start eating cereal just for something different). Came back to the cabin for a shower 'n shave... then went up on deck for some photography of the beautiful Beagle Channel. Saw what appeared to be a big city to port a couple of hours before we were supposed to arrive - little realizing that it was Ushuaia (you go far to the east from a westerly approach before turning-back towards the northwest for docking).

The Golden Princess motoring-in to Ushuaia, Argentina
The Golden Princess motoring-in to Ushuaia, Argentina
The Golden Princess motoring-in to Ushuaia, Argentina
The Golden Princess motoring-in to Ushuaia, Argentina
The Golden Princess motoring-in to Ushuaia, Argentina

Grabbed all of my tour info and headed-down to The Piazza at 11:30 (45min early) - mainly because we arrived & cleared early. The folks came straggling-in - but, unlike the first tour, everybody was there by 12:15 so we walked-off and proceeded out the port exit where we found Gabriel & Nadia holding signs just to our right. Proceeded a bit further to two 18 pax buses, hopped-aboard, and off we went to the National Park.

The Golden Princess DOCKED (not tendered!) in Ushuaia, Argentina
Leaving the port area we see some of the original settlement homes in Ushuaia, Argentina
Driving to the Tierra del Fuego National Park
Driving to the Tierra del Fuego National Park
Near the world's southern-most city we see the world's southern-most regulation golf course!
Our first stop at Fin del Mundo - with a great map to help get everyone oriented
A Panorama of Roca Lake - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Roca Lake - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Roca Lake - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
The Green Lagoon - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Everyone clamouring for a selfie at the Alaskan mileage-marker sign - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Walking for a view of Lapataia Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
The Beaver Dam, near the Green Lagoon - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Lapataia Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
A Panorama of Lapataia Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

First stop was Roca Lake - where we had a 15-20 min walk around the camp area... which led to a coffee shop for (mainly) a potty break. We walked a bit further, then re-boarded the bus to cross the Lapataia River, visit Cormoranes Archipelago, the Green Lagoon (and nearby beaver dam), Ovando River, and finally Lapataia Bay (where the Pan-American Highway ends). Got the obligatory selfie by the Alaskan mileage-marker sign. Finally, we drove to Ensenada Bay for a half-hour stop at the End of the World Post Office (where I was FINALLY able to buy postcards and mail them - yeay!!).

Departing the Lapataia Bay Overlook - Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Climbing back-aboard the Tour Bus to continue to the End of the World Post office - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
The famous End Of The World Post office - on Ensenada Bay, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
The famous End Of The World Post office - on Ensenada Bay, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Inside of the famous End Of The World Post office - on Ensenada Bay, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Ensenada Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Ensenada Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Ensenada Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
A Panorama of Ensenada Bay - in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Another half hour and we were back at the port - whereupon I walked up to San Martin and stolled ten blocks each way along the duty-free shopping zone. Really nice city - good shopping (I'd heard it was the case so people could finish outfitting for their trips to Antartica... and our guide said it's common for people to come stay for a few weeks looking for cancelled slots - which are sold at 1/2 to 1/3 list price... a good deal if you consider hotel space can be had for $100/night). Stopped at a couple of chocolatiers, but felt like I'd covered Rob adequately in Punta Arenas - but did stop in a souvenir shop and buy both JP & myself two-piece Ushuaia ceramic tea sets. From there I visited a hotel coffee shop where I gave her a Vonage call - only to reach voicemail (which, along with her going dark on email the past couple of days, has me mildly concerned). About 6:30 I headed back to the dock - picking up a six pack of Coke Light cans just before reboarding the ship. Stashed everything in the cabin, then went atop for a couple slices of pizza with Dos Equis then another bone-chilling sailaway (if wind chill is this bad at the height of summer I can only imagine that it borders on lethal in the winter). And the sunset happening just before 9 was a really great way to cap-off a memorable day at the south end of Patagonia!

Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina
Wanna take a trip to Antarctica?
FINALLY got a good photo of the Golden Princess - docked in Ushuaia, Argentina
One of the Antarctica Ships heading-south
Ushuaia, Argentina
A Panorama of Ushuaia, Argentina - as seen from aboard the Golden Princess
The Argentinan Navy - keeping an eye on things
Leaving Ushuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina
Leaving UUshuaia, Argentina

It was obviously going to be another late dinner - so I headed down to Donatello's about 9:45 (serenaded again by the Matre 'd with "All By Myself"... which is getting old - some of us actually LIKE our solitude!) for a tasty dinner started by mixed game pate, then caesar salad, then surf 'n turf (with what seemed a less than stellar cut of beef cooked rare and three shrimp plus asparagus, carrots, and potatoes). My Monte Albans Cab Sauv went quite well with it - then dessert was a prepared many hours earlier creme brulee with black coffee. By this ship's standards a wonderful meal - but by others on which I've sailed it was only so-so. But the entertainment ranges from worse to non-existent, so I came back to the room and turned-in fairly early.

Saturday, February 21, 2015 - Cruising around Cape Horn, Chile

Woke once again without the alarm - dressed in sweats and a jacket, I went topside only to discover a hellish wind chill (went back to my cabin just after 8 to retrieve a couple more camera batteries and drop-off my hat - which was destined to be lost overboard if I kept trying to wear it). The scenery was gorgeously desolate - with the Captain giving the land a very wide berth to assure we weren't another rocky statistic. We approached from an inside channel westbound before turning southerly (whereupon a LOT of salt spray came as high as Deck 16) before heading easterly in the surprisingly calm open ocean. Biggest issue was wind chill - I called it about 10 after developing shivers and having lost all feeling in my fingers several minutes earlier.

Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
A Panaroma showing Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Cape Horn, Chile
Documenting the furthest south I'll likely ever be...

Dropped my stuff then headed to the Lido where I had breakfast with Doug & Lynn (this time I ate pancakes & french toast in a quest for some variety... which speaks volumes because I really don't like either of those choices). Interesting chat with them - this was their tenth Princess cruise and they thought the food & entertainment was below par as well (though we both agreed the service staff is exemplary). Sent a few pix by email and to facebook afterwards, then returned to my cabin to jump under the covers for a full warm-up and late morning nap. Awoke a bit after 1, where I brought-back a burger & fries to my cabin which I enjoyed with the rest of the Chilean Pinot Noir.

The day continued to be a lazy one... just watching TV in my cabin & periodically snoozed. Took my time getting ready for the evening because it was the second formal night (which also saw me miss the Princess Circle Captain's Reception since I had intentionally foregone bringing appropriate dress). I sort of dreaded having an earlyish dinner at the trough - but, for some reason, the chef got quite creative tonight: a vegetarian Indian dish, several Asian dishes - far and above the best Horizon Court dinner of the cruise. Ran into Paul & Betty, who commented "who needs formal dress?" Turns out they were right! Sadly, absolutely nothing of interest happening on the ship this night - so after giving Romulo time to prep the room I returned to my cabin for the evening (enjoying a vodka rocks before calling it).

Sunday, February 22, 2015 - Stanley, Falkland Islands

Hey, the alarm actually woke me this morning (at 6:40)! Threw-on some clothes then went topside for a light (fruit) breakfast, before returning to the cabin to dress (lighter than I'd originally planned - the forecast was for a high in the mid-50s) & got all of my gear for the day. Sat with Doug & Lynn in the Bernini til we were called to the second tender ashore - which, as promised, took nearly a half hour (we were anchored well outside of the city's bay, requiring us to enter then turn starboard to reach the downtown pier... far & above the longest tendering I've ever done).

Once ashore, it was very easy to find Nyree from Estancia-Excursions - the three of us were assigned Leon (a local sheep farmer) as our guide, and we set-off on what was to be one of the wildest excursions of our vacation lives. The Falklands are geographically spread-out, but with a total population of not quite 3000. We drove for about 45 min on paved & gravel roads before entering 4x4 territory. In the extreme. Literally, we were winding, swerving, etc. at 1-2 mph for the next 1-1/2 hours - one time getting stuck and requiring a pull-out by one of the other vehicles (which saw both Doug & Leon drenched in mud which unexpectedly flew-in through their partially opened windows). Leon also preferred to go his own way (not sure if it was competition or eccentricity, but we seldom traveled the same paths as anyone else).

Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands
Departing Stanley - en route to Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands

We finally arrived at Volunteer Point (along with maybe 50 other 4x4s) and were not disappointed: penguins as far as the eye could see, partly on a beach that had aqua Caribbean-esque waters. The smell was initially a bit strong, but after a few minutes you didn't really even notice it anymore. I walked first to the beach, spending not quite half my time there photographing the gentoos & Magellanics (with an occasional King here & there) before moving to the land side where the family of Kings were all hanging-out in one area. Turns out this IS their home - where they live 12 months out of the year. Most were shockingly friendly - I guess by now they've gotten used to all of the weird humans who come to visit & watch them - as they frequently would come within 5'-10' and exhibit wary curiosity.

Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands

A Panorama of Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands

Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Gentoo Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Magellanic Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Mostly King Penguins at Volunteer Point - The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Leaving Volunteer Point - en route back to Stanley, The Falkland Islands (with the Golden Princess visible far in the distance)

Our two hours passed quickly - after a pee break we returned to our vehicle where a sack lunch of sandwich (e.g. cucumber & tuna), bag of crisps, candy bar, bottle of water, and map awaited us. Nyree came from vehicle-to-vehicle to collect her Pounds Sterling, after which it was time to roll. Thankfully, the return trip didn't seem to take as long as going out- but it was a long day (tho we weren't back at the jetty until 3:45). I had 5 Pounds set aside for Leon, but he was great - so I augmented it with another $10US.

Government House - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
The Wreck of the Jhelum - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
The Visitor Centre - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
City Hall - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Christ Church Cathedral & Whalebone Arch - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Red & White Stone Houses on Marmont Row - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
THE Bank - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Looking towards the Battle Memorial - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
The Liberation Monument - Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Stanley, The Falkland Islands

Last tender was 5:15, so there wasn't a lot of time remaining for touring. I dug-out a stogie and started walking west, photographing points of interest but unable to actually go inside and do anything. Walked several blocks before returning a couple of streets up (so I could see the three local pubs... from the outside). I got aboard the 5:05 and, as with the 4x4 the return trip didn't seem to take as long. Best surprise of the entire day was the mild weather - I wore an under-tee and long sleeve turtleneck and was warm most of the day (esp so when there was blue sky during the middle part of the day). By the time I was back aboard ship the sky was mostly cloudy & winds picking up a bit (making my garb feel a bit more appropriate) but the bay was glassy... calmer than most lakes. For a place where the odds of even making it ashore (due to bad weather) are usually no greater than 50/50 it was truly stunning. In a good way :)

A View from The Golden Princess - sailing-away from The Falkland Islands
A View from The Golden Princess - sailing-away from The Falkland Islands
A View from The Golden Princess - sailing-away from The Falkland Islands
A View from The Golden Princess - sailing-away from The Falkland Islands
A View from The Golden Princess - sailing-away from The Falkland Islands
A View from The Golden Princess - sailing-away from The Falkland Islands

I changed pants & shoes, wandering a bit before seeing "Hawley Magic" at 8:15 in the Theater. The guy (and his wife) were good illusionists - apparently rising in popularity after appearing on the show America's Got Talent. Not quite a 40 min gig with some good, classic illusions. Dawdled a bit before going into Donatello for dinner - which saw me finishing the bottle of cab sauv from two nights ago. The meals seem to be improving as the cruise continues: began with a vegetarian deep-fried "sushi" that would've been a hit had I not also ordered their chicken liver tartlet with fried onion straws (it was spectacular!), then had a roasted garlic soup (chowder consistency with big croutons on top), then a braised beef rib in jus with fork-mashed potatoes & veges (I was getting VERY stuffed by now). Dessert was a Chocolate Praline Torte and black coffee... at which point I waddled, stuffed, back to the Vista Lounge for a satellite feed of the 87th Oscars telecast. It was very weird seeing a live feed, with no commercials during cutaways. Downside was this time zone - best picture wasn't announced til just after 2am, but there were still a few hearty souls still watching Birdman get the nod (including the older "Camille Grammer" lookalike who had ditched her (I presume) husband a couple of hours earlier to finish watching the show solo). Returned to my cabin only to find the tv remote had died - and being the lazy arse that I am this was unacceptable, so I quickly turned-in.

Monday, February 23, 2015 - At Sea

I woke hearing some stirring in the hallway - only to find that it was right at 9am (and wondering if my ability to sleep relatively continuously would continue once I returned home... sadly, it did not). Threw-on a tee and sweat pants, telling Romulo as I departed about the remote - then went to the Lido for another breakfast ("another" being scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, a couple pieces of pineapple, etc.... same-o-same-o). Surfed the net a bit afterwards as well as talked to Paul & Betty then Doug & Lynn about tomorrow's walk-off tour. Came back to the cabin late morning to type the last day-and-a-half's recap then grab a shower.

This turned-into one of those wash days: took a lengthy afternoon nap, watched some TV, drank some wine (in the cabin), lunched on a burger & fries, dined at the trough (despite being "cowboy" night it was again edible). Different this night was the clear air and comfortable temps - watched a somewhat disappointing sunset, then about a half-hour of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", then forced my Google Sky Maps to think it was Puerto Madryn and watched the skies for a bit - finally seeing the Southern Cross, Rigel, and a moon (to the north!). Thoroughly weird not really recognizing anything!

Called it an early night as tomorrow would come early...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - Puerto Madryn, Argentina

My alarm was set for 6, but I just can't sleep when the bow thrusters begin firing... so I was actually up 540-ish after a night of weird dreams (Keith Emerson & I are really going to be out-of-state roommates to save money? lol). Went topside for a fruit breakfast with Doug & Lynn - then came back for final cleanup prior to meeting everyone just before 7 in the Piazza. Walkoff was particularly easy - as it happened from Deck 6 (weird walking UP to get off!) - as was finding Mimi from Forastero Tours not long after debarking.

Our group of 16 hopped aboard their minibus then began the 90min drive (part paved, part gravel) to Isthmus Carlos Amequino - where we could see Golfo Nuevo to our right and Golfo San Jose to the left. We stopped at the nature center to learn about the history of the region as well as marine & terrestrial flora & fauna to be found along the tour. Particularly impressive was the skeleton of a whale and the vantage point (about three stories-up) to see the entire area.

en route to the Nature Center at Isthmus Carlos Amequino, near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
en route to the Nature Center at Isthmus Carlos Amequino, near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
en route to the Nature Center at Isthmus Carlos Amequino, near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
At the Nature Center, Isthmus Carlos Amequino, near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
At the Nature Center, Isthmus Carlos Amequino, near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
At the Nature Center, Isthmus Carlos Amequino, near Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Another 45-50 min and we were at Puerto Piramides - the only urban region within the region as well as the only place for authorized boat whale watching. Next up was Caleta Valdes, where we saw a colony of Magellanic penguins at the first stop, then sea lions at the second before continuing onto Punta Norte for an hour-long stay to see the elephant seals & eat a box lunch (two sandwiches, apple, dessert & bottle of water). From there it was a tad over two hours to return to the ship, embarking just before 4pm.

Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Caleta Valdes - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Punta Norte - near Puerto Madryn, Argentina

I'm glad I visited, but really have no interest in ever returning - we did an awful lot of driving for some thoroughly unimpressive sites (if you didn't have either binoculars or a camera telephoto lens you couldn't really see what you were supposed-to). Had my usual welcome-back-aboard burger & fries - then went topside for a 5pm sailaway that turned weird: the wind was blowing 35-40mph, and the ship was unsuccessfull leaving port (apparently not having enough power to overcome the wind & current) - so we tied-back-up and waited til about 8:45 to try again (this time it was successful).

A View of the Golden Princess - as we return to Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
A VERY breezy day, walking back to the Golden Princess - in Puerto Madryn, Argentina

I first had a vodka rocks then a glass of cab (nothing like mixing your beverages, huh?) - before grabbing the bottle and heading down to Bernini a bit after 9:30 for a really nice sit-down (beginning with a seafood antipasto, then a green salad w/spinach & bacon, then scallopini with mashed potatoes, fresh mushrooms, and garlic). Dessert was a thoroughly perfect tiramisu and black coffee. Returned to the room to set the clocks (and my watch) ahead one hour then call it a night. Tomorrow is our last sea day - and (surprisingly, since they only advertised twos formal nights for this cruise) a third formal night. Oh well, trough - here I come yet again...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - At Sea

Setting the clocks ahead may have simplified tomorrow's port day - but it sure made the night pass too quickly. Woke just after 7:30 (which was definitely too early), checked the overnight web (which was surprisingly quiet) then had "the usual" breakfast up on Deck 14. Wearing a tee & shorts I quickly discovered that it was noticeably cooler than yesterday (though not so cold to make me go change). Came back to the cabin to do a preliminary inventory of stuff I'll need to declare - about the time I finished I needed to report to the Piazza for a Machu Picchu group photo (which took about 20 min as it was difficult to get the non-participants to stay out of the pix!). Back to the cabin afterwards then it was off to Donatello for the last MP luncheon (I sat with Kim/Libby+Brian/Sophia from Australia & George/Tamara from Switzerland). Having eaten just three hours before all I did was a cheeseburger & fries - noticeably more meat than up on deck, but cooked beyond well done (think shoe leather... good thing I wasn't hungry).

Spent the rest of the afternoon surfing the net (I was a little higher than expected on minutes), watching TV, napping, and eating a couple pieces of pizza in the cabin. Because of yet another formal night I've given-up hope on eating at the Crown Grill this trip... no biggie, it'll put back $25 in my pocket (plus the food, in general, was unimpressive - I suspected I might have the same reaction after paying the upcharge, so I didn't lose any sleep over electing to take a pass). Was thinking I might do a nighttime hot tub visit at some point this evening - followed by feeding at the trough - then get prepped for tomorrow's touring. Weird how my thinking is that the cruise is almost over - when the ACDC (another cruise I'm scheduled to do in November, aboard the Carnival Victory) will just be getting underway with this much time remaining lol

<LATER> Lost interest in the hot tub - wandered about deck for awhile; gave Wendy a full listen on her piano set (and still think she's the worst cruise ship pianist I've ever heard); watched a couple of local pro dancers demo three Argentine Tangos (I prefer how they're done on Dancing With The Stars, though it makes me wonder about authenticity vs showmanship); dined again at the trough. Got back to my cabin to find debarkation instructions ("lucky" me - I'm in the first group, leaving at 7am... ugh). The ship is now saying we arrive Montevideo two hours late (10am) so I spread the word to Ann/Grant & Monica/Brian to meet at 9:45 to try to be one of the first walkoffs. Also saw that while the weather forecast is warmest of the trip (80) they were also calling for rain - causing me to hope the luck of the Irish continued making that forecast wrong.

Thursday, February 26, 2015 - Montevideo, Uruguay

Didn't sleep all that well this night - no clue why - but when I finally woke it was still almost three hours before our scheduled 10am arrival time... so I wandered-up for yet another breakfast, then returned to my room to watch a little TV & chill before heading down to the Piazza at 9:30 (15min before I'd told everyone to meet). As it was, we didn't get off the ship until almost 10:30 - thankfully, we found our guide very quickly & were off!

With our late arrival the tour was compressed just a bit: we drove to Constitution Square, where we walked for about 20min (the timing couldn't have been better, as the country's new president was to be inaugurated there tomorrow, so there were grandstands being erected, protesters chanting & setting-off periodic explosions, etc.). Most impressive was the Cathedral (esp inside) and Colonial Town Hall; at Plaza independencia we saw the monument to Jose Artigas.

The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Metropolitan Cathedral - Montevideo, Uruguay
Constitution Plaza - Montevideo, Uruguay
Constitution Plaza - Montevideo, Uruguay
Constitution Plaza - Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Teatro Solis - Montevideo, Uruguay
Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Office of the President, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Office of the President, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Office of the President, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Palacio Estevez - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Statue of Jose Artigas, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Streets of Montevideo, Uruguay
Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Palacio Salvo, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Palacio Salvo, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Palacio Salvo, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Statue of Jose Artigas, Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay
Yeay Coke! In Montevideo, Uruguay
The Town Council - Montevideo, Uruguay
Leaving Plaza Independencia - Montevideo, Uruguay

Back underway we drove by the beach, then saw the Government House & Congress Building (stopping for a few minutes for pix). We next drove through the Prado neighborhood (seeing beautiful old homes and a few Embassies). We then drove by the La Caretta (Covered Wagon) Monument & Estadio Centenario Soccer Stadium (stopping again for pix) then it was off to the Baretta Vineyard... which was a wonderful surprise.

Driving along the Waterfront - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Beach (which didn't look all that crowded for summertime) - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Centenario Soccer Stadium - Montevideo, Uruguay
La Caretta Monument - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Congress Building - Montevideo, Uruguay
The Uruguayan Flag - flying over the Congress Building
Beretta Winery - outside of Montevideo, Uruguay
Enól Leticia Villalba, Owner of the Baretta Winery - outside of Montevideo, Uruguay
The Beretta Winery Tasting became more of a feeding! - near Montevideo, Uruguay
Bought myself a bottle of this Beretta Vintage - near Montevideo, Uruguay
And here's the other bottle currently residing in my home's wine chiller - near Montevideo, Uruguay

The owner - Leticia Villalba - conducted the tour in Spanish (and translated by our guide Mirtha) of the vineyard that's been in her family for over a century. We saw the vineyards, some experimental vines, the lab, then had a seat in the tasting room to sample her tannat, merlot, then dessert liqueur. No lunch was to be provided, but she absolutely covered-us-up in appetizers (e.g. salami, proscuitto, cheeses, dips, olives). Then she started opening additional bottles... I was really quite lit by the time we left... as well as enamored with Leticia (finding-out on the drive back to the city that she was single). Thankfully, she gave me a card with her contact info - sent her a facebook friend request as soon as returning to the ship, then was pleasantly surprised when I woke from a 90min nap that she'd added me :) BTW, prior to reboarding the ship I wandered the downtown area a bit - buying Jordan three more postcards and snapping a lot of pix.

Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay
Returning to the Montevideo Port to re-board the Golden Princess
A lovely view of The Golden Princess, docked in Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
A Panorama of The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay
The Golden Princess sailing-away from Montevideo, Uruguay

Turning-on the TV I saw we were still in port - but then, almost simultaneously, heard the thrusters start humming... so I grabbed the cameras to head topside for about an hourlong sailaway. Returned to my cabin to pack the Summit Chase bag with dirty clothes and the two bottles of Leticia's wine; then headed-down to Bernini for (arguably) the best meal of the voyage: a quail & venison terrine, bibb lettuce & vinaigrette, then "trilogy" - a pork loin, lamb chop, and skewers of grilled chicken. Prior to the entree was a lovely strawberry/cinnamon sorbet; dessert was a warm apple pie with cold vanilla ice cream (which tasted homemade). Also polished-off the last of my syrah - so the Chilean wine is now exhausted.

Wandered-up to Deck 7 to listen to the rest of AJ Clarke's set on piano... I noticed that "Camille Grammer" was also in the crowd, and after walking by me I'm convinced she's about 70 or so with some really fine plastic surgery making her appear about 60. But after getting smitten with Leticia earlier that day "Camille" seemed a whole lot less interesting. That, and I really need to get serious and learn conversational Spanish! ;)

Before turning-in the clocks went back the hour we gained two nights ago... tomorrow sees us arriving 8am, but I don't have to meet the walking tour dockside til 9:45 - so it should be another lazy start to the day. The last day of this adventure :(

Friday, February 27, 2015 - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Weird night - woke about 4 and thought I couldn't go back to sleep but eventually did... finally waking about 7:45. Couldn't stomach another trough breakfast so I downed my last energy bar & a lot of water. The TV said we would be docking 5-ish, but I never heard the forward thrusters... until 7:45. Late arriving, then it took til about 9:30 for authorities to clear. Once queued-up then off the ship the madhouse that was this port fully set-in: there were both Costa & MSC ships in port and it was mayhem. Finally located the Tangol contact who was trying to connect the other six people with their own tour - when that was done she and I walked about six blocks to their office so I could connect with Walter - my one-on-one tour guide for the day's walking tour.

I'll let the photos do most of the talking - we started in the heart of downtown, at Plaza de Mayo (the main square in central Buenos Aires) with obligatory views of the Obelisk, the Monument to General Juan Lavalle, Escuela Presidente Roca, Teatro Colón, Metropolitan Cathedral (including the adjacent home of Pope Francis - this is where he began his career), St. Francis Basilica, City Hall, the Diagonal Building, the Pirámide de Mayo, the Cabildo, and the famed Casa Rosada.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Monument to General Juan Lavalle in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Escuela Presidente Roca, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Former residence of the Cardinal now known as Pope Francis - in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Diagonal Building, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Pirámide de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Cabildo, with City Hall just to the left - in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Old Pharmacy, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
City Hall, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Francis Basilica, Buenos Aires, Argentina

From there, Walter & I took the subway over to the San Telmo neighborhood (the oldest in Buenos Aires) and saw Casa Minima (the smallest house in Buenos Aires), Mercado San Telmo, and the Church of San Pedro Gonzalez. We then hopped-aboard the subway once again to go to the La Boca neighborhood - where Walter suggested we first stop for a bite to eat at Paseo Internacionale - where I enjoyed a Beef Empanada and a Diet Pepsi (plus a postcard & postage for Jordan and another bottle of water to take-with). We then walked the streets a bit & toured the Conventillo Historico de 1881, before snagging a transit bus to the upscale Puerto Madero district to see the Puente de la Mujer bridge, the Ministry of Defense, and the new commercial development.

The Smallest House, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
"Malfalda", in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mercado San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mercado San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This little bar's claim to fame was a visit by (then) sitting US President Bill Clinton - in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
And as we weren't buying anything just a quick pop-in for a snapshot - in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Church of San Pedro Gonzalez, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Church of San Pedro Gonzalez, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Paseo Internacional, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Paseo Internacional, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Statues of Gardel, Peron & Maradona in La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Conventillo Histórico de 1881, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Conventillo Histórico de 1881, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Conventillo Histórico de 1881, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Conventillo Histórico de 1881, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Conventillo Histórico de 1881, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Ministry of Defense, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Finally, one more ride aboard the BA transit buses and we arrived at our final destination: the famed Recoleta neighborhood, where my first views were of the Law Building & the amazing Floralis Genérica moving sculpture at the University of Buenos Aires. From there we crossed a large bridge to quickly visit a specialty shopping area, then stopped to afford me not quite an hour-long visit to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (the largest art museum in Argentina - I easily could've spent all day there!). A quick photo op at The Cathedral at the Recoleta Cemetery, then it was time to enter the famed grounds of the Cemetery itself. No matter how much research or how many photos you view it's still startling to see the complex live & in living color! Of course, the most famous inhabitant is Eva Peron - but there are so many other wealthy families interred there... all above ground, much as you find in the New Orleans area in the US.

The Law Building at The University of Buenos Aires, Recoleta, Argentina
The Floralis Genérica sculpture, Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Shopping in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Touring in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Cathedral at Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

With my feet finally giving way I elected to end my walking tour at about 4:30. Took a taxi back to the ship (after Walter changed $10 to Argentinean Pesos for me, further ensuring a nice tip!); once back aboard, I grabbed a burger/fries/beer topside with David & Maricela. Back down in the cabin it was setup for packing - so I knocked it out over a couple of hours (with Love Boat reruns playing in the background) then when the bags went outside wandered-up to the trough for the last night's meal. I wandered the deck for a bit (where 'Veronica Mars' was playing on the big screen) and watched the local coast guard tow a small sailboat (from the movements I'm guessing they lost their tiller/rudder). Then it was back down to the cabin for final packing of my carry-on and a quick shower... still hydrating, then I was off to sleep. Three weeks is a lot - while I was sad for the cruise to end, I was also ready to get back to my regular life.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 - Buenos Aires, Argentina

After a quick bite of breakfast (same ole fare one final time!) it was time to exit the Golden Princess for the final time.One thing about being first-off the ship - it happens VERY quickly! As I write this from my home in SoCal I recall it being just a matter of minutes - walking-off and boarding one of three buses dedicated to the Debarkation Tour (booked in large part because they finish the day dropping us and our luggage at the airport for the return home).

For those who didn't have a chance to see it yesterday, we began with a trip (for me, back) to Recoleta Cemetery - but despite having visited the prior day this was nice because there were so few people yet on the grounds (e.g. you could walk directly to Peron's crypt and actually spend some time there w/o having to move for the next visitor). Plus, the morning light against the crisp sky was a lot more favorable for photography that the prior afternoon.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

After about a half-hour we reboarded the bus and drove slowly through, and then out, of Buenos Aires towards the southwest - to our destination for the day: Estancia La Candelaria - a working ranch, polo field/club, hotel, and restaurant. It was a really wonderful, relaxing way to spend the day - starting off with an empanada and a soft drink after being warmly greeted by our gaucho hosts, followed by a horsemanship demonstration, then a tour of the grounds (including the chapel and their castle, aka hotel), then the celebratory feast with fresh meats prepared on-site in the traditional asado al asador (gaucho-style country barbeque).

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Estancia La Candelaria, southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina

The meal was leisurely & spectacularly tasty - with our hosts continuing to bring freshly grilled meats (including some crazy good offal that I'd never before had a chance to sample) until we held-up our hands signalling "no more!" By 4-ish it was about time to head-back to the bus for the trip to the airport - once on the freeway everyone became incredibly thankful that we had a number of hours to kill before our flight departures... because the freeway back towards Buenos Aires was closed (everyone assumed due to some kind of accident). Difference between there & the US? Back home all kinds of law enforcement would have working detours set-up within minutes - but in Argentina everyone got to fend for themselves. Our driver meandered through all kinds of small towns and side streets - but everything he tried was met with stopped traffic. The planned 45-50min drive to the airport took just shy of three hours. Never been so happy to get-off of a bus in my life!

As promised, the luggage was waiting right at the designated spot - and even with such a delay, I still had to sit-around for about an hour before I could even check them for my flight, get a boarding pass, and head-out to the gate. The BA Airport was very nice - big, new, easy to navigate. Security was a breeze, and while my late evening snack (prior to boarding) was pricey it was also tasty. The flight departed on time - and I was lights-out within a matter of minutes, sleeping soundly until breakfast service began a couple of hours south of Miami.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 - Return home to Los Angeles, California

Miami Customs & Immigration was a bit on the slow side - but I had plenty of time before my connecting flight so no biggie. Did have an exceedingly long walk to my gate (which had me thinking I'd made a wrong turn somewhere?!) but I still got there with time to spare. The domestic flight back to LAX was long but uneventful - really driving hom the point just how far away I was for the duration of this vacation.

In closing, I can tick another item as 'completed' from my bucket list. A lot of research/planning went-into this holiday, and I was not left disappointed. Service was top notch for the duration; Peruvian cuisine was impeccable (I found myself repeatedly saying I could become a vegetarian if I could eat like that all the time!) although food aboard the ship was hit 'n miss (more often than not in the 'unremarkable' column). And the destinations are everything I had hoped-for and more - months later I'm still talking about it to people. Would I return? If I were younger, most likely - but as I'm zeroing-in quickly on age 60 there are still quite a number of other places on my bucket list that need a visit from yours truly. But would I encourage others to take this same trip? Without hesitation! GO!!

   
 

| Home | Music | Golf | Travel | Family || Email Me | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest |

Copyright © 1999-2017 by David Presley, All Rights Reserved. Webspace hosted by GoDaddy.com.
Optimized for High-Speed Connectivity - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and/or Safari - minimum 1024x768 display resolution.

Find more about Weather in Vancouver, WA